Monday, 15 July 2024

Arts & Life



‘ANYONE BUT YOU’ RATED R

Hardly a novel idea emanates from the romantic comedy tropes that turn “Anyone But You” into an artificial reimagining of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” where wit and banter have much to do with romantic deception, intrigue and trickery.

Nor is anyone going to think about one of the all-time greats of this genre in 1934’s “It Happened One Night,” a screwball romantic comedy in which Claudette Colbert’s married socialite falls for Clark Gable’s recently fired newspaper reporter.

The mismatched lovers in “Anyone But You” are Glen Powell’s Ben, a finance guy, and Sydney Sweeney’s Bea, a law school student who’s ambivalent at best about a career path of a lawyer.

On a superficial level, Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and Sweeney (TV’s “Euphoria”) are the type of photogenic beautiful people with a screen presence that practically screams for attention.

They first meet in a most serendipitous way at an upscale coffee shop thanks to the snippy attitude of a barista who won’t let frantic Bea use the bathroom without first having made a purchase.

Standing in a long line is Ben, who comes to the rescue by pretending to be Bea’s husband. This is followed by an amusing malfunction in the restroom, leading to a return to Ben’s place for grilled cheese sandwiches and a night spent together.

While the pair fall asleep on the couch fully clothed, the next morning Bea slips away without so much as a goodbye. Ben’s best friend Pete (GaTa) shows up and the jilted Ben makes disparaging remarks about his date that Bea happens to overhear after she decides to return moments later.

What should have been the start of a relationship turns sour with misunderstanding by both parties. Six months later, the two meet again at a bar under awkward circumstances, not knowing they would soon be linked to an upcoming wedding.

Pete’s sister Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) is marrying Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson). The wedding is going to take place at the exotically beautiful locale of a beachfront estate in Sydney, Australia.

The fun begins when Ben and Bea are stuck on the same long plane ride to Australia. They can’t resist sniping at each other, the result being that their banter takes a rancorous tone with no sign of abating.

The Shakespearean twist takes hold at the gathering of friends and family in Australia. Everyone comes to the conclusion that they are former lovers who can’t abide each other. A scheme begins to get them back together so that the wedding won’t be marred by their acrimony.

Bea’s parents Leo (Dermot Mulroney) and Innie (Rachel Griffiths) add some fuel to the fire by inviting Bea’s ex-boyfriend Jonathan (Darren Barnet) to the wedding, hoping to rekindle the relationship.

However, Ben and Bea decide to play along as a couple so that her parents will stop meddling, and then Ben’s former flame Margaret (Charlee Fraser) happens to be part of the wedding party. Margaret’s presence just adds another complication on the jealousy side.

There are some humorous moments to enjoy. A better one might be how the younger guests on a hike pay attention to a cute koala bear in a tree while ignoring Ben stripping naked as he yanks off all his clothes when a tarantula ends up in his shorts.

The failing of “Anyone But You,” regardless of its gorgeous setting, is that Ben and Bea arguably lack the convincing chemistry to seal the deal for true romance. With the glistening beauty of Sydney and its beaches on display, the winner here is the local tourism board.




‘THE CURIOUS CASE OF NATALIA GRACE: NATALIA SPEAKS’ ON ID TV

Earlier this year, ID TV’s documentary “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace” was a stranger-than-fiction series that explored the question of whether Natalia Grace Barnett was an exploited Ukrainian adopted child with dwarfism or a dangerous adult masquerading as an adolescent.

This real-life story mirrored the horror film “Orphan” in which a couple trying to rebuild their marriage after the loss of their baby decide to adopt a child who turns out to be a psychopath with dwarfism and a mysterious past.

Beginning on Jan. 1, “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Grace” retraces her adoption saga and the Barnett family’s allegations about her real age when she was adopted.

The series will showcase an emotional sit-down between Natalia and adoptive father Michael Barnett as they come to terms with the accusations that have been thrown around in both directions.

“Natalia Speaks” may offer insight into what really went on behind closed doors in the Barnetts’ home and how much truth there actually is to their claim Natalia was not a 6-year-old Ukrainian orphan with a rare genetic disorder, but rather a homicidal adult intent on harming them.

Previously unseen evidence and footage, as well as new theories and testimony from an array of voices, including the FBI agents who investigated the case, will shed light on the case.

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



Anyone remembering sex scandals of the late Nineties (not involving Monica Lewinsky) may recall the tabloid fodder story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a 35-year-old teacher convicted of child rape in a sexual relationship with a sixth-grade student.

The Netflix film “May December” is an unsettling reminder of a case of pedophilia that should not be normalized under any circumstance. The characters here are fictional, with the Letourneau story merely a twisted premise for a fraught history of predatory scandal.

Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth is a Hollywood actress preparing for some method acting by exploring first-hand the story of the older woman Gracie (Julianne Moore) having an affair outside her marriage with a 13-year-old co-worker at a pet store.

The child who had sex with Gracie in the store’s stockroom is now 36-year-old Joe (Charles Melton). The scandal happened more than 20 years ago, and even though Joe and Gracie are married and living in Savannah, Georgia, the couple may never escape the opprobrium of the townsfolk.

Embedding herself with the family, Elizabeth took interest in the script of an indie film to take the starring role, thinking aloud that in Gracie she sees “a woman with a lot more to her than I remember from the tabloids and our cultural memory.”

Elizabeth sits down with Gracie’s ex-husband Tom (D.W. Moffett), and discovers that to this day he has not gotten over the shock of being married to a then 36-year-old woman having an affair with a seventh-grade student.

As the affair led to pregnancy, Joe and Gracie have three children, the oldest being Honor (Piper Curda) coming home from college with a chip on her shoulder, while the younger twins Mary (Elizabeth Yu) and Charlie (Gabriel Chung) are about to graduate from high school.

“May December” moves at a laborious pace, seemingly entreating the viewer to savor the dialogue and parse the words for hidden meaning, while figuring out whether the emotions and feelings of the characters reveal some sort of truth.

Throughout the movie, it seems all too often that family members from Gracie and Joe to their three children say things are “fine” when one senses the expression cloaks a deeper sense of anguish bubbling under the surface.

As the film closes with Elizabeth on set with a young lover, I am at a loss on the symbolism of the garden snake she holds, but then the supposed edgy, dark humor also doesn’t resonate in a meaningful way for me. Viewers will need to arrive at their own suppositions.

Even though the focus is apparently Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth analyzing the essence of Julian Moore’s Gracie for her film role, “May December” belongs in great part to Charlie Melton’s Joe, a man-child at a crossroads in processing the reality of life.




‘ARCHIE’ ON BRITBOX

The four-part series “Archie” on BritBox is about the life of Hollywood leading man Gary Grant, who was born in Bristol, England in 1904 with the given name of Archibald Alexander Leach.

Tracing his troubled childhood in a family living in extreme poverty, Archie’s story as a child had to deal with his father’s adultery and the loss of his older brother John that tore the family apart and sent his loving mother into a downward spiral of grief and depression.

At 14, Archie auditioned for the music hall act of the Bob Pender Troupe, a band of acrobats, stilt walkers, clowns and comedians after seeing them perform at the Bristol Hippodrome.

Lean and athletic, Archie learned the art of stilt walking, and when the troupe went on tour to the United States, teenage Archie was intoxicated by the land of opportunity. Believing he had no family to return to in England, he decided to stay in America to try to make his way in show business.

With no thoughts of acting, a chance meeting with the comedian George Burns helped him find his first footing on the acting ladder and a contract with a movie studio who felt he needed to change his name, and Cary Grant was born.

The drama intercuts with scenes from 1961 when at the height of his fame, living in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, the legendary actor (Jason Isaacs) was breaking all box office records, but desperately unhappy in his private life.

With two failed marriages behind him, Cary began to woo an actress he’d seen on a TV show, Dyan Cannon (Laura Aikman). Thirty-three years his junior, Dyan didn’t initially fall for his charms, turning down his attempts to meet, because she didn’t feel they could ever be a match.

Dashingly handsome, suave and sophisticated, Cary continued to pursue her, with introductions to his famous friends, until they eventually wed in Las Vegas in 1965. The marriage didn’t last long but the couple had a daughter.

With the blessing of Cary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, and ex-wife Dyan Cannon, the pair serve as Executive Producers of “Archie.” Dainton Anderson, Calam Lynch, and Oaklee Pendergast pay young versions of Archie Leach.

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

Cynthia Rose. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Vocalist Cynthia Rose, one of the performers at the Lake County Symphony Association’s Christmas Concert this weekend, grew up in a musical family and community.

She enjoys playing piano, saxophone and singing. She was guided by excellent musical mentors: her father, local pianist Tom Ganoung, and renowned public educator Nick Biondo, who taught at her school.

From elementary school through college, Rose was involved in concert bands, concert choirs, jazz bands and jazz choirs, and has traveled as far as Rio de Janeiro to perform.

When she’s not instructing her students at Healdsburg High School (she’s taught Spanish and English in public schools for nearly 15 years for all grade levels) or busy at home in Sonoma County with her two children (Evette, 6 and Damon, 2), she likes to sing with a few local bands.

She has performed with “California party band” the Funky Dozen for six years. “I am one of the three female vocalists with the Dozen,” said Rose. “My first performance with them was at the Kelseyville Pear Festival. All the traffic was cut off, so it was like this huge block party. It was awesome!”

The Funky Dozen plays frequently at private and public local events in Lake, Sonoma, and other nearby counties. You can find information about them on Facebook or at www.funkydozen.com.

Rose has also been a part of the more intimate “Blue Hour” group for the last three years, which plays at Andre’s in Lakeport once a month.

For information about their schedule, go to “Blue Hour Bay Area” on Facebook.























The performers take an ovation bow. Courtesy photo.

UKIAH, Calif. — It’s that time of year again that so many piano lovers have been waiting for.

On Jan. 27 and 28, the 31st annual Professional Pianist Concert will hit the stage with two exciting concerts featuring eleven different pianists at the Mendocino College Center Theatre in Ukiah.

Performers letting the keys fly this year are Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Wendy DeWitt, Barney McClure, Frankie J, Tom Ganoung, Elizabeth MacDougall, Ed Reinhart, Ben Rueb, Charlie Seltzer and Janice Hawthorne Timm.

The musical styles will range from classical to jazz, boogie-woogie to Cuban, Broadway to ragtime. Each performance will be completely different.

This utterly fun and stimulating series features the finest regional pianists on stage in a living room environment. Throughout the performance they trade stories and melodies with two pianos on stage to accommodate impromptu collaborations.

The event is an annual sellout because of the diversity and quality of music in a multitude of styles, and the humor that takes place throughout the evening.

Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. will feature Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Frankie J., Elizabeth MacDougall, Barney McClure and Ed Reinhart.

Sunday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. will include Spencer Brewer, Wendy DeWitt, Tom Ganoung, Ben Rueb, Charlie Seltzer and Janice Hawthorne Timm.

No two concerts are the same, so if you love piano and piano music, please consider enjoying more than one performance.

The concerts benefit the Ukiah Community Concert Association, Mendocino College Recording Arts Club and the Allegro Scholarship Program. Tickets are on sale at Mendocino Book Co. in Ukiah, Mazahar in Willits and online at www.UkiahConcerts.org. Tickets are $25 general admission and $30 "I ‘Wanna’ See the Hands" limited seating. For more information call 707-463-2738.

Sponsors are Fowler Auto Center, Sparetime Supply, Savings Bank of Mendocino, Ukiah Community Concerts, Waterman Plants, K-WINE/MAX, KOZT-The Coast and KZYX/Z. Refreshments will be provided by Ukiah Community Concert Association.

The Mendocino College Center Theatre is at 1000 Hensley Creek Rd in Ukiah. There will be autographed CD's, music and books by the artists for sale in the lobby.



‘SILENT NIGHT’ RATED R

“Silent Night” is a well-known Christmas hymn dating back to the early 19th century. The movie of the same title might be considered a Christmas film in the same vein as “Die Hard,” only it is even more violent.

Legendary director John Woo, known for his operatic style of action sequences and rarefied imagery, made his mark on schematized action thrillers with his Hong Kong hits “A Better Tomorrow,” “Hard Boiled,” and “The Killer.”

Imagining John Woo directing a “John Wick” film is not a giant leap, considering his style would seem to have influenced that franchise, and with this film one of the production companies, Thunder Road, is best known for producing the franchise that Keanu Reeves made so thoroughly entertaining.

The holiday season informs the film mainly because on the night before Christmas, a traditional suburban American family is preparing to spend a pleasant day together, unaware of a brewing tension between two rival gangs that will change their lives in a horrifying and desolate manner.

As Brian (Joel Kinnaman) and Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno) Godlock enjoy playing in the front yard with their young son, local gangs are racing down the street firing automatic weapons at each other, never mindful that a stray bullet would harm someone uninvolved with a turf war.

Struck by a stray bullet, the young boy is collateral damage in a city seemingly rife with out-of-control crime sprees. The child does not survive and the mourning takes an irreversibly harmful toll on the parents.

With the notable exception of empathetic Detective Dennis Vassel (Scott Mescudi), Brian finds the flawed policing system seemingly indifferent to bringing deserved justice for the premature death of a boy. Not surprisingly, Brian vows to take revenge.

The main villain is gang leader Playa (Harold Torres), whose tattooed face and bald head make him look as vicious as any MS-13 gang member that terrorizes rivals and innocent civilians alike.

While Brian immediately hunts down and locates a handful of the culprits, his confrontation with Playa leaves him severely wounded and on the brink of death. Yet, his will for revenge becomes unstoppable.

Spurred to violent action, Brian’s desire to avenge the death of his son recalls what the fathers in “Death Wish” and “Taken” endured to overcome their pain to punish the criminals.

A good deal of the film is focused on Brian’s training regimen, given that he’s just a regular guy until he hones lethal skills. While there is brevity in the dialogue, violent retribution does all the talking and that is enough for action fans of a brutal revenge story.




‘BYE BYE BARRY’ ON AMAZON PRIME

One thing certain in this year’s season of pro football is that the Carolina Panthers have been eliminated for a spot in the National Football League playoffs.

Usually, the Detroit Lions are also-rans, as they have not won a 1991 season playoff game since they won the division game by beating the Dallas Cowboys in a lopsided victory.

One of the star Lions players at the time was running back Barry Sanders who played for ten seasons with the team and is now the subject of Amazon Prime’s documentary “Bye Bye Barry.”

This feature-length documentary reveals in intimate detail the unprecedented journey of the running back who led the league in rushing yards during four seasons. One of the giants of the sport, Sanders displayed a style and flair that has arguably never been replicated.

His record-breaking career at both Oklahoma State, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1988, and with the Detroit Lions created a standard that will be celebrated forever, and maybe not emulated by others with much success.

Ten years into his Hall of Fame career, it was only a matter of time before he broke Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton’s record for most rushing yards. Sanders gained 15,269 rushing yards, the most ever by any NFL player in a 10-year span.

But in his prime, at the peak of his game, Sanders did the unthinkable. At age 31, in the summer of 1999, he walked away from the game, never to return. Few retirements have ever been so shocking. And none with more intrigue.

Twenty-four years after the surprising decision to depart from the sport, NFL Film joined the 55-year-old Sanders and his four sons on a trip to England to explore his career, revisit his upbringing, and tackle one of the greatest mysteries in sports history. Why did he retire when he did?

The documentary reveals the controversy over Sanders’ retirement, which came abruptly with a faxed statement and a departure for London right before the start of training camp. It would not have been his style to hold a press conference.

Football fans should enjoy “Bye Bye Barry” for the great footage of his amazing speed and agility on the field, and the interviews with teammates, his family and cameos of celebrity fans like Tim Allen and Jeff Daniels, among others.

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

Anthony Neves. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Anthony Neves, one of the vocalists performing at the Lake County Symphony Associaton’s Dec. 17 holiday concert, has been a singer with the Funky Dozen for about five years.

He calls his singing style as one that is “more soulful.” Some have compared it to a Joe Cocker sound.

“But I will sing any style,” he said. “Depending on the event, it might be more like Frank Sinatra.”

Neves moved to Lake County about 16 years ago and has been singing a variety of music at many different venues since his arrival.

His first singing gig here was at the Saw Shop Restaurant in Kelseyville and he is still there on the first Thursday of every month, singing along with his recorded tracks.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Neves found a home in Lake County. “I needed a change, and I adopted Lake County.”

It helped that he had family members who lived here, and he was familiar with the area. Neves says his 30-year singing career has worked out well for him. “I have been able to support myself mostly through my music and work occasional side jobs when I need to.”

A degree he earned in Culinary Arts from Woodland College is used solely for personal enrichment.

“It’s a good skill to have and I’m glad I learned how to make a good meal for myself. Baking has become a hobby of mine,” he said.

He shares mouth-watering photographs of his cooking and baking expertise on his Facebook page, along with videos of musical performances that demonstrate his wide range of styles.

Neves keeps busy. In addition to performing with The Funky Dozen, he sings at local wineries and community events like the August car show in Library Park for Operation Tango Mike.

Last year he sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Veterans Day dinner at Konocti Vista Casino when the roomful of vets started singing along.

“It was an intense moment. I started to choke up and almost lost it!” But Neves didn’t let his emotions get in the way. He did it all over again last month at the Veterans Day dinner.

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