By Lynn Venhaus

Local Spotlight: “In the Heat of the Night”

To celebrate its 55th anniversary, “In the Heat of the Night” is getting the TCM Big Screen treatment.

The Fathom Event, with special insight from Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewicz, will be at Marcus Ronnie’s Cine at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The Oscar-winning film was set in Sparta, Miss., but most of the movie was filmed in Sparta, Ill. Many of the film’s landmarks can still be seen.

Director Norman Jewison shot part of the film in Dyersburg and Union City, Tenn., and the rest in Sparta, Chester, and Freeburg in southern Illinois.

The Plot: While traveling in the Deep South, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a black Philadelphian homicide detective, becomes unwittingly embroiled in the murder investigation of a prominent businessman. Finding the killer, however, proves difficult when his efforts are constantly thwarted by the bigoted town sheriff (Rod Steiger). But neither man can solve this case alone. Putting aside their differences and prejudices, they join forces in a desperate race against time to discover the truth.

Freeburg IL location

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the film won five. Besides Best Picture and best performance by an actor, the film picked up the Oscars for screenplay from another medium (Stirling Silliphant), editing (Hal Ashby), and sound.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 95% based on 83 reviews, with an average rating of 8.40/10. Its consensus states, “Tense, funny, and thought-provoking all at once, and lifted by strong performances from Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger, director Norman Jewison’s look at murder and racism in small-town America continues to resonate today.”

The movie is available through DirecTV, and for rent on various streaming platforms.

For photos and reminiscences of the local shoot, visit:

“Going to the Movies!” made a video of the places:

Streaming Theater: Seedfolks

Metro Theater Company presents “Seedfolks” live through Nov. 6 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center, but can also be viewed via streaming video beginning today.

This is a heart-warming play about neighbors drawn out of their lonely isolation to rediscover and celebrate the community around them.

From award-winning novelist Paul Fleischman, the story is about a vacant lot in a broken neighborhood in the middle of the city that becomes a source of hope, with a dozen different characters bringing their stories to life. Kim is one, a nine-year-old Vietnamese immigrant who plants six precious lima beans. One by one, characters, many also immigrants sow seeds of hope amid the dirt and grit, tending dreams to full bloom. As the garden grows, so does the community, blooming into something bigger, better and beyond all expectations.

The play is 60 minutes without an intermission and is best enjoyed by those age 9 and up.

Local actors John Mayfield, Michael Thanh Tran and Tyler White are featured. It’s directed by Jess Shoemaker.

Performances are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (socially distant), and Sundays at 2 p.m.

A Virtual Q&A with author Paul Fleischman is set for Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Registration is free at

For more information and to get a virtual streaming link, visit

Movie: True Crime Thriller

“The Good Nurse” opens today in select theaters and will drop on Netflix on Oct. 26. Starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, this suspenseful film is based on the true crime story of ICU nurse Charles Cullen. Here’s my review:

Playlist: A-ha!

In 1985, the groundbreaking music video to the synth pop song “Take On Me” gave the Norwegian group a no. 1 hit in America. The innovative video, greenlighted by Warner Brothers executive Jeff Ayeroff is a combination of illustrations and live-action, directed by “Billie Jean” director Steve Barron. It was in heavy rotation on MTV, and won six Video Music Awards, including Best Special Effects, Best Concept, and Viewer’s Choice

The husband-and-wife creative team of Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger used rotoscope to create the realistic movements, showing a-ha frontman Morten Harket getting a girl to visit his cartoon world. The song and video remain popular to this day.

Here is the remastered music video:

Word: National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

“Growing up, I was constantly reminded to not to air our family’s dirty laundry. Part of why domestic violence is allowed to continue is because there is often an unwritten rule in many families of abuse: Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Keeping quiet does no good. I found that sharing my story liberated me from my past. There is power in storytelling and, in that, healing. Owning my truth also empowered me. I will no longer be manipulated or controlled by guilt or shame.” — Kambri Crews

By Alex McPherson

“Rock Camp: The Movie,” directed by Douglas Blush and Renee Barron, remains charming in-the-moment, but disappoints upon further reflection.

The film centers around Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, an annual event in Las Vegas where ordinary folks can jam out with famous musicians. “Camp counselors” include Paul Stanley, Roger Daltrey, and Nancy Wilson, among many others. Once paired with a counselor, campers practice tunes together until their miniature bands perform at the end of the week. 

The camp was created by David Fishoff, a former sports agent turned music promoter who helped create Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. An eccentric, bubbly individual, Fishoff loved hanging out with rock legends, and he was inspired to let others share in that thrill. Thus, in 1997 Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp was born. After an, ahem, rocky start, it eventually became a cultural phenomenon, even acknowledged by “The Simpsons,” “Bones,” “Ellen,” and “Pawn Stars.”

Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp has delighted attendees year after year ever since. The spirit of collaboration and shared love of music is infectious. Sign up today, if you have several thousand bucks to spare! Indeed, “Rock Camp: The Movie” reminds me more of an advertisement than anything else — albeit an especially heartwarming one. 

At least Fishoff’s intentions are admirable. There’s joy to be found in watching fans live out their musical fantasies, and “Rock Camp: The Movie” is often touching in this regard. Viewers see a young musician with autism embracing his passion for guitar; an ISSM network specialist finally being recognized for his skills as a drummer; a guitarist experiencing the camp with his son who has brain damage; a realty trust controller learning how to sing professionally — everyone finding joy through participation in the camp. These stories are resonant, to varying degrees, targeting larger truths about art’s power to heal, inspire, and bring people together, even though the campers’ privilege shows.

When the focus shifts away from the campers themselves, “Rock Camp: The Movie” becomes considerably less compelling. Watching rockers such as Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, and Tony Franklin describe the camp’s significance to them lacks impact. Sure, fans will likely get a kick out of seeing genre legends reflect on how the camp reinvigorated their lives. Coming from someone with little knowledge of who these people are, on the other hand, I found listening to them reminisce becomes somewhat repetitive by the film’s conclusion, and the life lessons they impart of pursuing one’s dreams aren’t especially remarkable.

Additionally, the documentary depicts the proceedings with rose-tinted glasses and only spotlights those with positive stories to tell. Having all these personalities interacting would inevitably result in some sort of conflict, right? Viewers are left with a relentlessly upbeat film that provides plenty of warmth and wholesomeness, but feels too sanitized for its own good. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the attendees, and it’s a shame that “Rock Camp” doesn’t mine more emotion from the event itself, coming across as a bit self-serving.

Similarly, although the film’s editing doesn’t do much to distinguish itself, “Rock Camp: The Movie” unfolds at a breezy pace, capturing the idiosyncratic nature of many of its subjects, as well as campers’ excitement and nervous anticipation. 

Perhaps the film would have benefited from focusing on a single group of individuals from day one, allowing us to spend more time with them while providing a clearer throughline leading up to the final night of performances.

Above all else, however, Blush and Barron’s documentary feels like a beacon of sunshine through the darkness, and that alone warrants a recommendation. “Rock Camp: The Movie” is a shallow yet uplifting slice of entertainment that accomplishes what it sets out to do without reaching #1 in the charts.

‘Rock Camp: The Movie” is a documentary written and directed by Douglas Blush and Renee Barron. Run-time is 1 hour, 27 minutes, and it is not rated. Available Feb. 16 as a video on demand. Alex’s Rating: B