Monday, 22 July 2024

Arts & Life

HITMAN (Rated R)

Though it may not prove a winner on screen, the action movie “Hitman” is based on an alleged top-selling, award-winning video game franchise. At the risk of exposing my cultural ignorance, I am unaware of this video game’s reputed popularity. No matter, as I am blissfully oblivious to the electronic gaming market in general. Being out of touch may not be such a handicap, because after all Hitman should stand on its cinematic merits.

In any event, I am usually game for a high-octane, shoot ‘em up adventure, where the elite assassin performs his job with lethal grace and resolute pride. In the movie's title role, Timothy Olyphant is the complex and mysterious hired gun known only as Agent 47. He’s a laconic loner who reveals little about himself, choosing to let his weapons do all the talking. He’d like to be Gary Cooper with automatic weapons, but this isn’t a western.

Oddly enough, this is more of a freak show. The background story has Agent 47 trained from birth in the deadly arts at some sort of weird monastery, where the young are molded into trained killers, detached emotionally from any real feelings and thoughts held by average folks. Like his equally anonymous colleagues, Agent 47 is stripped of conscience and morality.

The puzzling thing about Agent 47, dressed impeccably in fashionable suits, is that like his fellow assassins he’s got a shaved head with a tattooed barcode on the back of his scalp. Curiously enough, he runs around with the barcode constantly exposed, as if nobody is going to notice it.

The great unanswered question is why there’s a barcode emblazoned on his cranium to begin with. Does it have any practical value? Does he scan his head at the checkout counter of the arms-dealing supermarket when loading up on a stockpile of automatic weapons and grenades?

The story for Hitman, such as it is and as best as it can be followed, is that Agent 47, taking orders from the Agency by way of a computer, is on a mission to assassinate Russian president Mikhail Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen). The reason for this assignment is unclear, though the target is described as a “moderate,” who’s unfortunately saddled with an unsavory younger brother (Henry Ian Cusack), a peddler in weapons, drugs and prostitutes.

The job goes off without a hitch, or so he thinks, until Belicoff appears again in public with nary a scratch. Hot on the trail is Interpol agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott), who knows that Agent 47, operating with lethal precision, does not miss a target.

The female interest is the slinky, hot babe Nika (Olga Kurylenko), connected to the Belicoffs and a key witness. She’s made some bad career choices, and now she’s taken hostage by Agent 47, who has to go on the run. For reasons that are muddled, the hitman is betrayed by the Agency, and suddenly he’s being chased through a train station by a bunch of bald guys with barcode tattoos.

Meanwhile, the Russian secret police and Interpol, not exactly working in sync, are after Agent 47 as well. A whole bunch of people are trigger happy, but none quite as much as the film’s putative hero. As time passes, the enigmatic, ruthless Agent 47 looks increasingly like the reasonable guy in a world populated with double-crossing thugs.

Meanwhile, the emotionally distant professional assassin has to deal with his pretty hostage, though he rarely lets his guard down. Interestingly, she attempts continuously to seduce him, but having been raised in a sheltered environment at the assassin school, Agent 47 never picked up any tips from James Bond, who always managed to give in to his carnal desires with the bad girls while keeping his wits intact. But our guy is unflappable and unmoved, even in the face of Nika’s seductive striptease.

Hitman has no really useful purpose other than to serve up large portions of violence and gunplay, where the high body count seems destined to create a new benchmark in wanton killings. The film is intermittently intriguing and interesting, but for reasons that seem elusive. If it’s basically mindless action on the menu, then Hitman does the trick.


From the guys who brought us crude comedies like “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” comes “Superbad” in a two-disc unrated edition with additional footage deemed too raunchy for theaters.

Having seen the original, I can only wonder how much more over the edge they can go with this story about some guys desperate to hook up with their dream girls on a wild party night before heading off to college.

The two-disc set includes a bevy of bonus material, much of it designed to capitalize on the film’s essential lewdness.

Still, I am fascinated to see the “Press Junket Meltdown” feature, mainly out of professional curiosity.

For those who want to tone down the vulgarity, there’s also a single-disc rated version.

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


LAKEPORT – Take a break from your holiday shopping to enjoy some music and magic at Café Victoria this weekend.

This month host Phil Mathewson will perform along with other local musicians, magicians and poets. The fun starts at 4 p.m. and continues to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1.

If you would like to perform come by and we will fit you in somehow. The open mic is always free with food and drink for sale at the café.

Café Victoria is located on the corner of Third and Main Street in Lakeport.


UPPER LAKE – The Blue Wing Saloon and Tallman Hotel plan to celebrate the holidays in style, with special Christmas events and lots of great music.

The saloon and hotel's owners, Bernie and Lynne Butcher, are planning a special evening on Saturday, Dec. 1, to coincide with the tree lighting in historic downtown Upper Lake.

Enjoy Upper Lake's annual Christmas Lights parade at 7 p.m. and then have dinner at the Blue Wing. That night the Sweet Adelines vocal group will entertain in the hotel and saloon.

On Christmas Day, Dec. 25, the Butchers will open the Blue Wing for a special brunch/lunch from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Throughout the holiday season, the saloon will host a lineup of great music on Mondays, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Performers include:

  • Nov. 26 – Lake Blues All-Stars with Mike Wilhelm, Jim Williams, Jon Hopkins – and Neon!

  • Dec. 3 – Lake Blues All-Stars.

  • Dec. 10 – Toler Brothers Band.

  • Dec. 17 – Levi Lloyd and Robert Watson Band.

  • Dec. 24 – Enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve dinner with Stephan Holland on guitar.

  • Dec. 31 – Start your New Year’s celebration at the Blue Wing with Dan Mayer on guitar and vocals.

For more information, contact the Blue Wing Saloon at 707-275-2233, or the Tallman Hotel, 707-275-2244.


Lead guitarist works the crowd during Lakeport's summer concerts. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


ROBINSON RANCHERIA – The band Real Deal, a favorite among the many bands that entertained Friday evenings in Lakeport during the summer of 2007, returns to the area Friday and Saturday night when they perform in the bar and Robinson Rancheria Casino between Nice and Upper Lake.

The band, led by keyboardist FrankieJ, has performed over several decades as an opening act for some of America's best-known rhythm and blues and soul bands both here and abroad.

Lead guitarist Neil Stallings adds an extra bit of showmanship to his performance. Stallings also has played for many well-known bands during his long career.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



More than pleasing and fun for all ages, “Enchanted,” the new Disney film that artfully combines classic fairy tale animation with live action in the gritty modern-day world of New York City, is a true marvel of magical storytelling and technical brilliance.

Poking fun at its long line of animated “happily ever after” stories realized in such films as “Cinderella” and “Snow White,” Disney most cleverly allows the innocence of the traditional animated world to collide with contemporary reality, and in so doing it thrusts fairy tale romance hard up against the harshness of cynicism in a place without magic.

What comes of this combustible mix of animation and reality is one very enchanting and laugh-filled comedy.

True to the “happily ever after” sensibility of its cartoon forebears, “Enchanted” begins its tale in the animated paradise of Andalasia, where lovely Giselle (Amy Adams) sings beautiful songs and has the uncanny ability to communicate with animals.

Her wish to meet the handsome prince of her dreams and to share “true love’s kiss” comes true when Prince Edward (James Marsden) finds her in the enchanted woods. However, the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) will stop at nothing to keep this girl away from her throne.

On her way to wed the prince, Giselle is ambushed by the evil Queen and her henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall). When the Queen says Giselle will be banished to a place where there are no happily-ever-after stories, the putative princess is dropped into a well and emerges from a manhole in the middle of Times Square.

This is where the fun really starts.

Dressed in an enormous white wedding gown, Giselle is confronted with the gritty, chaotic world of Manhattan, which looks definitely frightening to one unaccustomed to the hustle and bustle of the big city. She’s not prepared for people that are angry and rude, and she even responds with gratitude to a sarcastic greeting.

Wandering the city in search of the castle, Giselle comes across a billboard for a casino that looks like Excalibur. Coming to her aid in this strange new place, Giselle is befriended by a no-nonsense divorce lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), and his young daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey). Against his better judgment and at the urging of his daughter, Robert invites Giselle back to his apartment when a sudden storm erupts.

Despite his essential kindness, Robert is too detached and unemotional, perhaps due to his line of work and the breakup of his own marriage. However, he can’t turn the strange girl out on to the streets. The next morning, Giselle summons the aid of her animal friends, including pigeons, rats and cockroaches, to tidy up the messy apartment. She also helps herself to the curtains to make a new dress.

Robert is stunned by her odd behavior, such as when Giselle emerges from the shower with only a pair of birds discretely holding up a towel to preserve her modesty. Robert’s longtime, career-driven girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel) is baffled by his sudden interest in the mystery woman.

Things get to be even more fun when the clueless, self-absorbed Prince Edward shows up in Times Square, along with the devious Nathaniel and a talkative chipmunk named Pip. Thinking that he has encountered a large metal dragon, Edward attacks a city bus with his sword. It’s just one of many comical encounters with the locals.

More amusing is Nathaniel’s bungling of several attempts to eliminate Giselle, while Pip tries frantically and without success to warn the dense Edward of Nathaniel’s duplicity.

Meanwhile, Giselle meddles in Robert’s divorce work by convincing a bitter couple to reconcile, only because she fervently believes in the magic of love.

Belief in fairy tale romance is at the core of Giselle’s motivation, and the effect she starts to have on others, particularly Robert, is not surprising.

On many levels, “Enchanted” is inspired by the Disney canon of animated films, only to shift gears into something new and original.

It’s hard to imagine anyone not thoroughly enjoying this very funny, sweet movie. The brilliance of “Enchanted” is that it is targeted to the widest possible audience and succeeds beyond all expectations.


At long last, the entire four seasons of the classic spy series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is being issued in a 41-disc set.

Starring Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” series originally aired on NBC from 1964 to 1968, earning 16 Emmy award nominations during its run.

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series” includes all 105 episodes, the majority of which have never been available on home video.

This ultimate DVD set is loaded with extras, including the unaired, original color pilot for the series, titled simply “Solo,” as well as the 1966 theatrical film “One Spy Too Many.”

For the time being, “The Complete Series” is only available from the Time Life Web site (, priced at $249.99.

For those with patience, the series is due to be released to retail outlets by Warner Home Video in fourth quarter 2008.

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




CLEARLAKE PARK – Literally reaching for the stars, Clearlake Park’s Mallard & Heron Books has released its debut novel, a science fiction story titled “Zeera” by Mary Dombach.

“Zeera is selling well,” said publisher Mark Bredt, who has realized a lifelong ambition to publish books after decades as a news journalist and editor.

“I have discovered that the production of a book is the easy part of publishing,” Bredt added. “The challenge comes with promoting, marketing and sales.”

Bredt has managed to place “Zeera” with all of the major online retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and more.

“But getting into bookstores is definitely the bigger challenge,” Bredt said.

Locally, Clearlake’s Wild About Books is carrying the title and several bookstores local to the author are carrying it, too.

“It’s a slow and methodical process of presenting and selling the title to bookstores,” said Bredt.

“Zeera” also debuts the writing talent of Pennsylvania resident Mary Dombach, who had planned to wait for retirement to write her first novel but the central character of the science fiction story had other plans. Perhaps Zeera exercised extraterrestrial talents to get her story told; whatever the case, Dombach couldn’t resist the story clamoring to be heard.

“Zeera” is a book for a wide audience, said Dombach. Obviously a science fiction/fantasy entry, there are enough wry observations on the human condition to appeal to literary readers and a quotient of romantic obstacles that will intrigue romance fans.

Zeera is a comely young woman from another planet, the Daughter of the Sable Knight. She is one of a dozen offspring of Argerian males and captive human women sent to Earth to become pregnant. Survival of the Argerian race depends on the mission’s success.

The plot involves its fair share of extraterrestrial powers and manipulative shenanigans by the Argerian elders, which creates a compelling line of suspense. But the story revolves around Zeera’s learning to understand human behavior and motivations.

She is entranced by Lilly and Walt, the elderly couple from whom she rents a room, and their devotion to each other; intrigued by the couple next door and their young daughter, and often startled by the simple things humans take for granted. Then, of course, there are the vagaries of her search for a suitable sperm donor and her surprising choice.

A review on her Web site,, notes that, “This is a gentle book, even as horrific violent events are disclosed, with a subtle humor and unexpected twists. In the midst of the otherworldly plotline, one is delighted by the author’s caring eye for the doubts and dilemmas wrestled by ordinary people dealing with everyday events.”

Zeera leaves us with plenty to think about. As Dombach writes in her preface: “Of the many lessons she would learn over the course of her travels, Zeera came to know that all races know evil; some even honor it. Perhaps the most important lesson was that there is no need to burden oneself with the debates of philosophy or even religion, because ultimately truth is determined by those in power. The most complex, and probably the most disturbing lesson of all, was that some things matter more than truth.”

Zeera is available for purchase online at, through most major online book retailers and locally at Wild About Books in Clearlake.

Zeera can be ordered through any local bookstore – ISBN # 978-0-9796989-0-3 / Trade paper back $14.95 / Mallard & Heron Books.


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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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