Wednesday, 07 June 2023

Arts & Life

‘FAST X’ Rated PG-13

The “Fast and Furious” franchise has been a global sensation for more than two decades, and has shown no signs of abating, because in Hollywood there’s no such truism as too much of a good thing.

In case you have lost count of the number of installments of this high-octane saga, the Roman numeral in “Fast X” should be the clue that this is a milestone anniversary for the fan base to celebrate.

Does “X” mark the spot for a conclusion to the adventures of wheelman Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his extended family that is now threatened by a lethal adversary emerging from the shadows of the past?

The answer to that question may be found in the closing credits which seem almost interminable. Or the sign may point to the anticipated box office success of this chapter, which nobody wants to leave behind.

As a refresher on the series, 2001’s “The Fast and The Furious” was a regional story about the subculture of street racers in Los Angeles who dabbled in crime on the side, and since then the franchise has morphed into international intrigue.

The global plots have allowed the transition from muscle-car racing to ever more preposterous plots of scheming in exotic foreign locales, and here it is a rather extensive chase through the streets of Rome to stop a runaway bomb from destroying the city center.

But first, there is a flashback to 2011’s “Fast Five,” in which Dom and his crew took out nefarious Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim del Almeida) and decimated his empire on a bridge in Rio de Janeiro.

What the racing enthusiasts didn’t know was that Reyes’s son, Dante (the hulky Jason Momoa), witnessed it all and has spent the last 12 years festering in a revenge plot to make Dom pay the ultimate price.

For the Roman sequence, Dom and his loyal compatriots, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the bickering and bantering duo of Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), end up getting played by Dante, the puppet master masterminding their wild ride.

When the action subsides only briefly, Dom takes the occasions to talk solemnly about the importance of family, which takes on new meaning as he enlists his formerly estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) to protect his young son Brian (Lio Abelo Perry).

Of course, Dom has also been protective of Letty, who in her own right is a fierce and fiery warrior, a talent on full display in a tough battle with Cipher (Charlize Theron), until they realize having a common enemy.

Kurt Russell is missed as Mr. Nobody, the secretive Agency honcho, but his daughter Tess (Brie Larson) is a helpful rogue agent, because Mr. Nobody’s replacement, Aimes (Alan Ritchson) does not have the backs of Dom’s crew.

Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) plays the familiar role of den mother. Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw crosses paths with the group when they encounter a common enemy. Blink and you might miss Helen Mirren’s Queenie and Scott Eastwood’s ambitious government agent Little Nobody.

“Fast X” is arguably designed mostly, if not exclusively, for its rabid fan base, with nostalgia creeping in through the flashbacks to the fifth chapter, in which the late Paul Walker is still part of the Toretto universe.

If you happen to drift into a showing of this tenth chapter, a scorecard would be needed to keep track of all the characters, both old and new. How did Rita Moreno get into the act, as the grandmother of the Toretto siblings no less?

Frankly, even if you’ve kept up with many, if not all, of the films, the proceedings have become so convoluted with an excess of high-speed chases, detonations, and death-defying stunts that a sense of bewilderment may set in.

While Vin Diesel and company don’t disappoint as time has allowed them to slip so comfortably confident into their characters, a flamboyant Jason Momoa is so amusingly unhinged as the vengeful villain that he practically steals every scene when he revels in his merciless taunts.

Action junkies of all stripes, even if only vaguely familiar with this franchise, may get a kick out of Dom dropping out of the back of plane in his muscle car, and then there’s the excitement of drag racing in Rio. For some, this never gets old.

The bloated plot spreads the heroes across the diverse locations of Los Angeles, London, Rome, Portugal, and Brazil. Antarctica is in the picture, but for reasons not entirely clear. In any event, the excess is in keeping with how things have to move fast.

“Fast X” has a lot in common with superhero films, such as those in the Marvel universe, in that the hardcore fans will not be deterred by even the slightest doubt expressed by any critics, choosing to undoubtedly enjoy the chaos and mayhem.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


Maybe it’s just me, but the Marvel superhero movies have become more tiresome and repetitive. At least the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise has more heart and humor with its band of misfits.

Now is the time to catch the Guardians in action as “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” is the final film in writer-director James Gunn’s wildly popular trilogy. We are not even sure the gang will survive to the end of this installment.

Gunn makes sure that this last chapter will not go out without a huge bang, namely delivering enough action driven by fights, aerial battles, pyrotechnics, and computer-generated creatures ranging from adorable to the grotesque.

Settling in a place called Knowhere, the Guardians are set on repairing the damage done by Thanos and are determined to make their new home a haven, not only for themselves, but for all refugees displaced by the harsh universe.

Meanwhile, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) aka Star-Lord, the leader of the group, is drowning his sorrows over the death of his girlfriend Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who returns here as an alternate version of herself.

Because she’s come back as a different person, Gamora’s relationship to the Guardians is really estranged. She’s spunky and wild, but the romantic sparks are not going to fly with the Star-Lord this time.

While the Guardians would love for life to return to normal, they are soon under attack from a new enemy, the mad scientist known as the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who has a direct connection to Rocket’s past.

“Volume 3” is basically the story of the lovable raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who was one of the mad scientist’s creations. Now in great jeopardy, he must be saved by the Guardians, a tricky task if they can’t deactivate the implanted kill switch.

All the favorite characters are still in the gang. Groot (Vin Diesel) has not expanded his vocabulary. Drax (Dave Bautista) is a lot more mellow, but still not very bright. Nebula (Karen Gillan) remains in need of anger management.

Anyone not familiar with the first two films may not find “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” to be easy to follow or appreciate. Fans of the series are not likely to be disappointed.


The unimaginable terror of German Nazis during World War II resulted in most of Europe being conquered in a relatively short span of time, from Norway to Poland to France to Yugoslavia, and points in between.

The Netherlands was no exception, and this is where Anne Frank, a German-born Jewish girl, documented life in hiding from Nazi persecution in a diary that described everyday life in an Amsterdam attic.

An eight-episode limited series on National Geographic, “A Small Light” tells the remarkable story of secretary Miep Gies (Bel Powley), who didn’t hesitate when her boss Otto Frannk (Live Schreiber) asked her to hide him and his family from the Nazis during World War II.

For the next two years, Miep, her husband Jan (Joe Cole) and several other everyday heroes watched over the eight souls hiding in a secret annex. It was Miep who found Anne’s diary and preserved it so that she and Otto could later share it with the world.

The series title comes from something Miep said late in her life: “I don’t like being called a hero because no one should ever think you have to be special to help others. Even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can turn on a small light in a dark room.”

Bel Powley turns in a powerful performance as Miep Gies, observing during the winter press tour that in researching for her role she found the main source was Miep’s own book called “Anne Frank Remembered,” which allowed her to “get a sense of her voice.”

As there are few remaining Holocaust survivors with us to tell their stories, “A Small Light” demonstrates that keeping the accounts of what Jewish people had to endure under the horrific thumb of Nazi persecution is so important.

A special exhibit of the horrors of the Holocaust is now underway at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away” brings together more than 700 original objects of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp.

Selection of objects from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum as well as more than 20 institutions and museums all over the world portray the reality of the notorious camp and human tragedies that resulted from Nazi ideology.

Southern California is also home to the Holocaust Museum LA, the oldest of its kind in the United States, which was founded in 1961 when a group of survivors met and had artifacts from before the war that should be preserved.

The mission of Holocaust Museum LA is to commemorate those who perished, honor those who survived, educate about the Holocaust, and inspire a more dignified and humane world.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

The William Scott Forbes Band will perform at the Taurus Party. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center will host the return of the Taurus Party on Saturday, May 13.

The event will take place from 7 to 11 p.m. at the center, 21456 State Highway 175.

Tickets are only $15 and will be sold at the door. Food and beverages will be available for sale. Movies and art fun will be available for children.

Back in 1992, Mark Nichols, an artist and blacksmith from Middletown, began throwing a group birthday party for himself and friends whose birthdays fell under the zodiac sign of Taurus, and thus began 31 years of a long-standing Middletown community tradition — the Taurus Party.

Nichols aka “Bubblemeister” or “Metalsmith Mark” hosted the first few Taurus Parties at Harbin Hot Springs and it later moved to his private property in Middletown.

The parties got bigger and always featured live music and other forms of entertainment including fire dancers, performance artists, drum circles and a bouncy house for the kids.

The parties were so loved and well attended that, about 10 years ago, additional astrological themed parties were added as well as a Halloween party.

After the Valley fire, Nichols relocated and then COVID prevented the ability to gather, until now.

This year The Middletown Art Center is honored to host the return of The Taurus Party.

The public is invited to join in celebrating all of its favorite Taurus Bulls in an all-out birthday bash including a performance by the William Scott Forbes band, non-fire fire dancing, food by Goddess of the Mountain, Delights drum circle, and an opportunity to make art for International World Collage Day.

About the band: Singer/songwriter William Scott Forbes was born and raised in rural Northern California where he picked up the electric guitar at an early age. His alt-country sound and songwriting is distinctive but influenced by Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Mark Knopfler.

He grew up in Middletown in Lake County before relocating to Mendocino County where he attended Laytonville High School and studied music at Santa Rosa Junior College.

He was partly raised by his late aunt who encouraged him and shared his belief in the positive power of music. Today he's grateful to have the privilege of playing with a top notch band that performs as the William Scott Forbes Band in venues large and small around California's beautiful North Coast.

Questions can be directed to 707-355-0595 (Mark), 707-809-8118 (MAC) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The world of professional baseball has seen its share of players that are eccentric, or maybe just a little bit careening through outer space, like the 1970s Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee who was appropriately nicknamed “Spaceman.”

Then there was pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, the 1979 Rookie of the Year, whose antics on the mound made him a fan favorite, as he would talk to the ball and manicure the mound on his hands and knees to his satisfaction.

What is it about pitchers, though? As a rookie with the Angels in 1962, Bo Belinsky became a celebrity for his no-hitter. But it seems his notoriety came from being linked with movie stars such as Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens and Mamie Van Doren.

Catcher for four teams, Bob Uecker gained his fame not as a player but as a broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers who moonlighted most famously as wacky broadcaster Harry Doyle for the woeful Cleveland Indians in “Major League,” one of the funniest sports movies ever.

While there are plenty of other interesting characters in baseball, none may be more entertaining and lovable than Lawrence “Yogi” Berra, who deserves to live on in our memories to this day not just for his Hall of Fame career, but for being an American folk hero.

You don’t have to be a New York Yankees fan to love the documentary “It Ain’t Over,” the story of catcher Yogi Berra, a native of St. Louis who signed with the Bronx team before serving with combat distinction in the Navy during World War II, including the Normandy landing.

The promo for this film calls the Yankees the “most storied franchise in Major League Baseball history.” You’ll get an argument on this point from teams such as the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and especially from the Boston Red Sox, bitter rivals to that team in the Bronx.

No other player ended up with ten World Series rings, plus an additional three as a coach after his playing days. He was a three-time MVP in the American League, and had a staggering 18 All-Star Game appearances.

On top of these honors, Yogi went on to catch the only perfect game in World Series history in 1956 as the backstop for pitcher Don Larsen, when the Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The documentary features commentary from well-known retired Yankees, such as manager Joe Torre, pitcher Ron Guidry, closer Mariano Rivera, shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Don Mattingly and second baseman Willie Randolph.

No documentary would seem to be complete without commentary from baseball experts like the late Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, the late sportswriter Roger Angell, and sports announcer and commentator Bob Costas.

In anybody’s book, Yogi’s prolific accomplishments on the ballfield were overshadowed by his amazingly appealing personality, much of it fueled by his “Yogi-isms,” such as the most-famous “It ain’t over til it’s over.”

Part of the fun here is the juxtaposition of Yogi-isms with the famous words of scientists, playwrights, philosophers, and other learned folks.

Confucius claimed “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance,” while Yogi came up with: “In baseball, you don’t know nothing.”

The brilliant Stephen Hawking opined that “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect.” For Yogi, it made perfect sense to say “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

Maybe the most relevant contrast is Yogi’s “I’d be pretty dumb if all of a sudden I started being something I’m not,” compared to Shakespeare’s “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

A pivotal figure behind this documentary is Yogi’s oldest granddaughter Lindsay Berra, a freelance sports journalist, and the executive director of the film. She noted that Yogi, a man of short and squat stature, did not look like a Yankee.

Others said that no one thought he could hit and that he looked like a fire hydrant. As for Vin Scully, the broadcast legend found that everything about Yogi was “kinda funny.”

Fortunately, Lindsay Berra, along with Yogi’s sons Dale, Tim and Larry, paint the portrait of a devoted family man, particularly for the touching love story of his long and happy marriage to Carmen.

“It Ain’t Over” also does not shy away from the ugliness of Yogi abrupt firing as Yankee manager after only 16 games by the assistant to team owner George Steinbrenner, leading to a feud that lasted about a decade-and-a-half.

If as a baseball fan you hold any animus towards the Yankees, an appreciation of the life of Yogi Berra should transcend and overcome such negativity.

The legendary Yankee catcher is an iconic sports figure who is worthy of the homage that is paid by “It Ain’t Over.” Be sure not to miss it, wherever it may play or when it comes out on DVD or a streaming service.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


Set in war-torn Afghanistan in 2018, “Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” is more than a war story, and most likely not something you would expect from the director of films such as “Snatch,” “Sherlock Holmes,” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

Danger lurks in the Taliban-occupied portion of a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. US Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads up a special unit with an unenviable mission.

Bagram Air Base in the Parwan Province looks like a vacation spot compared to Kinley’s posting to an area under Taliban control, as his team is tasked with finding enemy munitions and explosive storage sites.

During a routine search at a vehicle checkpoint, two of Kinley’s unit are killed by a truck bomb, including his Afghan interpreter, who is replaced with Ahmed (Dar Salim), a man who speaks four languages and candidly admits he’s in it for the money.

More than finances are at stake for the new interpreter. Ahmed’s son was killed by the Taliban, and his allegiance is to those countrymen who harbor bitterness or distaste for the terrorist thugs.

The relationship between Kinley and Ahmed is a little tricky. At first, Kinley harbors suspicions about his new interpreter, who makes it clear that he is not a verbatim translator because his skill is to interpret every situation.

When approaching a suspect building, Ahmed informs Kinley they won’t find any weapons inside, claiming to know what goes on behind the closed doors. They search anyway, only to find an opium den.

More searches prove unfruitful, and Kinley becomes frustrated on his last tour of duty and takes his concerns to his superior, Colonel Vokes (Jonny Lee Miller), who basically tells him to follow his gut instincts.

Things get more serious when Ahmed proves his worth by steering Kinley and his unit away from a trap that another interpreter has set just as they are about to travel into the middle of a Taliban ambush.

After returning to the base for a break, Kinley and his team head out on a grueling journey to arrive at a mine that is suspected to be a large weapons cache. Kinley and his men are overwhelmed by a Taliban assault.

Only Kinley and Ahmed survive the attack and manage to escape in a Taliban truck. After a breakdown, they are forced to flee on foot into the forest. In a hide-and-seek deadly game with the enemy, Kinley and Ahmed manage to kill some of their pursuers.

With the odds against them, Kinley and Ahmed are spotted after resting for the night in an abandoned home. Kinley is shot in the arm and leg, and then gets rescued by Ahmed.

At this point, Ahmed has already proved his skill at killing the enemy, and turns his attention to fashioning a makeshift sled to drag the wounded Kinley through treacherous terrain.

A series of circumstances put both Kinley and Ahmed in mortal danger, but the Afghan native is determined to get the American sergeant back to the Bagram Air Base.

Once back in the United States and reunited with his family, Kinley can think of nothing else than repaying a debt to Ahmed and his family who had been promised safe passage to America.

Returning as a private citizen to Afghanistan, Kinley seeks the help of military contractor Parker (Antony Starr) to extricate Ahmed and his family. The extraction turns out to be the biggest firefight of the journey for the former sergeant and his interpreter.

Watching “The Covenant” may stir uncomfortable memories of how the subsequent ill-fated withdrawal from Afghanistan proved to be a disaster not only for the United States but even more so for those left behind.

In case one is not thinking about the ramifications of a 20-year slog in hostile territory, the film’s end credits note how thousands of interpreters were abandoned to a dire fate, especially when the Taliban took full control of the country.

More than just a war movie, Ritchie’s foray into new territory focuses in an admirable way on the lives of two disparate war-weary men who stand for honor, valor, and loyalty, which are noble character traits seemingly in short supply today.

Though the brutality and inhumanity of war is not absent, the director is far more interested in telling the story of complex, fascinating human beings that are placed in trying circumstances.

Guy Ritchie has taken a gamble on a war film that he has acknowledged is his favorite genre and how he had tried for a long time to find a story that appealed to him.

Whatever one’s feelings about the subject of war, “Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” is a film worth seeing for the humanity of multifaceted characters grappling with the emotions of duty, honor, and service in challenging situations.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


Missing from the poster art and the trailers, the tag line for “Renfield” is apparently “Evil doesn’t span eternity without a little help.” The “evil,” of course, as you may guess from the titular character’s association, refers to Count Dracula.

The help comes from the tortured aide of history’s most narcissistic boss, the bloodsucking vampire we all know and love from a plethora of films and novels.

Trapped in an eternal hell is the hapless Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), who is forced to procure his master’s prey. He’s ready to break free if only he can escape the Stockholm Syndrome.

Life has become so intolerable for Renfield that he joined a support group that deals with toxic relationships. Ready to see if there’s life outside the shadow of the Prince of Darkness, Renfield only needs to figure out how to end his codependency.

Nicolas Cage’s Dracula is so maniacally egotistical and self-absorbed that he never misses a chance to debase and humiliate his indentured servant Renfield to do his every bidding.

Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire has been adapted so many times in cinematic productions that one can’t possibly keep track. Who is the best Dracula? Would it be Gary Oldman, Frank Langella or Christopher Lee? They seem to be second fiddle to Bela Legosi.

Let’s get to the point that Nicolas Cage is playing the nefarious vampire for campy fun. Sort of like what Leslie Nielsen delivered in Mel Brooks’ “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.”

The most unlikely Dracula was probably George Hamilton’s spoof of the vampire in “Love at First Bite.” Not that he didn’t have some fun with the character, but how could a guy with an aversion to sunlight have a Malibu surfer’s tan?

In “Renfield,” Count Dracula wears enough pancake makeup that exposure to the sun would melt his face. And if ever there was someone outside of Great Britain with a need for a good dental plan, he’s the one.

Dracula is not alone in tormenting poor Renfield. The Lobo New Orleans crime family, run by matriarch Bellafrancesca (Shoreh Aghdashloo), is at war with Renfield when he chooses to align with New Orleans police officer Rebecca (Awkwafina).

Corruption runs so rampant in New Orleans that the Lobo family has free reign, partly as the result of a police force so crooked that Rebecca is apparently the only honest cop in town. But Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz) is so dim-witted that his enforcer role is a joke.

While Renfield ends up wearing pastel-colored sweaters, he does find a way to become assertive and bold, to say nothing of his superhuman strength when a supply of bugs to consume is at hand.

With a serious crush on Officer Rebecca, Renfield takes on the Lobo henchmen with a graphic vengeance that results in bloody mayhem of shattered heads and severed limbs.

Turn the clock back more than thirty years, and recall that Nicolas Cage played an immortal predator in the horror comedy “Vampire’s Kiss.” It only seemed natural for him to take on the role of the most prominent vampire of them all.

No slight is meant to Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield to note that having more of Nicolas Cage’s range of emotions from absurd arrogance to real menace would have enhanced the campiness of “Renfield.”

How come vampires always end up living in New Orleans? Maybe we owe that to Anne Rice’s prolific novels. Whatever the case, the Crescent City is an appropriate venue for the genre.


Supernatural crime thriller “The Rising” is the story of Neve Kelly (Clara Rugaard), who discovers that she is dead. Understandably, she’s scared and confused by this new non-existence, but moreover, when she realizes she’s been murdered, she’s furious.

Determined to find her killer and get justice, Neve takes advantage of her new supernatural abilities to go where the police cannot and investigate her own death.

In doing so, she uncovers deeply buried secrets and is forced to re-examine everything about her life and the people she cared about. “The Rising” is a story about love, justice, and the cost of pursuing the truth in a world that wants to keep it hidden.

The Australian surfer drama “Barons” is set in a time of sexual liberation, social disruption, protest, and war. The eight-part series captures a unique moment of upheaval and opportunity as a new surfing counterculture collides with the realities of enterprise.

Two best friends, inspired by their love for the Australian beach, create what will become iconic rival surf brands. Little do they know that their success will tear them and their worlds apart.

When their businesses go mainstream, the young rebels and their friends find themselves pulled deep into a world of corporate politics, jealousy, homophobia, and racial tension.

“Barons” finds that the selling of their surfer dreams to the world has created bitter, lasting rivalries.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

06.07.2023 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Clearlake City Council special meeting
06.07.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
06.08.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
06.09.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 8:30 am - 10:30 am
Guided nature walk
06.10.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.12.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
Lakeport Senior Center

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