The one-man show "California Solo" stars Robert Carlyle as Lachlan MacAldonich, the guitar player in a fictional mid-'90s British grunge band called The Cranks whose debut album achieved critical acclaim before the lead singer, Lachlan's brother, died high on drugs in a Hollywood Hills car crash. These days, Lachlan works on an organic produce farm, drinks himself into oblivion most nights, and on weekends hawks his wares rather annoyingly at SoCal farmers' markets. When a DUI charge and a long-forgotten marijuana possession rap trigger INS removal proceedings, Lachlan has to find someone (a frequent customer who seems to prefer him to her boyfriend? the ex-wife or now-teenage daughter he hasn't seen in years?) for whom his deportation would pose an "extreme hardship." Slow, trite, and predictable, "California Solo" covers familiar ground uninterestingly - and Carlyle's hopeless as a vocalist.
Dustin Hoffman has chosen to make his directorial debut with a light British comedy, "Quartet," about four once-great opera singers who - happily or otherwise - find themselves stuck together at a retirement home for musicians and compelled to restage their triumphant "Rigoletto" to save the place. There's the irascible flirt Wilfred (Billy Connolly), the hopeless ditz Cecily (Pauline Collins), the lovesick Reginald (Tom Courtenay), and Jean, the diva who chose her career over her marriage to Reg after a mere nine hours (Maggie Smith). Are there a small handful of chuckles in "Quartet?" There are. Could they be whittled down to a two-minute highlight reel of censorious looks and disapproving remarks by Smith ("This isn't a retirement home - it's a madhouse")? As with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," they could.
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