Wednesday, 04 October 2023

Arts & Life


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..

LAKEPORT, Calif. — The Lake County Community and Youth Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Camm Linden, will perform at the beginning of Lake County Symphony’s “Pre-Mother’s Day Concert” at 2 p.m., May 7 at the Soper Reese Theatre.

They start with “Adventures in Wonderland” by Paul Barker. In keeping with the LCSA tribute to the movies and stage, the LCCYO opens with this lighthearted contemporary piece.

Expect a cinematic theme layered with harmonic contrasts and accompanied by a constant, energetic rhythm.

Their next piece is “Siyahamba” a traditional South African folk song. The title of this engaging selection translates to “We are marching under the light” and is considered an ever-evolving part of the Zulu culture.

As the piece is passed down, each generation adapts it to their own sense of rhythm and notes. As such, it is thought there is “no wrong way” to perform this tune, if it is done in the spirit of joy and unity, arranged by Douglas Wagner.

“Smooth” written by Itaal Shur and Rob Thomas should sound familiar. This hit song was most famously performed by Carlos Santana on his 1999 “Supernatural” album.

Legendary music producer, Clive Davis, had to twist Santana's arm to record “Smooth” — a recording which eventually became Billboard's second-most popular single of all time.

This piece has been featured in several movies including “Keeping the Faith” and “Love Actually,” arranged by Jerry Brubaker.

Tickets for the concert are $25 for general seating and $30 for premium; they are available for purchase on the Soper Reese website, LCSA members receive a $5 discount.

Please arrive 30 minutes early when buying tickets at the door for the regular 2 p.m. concert.

There is also an 11 a.m. dress rehearsal performance which costs $5 for adults and is free for those for those under 18. Please arrive extra early for this rehearsal concert to ensure a seat.


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.

Trumpet soloist and Lake County’s “trumpet master,” Gary Miller, will play a medley of songs in salute to Louis Armstrong during the Pre-Mother’s Day Concert on Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Lakeport, California. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Symphony.

LAKEPORT, Calif. — Fans of the Lake County Symphony should get ready for a magical day at the upcoming Mother’s Day performance by the Lake County Symphony Orchestra even though it will not take place on the actual Mother’s Day — as has been done since the concerts began.

Instead, due to a scheduling conflict with the Ukiah Symphony which is playing its concert on Mother’s Day this year, Lake County Symphony’s performance will be on May 7, one week earlier than usual.

Conductor and Music Director John Parkinson will lead the orchestra in another unforgettable program featuring well-known, popular music from hit movies and live theater that should bring back good memories and spark the imagination.

The “Pre-Mother’s Day Concert,” as it is being called, will feature selections from “The Wizard of Oz," “Chicago,” “Rocky Broadway” and “Mission Impossible.”

The concert begins with the “warm-up band,” the Lake County Community & Youth Orchestra, playing several pieces in keeping with the theme of the day.

The main concert opens with “Curtain Up!” — a medley of tunes that includes music from a variety of shows, including “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Funny Girl.”

Then we hear two pieces from the “Wizard of Oz,” followed by several selections from “Pan,” based on the story of “Peter Pan.”

Next, the orchestra plays selections from “Hook” and “The Empire Strikes Back Medley” before intermission.

Following the break, the audience will hear the “Mission: Impossible Theme” based on the original TV series, followed by “SATCHMO!” a tribute to Louis Armstrong.

Featured trumpet soloist and Lake County’s “trumpet master,” Gary Miller, will play a medley that includes “What a Wonderful World,” “When the Saints Come Marching In,” “Saint Louis Blues,” and “Hello Dolly.”

Miller has been with the Lake County Symphony since it began in 1978, making him one of its original musicians — along with Andi Skelton and Nick Biondo.

Miller, who also plays with the Ukiah Symphony and with the Symphony of the Redwoods, said, “The saying goes, ‘There are too many directors for the number of musicians,’ so audiences see many of us in all three symphonies.”

This talented and versatile musician is also a part of the Brasstastics Brass Quintet and The Funky Dozen dance band.

Parkinson then leads the symphony in a “Chicago” medley, followed by the Orchestral Suite from “The Star Wars Epic-Part II,” and music from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The final musical selection is from “Rocky Broadway,” the Broadway version of the 1976 movie, “Rocky,” featuring a medley of the most recognizable tunes from the show: “Gonna Fly Now,” “Fight from the Heart,” and “Eye of the Tiger.”

Tickets for the concert are $25 for general seating and $30 for premium; they are available for purchase on the Soper Reese website. LCSA members receive a $5 discount.

Please arrive 30 minutes early when buying tickets at the door for the regular 2 p.m. concert.

There is also an 11 a.m. dress rehearsal performance which costs $5 for adults and is free for those for those under 18. Please arrive extra early for this rehearsal concert to ensure a seat.

Debra Fredrickson writes for the Lake County Symphony Association.

Upcoming Calendar

10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.05.2023 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Clearlake City Council
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Falling Leaves Quilt Show
10.08.2023 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Falling Leaves Quilt Show
Columbus Day
10.12.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.