Monday, 22 July 2024

Arts & Life

SHOOT ‘EM UP (Rated R)

The pervasively strong bloody violence that runs nonstop through “Shoot ‘Em Up” is an American tribute to the Hong Kong action cinema popularized by director John Woo, most particularly in “Hardboiled.”

Writer-director Michael Davis has made it clear that the seeds of unrelenting gunplay of his new movie were sown by the inspiration of Woo, which has frankly been evident in a number of recent films that stage outlandish scenarios of explosive gunfights. So over-the-top in its violence, “Shoot ‘Em Up” seems that it would have been most fitting as part of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez collaboration that was “Grindhouse.”

Excess is redefined in “Shoot ‘Em Up,” where the amount of firepower delivered from handguns to machine guns is enough to rival numerous major offensives in large scale military battles.

The film’s hero is the enigmatic Mr. Smith (British actor Clive Owen), who comes across as the world’s angriest man with a fetish for raw carrots. We first see him minding his own business, sitting at a bus stop in an unidentified grimy urban area.

Munching on the proverbial carrot, Mr. Smith springs into action when a pregnant woman runs by screaming as she’s pursued by a carload of assassins. Intervening to save the helpless woman, Mr. Smith is soon acting as midwife for a delivery, while holding off an assault of bad guys with expert precision in formidable gunplay. Unlike Bugs Bunny, Mr. Smith also demonstrates the lethal power of a well-placed carrot.

In the midst of a ferocious gunfight, the hardboiled Mr. Smith takes it upon himself to protect an innocent newborn child. After the mother dies of a gunshot wound, his maternal instincts are seriously lacking, so he teams up with a lactating prostitute named DQ (Monica Bellucci), with whom he has some sort of shaky history.

While his mysterious brooding quality remains intact, Mr. Smith reveals little of himself, except his annoyance with the little things in life that can be irritating, with his temper blowing up amusingly in a scene where he becomes vengeful against a driver committing the cardinal sins of not using his turn signals and throwing trash out the window of his car.

When not teaching a lesson to careless and rude jerks, Mr. Smith is spending most of his time reloading and shooting a variety of weapons. This is necessary because he and DQ must save the baby from Hertz (Paul Giamatti), a sadistic gangster with a pencil pusher’s eyeglasses and a terrible combover.

Though plot is hardly an integral matter, the machinations behind the scenes involve a diabolical plan to harvest babies for the bone marrow needed by a crusading politician running for president, who ironically is in favor of strict gun control, if only for the moment. Senator Rutledge (Daniel Pilon) is the usual annoying political gasbag full of hot air, and you can easily anticipate his deserved fate.

Possibly the fastest-moving film of the modern era (even surpassing the adrenaline-fueled “Crank”), “Shoot ‘Em Up” does little more than turn Mr. Smith loose for every conceivable type of shootout, with each setup increasingly more outlandish. Mr. Smith spins a playground carousel with bullets so a sniper can’t shoot the baby lying on it. He rappels down a stairwell on a rope, shooting scores of black-clad commandos in the rapid fire of his machine gun. There’s a gunfight while Mr. Smith and paratroopers are free-falling out of an airplane. Even during a lovemaking scene with DQ, Mr. Smith becomes engaged in a gun battle.

By now, it should be abundantly clear that the comic-book violence of endless shootouts is nonstop, increasingly inventive and cleverly entertaining, at least for action junkies.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” delights in its ability to go completely wild and out-of-control, but it also has a dark sense of humor that is most promising. Indeed, there are a slew of witty one-liners delivered by the sarcastic Mr. Smith, and Hertz gets in the act with well-placed verbal punches.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” is not for every taste, but it is a strangely fun ride. Caution should be exercised by moviegoers, as this film is definitely not the family-friendly type.

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


Author Alice Walker, speaking recently at SolFest in Hopland and simultaneously in my living room, courtesy of KZYX and KZYZ radio of Mendocino County, stopped my puttering with these words:

“In Rwanda, women are 48 percent of the parliament, the highest percentage of any country in the world.” And then she went on with the horrifying explanation that this may well be because 800,000 Rwandan men were slaughtered in the genocidal war of 1994.

SolFest is such a broad-ranging event that Walker was a perfect speaker. A poet and author of several non fiction books and novels, the best-known her Pulitzer Prize winner “The Color Purple” she seems to have no limits on her interests, from farming to quilting, health, orchids, peace, saving old buildings, and creating new and better societies.

The talk was just an appetizer. I thought I had read most of her work, but had never heard of “We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: nner Light in a Time of Darkness,” her 2006 collection of essays, meditations and talks to groups ranging from graduating classes to midwives and black yoga teachers.

The book is a full meal, a feast. No, a full life, from birth to death. In addressing midwives in New Mexico she speaks of the primary life-saving importance of welcoming the newborn; in addressing college graduates, she advises having only one child and she repeatedly urges the protection of all children and the bombing of none.

Walker is not popular with the present-day United States government. She has been arrested in peace demonstrations, is outspokenly critical of the war on Iraq and greatly admires Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro for the widespread health care and universal literacy his much-maligned regime has achieved.

The book's title is a line from the late poet June Jordan's “Poem for South African Women.” Walker and Jordan were friends for 30 years. We are the ones is an inspiring and comforting thought; the Elders of the Hopi Nation of Oraibi, Ariz., liked it too, enough to use it as the end of a message which begins “We have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour/Now we must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.”

Walker, now 63, is the daughter of Georgia sharecroppers with African, Cherokee, Irish and Scottish ancestry who attended Spelman College in Atlanta on full scholarship and later transferred to Sarah Lawrence. She has traveled widely, and continues to do so, when not at one of her homes in Mendocino County, San Francisco or Mexico.

At both SolFest and in the book she has scattered little nuggets of humor coating chewy centers.

  • On the power of language: Why do modern women call each other “guys”?

  • On coloring her hair: “the struggle for hair liberation does not, I feel, stop at nappiness.”

  • On slave owners who ordered their slaves to wear pastels: “Obviously we looked great in red ... that was the problem.”

Two of her passions resonated strongly for me. First her own “intense house hunger,” which she has fed by owning several and building one. “I will never build another ... use what is still beautiful and sound, repair, what is broken; in a word, renovate housing that already exists.” It was no surprise to learn she collects quilts, those useful and beautiful creations made from useless scraps.

Then, “The pause,” that moment when we have finished a project and are ready to rush into another. “Wisdom, however, requests a pause. If we cannot give ourselves such a pause, the universe will likely give it to us,” perhaps as illness or some other unwelcome event which requires us “to stop, to sit down, to reflect.”

She serves generous helpings of gratitude to the multitude of women and men who have guided her through her life, poets of many nations, spiritual and political leaders of many persuasions, including singer Bob Marley, whom she never met but for whom she named her dog.

This can be a quick read, but it's sure to require long digestion.

We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Light in a Time of Darkness

Format: Hardcover

Pub. Date: 11/1/2006

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co Inc


Pub. Date:11/30/2007

Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc

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


Jim Waters sitting at the piano and Phil Mathewson, standing and wearing his Elton John-style, oversized sunglasses. Photo by Joanne Bateni.

LAKEPORT Cafe Victoria's Musical Break was held Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.

Lakeport looked like a ghost town without the usual hum of traffic by the cafe.

But the show must go on and Phil Mathewson and Friends came directly to the cafe from their Art in the Park performance.

Bobbie G. continued on the bongos and Jim Waters tickled the ivories on Victoria's house piano.

Phil did his original songs and threw in a few covers including "Kansas City." There was a steady stream of customers seeking cold drinks like ice coffee and smoothies. Some even stayed awhile to listen to the music.

Check Cafe Victoria's entertainment calendar for her next event by calling 263-1210.




Author Peg Kingman reads from her new book, Not Yet Drown'd, at Mendocino College on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m.



UKIAH – The Friends of the Mendocino College Library are sponsoring a reading by novelist Peg Kingman, whose book, Not Yet Drown'd, is being published by W.W. Norton in early September.

The reading will take place in the Little Theater in the Lowery Library Building at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The Ukiah campus is located at 1000 Hensley Creek Rd. in Ukiah. Admission for this event is free and tea will be served following the reading.



The novel follows Catherine MacDonald who is astonished to receive from her twin brother who had reportedly drowned a year earlier, in the monsoon floods of 1821 a kashmiri shawl, a caddy of unusual tea and a sheaf of traditional bagpipe music in his handwriting. When had he sent it? And why had he re-titled a certain tune "Not Yet Drown'd"?



Irresistibly, Catherine is drawn to India to search for answers. With her stepdaughter and their two maids one an enigmatic Hindu, the other a runaway American slave she follows an obscure trail of tea, opium, and bagpipe music. In the course of their journey they meet botanists, smugglers, engineers, soldiers, and artists as well as love and betrayal. And as they copy, translate, and finally understand certain Scottish and Indian paintings and music, they discover unsuspected truths about the man they are seeking.



Peg Kingman, formerly a tea merchant, lives on a mountaintop in Redwood Valley where she grows tea and plays the bagpipe.



The Friends of the Mendocino College Library, an affiliate group of the Mendocino College Foundation, sponsor readings throughout the academic year at the college. The next reading will take place in November.

For more information about these events, check or call John Koetzner at the Mendocino College library, 468-3051.


UPPER LAKE Blue Mondays at the Blue Wing Saloon and Cafe continued on Labor Day, a fitting cap to the last holiday weekend of summer.

Rob Watson and Friends jammed the blues for a perky, festive dinner crowd.

The band consisted of Rob Watson on bass, Levi Lloyd on guitar, Robert Reason on keyboards and Andre Williams on drums.

They did two sets of material that showcased the talents of the players. Song selections included Listen Here, You Got Me Runnin', Cissy Strut, What's Goin' on, Mr. Magic and Use Me.

The Blue Wing has released their current schedule of music for Sunday Brunches and Blue Mondays for the month of September.

Sunday brunch lineup includes:

  • Sept. 9, Stephen Holland

  • Sept. 16, Don Coffin and Dave Hooper

  • Sept. 23, Dan Meyer Trio

  • Sept. 30, Jim Tuhtan


Appearing on the Blue Wing Monday blues lineup:

  • Sept. 10, Levi Lloyd and Rob Watson

  • Sept. 17 and 24, Twice As Good (Rich and Paul Steward)

Thurman Watts writes about music and culture for Lake County News.


LOWER LAKE The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22 and 23.

The event will bring together local and regional musicians for performances on two stages, as well as a full schedule of musician workshops throughout the day on such topics as banjo, fiddle, flat-picking techniques for guitar, and old-time singing.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments for workshops and informal jam sessions behind the ranch house.

Headliners of the festival will be the Adobe Creek Bluegrass Band from Petaluma, and the Barefoot Nellies, Knuckle Knockers, Julay Brandenburg and the Nightbirds, and Crossroads Bluegrass Gospel all from the Bay Area.

Other entertainers include the local Elem Indian Tribe Dance Group, who will kick off the event, plus local groups Andy Skelton and the Konocti Fiddlers, Bluegrass Contraption, Pat Ickes and Born to Ride, the Clear Lake Clickers, Don Coffin and the AMIA Live Wire Choir, and Jim Williams. Evan Morgan from Cobb and Paul Gruen from Sebastopol also will perform together. Other local and regional bands are expected to join the lineup before the festival.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will feature demonstrations and vendors selling old-time handmade crafts, Art in the Barn, a wine garden featuring Lake County wines, and a beer garden, as well as food prepared by local service clubs and local schools’ culinary programs.


Vendors and organizers will be dressed in period attire, which includes rural farm clothing such as cotton shirts, pants and suspenders. Attendees are encouraged to dress the part, and examples of period attire are available on the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association Web site,

The Kiwanis Club will be decorating and facilitating the beer and wine gardens, among other things. Event T-shirts will be available courtesy of the Rotary Club, and with the help of Porter Street Barbecue, the club will serve biscuits and gravy Sunday morning, in addition to providing other services.

“The most important thing about it is to bring local service clubs together to promote quality community events oriented toward families. Children and grandparents all generations can find something fun to do there,” said Frank McAtee, one of the four event coordinators.

Other coordinators are Anna McAtee, Don Coffin and Ellen Lundquist.

During the family-friendly festival, making tule dolls and panning for gold are just some of the many children’s activities.

“The kids loved it last year; there was real gold they could pan for,” said Anna McAtee.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Sunday’s emphasis will be on bluegrass gospel.

Advance tickets are $20 for Saturday, $15 for Sunday, or $25 for both days. At the gate, tickets are $25 for Saturday, $20 for Sunday, or $35 for both days. Children 12 and under are free and must be accompanied by an adult.

Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association Bluegrass Memberships are available for $100. With this, members get four two-day passes, an event T-shirt, and two newsletters per year, which outline how proceeds from the event are being spent.


Purchase of a ticket includes admission to the event, all entertainment, workshops, wine and beer gardens, and Art in the Barn. The event will be held rain or shine.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival is sponsored by the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association and the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Proceeds will finance camps and enhancement for the park so children all over the lake can use the facility. Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association will be hiring interpretive specialists to work with school groups that visit.

These trained docents can give visitors the full educational experience in the areas of science, performing arts and history. Native Americans began settling at the marsh 10,000 years ago. Today’s visitors examine the village sites, artifacts, and the ecology of the marsh.

“The purpose of the event is to give students an opportunity to learn about local history and culture through curriculum and guest speakers and to provide them with pride and appreciation for where they live,” says Anna McAtee.

“The event itself is an excellent educational and cultural experience for attendees,” she adds.

For tickets or for more information about the Old Time Bluegrass Festival or the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association, call (707) 995-2658 or (707) 994-0688 or visit


Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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