Monday, 15 July 2024

Arts & Life


Jerry Seinfeld, best known for his eponymous long-running television series, is a man of many talents, including stand-up comedian, writer, actor, and producer. Now he can add director to his list of accomplishments with “Unfrosted.”

His popular series “Seinfeld,” which was a fictionalized version of himself and his personal relationship with three of his friends, was often described as “a show about nothing,” which the star and co-creator with Larry David presumably disagreed was an inaccurate depiction.

Netflix’s “Unfrosted,” written by Seinfeld and a team of collaborators, is also the directorial debut of a talented man who would like his film to be about something, which is a highly dramatized account of the phenomenon of a cereal war breaking out in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Longer than anyone can remember, the Midwest city has been the home of breakfast food titans Kellogg’s and Post. The year is 1963 and the two rivals are scrambling for a new product that could be considerably more revolutionary than just milk and corn flakes.

What possessed Jerry Seinfeld to come up with a project that is undeniably nostalgic for the early years of the 1960s when breakfast cereal reigned supreme and John F. Kennedy was president? Maybe it can be traced to his unabashed love for a bowl of processed grains shown regularly on his TV series.

Keep in mind that some of the characters are based on real persons, while others are fashioned out of whole cloth for comedic effect. Marjorie Post (portrayed by Amy Schumer) inherited the namesake company after the death of her father.

Jim Gaffigan’s Edsel Kellogg III is a buffoonish creation, which is apparent only minutes into the movie when seen in his office stumbling on an item in the newspaper and proclaiming, “Ooh. Vietnam. That sounds like a good idea.”

Seinfeld’s Bob Cabana is a Kellogg’s marketing executive who acquires inspiration from a pair of dumpster-diving kids that discover the tasty possibility of discarded test products. Hence, the concept of the Pop-Tart takes shape, and a full-blown race for a new breakfast pastry ensues.

That Kellogg’s is initially the top dog in the business is illustrated at the annual Bowl & Spoon Awards show, where Cedric the Entertainer’s ebullient host Stu Smiley hands out trophies for the winner of categories like “Easiest to Open Wax Bag” and “Best New Cereal Box Character.”

On a night that every single award is snagged by Kellogg’s, Marjorie Post and her table party are having a raucous good time, leading to the question of why they are smiling, and Cabana notes that they would “be happy if we were dragged through the streets like Mussolini.”

To feel how absurd the comedy is, look no further than Hugh Grant’s Thurl Ravenscroft, a Shakespearean actor relegated to being Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger in TV ads, and who leads other cartoon characters in a siege of the company headquarters as if it were a full-blown insurrection.

Melissa McCarthy’s Donna Stankowski is lured back to Kellogg’s from her job as a NASA scientist working on food products for astronauts after Bob Cabana dismisses the idea of a mission to the moon.

That the film plays loose on factual accuracy would be caught by a sharp eye of the smallest details in observing a Mustang convertible parked on a street. The first Mustang was the 1964-1/2 model, which according to anyone's math would be a year later than the setting of 1963.

Even more out of tune with the era is the soundtrack that includes singer-songwriter Norman Greenbaum’s hit single “Spirit in the Sky,” that was released in an album of the same name in 1969, which brings it closer to the moon landing.

Doing double duty as Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson, Kyle Dunnigan portrays the legendary anchor for CBS Evening News as a dimwit for comedic effect, but his impersonation of the late-night TV show host is amusingly uncanny.

Much funnier is when Jon Hamm and John Slattery of “Mad Men” fame, Madison Avenue ad men, pitch an inappropriately provocative “Jelle Jolie” brand illustrated by a sensual pinup girl.

Humor is attempted in the oddest places by dragging in political figures like Nikita Kruschev (Dean Norris) being pitched Borscht Loops cereal so that Post can get sugar from Cuba.

The Kellogg’s folks meet comedian Bill Burr’s JFK, who’s upset that Post is working with the Russians. The President suggests a cereal named Jackie O’s so that he may be out of the doghouse for Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to him.

Looking at the upside to “Unfrosted” is a calculated appraisal of its comedic value, which in large measure relies more on the supporting characters than what Jerry Seinfeld brings to the table.

“Unfrosted” arrives with a mixed bag of critical acclaim, but one should keep in mind that the story is a ridiculously unserious piece of business, and yet there’s plenty of humor to enjoy as long as you can indulge a nostalgic journey dipping into farcical nonsense.

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


A horror film is supposed to be scary, causing one to jump with each fright, compounded by a sense of dread of what may come next. “Abigail” may be billed as a horror film, but the assertion may be debatable.

It’s not really a spoiler to reveal that this is essentially a vampire/thriller movie. Trailers have not held back on the unmistakable theme unless one is willing to believe the central character just happens to have an abysmal set of teeth.

The titular character is a 12-year-old ballerina (Alisha Weir) first seen practicing a routine from “Swan Lake” at an empty theater before being chauffeured home to an elegant mansion owned by a powerful, wealthy underworld figure.

Waiting for the ballet prodigy is a mixed bag of criminals who have been recruited by criminal mastermind Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) to kidnap the kid with the intent of collecting a $50 million ransom.

In Quentin Tarantino-fashion, Lambert provides pseudonyms to each of the six recruits in a nod to the Rat Pack. The most sympathetic of the bunch is Joey (Melissa Barrera), a former addict and medic who is tasked with interacting with the hostage child.

Frank (Dan Stevens) is a former cop, and how he came to the other side of law is a mystery. Peter (Kevin Durand) is the dimwitted muscle. Getaway driver Dean (Angus Cloud) is an equally dumb skinhead.

Sammy (Kathryn Newton) is a ditzy blonde with computer skills not immediately apparent. Former military guy Rickles (William Catlett), much like Frank, soon comes to regret joining this gang. By the way, Don Rickles was never a member of the Rat Pack though he was a close friend with Frank Sinatra.

The notion of “Abigail” is that the motley crew must keep the kidnapped girl safe for 24 hours in a decaying mansion until Lambert returns with their cut of the ransom money. What could go wrong under this scenario?

For a while, everything seems to be going according to plan, except that Joey decides to wager she can guess everyone’s background with their facial expressions, going against Lambert’s instructions that all are to remain anonymous.

Abigail has her own game in mind, telling Joey “I’m sorry about what’s going to happen to you.” Suffice it to say, the pint-sized vampire unleashes her fury in most inventively bloody carnage, as the gang grapples with how to slay her with whatever they have gleaned from vampire movies.

It’s about halfway through the movie that Abigail goes on a rampage of dispatching her captors in a blood-soaked bonanza of decapitations and exploding bodies. With its black humor and thrills, “Abigail” just might be the ticket for fans of the genre.


Lifetime Channel has a knack for crime movies, either “ripped from the headlines” or based on purported events. “Mommy Meanest,” premiering on May 11th, has a title that sounds like an old Joan Crawford movie.

Lisa Rinna, married to actor Harry Hamlin and executive producer and star of “Mommy Meanest,” plays the role of divorced mother Madelyn with Briana Skye as her daughter Mia. Once having had a tight bond with her mother, Mia starts spending more time with her new boyfriend.

Madelyn is panicked by her daughter’s emerging independence with college on the horizon. When Mia starts to receive a barrage of degrading texts, Madelyn is determined to find out who is harassing her daughter and will do anything to help her, bringing them closer together again.

As the hundreds of texts become more ominous and threatening, Mia begins to wonder if her tormentor is someone closer than she could have ever imagined. You may have to guess where this is going. Lisa Rinna’s own daughter Delilah Hamlin appears in the movie as Mia’s friend Summer.

A week later on May 18 is the premiere of “The Bad Guardian,” a film inspired by countless true stories of individuals who have been put in the care of a guardian by the courts, and the question is whether these caretakers are helpful or harmful.

When Leigh’s (Melissa Joan Hart) father Jason (Eric Pierpoint) suffers a fall while she’s out of town, the courts assign Jason a guardian, Janet (La La Anthony). At first, Janet seems to be a big help to Jason, but things quickly take a terrible turn.

Legally in charge of every aspect of Jason’s life, Janet doesn’t waste any time placing him in a nursing home, auctioning off his house and worldly possessions, while using the excuse that the proceeds are needed for his care.

As Leigh continues to challenge Janet’s efforts, the guardian ultimately prevents the family from visiting. In Janet’s care, Jason’s health deteriorates, to the point that he needs a life-saving treatment which Janet decides is too expensive.

Will whistleblowers around Jason reveal the truth of abuse and end up in the crosshairs of a vengeful guardian? Will Leigh summon the strength to take down Janet and the corrupt system that enables her?

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


Recently declassified files of the British War Department and a book with the lengthy title of “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: How Churchill’s Secret Warriors Set Europe Ablaze and Gave Birth to Modern Black Ops” by Damien Lewis inspired director Guy Ritchie for a film up his alley.

While the book’s subtitle is revealing, what matters most is that the film “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” delivers high-octane action when a motley crew of rogues and mavericks undertakes a secret mission against the Nazis using unconventional fighting techniques.

Although the actual history of Winston Churchill’s efforts of Operation Postmaster’s special operatives to steal German boats from a Spanish island off the coast of Africa would be more compelling to read about, Guy Ritchie spices up an entertaining adventure by taking numerous liberties.

There’s a James Bond connection here with a young Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox) inside Churchill’s intelligence circle, who apparently drew upon the exploits of the commandos to create his famous secret agent.

One of the characters who may have inspired Fleming was eccentric Major Gus March-Phillipps (Henry Cavill), who is granted an early release from prison. The Major puts together his own elite team, recruiting Danish strongman Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson), who’s skilled with a bow and arrow.

Other members are the Irish navigator Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin; underwater demolitions expert Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding); and strategist Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer), who has to be rescued from torture in a German camp.

On the distaff side is femme fatale Marjorie Stewart (Eiza Gonzalez), a Jewish actress tasked with seducing the sadistic, sneering Nazi commander Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger).

Taking a huge political chance on an illicit mission, Churchill (Rory Kinnear) is perfectly willing to take the risk of dispatching rebels to turn the tide of the war in the Atlantic when England stood alone against the Nazis.

The renegades are invincible killers, mowing down scores of Nazis as easy as a carnival shooting range. The wisecracking dialogue, along with the exciting fight scenes, turn “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” into a fun caper.


Many celebrities appeared as special guests at the TCM Classic Film Festival. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson joined the opening night gala for “Pulp Fiction.”

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins reunited for the screening of “The Shawshank Redemption.” Mel Brooks introducing a closing night presentation of his film “Spaceballs” was a real treat for a packed theater.

No celebrity was busier during the festival than the dashing Billy Dee Williams, going strong at age 87, as he was the special guest for “Lady Sings the Blues” and “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.”

In addition to a book signing for “What Have We Here?,” Williams participated in an hour-long conversation at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where he described his childhood living in Harlem and getting his start in a Broadway production.

Making his feature debut in 1959’s “The Last Angry Man,” Williams developed a friendship with actor Paul Muni, who told him that race doesn’t matter and whatever he wants to play he should play it. More to the point, Williams said that “talk of race is boring.”

While achieving renown for the role of scoundrel Lando Calrissian in the “Star Wars” films “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi,” Williams expressed a love for old romantic comedies, along with how much he loved kissing Diana Ross’ character of Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues.”

At the “Bingo Long” screening, Williams revealed that the title of his autography “What Have We Here?” was the first line he delivered upon meeting Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Indeed, he was a likable rascal, and that’s part of his popularity.

An interesting find was the 1960 Jerry Lewis film “The Bellboy,” for the actor stepped into the director’s role for a film hastily put together when Paramount Pictures wanted a summer release.

Appearing as a guest presenter was Lewis’ son Chris, who said that his father wanted the already completed “Cinderfella” to be held for a Christmas release. Since Lewis was performing at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, he quickly penned a script with some help from Stan Laurel.

What’s fascinating about “The Bellboy,” with Lewis in the title role, is that his eccentric bellboy named Stanley remained mute until the very end, as a tribute to silent film comedians.

Chris Lewis also observed that “The Bellboy,” filmed almost entirely in less than a month at the Fontainebleau, was a film with “no story, no plot.” It’s pretty much, as Chris noted, a “series of silly sequences” which delivers the laughs.

Another discovery of comic gold is 1951’s “The Lavender Hill Mob,” where bank clerk Alec Guinness organizes an unlikely band of thieves to steal gold and melt it down as Eiffel Tower souvenirs.

An unexpected treat is seeing pre-stardom Audrey Hepburn as a cigarette girl in the opening scene.

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

Dancers with the North Bay Ballet Theatre rehearse for ¡Raíces Bailando! part of the Raíces Hermosas-Gorgeous Roots project at the Middletown Art Center in Middletown, California. Photo by Gregory Gillbergh.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center invites the public to ¡Raíces Bailando!, a dance performance and folklórico dance workshop on Saturday, May 18, at 4 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Produced in conjunction with the Middletown Art Center's groundbreaking exhibition Raíces Hermosas-Gorgeous Roots, this live, cross-cultural event will feature two local dance groups performing in the Middletown Art Center's gallery amidst a collection of over 50 contemporary Latinx artworks.

The afternoon event includes the world premiere of two original ballets choreographed by faculty at the Center Stage Dance Studios in Middletown for the North Bay Ballet Theatre: a new dance set to a selection from Carmen by Georges Bizet, choreographed by former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Jamie Zimmerman Bracisco, and an original work choreographed by Center Stage faculty Bonnie Amante set to the popular guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela's flamenco-styled hit track Tamacun.

In the second part of the program, Middletown High School faculty Dora Lara brings her popular Dance Folklórico group to the gallery with performances by students of four different folklórico styles, including Jalisco, Sinaloa, Veracruz and Baja, all featuring the colorful costumes and rhythms of this distinctive Mexican musical tradition, and the latter infused with the cowboy culture so familiar to the Middletown area.

Lara follows her troupe's performance with a folklórico dance workshop for attendees, where they'll learn the basic steps to a folklórico dance, complete with costumes available for performing.

The Raíces Hermosas-Gorgeous Roots exhibit features the vibrant work of contemporary Latinx artists. The exhibit, which opened in January, is on view Thursday through Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 3.

A closing celebratory Food and Fashion Fiesta will take place Saturday, June 1, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free to the public.

Everyone is invited to dress up in cultural garments and join a celebration of Latinx cultures. Free food and food and beverages for purchase will be available.

For inquiries or further information, please contact the Middletown Art Center at 707-355-4465 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Raices Hermosas is funded by a Specified General Fund for the Museum Grant Program under the California Cultural and Historical Endowment.

Middletown Art Center is a Lake County nonprofit dedicated to engaging the public in art making, art education, and art appreciation. Through exhibitions, performances, workshops, and community events, the art center provides a platform for diverse voices and perspectives, striving to create an inclusive and accessible space for all.

To learn more and donate to support other MAC arts and cultural programs visit or call 707-809-8118. The MAC is located at 21456 State Highway 175 in Middletown.

Ouroboros. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Art Center is excited to extend a heartfelt invitation to the community to join them in a transformative art project.

Titled “Ouroboros,” the project aims to unite residents in creating a new sculpture for the EcoArts Sculpture Walk at Trailside Park. The sculpture symbolizes the cycle of life and the remarkable resilience of nature after the fire.

The piece is a component of the MAC's ongoing “Reciprocity” project, which utilizes art to foster community and provide healing to both individuals and the environment.

Join sculptural artist Laura Kennedy this Saturday, May 11, and/or Sunday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to noon at Trailside Park as she facilitates the creation of the Ouroboros sculpture. The Ouroboros, a representation of a snake eating its own tail, is a reference to an ancient and multicultural symbol of life cycles, death, rebirth, and regeneration.

“The Ouroboros snake is an unending figure; with no beginning and no end. It is usually seen in a circular or figure-eight form,” explained artist Laura Kennedy. “Our sculpture will be created from respectfully harvested and gathered oak within the park, which supports the healthy growth of post fire trees and will create habitat.”

All ages and abilities are welcome, and prior experience is not necessary.

Following 12 years of annual, temporary exhibits, the 13th annual sculpture walk was destroyed in the 2015 Valley Fire. Tens of thousands of trees and shrubs were removed from the park. In 2019 EcoArts reopened in a fire damaged venue with half the number of artists. COVID, combined with park conditions, discouraged artist participation.

The Reciprocity project is revitalizing the EcoArts Sculpture Walk by supporting the co-creation of new sculptures, facilitated by numerous local artists.

“In creating together we can shift our relationships with one another, and embrace the diversity of people, cultures and micro-cultures in our community, as well as diverse artistic expressions,” said MAC Executive Director Lisa Kaplan.

Reciprocity is made possible with support from a grant from the Upstate California Creative Corps and the California Arts Council.

Those interested in participating will meet at 9am at Trailside Park 21435 Dry Creek Cut Off, Middletown Saturday and/or Sunday. Please bring gloves, clippers, sensible shoes, sun protection, and water (gloves are available).

An RSVP is requested to stay in touch in case of weather or other changes. To learn more about the Reciprocity project and RSVP for one or both sessions this weekend, please visit

Middletown Art Center is a Lake County non-profit dedicated to engaging the public in art making, art education, and art appreciation. Through exhibitions, performances, workshops, and community events, the Art Center provides a platform for diverse voices and perspectives, striving to create an inclusive and accessible space for all.

To learn more and donate to support this or other MAC arts and cultural programs visit

For inquiries or further information, please contact the Middletown Art Center at 707-355-4465 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The MAC is located at 21456 State Highway 175 in Middletown.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California, Callayomi County Water District, and the Middletown Art Center are inviting residents from Middletown Unified School District and South Lake County Fire Protection District areas to vote in the Water Basket Project design selection.

The deadline to vote is Sunday, May 5.

The designs can be seen here.

The six designs and models on view were selected by a jury from 25 designs submitted. The jury was composed of 14 community members, both tribal and non-tribal, including two representatives each from the Middletown Rancheria, tribal cultural educators, Callayomi County Water District, Middletown Area Town Hall or MATH, Middletown Area Merchants Association, the Middletown area community and the Middletown Art Center.

The Water Basket Project will paint the two large water tanks located at the highest point in Middletown on Rabbit Hill with 360-degree murals with designs inspired by Pomo basketry and the local natural world.

A public call for work was posted in October and closed in January.

The Water Basket Project beautifies public space, uplifts and gives voice to community resilience and local identity and to our connection to this place, while honoring the heritage of the original people.

Pomo baskets were, and still are, made in this region and are found in museums worldwide. They are renowned for excellence in craftsmanship, aesthetics, and form and function using natural materials.

The project was announced at a Middletown Area Town Hall meeting in 2022 and the concept was unanimously approved by all present.

The Middletown Art Center was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the Water Basket Project in the summer of 2023.

Since then, numerous public events, classes and community presentations enabled people to learn more about the project and about Pomo basket designs.

Native and non-native artists and community members have engaged in cultural education and the process of creating and selecting designs for the project.

Mockups and maquettes of the selected design proposals are on display at the Middletown Art Center on Sunday, May 5, the last day to vote.

Wherever you decide to cast your vote, you may only vote once for each tank. Each design can be adapted for the larger or smaller tank.

Please note that final selected designs may have additional adjustments made to them before painting. All basket designs will undergo final approval from Middletown Rancheria tribal members.

For more information on the Water Basket project and design criteria, please visit

For inquiries or further information, please contact the Middletown Art Center at 707-355-4465 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Middletown Art Center is located at 21456 State Highway 175 in Middletown.

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