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9 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009


Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Tyson' starring Mike Tyson

A far cry from Leon Gast’s 1996 masterpiece, “When We Were Kings,” James Toback’s “Tyson” is not unsatisfying even if it is, essentially, Mike Tyson reflecting on Mike Tyson. It’s heavy on a contemporary interview and light on clips and interviews from his early days. Still, it’s all we have of this tired and demoralized boxer. Iron Mike’s introspect is surprising at times (who would have guessed he was so deep?), but in the end, it is, and was, all about a paycheck – a revelation that carves an even wider abyss between him and a great like Muhammad Ali. If you’re going to see “Tyson” at all, make it a double-feature with Gast’s Rumble in the Jungle backstory.

FYI: “When We Were Kings”




November 28, 2009

"Food, Inc."

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Food, Inc.'Arguably a big-screen version of Eric Schlosser's book, "Fast Food Nation" (Schlosser produced and stars) though it was already "dramatized" in a 2006 film (and a very good one, by the way) with Greg Kinnear. Remarkably, there is very little overlap. Whereas "Fast Food Nation" described three concerns -- the animals, the additives, and the shifting sociology, "Food, Inc." introduces yet another by “lifting the veil" on the corporations who’re behind what we eat. And what a surprise: Walmart is actually one of the good guys.

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November 24, 2009

"Old Dogs"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Old Dogs' starring John Travolta and Robin Williams In the new Disney film, Old Dogs, John Travolta and Robin Williams are New York bachelors who suddenly find themselves custodians of preteens. Hard as they try, their “parenting” is about as futile as rubbing Rogaine on the bald spot of that Christmas tree you bought from a parking lot vendor over the weekend.
     Charlie and Dan (Travolta and Williams) are Manhattan sports marketers who are one deal away from the big-time. Only two things stand in their way: twins Zach and Emily, products of a fling Dan had years ago, who the pair take-in when the kids’ mom (Kelly Preston) needs to serve jail time for an activist crime.
     Of course, the old dogs know even less about parenting than they do about relationships, but through a series of farcical fiascos, they quickly come-up to speed and by the end of their journey they learn that family values make good business sense, too.
     Old Dogs was almost universally panned as the worst movie of the year (which is probably unfair to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel which opens later this month). It’s not a good film, that is true, but it is not Delgo, either. At worst, it is a silly, sometimes entertaining, family friendly (at least to Travolta whose wife and daughter co-star) eighty-eight minutes that is beneath these actors who have starred in some of the best films ever made.
     The laughs are sophomoric and at times indelicate -- an incontinent dog, a spray-tan debacle, belligerent penguins, mixed-up prescriptions and facial paralysis. The running gags that the pair is actually a “couple” (wink, wink) or are grandparents gets overplayed and we get a sense that the whole film is just a series of gags: send ’em camping, have ’em play ultimate Frisbee, get ’em lost in a zoo, etc…
     The supporting cast -- Seth Green, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret (!) -- do what they can with what they have but it’s hard not be more embarrassed for them than entertained by them … or creeped-out. Bernie Mac’s cameo comes as quite a surprise to those who know that the actor/comedian unexpectedly died sixteen months ago.
     Ultimately, the moviegoer’s satisfaction hinges on whether you’re a fan of Travolta and/or Williams. If you are, you’ll hate Old Dogs because it’s not, for example, how you imagined a grown-up Vincent Vega or John Keating might have turned-out. Conversely, younger viewers will like the film. They won’t know any better. 

1 Honk 
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor.

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November 20, 2009

"The Blind Side"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'The Blind Side' starring Sandra Bullock In Sandra Bullock’s new film, “The Blind Side,” the romantic comedy star delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in what is sure to be the feel-good tear-jerking movie of the year. That’ll come as welcomed news to not only area theaters who’ll sell-out shows, but also for the new Walgreens who’ll sell-out Kleenex.
     Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (country music’s Tim McGraw and Bullock) live in an affluent part of Memphis thanks to the dozens of fast-food franchises they own. Driving home from their son’s Thanksgiving school pageant one evening, they spot “Big Mike” (Quinton Aaron) wandering along the highway. Reacting, rather than deliberating, Leigh Anne takes him in.
     Michael, they learn, is a classmate at the Toughy children’s Christian school who was accepted there after various public agencies failed him. In that caring, albeit foreign, family environment, he acclimates and it becomes apparent from his rising grades and growing trust that Leigh Anne and the teachers who take a personal interest have accomplished what no government agency can.
     Eventually, his academic progress qualifies him to try-out for the school’s football team, where, if college recruiters are any gauge, he’s a phenomenal success. But it’s not without a cost. Leigh Anne is ostracized from her social circle and when they steer the boy towards their alma mater, her and Sean’s motives come under scrutiny.
     “The Blind Side” is based on Michael Lewis’ book, “Evolution of a Game,” which follows the true story of Baltimore Raven Michael Oher from his hopeless start at the Memphis Hurt Village housing project to his NFL draft. However, it’s less a football biopic than it is an inspirational message that merely giving thanks is not as fulfilling as demonstrating thanks by the way we lead our lives.
     Shedding the characters she’s outgrown, Bullock shines as a genteel mannered southern wife who, when push comes to shove, can shove back just as hard (on one occasion barking acronyms at some project toughs, “I’m in a prayer group with the D.A. and I’m a member of the N.R.A.”). The supporting cast -- Jae Head, as the precious S.J., Tim McGraw, veteran Kathy Bates, even supporting actor Quinton Aaron -- only round-out the ensemble. This is all Sandra Bullock and by far, it’s the best film of her career, and arguably the best of year.
     “The Blind Side” is more than a Thanksgiving film, it’s a Thanksgiving lesson.
     Pass the gravy and pass me another tissue.


4 Honks 
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references.

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November 14, 2009

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' starring Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner

A very good follow-up to the first film. Local fans seemed satisfied, most hung on every word. What did you think?.











What you won't see in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- What's not in 'The Twilight Saga - New Moon' starring Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor LautnerWhat you won't see in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon"
by Chris Miksanek
The Med City Movie Guy

This is no phlebotomy joke: vampires are coming to the Med City. At Midnight tonight, scores of teens will line-up to howl at the New Moon, the second film in the rabidly successful Twilight series.

     Serious fans of the series, “Twi-hards,” they’re called, already know what to expect. Edward and the rest of the Cullens leave Forks. This drives Bella to a reckless pastime: motorcycling. She gets into a bind and is rescued by childhood friend Jacob Black and the foundation for a love triangle is laid. No surprises, to be sure, that’s all in the book. But readers don’t know the whole story.
     As in every other film ever made, there is plenty of material left on the cutting-room floor -- parts left out for any number of reasons. Perhaps they were technically flawed or superfluous to the plot. Maybe they were simply nonsensical, like these scenes you won’t see in the final cut:

  • When it becomes obvious that their outdoors baseball games have become too dangerous, the Cullen family stays in and plays Wii tennis together. (cut for time)
  • At a sports bar, Carlisle attempts to explain Sammy Sosa’s pallor. (no explanation for cut)
  • In a scene originally championed by PETA, a matronly nutritionist visits the Cullens and says, “nice that you’ve evolved to live on animal blood, but you should consider humane alternatives like Hemopure, Ringer’s lactate, or V8.” (cut after an Edwardian focus group whined)
  • Midway into the third act, Bella says, “We’re good friends, Jacob, so I can tell you this: You use way too much volumizer.” (background howling spoiled audio track)
  • Before leaving Forks, Edward delivers an Oscar-worthy Shakespearean front-porch plea for tolerance, “We expected to be welcomed with open arms, instead, you welcome us with pitchforks and torches. Hath a vampire eyes? Affections? Passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed? Wait a second, I guess we do not.” (cut for time)


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November 05, 2009

Bold artist, wherefore are thou?

“2012” director Roland Emmerich says he’s “against organized religion” but you get the impression he’s praying that they’ll organize to protest and give his film some free publicity. When artists get together to laud each other’s work, lofty attributes like "bold," and "courageous" are frequently exchanged. But, as it turns out, many of these “artists” are just a bunch of little scardeycats.

     Roman Polanski, faced with paying a debt to (our) society, ran like a frightened 13-year-old girl from a creepy spider (or from a creepy 43-year old man). More recently, Yale University Press cowered -- so shook with “serious concerns about violence,” that nowhere to be found are “The Cartoons That Shook the World” in their publication of the same title.

     Now reports that, in 2012, not *exactly* the whole world will be laid to waste. St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the famous Christ the Redeemer statue (Corcovado) in Rio de Janeiro are destroyed, director Roland Emmerich says, “Because I'm against organized religion.” But when he considered wrecking a structure in Mecca, he balked, telling the website, “You can actually ... let ... Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol … ” Well, you get the idea. He’s not against *all* organized religions, just the ones who’re easy to pick on. That’s too bad. If his off-limits approach to other religions was rooted in respect for diversity it would be admirable. Instead, it’s merely cowardice.

     Bold artist, wherefore are thou?

“2012” director Roland Emmerich says he’s “against organized religion” but you get the impression he’s praying that they’ll organize to protest and give his film some free publicity.

"The Men Who Stare at Goats"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' starring George Clooney It turns out $800 toilet seats and $450 hammers are not the only places our military has squandered our tax dollars. In the new George Clooney film, “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” we learn of the government’s multi-million dollar efforts to harness new age paranormal powers to, among other things, permit servicemen to pass though office walls. I suppose it never occurred to them to try a cheaper alternative, like a door!

     Pursuing a tip, reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) stumbles on an ex-Special Forces operative in Kuwait named Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) who has quite a story to tell. Cassady was a member of an elite team of military psychics called “Jedi Knights” who, under Vietnam vet-turned-hippie Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), trained to channel their skills to become invisible, disperse clouds, and halt the heart of a goat by staring at it. Cassady’s in the private sector now, or is he?
     The two are captured in Iraq while Cassady pursues something pulling him towards one of the US bases. They escape and reach the camp where they find a Quonset hut filled with de-bleated goats and learn that in the decades since the “New Earth Army” was founded, the military has perverted their peaceful alternative into a form of physiological warfare inflicting, for example, terrorist suspects to hours of the Barney “I Love You” song.
     It would be bizarre if it wasn’t so true. “Goats” is based on a book by Jon Ronson who investigates the so-called “Human Potential Movement” actually explored by the military. It’s all pretty believable until the Welsh author puts on a tin foil hat and alleges a connection to the techniques used in the Bush War on Terror.
Alas, a few jabs at a past president are not enough to keep even Michael Moore entertained for 93 minutes, especially when the film is advertised as a roaring comedy – which it is not. Though quirky, it is.
     McGregor is wonderful and Clooney is at his best. Kevin Spacey, capable of much better, delivers a bankable performance as bad egg Larry Hooper who “goes to the dark side.” Jeff Bridges is the real treat, though. Typecast as the consummate hippie, he theatrically redeems himself in the end, dejected behind a computer screen.
     Clever and engaging, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” defies pigeonholing. It’s not exactly a comedy. It’s not exactly a drama. It’s not exactly a thriller. It’s a little of each.
     Regrettably, only a little.

2 Honks 
MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity

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"Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg'       A well-researched and presented biography of Gertrude Berg, "the Oprah of her time." Television clips are intercut with interviews of entertainment and social luminaries like Norman Lear and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who describe the impact her show, “The Goldbergs,” had on the culture of the time.
      It's not obvious how PBS's iconic "Pioneers of Television" series missed this phenomenon unless it’s because Berg's contributions (writer, actress, activist) and persecutions (the show was a victim of a the notorious "Black Listing") command a feature unto themselves.

     “Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” is a joy for fans of radio and television history.

Trailer and more info:

(Disclosure: the film’s producers provided a complimentary DVD of this feature)