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« November 2009 | Main | January 2010 »

10 posts from December 2009

December 26, 2009

Let's Get Digital, Digital

Chris Miksanek - Let's get Digital"It’s like having a Jumbotron in your living room.”
-- an awestruck moviegoer

     To get the full “Avatar” experience, you have to see it in digital 3D. For the past two years, the only place to do that was the Wehrenberg Galaxy 14 on the South end of town. This week, CineMagic’s Chateau Theater brought digital projection to the city’s North side.
     There’s a great deal of misinformation out there regarding this enhanced movie experience so let’s do a little digital myth-busting.

Myth #1. If you wear the 3D glasses over your prescription 2D glasses, you’ll see the new “Avatar” film in 5D. False. But the 3D glasses actually do fit comfortably over regular glasses.

Myth #2. Because we’re used to soft detail and rich Technicolor, the crispness will look fake. False. Commanding more than 35 million colors and the resolution to see Chewbacca’s split ends, digital films will overwhelm you with their realism.

Myth #3. Digital projection is the best thing to come out of Hollywood since Marilyn Monroe. True.




December 22, 2009

"Sherlock Holmes"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Sherlock Holmes' starring Jude Law and Robert Downey JrIn the new thriller, Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law bring the famed sleuth and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, to the big screen for the first time in decades. Timed to its release was a statement from the Minnesota Department of Revenue cautioning taxpayers, “should this film inspire any of you to claim 'brilliant deductions' of your own, we are standing-by to disallow them.”
    When criminal mastermind Lord Henry Blackwood (English actor Mark Strong) seemingly rises from the dead after an execution Watson certifies, Holmes is back in action. Three will be killed, Blackwood warns, and the detective is powerless to stop it.
    The murders are all part of Blackwood’s plot to wrest power from an occultish secret society called “The Temple of the Four Orders.” The group, comprised of several civic leaders, ostensibly plans to reclaim control of the “colonies” from their corrupt government (presumably Benjamin Harrison and the so-called “Billion Dollar Congress”). But if Blackwood’s criminal prowess is genuine sorcery or just a nefarious technological breakthrough, only Holmes can say ... and only Holmes can stop.
    Director Guy Ritchie (whose credits include Snatch, RocknRolla, and a small role as Madonna’s second husband) had his work cut out for him. Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective hadn’t been on the big screen since the mid-forties iconic Basil Rathbone series, yet Ritchie’s dark and grainy nineteenth-century London succeeded as a reminiscent and refreshing retelling that could have easily been ruined.
    Though only based on Conan Doyle’s characters, “Sherlock Holmes” is engaging, even if it unfolds slowly and is at times confusing with its murmured dialog and irritating flash-forwards.
    The casting is another matter.
    Robert Downey Jr. -- the consummate method actor outstanding in films like Tropic Thunder and Iron Man -- resurrected the accent he developed for the largely overlooked 1992 biopic, Chaplin, to introduce the ever-observant, clinically pedantic Scotland Yard consultant to yet another generation.
    Brilliant as he is, Downey can’t carry the film himself, or rather, he can’t carry his supporting actors. Jude Law’s Dr. Watson is largely superfluous, Holmes’ rival Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is never particularly formidable, and Strong’s Lord Blackwood is a cliché baddie.
    Still, fans of 221B Baker Street’s most famous resident get a wisp of satisfaction when the mysterious hand of famed adversary Professor Moriarty extends from a dark carriage.
    But what does it mean?
    Elementary, my dear moviegoer, it means a sequel is already in the works.

2 1/2 Honks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including violence, disturbing images and a scene of suggestive material.

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December 19, 2009


Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Avatar'

In James Cameron’s new film, Avatar, the Titanic director gives us an epic tale that took fifteen years and $500 million dollars to bring to the big screen -- and we get all of that for under ten bucks!

(See also: Let's Get Digital, Digital)

     The year is 2154 and humans have colonized the planet of Pandora to mine their rich deposits of the not-so-creatively-named mineral “Unobtainium,” which is key to mitigating Earth’s energy crisis. A team of scientists led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) hope to relocate the indigenous people, the Na'vi, away from their sacred land using diplomacy developed through remotely-controlled hybrids of human and native DNA called “Avatars.” A complementing paramilitary force has the same objective but has less patience.
     Progress is muted until ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is recruited to control one of the Avatars, then it is altogether threatened by his conflicting allegiance. His “Once a Marine, always a Marine” mantra initially obliges him to the local command’s Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang). But when the wheelchair-bound warrior finds liberation in his alternate self and a romantic interest in the Na'vi king’s daughter Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña, more or less), he rallies the Pandoran clans to defend what is rightfully theirs.
     Early reaction to Avatar was akin to John Travolta’s response to a sip from Uma Thurman’s milkshake in Pulp Fiction. Just as Travolta had to know “what a five-dollar shake tastes like” film buffs had to see what a half-billion dollar film looks like. Their verdict: wonderment. Cameron created a culture and developed the technology to masterfully tell this story. So what’s not to like?
     For one thing, the heroes are blue. That’s never really explained, but it’s probably not from waiting for a bus on South Broadway in January. The film’s length is also a chore. At two hours and forty minutes, it’s no small commitment to your attention span or your continence (the latter is more problematic because the film is so engaging that you literally can’t step away for even a moment). At times Avatar is overtly politically preachy with stereotypical hawkish dialog like, “Our security lies in preemptive attack, fight terror with terror.” If that’s obvious enough, there’s even a “Shock and Awe” campaign. 
     Thankfully, the story is easy to follow, unlike, for instance, Dune, or The Lord of the Rings films (for those who didn’t read the books, anyway). Essentially, it’s a retelling of Dances With Wolves, but with a happier ending.
     Avatar is a must-see and only a “skxawng” would think otherwise.

3 Honks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.

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December 18, 2009

"Up in the Air"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Up in the Air' starring George Clooney.





December 14, 2009

Awards Season, part 2: the Tux

Chris Miksanek -- Why buy a tuxedo when renting will doThere are very few occasions when a tuxedo is warranted: a wedding, a prom (unless you’re going stag, in which case one of those novelty t-shirts with the printed tux image is de rigueur), and the sinking of the Titanic.
     Of course, if you own a tuxedo, you’ll find many excuses to go formal -- a Christmas party, a fund-raiser for penguins, maybe a middle school soccer game (dressing swell always classes-up an event) -- but no one really needs a tuxedo of their own. For most of us, renting will do just fine.
    That was my plan, to BLOG my tuxedo rental adventure -- everything from enumerating the advantages of renting (#4, you can brawl and not worry about blood stains) to my giggles from the inseam measurement and disappointment in the local selection (“What do you mean, you don’t carry spats?”).
     But it came to an anticlimactic ending when I unexpectedly happened by a pretty good deal on an off-the-rack polyester number that cost as much to buy as a better garment would cost to rent.
     So, no protracted rental odyssey, after all.
     Suffice to say, after next month’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, I do plan on being the best-dressed guy in the Mayo High School bleachers.

Read "Awards Season" part 1

Nominees for the 15th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Chris Miksanek: The Med City Movie Guy Mine went out on Saturday... here is the official slate:

An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up In The Air

Jeff Bridges - "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney - "Up In The Air"
Colin Firth - "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman - "Invictus"
Viggo Mortensen - "The Road"
Jeremy Renner - "The Hurt Locker"

Emily Blunt - "The Young Victoria"
Sandra Bullock - "The Blind Side"
Carey Mulligan - "An Education"
Saoirse Ronan - "The Lovely Bones"
Gabourey Sidibe - "Precious"
Meryl Stre ep - "Julie & Julia"

Matt Damon - "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson - "The Messenger"
Christian McKay - "Me And Orson Welles"
Alfred Molina - "An Education"
Stanley Tucci - "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz - "Inglourious Basterds"

Marion Cotillard - "Nine"
Vera Farmiga - "Up In The Air"
Anna Kendrick - "Up In The Air"
Mo'Nique - "Precious"
Julianne Moore - "A Single Man"
Samantha Morton - "The Messenger"

Jae Head - "The Blind Side"
Bailee Madison - "Brothers"
Max Records - "Where The Wild Things Are"
Saoirse Ronan - "The Lovely Bones"
Kodi Smit-McPhee - "The Road"

Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up In The Air

Kathryn Bigelow - "The Hurt Locker"
James Cameron - "Avatar"
Lee Daniels - "Precious"
Clint Eastwood - "Invictus"
Jason Reitman - "Up In The Air"
Quentin Tarantino - "Inglourious Basterds"

Mark Boal - "The Hurt Locker"
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - "A Serious Man"
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber - "(500) Days Of Summer"
Bob Peterson, Peter Docter - "Up"
Quentin Tarantino - "Inglourious Basterds"

Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach - "Fantastic Mr. Fox"
Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell - "District 9"
Geoffrey Fletcher - "Precious"
Tom F ord, David Scearce - "A Single Man"
Nick Hornby - "An Education"
Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner - "Up In The Air"

Barry Ackroyd - "The Hurt Locker"
Dion Beebe - "Nine"
Mauro Fiore - "Avatar"
Andrew Lesnie - "The Lovely Bones"
Robert Richardson - "Inglourious Basterds"

Dan Bishop - "A Single Man"
Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg - "Avatar"
John Myhre, Gordon Sim - "Nine"
Naomi Shohan, George De Titta, Jr. - "The Lovely Bones"
David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds Wasco - "Inglourious Basterds"

Dana E. Glauberman - "Up In The Air"
Sally Menke - "Inglourious Basterds"
Bob Murawski, Chris Innis - "The Hurt Locker"
Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron - "Avatar"
Claire Simpson, Wyatt Smith - "Nine"

Colleen Atwood - "Nine"
Janet Patterson - "Bright Star"
Sandy Powell - "The Young Victoria"
Anna Sheppard - "Inglourious Basterds"
Casey Storm - "Where The Wild Things Are"

District 9
The Road
Star Trek

District 9
The Lovely Bones
Star Trek

District 9
The Hurt Locker
Star Trek

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Princess And The Frog

District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek

(500) Days Of Summer
The Hangover
It's Complicated
The Proposal

Gifted Hands
Grey Gardens
Into The Storm
Taking Chance

Broken Embraces
Coco Before Chanel
Red Cliff
Sin Nombre
The White Ribbon

Capitalism: A Love Story
The Cove
Food, Inc.
Michael Jackson's This Is It

"All Is Love" - Karen O, Nick Zinner - "Where The Wild Things Are"
"Almost There" - Randy Newman - "The Princess And The Frog"
"Cinema Italiano" - Maury Yeston - "Nine"
"(I Want To) Come Home" - Paul McCartney - "Everybody's Fine"
"The Weary Kind" - T Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham - "Crazy Heart"

Michael Giacchino - "Up"
Marvin Hamlisch - "The Informant!"
Randy Newman - "The Princess and the Frog"
Karen O, Carter Burwell - "Where The Wild Things Are"
Hans Zimmer - "Sherlock Holmes"

December 08, 2009

Awards Season

Chris Miksanek: The Med City Movie GuyFADE IN:

INT: Hollywood Palladium


It is evening at the storied Tinseltown art deco venue that opened in 1940 with a concert by Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Dining inside today is an altogether different crowd -- a crowd of film critics. It is their night, the night of the 15th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. One of those critics in attendance tonight sits at a side table, alternately taking bites from his grilled chicken and jotting notes on a napkin. He is a pleasant fellow in a slightly-oversized tuxedo he bought at Savers. He is your Med City Movie Guy.


            Excuse the drama, but the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards is a big deal. It’s the first major awards show of the season and offers a glimpse into which way the Oscar wind might blow. Much of this will be new to me -- the red carpet, the formal dinner, people calling me “sir,” (as in “Sir, can you please keep at least six feet away from Penelope Cruz!”). Some of it might be new to you, too, so I thought I would share the process of a Hollywood awards ceremony.

          Awards season begins in November. That is when the studios begin sending “For Your Consideration” materials that might include film scripts, music scores, and “screeners.” Screeners are DVDs of films not yet released or in very limited release and expose critics to works that might not otherwise be on our radar. Unfortunately, because of piracy concerns, screeners are rare and when they are sent, they are tightly controlled and digitally watermarked. In many cases -- and the studios seem to prefer this both for control and for the immediate response -- a critic can be accommodated more directly. For instance, Paramount Pictures recently set-up a private screening for me at the Wehrenberg Theatre.

            In early December, the nomination begins. It is a wide-open process for films in familiar categories like “Best Picture,” “Best Comedy,” “Best Visual Effects,” etc… but unlike the Academy Awards where some members may only vote in categories specific to their field, Broadcast Film Critics Association members like me will nominate for each of the CCMA’s twenty-five categories. After crunching the numbers, the nominees are announced. Soon after, the final ballots go out to members.

The voting concludes on January 13th and the results are announced at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards gala broadcast live on VH1 January 15th where, if we’re seated in alphabetical order, I’ll be asking Michael Medved to pass me the salt.


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December 04, 2009


Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Invictus' starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon In the new film, Invictus, Morgan Freeman plays South African President Nelson Mandela who sees in a World Cup tournament the opportunity to demonstrate that his country has moved past racism. 
     For opposing apartheid, the government’s segregationist policy. Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years of his life as a political prisoner in a tiny cell off the coast of Cape Town. One of the things that kept his spirit alive was a poem by William Henley titled Invictus. “I am the master of my fate,” it went, “I am the captain of my soul.”
     It is that very verse that, now President, Mandela imparts on Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to inspire the rugby caption to lead his team to the World Cup where all might see their country’s post-apartheid “reconstruction” progress. But it is not just thee white players he needs to inspire. His black countrymen want nothing to do with the old symbols of oppression, rugby being one of the most prominent. However, were they to rally behind their team, the “Springboks,” one billion people watching the competition would see that South Africa was united. This is Mandela’s dream.
     Invictus is a true story based on John Carlin’s “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation.” In it, we learn that forgiveness is a difficult tool to master but one required to build a country’s future. Never, for instance, does President Mandela blame his predecessors under whom he and many in his country suffered greatly. Indeed, moving past racism, looking forward, not back, is his number one priority with the rugby match serving as a powerful and effective symbol.
Freeman is marvelous as Nelson Mandela and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. More than a decade ago, Mandela told the actor that some day he would like Freeman to portray him.
     Damon, too, does an inspiring job, but much of the credit goes to director Clint Eastwood. Invictus, some say, was his act of contrition for Gran Torino -- possibly one of the best films ever made, but received by some as racist because of the protagonist’s controversial points of view. Others say the director is thumbing his nose at that same hypersensitive crowd by showing them, unarguably, the embodiment of a Nobel Peace Prize and someone who by sacrifices, work, and accomplishments truly earned it.
     Whatever was Eastwood’s motivation, it paid off. Mandela’s life was worthy of accolades and this film is one of the most prestigious. 


3 Honks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.

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December 03, 2009

"Big Fan"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'Big Fan'  





December 01, 2009

"The Cove"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'The Cove'Everyone loves the king of the sea, ever so kind and gentle is he.

     Of course, I am speaking of dolphins -- one (actually five) famous cetacean in particular: TV's Flipper. Back in the 1960s, trainer Ric O’Barry unapologetically spawned an industry – exploitative dolphin shows. Today, he hangs his head in shame realizing the consequence of his success is that his finned friends are horrifically abused: the most promising go for $150,000; the rest, though dangerously mercury-laden, are slaughtered and sold for human consumption.
     The Cove is an amazing documentary that follows O’Barry as he and some confederates use black ops and high tech to infiltrate and expose a secret cove in Taijii, Japan where the worst abuses occur.
More here: