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6 posts from January 2010

January 29, 2010

"When in Rome"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'When in Rome' starring Kristen BellIn When in Rome, the new romantic comedy from writer, director and Minnesota-native Mark Steven Johnson, a woman who’s all but given-up on romance travels to Rome where she takes coins from “The Fountain of Love” to spare the lonely from the inevitable failure of the relationships for which they’re wishing.

     Only days before a troubled art exhibit is set to open for benefactors at the Guggenheim, curator Beth Harper (Kristen Bell) takes off to attend her sister’s wedding in Rome. After being jilted by someone she meets there (Josh Duhamel), Beth climbs into the town’s fountain and ceremoniously removes coins with the hopes of saving others from her fate.
     Now, back in Manhattan, quirky strangers are stalking her, madly in love because she possesses the coins that they tossed back in Rome. Someone else has fallen for her, too: that perfect guy who jilted her. Turns out it was all a big misunderstanding. But does he love her for real, or only because she pulled his ducat from the fountain?
     To borrow from the vernacular of the title city, When in Rome is a fiasco! Johnson gave us an original story all right (the Hastings native also penned Grumpy Old Men), but it’s agonizing to watch. Bell and Duhamel are excusably adequate. The film, instead, relies on comic relief from the likes of Jon Heder (David Blaine-wannabe street magician Lance), Dax Shepard (male model Gale, who, to be fair, gets funnier the more self-absorbed he gets), Will Arnett (Italian artist Antonio), and Danny DeVito (sausage king Al Russo). Don Johnson (!) co-stars and Heder’s Napoleon Dynamite yang, Pedro (Efren Ramirez) has an unnecessary cameo. If they really needed a nod to the 2004 indie cult favorite, why not have Uncle Rico compete with Heder for Beth?
     It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, it just feels like that sometimes -- like the exceptionally long scene at the “Blackout Restaurant” where the couple dine in complete darkness and no one, except the waiters who wear night vision goggles, can see a thing; or Beth’s bug-eyed friend, Stacy (imagine that scene in Casino where Joe Pesci has a guy’s head in a vise; now imagine that head is a perky quipping twenty-something BFF).
     There are some fun moments. For example, though Heder’s hand-waving shtick gets old almost immediately, his pratfall on the window-washing platform is a laugh-out-loud moment. And then there’s the … uh, hmm … no, I think that was it.

1 Honk
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive content.

Y’know, I always try to find something good in a film so for this one, let’s just say, I’m still looking!

January 23, 2010

Some tasty choices at this year’s “Frozen River Film Festival”

Some tasty choices at this year’s “Frozen River Film Festival”
by Chris Miksanek

     More than fifty films will be featured at this year’s “Frozen River Film Festival” in Winona under the theme “food.” Here are three of the tastiest choices.

The Last Butcher in Little Italy
     It’s been a long time since Manhattan’s Little Italy was the Little Italy romanticized and made famous in films like “The Godfather.” Oh, there’s still a San Gennaro festival and sidewalk dining on Mulberry Street, but the area is largely gentrified and very few authentic relics remain. One that still stands is Albanese Meats.
     In director Laura Terruso’s short, we meet Moe Albanese, “The Last Butcher in Little Italy,” who reflects on the old days and his own newfound celebrity (Robert De Niro’s American Express commercial was shot there and Francis Ford Coppola bought steaks from him to cook in his van while filming “Godfather 3” nearby).
    A charming film that I wish was feature-length.

     Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert knows that some will find his penchant for eating food rescued from a dumpster repulsive. But he thinks it’s more repulsive that every day in America we throw away 263 million pounds of food while people in our community go hungry. It gets worse. We’re not merely wasting food -- bad enough, it makes-up 20% of our landfill -- but also that which it took to bring the food to market. Every pound of beef tossed, for instance, also squanders the 7 pounds of corn and 2500 gallons of water it took to produce it, not to mention the resources to deliver and refrigerate. All shucked because sellers are “overly-cautious” with expiration dates.
     To be fair, many markets donate a great deal to area shelves, but Seifert’s salvaging demonstrates how much is still left behind. “Dive!” follows the filmmaker from nightly dumpster dives to his dinner table, along the way dogging market managers and corporate executives to answer the simply question: why is so much food thrown out?
     It’s a remarkable film that will not just make you think differently in the supermarket aisle, but will get you to clean your plate without mom reminding you that there are children starving in Slovakia.

Food Fight
     Sushi rolls bomb hamburgers which in-turn lob pickles at the pretzels in a war that will determine the fate of the free world. At least according to filmmaker Stefan Nadelman whose animated short “Food Fight” replays most of conflicts since WWII using foods to represent armies. Croissants fight for the French. Stroganoff, for the Russians.
     Always clever. Arguably indelicate. Definitely entertaining.

The Frozen River Film Festival runs through January 31st. Visit for more information.

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January 18, 2010

... and the winner was

Chris Miksanek -- The Med City Movie Guy -- with James Cameron and Suzy Amis at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards      I touched Sandra Bullock’s arm.
    The tabloids are going to have a field day with that.
    And the hugs from Nick Jonas and Cedric the Entertainer? 
    So easily misunderstood.
    It’s all just an innocuous, but integral, part of an awards show: you schmooze, you hug, you nosh, you come back to Minnesota and name drop, at least that’s the way Quentin Tarantino explained it to me.
    But I am getting way ahead of myself.

    Last Friday, your Med City Movie Guy was a guest at the 15th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards in Hollywood. The CCMA is the first major awards show of the season and an Oscar bellwether – eight of our last ten Best Pictures went on to claim the same title at the Academy Awards.
    The event began on the red carpet with celebrity arrivals walking a gauntlet of photographers. I had arranged a video stand-up so I was credentialed for the area and afterwards found a cove from where I could watch the processions. John Krasinski from “The Office,” Up in the Air star Anna Kendrick, TV’s Amy Poehler, Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Bacon, Morgan Freeman … the bigger they were, the later they came. Most stopped along the way for photos and quick interviews.
    Inside the theater, we were arranged in concentric half-circles with the biggest names -- Meryl Streep and Paul McCartney, for instance -- in the closest ring of dinner tables. Stage proximity being proportional to importance, I was somewhere between a gaffer on Invictus and the men’s room attendant.
    The show was filled with surprises. The Hurt Locker did well; Up in the Air did not. There were some funny film spoofs, big name presenters like Samuel L Jackson, and a sentimental tribute to John Hughes.
    Afterwards I asked Adam Lambert to take a picture with me, I have no idea why. Jeff Bridges stuck around, too; he won the CCMA for his role in Crazy Heart. But the biggest name of the night was still in the room and with some jockeying I was pressing flesh with James Cameron! I told the Avatar director where I was from and he quipped that he will always have a soft spot in his heart for Minnesota. “The first place I screened Titanic was at the Mall of America,” he said, “from their reaction, I knew it was going to be a hit.”
    Then almost as quickly as it began, it was over and it was back to Rochester for me. No more tuxedos, no more 70-degree January days. No more eavesdropping on Zac Efron’s calls.
    Oh well, that’s show biz!

Visit the Med City Movie Guy facebook page for more photos.

January 09, 2010

California here I come, Olmsted's where I started from...

Chris Miksanek - 2010 Critics' Choice Movie Awards BLOGJanuary 15, 2010

5:50 am
TSA line stretches to short-term parking lot. Tension is high and a few of us are tempted to accuse a line-jumper of being an underwear bomber.

The line moves quickly. But another snag, the plane is full. I am now on standby. A veteran traveler tells me it's called “stand by” because you stand there and say “bye” to the plane. I smile and as he walks past and extend my leg to trip him. He says “bye” to his airborne $5 Starbucks.

A woman buying a croissant at the terminal snack-bar comes back and asks a friend for $5 because, she says, they won't take her twenty. “Why? Because they don't have change?” “No,” she says, “because it's not enough!”  What is it that Jerry Seinfeld says about airport shops? “Do they have any idea what things cost in the real world? Fourteen dollars for a turkey sandwich, yea, we think that's fair.”

New Tetris high score

Dallas connection to Burbank. Uneventful (except for a bomb-sniffing dog getting amorous with an artificial leg).

Beautiful downtown Burbank. It's nicer than I remember. Best of all: it's 71 degrees and sunny.

I am on the red carpet to tape a “stand-up”

Celebrities start arriving. Nick Jonas seemed pretty cool; John Krasinski is pleasant. Quentin Tarantino is very humble. No luck coordinating a photo with Stanley Tucci. Morgan Freeman is the first of the mega-stars and he's hard to get close to. I do manage a “good luck,” but get pushed out of hoard of other well-wishers and retreat to my table in the theater.

Chris Miksanek -- The Med City Movie Guy -- I am now officially 1-degree from Kevin Bacon The show is filled with surprises. The Hurt Locker does well, Up in the Air does not. I get a bro-hug from Cedric the Entertainer. Sandra Bullock walks by and I touch her arm because, as I said, the mega-stars are hard to get close to. I get a picture with Adam Lambert, I have no idea why. I tell him that his was the first “American Idol” series I watched all of. He seemed like a decent guy. Jeff Bridges stuck around after the show for a few minutes and was pleased to take a few photos. Kevin Bacon received a special honorarium. James Cameron might have been the biggest name in the room so I considered it a score to get a few words with him. He said he has a soft spot in his heart for Minnesota (read the PB to find out why).

The after-show party is at Katsuya, a very-L.A. Sushi place. It's wall-to-wall people. I meet the kid from The Blind Side and tell him I wish he had negotiated my college scholarships (were I to have been offered any) … also meet Ken Jeong, The Hangover's Mr. Chow. We talk about improv a little because I think his role on “The Office” was spot-on. He lights-up and says that was his break-thru and started it all for him. Contrary to the characters he plays, he is a very friendly guy.

10:40 pm
Back in the room to update the BLOG.

"The Lovely Bones"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'The Lovely Bones' starring Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Michael Imperioli and Saoirse Ronan In Peter Jackson’s new film, The Lovely Bones, the Lord of the Rings trilogy director brings Alice Sebold's 2002 bestseller to the big screen in an adaptation that is as uplifting as it is unnerving.

    Susie Salmon was murdered on her way home from school one afternoon in a time, she says, “before milk cartons when things like that didn’t happen.” She was fourteen.
    Now she’s on a confusing trek towards eternity, but only when she matures enough to reconcile what has happened to her -- and come to grips with the limited influence she has on her family’s ability to accept that fate -- can Suzie move forward to heaven. In the meantime, she looks over her family from a kind of limbo watching as her siblings grow-up, her parents grow apart, and her still at-large killer grows impatient when the need to prey rises within him once again.
    Jackson’s work was cutout for him. Expectations for Sebold’s book were so high, film rights for the gritty teen narration were secured long before the manuscript was even completed. Sanitizing the story for a mass audience was another matter. Whereas the book never flinches, the film plays it safe. Suzie’s assault, for instance, is more creepy than gruesome, which made some Sebold fans lament that there was “little meat on these bones.” To be fair, given the nature of the material, Jackson strikes a necessary balance pulling it all together with a genuine 70’s feel (helped in no small part by Brian Eno’s score).
    Relative newcomer Saoirse Ronan’s knit-capped Susie Salmon is the archetypal 1973 teen and her performance has already earned several award nominations. Mark Walberg and Rachel Weisz co-star but the real standouts are veterans Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. Sarandon plays Grandma Lynn, a chain-smoking boozer who provides much-needed comic relief and a balance to Tucci’s chilling killer-next-door Mr. Harvey, a departure for the actor whose most recent of sixty film roles was Julian Child’s husband in last year’s Julie & Julia.
    The Lovely Bones is an amazing film, but it is not flawless. Mr. Harvey’s comeuppance, for example, is unsatisfying, to be sure, but perhaps the movie’s biggest problem is that it straddles too many genres. It is a drama, a teen romance, a sci-fi thriller and a murder-mystery. Consequently, at times it feels rudderless. If it’s Jackson’s intent to keep us as confused as Suzie Salmon, I can’t say, but what I can say is that this one will definitely give you the “skeevies.”

3 Honks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language.

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January 01, 2010

"It's Complicated"

Chris Miksanek - The Med City Movie Guy -- 'It's Complicated' starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski In the new 50-something romantic comedy, It’s Complicated, two-time Oscar-winner Meryl Streep stars as successful businesswoman and settled divorcee whose world is rocked when the embers of her first marriage are rekindled a decade later.

    Jane Adler (Streep) is content. She has three grown children, a popular Panera-like eatery, a sprawling mission-style estate in Santa Barbara and an ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) with whom she’s still friendly, even if he did remarry a much younger woman.
    When the two are in New York for their son’s college graduation, they bump into each other at the hotel bar. One thing leads to another and a few drinks later Jane is officially “the other woman.”
    Back in California, Jane’s architect Adam (Steve Martin), makes it clear that his plans include more than just her kitchen addition. If that’s not complicated enough, her future son-in-law (The Office’s John Krasinski) unwittingly witnesses one of her farcical trysts at the hotel where he and Jane’s daughter are making their wedding plans. When the kids eventually find-out, they’re less shocked than they are hopeful for a reconciliation. Ahh, but there would be no film if things were that simple.
    Count on Meryl Streep to bring any character to life, earlier this year Hollywood’s most acclaimed actress (15 nominations for Academy Awards, 25 for Golden Globes) cooked-up a delicious Julia Child. Streep and 30 Rock’s mannered and hysterically subtle Alex Baldwin make a great couple. Steve Martin, on the other hand, is so subdued that you wonder what this once wild and crazy guy is even doing here.
Gags run from slapstick (Baldwin falling backwards while peeping in a window) to geriatric (you’ll know more about Flomax and its side-effects than a urologist) but that wide swath doesn’t guarantee laughs and because less is always more, John Krasinski’s subtle gestures (taking the kitchen knife from perturbed Steep’s hands, for instance) are the most entertaining.
    Relationships aren’t the only thing complicated here. Studio release schedules matter, too. Writer/Director Nancy Meyers parlayed her long pedigree (Father of the Bride, Baby Boom, Private Benjamin”) on this R-rated demographically-risky tale of fifty-something lovers against the Christmas kid-pleaser Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and James Cameron’s billion dollar baby, Avatar. It didn’t fare well, which is not to say it’s a bad film, it just needs the right audience: an adventurous klatch too old for Sex and the City, but too young to retire the lingerie; content unbitter divorcees who like men, but don’t need them.
    Yea, it’s complicated.

2 1/2 Honks
MPAA Rating: R for some drug content and sexuality.

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