Band of Robbers – Day 2 at the Twin Cities Film Fest

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I think one can readily see the influences that Aaron and Adam Nee reflected upon as this project took form and shape. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were the creations of Mark Twain, a 19th century American author.

The brothers Nee have brought them back to modern times along with Injun Joe and Becky Thatcher. Those were on the literary side.

On the film side we have Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a little bit of Russ Meyer with his backwoods and small town California settings, and The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight only with small time hoodlums and cops instead of Mafiosos.

This film, called Band of Robbers opened Day 2 at the Twin Cities Film Fest and I was one of about a dozen and half of people who watched it.

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I’ll give the boys credit on the visual side, and can say honestly that they did coax a handful of laughs out of me. I’ll give them credit for their creative energy, and the film was structured into a prologue, five parts, and an epilogue with on-screen placards making the announcement each time.

But I just couldn’t wrap my arms around Adam Nee as the striving and overreaching Tom Sawyer. As performed (and written by Nee), to me the character comes off as an obvious and obnoxious motor-mouth who had the majority of the screen time, the dialogue,

and I also kept seeing Gary Elwes from the Princess Bride in Nee’s portrayal of Sawyer.

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Huck was played by  Kyle Gallner in a far more quieter manner. He was Tom Sawyer’s boyhood friend, and now that they are both adults – Gallner’s Huck Finn is an ex-con recently released from jail, and Sawyer is the uniformed cop who aims to become a homicide detective.

There’s a treasure map, a pawn-shop robbery that goes south, grave robbing, and a good deal more yackety-yack than I cared for.

Along for the ride is Stephen Lang, as Injun Joe. Lang, once upon a time was a major player in James Cameron’s Avatar. It seems that he has fallen nearly out-of-view for him to have taken on this role.

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Opening Night at the Twin Cities Film Festival: Part Two – Room

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The second feature on my film card for the opening night at the TCFF was a film called Room. I’ve got an idea for a second title for this film – Jack in the Box, and this is exactly what this film is about.

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Jack is played by Jacob Tremblay, and when we meet him, he’s about to have his 5th birthday. Jack and his Mom Joy (played with a superb intensity by Brie Larson),  live in a place called Room. It is a windowless space with only a skylight.  There’s a bed, table, toilet, bath tub, sink, toaster oven, a small refrigerator, a small TV, a small stove, a cupboard or wardrobe, and a couple of wooden side chairs.  This room is most likely no bigger than 18 x 18.

From the outside, this small building resembled a storage shed. Within, the space where Jack and Joy lived was sealed with an electronic key pad controlled steel door. On the outside, this building gave the appearance of being a tool shed with a single wooden door. Definitely not a place where two people lived.

Jack called this place Room. He had never been outside of this room. He believed this was the whole world. He could not conceptualize the word outside, or that there was something on the other side of the walls. What he knew of the world was an electronic version of imagination – meaning the TV. But to him, everything he saw on TV was simply TV. Not to be taken seriously. And most importantly, in Jack’s  mind – everything he saw on TV was not real.

At one point, Joy tells Jack about the world. But he can’t accept what he hears. Jack says, you’re trying to trick me. Joy tells him that she is only telling him now because, now he is old enough to understand. Jack – I don’t want to be five anymore. I want to be four again

Joy had been taken captive by a man they called Old Nick. Nick wasn’t old, maybe in his mid or late thirties, but 7 years ago, he had lured Joy, who was at the time likely 18 or so, to the room by asking her to help him with a sick puppy.

As I said, that was 7 years ago. Joy had not been out of the room since. Old NIck brought in food, supplies, clothing and what ever was needed to sustain life. He also maintained the room and structure with electricity, space heating, and running water.

Joy provided a sexual outlet for Old Nick. Jack was born in this room and had never left it. Joy had never left the room either. In case you were wondering, the building is more than likely sound-proofed, and far enough away from any neighboring homes, that screaming or other noises they might make were never heard by anyone.

In the simplest of terms Joy had been held against her will for seven years. We are not made privy to anything about Nick’s reasons. While Joy and Jack lived in this small space, one could say that this room  was their entire world – the only world Jack had ever known, and the only world Joy had been in for seven years.

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Opening Night at the Twin Cities Film Festival 2015: Part One – A New High

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Ruth arrived a few minutes after 4:00 PM, and quickly she acquired her tickets. Since all the seats are reserved, I would have to swap my ticket in so we could then select two seats together. Not a problem said the ticket maestro.

So we headed upstairs for dinner in the Lobby Lounge, The Royal Burger Sliders came two per serving along with a nice supply of chips. How does this sound to you: Two Mini Black Angus burgers with American Cheese, Tomato, Lettuce, House made Pickles and 1000 Island dressing. Not only does that sound good, they were wonderful. Bon Apetite!

I was seeing two films tonight, and Ruth – just one – the opening feature – a documentary called A New High.

There was a slight delay in starting as Jatin Setia, Executive Director of the Festival was attending a social gathering for some of the festival sponsors. So Instead of starting at 5:30, by the time the greetings, festival trailers, and Jatin’s opening remarks had concluded it was nearly six PM.

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A New High was the title of the film, and it literally was all of that. Meaning this film was about the efforts of the Director  of Special Projects as a part of the Addiction Recovery Program at the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Seattle , WA. His name is Mike Johnson, and his program started with people in both dire and desperate circumstances – homeless, penniless, and addicted.

He got them to buy into it – and this was the deal, the training would take a year. It would ask these men and women to take a hard look at themselves, and decide if they wanted to go up and experience the highest of highs, and that’s meant to be taken literally.

They began with in town lectures and others things to help them decide. Then came the physical work. They climbed the stairs in the mission, again and again. They worked out in gyms, they were taken out for day hikes. And what was the goal – to reach the summit of Mt. Rainer. This mountain reached to 14,411 feet above sea level, and is considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the world.

As Johnson told them,  We are going up to a place where no one can live. He also told them – It’s up the mountain or down into the grave.

This was a film that was both harrowing and heartbreaking, joyful and jarring, and for the folks who went through this program we heard: It was the hardest thing I’ve  ever done in my life. And with a successful climb they’d experience the elation and ecstasy at the highest of elevations.

Two weeks before the climb to the summit of Mt. Rainier, they were asked to do a make or break climb – that is to the peak of Mt. Hood in Oregon. If you washed out on this climb, you would not be permitted to tackle Ranier. Most of the trek up Mt. Hood had to be done at night – and that  was to minimize the danger of avalanches.

For Dawn, as she said, this was the hardest thing she’d had ever done. Dawn didn’t finish Mt. Hood. At the point of being just three hundred feet or roughly the lengthy of a football field, Dawn announced that she could not go even one step further. She had given the mountain all of what she had and it wasn’t enough.

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JMM Heads West for the Twin Cities Film Festival

TCFF2015EVENTTuesday October 20th – Getting to Minneapolis

I was booked on the Tampa to Minneapolis Delta flight which was scheduled to depart at 12:15 PM. Accordingly I gave myself an hour and 15 minutes for the drive which normally takes a bit over an hour. But leaving at 9:55 AM was decidedly non-rush hour. Considering that I’d have to park, check a bag, then pass through security, I figured I’d have lots of time.

No problems with the drive. I had my GPS doing its thing even though I knew the way. Certain things are invaluable like when the instructions say something like – In one and a quarter miles take the ramp for I-275 on the right, or something similar.

So I get to the airport and find the entrance to the Long Term Parking and head up the ramp. Level 3: Lot is Full – Closed. Ditto for Level 4 and level 5. That meant no covered parking for me. I had the rooftop lot. Only that lot was nearly filled. I ended up cruising around the lot for more than 15 minutes before finding a spot.

So the GPS went into the suitcase (I’d need it big time in Minneapolis as I’d never been there) and off I went. From Level 6 Lindberg Brown Parking you take an elevator down, then an escalator to the Departures Area. See you in Minneapolis I thought and hoped as I handed over my suitcase.

Next came security. No TSR pre-approved this time for me. It is always nice to get that but it seems so random. However, there was no line to speak of, so it went fast. I had to go through the standard security line – shoes off, laptop out, nothing in your pockets. Somehow I earned a pat down but there was nothing to find.

But because of the difficulty in finding a parking space, by the time I got to the gate, boarding commenced in only one minute. We pulled away from the terminal on time, and after a long (in distance) taxi to the runway – there was no wait. We took off immediately.

Left on time, and 2 hours 48 minutes later we touched down. Actually the pilot informed us that we had arrived 31 minutes early. Follow the signs to Baggage Claim and the Rental Cars. It involved a ride on the airport tram just one stop.

No lines at the car rental counter and soon I’m out the door with my computer bag over one shoulder, my wheeled duffel trailing behind and the car keys in hand. Only I couldn’t find the right cars. I had a choice of cars in parking slots 8, 6 and 11 – I thought. What she had really said was aisles 806 to 811. Not finding the cars, or the parking slots – I went back to the counter and got the necessary clarification. Doh.

Turns out that these parking slots were the absolutely furthest distance from the rental counters. Okay I get the car – a day later I still don’t know the make. I’m really too big for a compact car – but I’d be in cramped quarters not all that long. However, it would be of great help if I had the GPS which was still slumbering in the suitcase.

After dealing with that I set the GPS for the Showplace Icon Theater at The Shops At West End (1621 West End Blvd, St. Louis Park, Mn) – which was the TCFF venue. So, with the air travel concluded, I set out. Interstate 494 to Minnesota 100 to Park Place Blvd and you’re just about there. 19.4 miles 25 minutes without traffic. Only there was huge delays on Minnesota 100 – two separate accidents.

Any way I found the venue and there was free indoor parking. I got lucky and got a space about 30 yards from a direct access to the lobby. I found the Twin Cities Film Festival office with no issues.

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Twin Cities Film Fest – 2015

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I liked the FX TV series Fargo so much that I have booked a trip to Minnesota. Actually that is something of an exaggeration. I booked my flights for October 20th, and October 27th from Tampa to Minneapolis and back, on September 15th, nearly a full month before Fargo aired on October 12th.

I am heading north and west for the Twin Cities Film Festival which runs from October 21st to October 31st. I’ve never set foot in Minnesota and the closest I’ve ever been to Minneapolis is Green Bay, Wisconsin, which is about 270 miles east of Minneapolis.

But I’ve heard all about the place. The Mall of America, the downtown skywalks, Target Field, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Minnesota Twins who are famous for Joe Mauer, Rod Carew, and Harmon Killibrew to name just a few. Plus I’d expect to see a lake or two and why not? The state is called The Land of 10,000 Lakes for a reason.

I’ll try to fit in a museum and a park but mainly it will be movies. I’ll arrive on the afternoon of the 20th. Pick up my car rental. First stop will be the Showplace Icon Theater in St.Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb, and about a half hour from the airport. This is the film festival venue and it is located in The Shops at West End. I’m heading there first to pick up my Press Credentials and my tickets for the films. Besides that, it is on the way to the hotel in Minnetonka which is about 5 miles from the film venue.

This will be the 6th Annual TCFF. The mission of this year’s festival is to support Homeless Youth. In keeping with that mission, TCFF will open with the adventure documentary, “A New High,” which received critical acclaim from the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film features a group of men and women who come together to climb out of homelessness and drug addiction through a recovering program that uses mountain climbing as a means of rehabilitation.

After check in on Day One – I’ll likely find a place for dinner, then take the night off.

Wednesday, the 21st is the day the film Festival opens. Here’s a list of the films I am hoping to see.

A New High – In the heart of downtown Seattle lies the Union Gospel Mission—a homeless shelter catering to the addicted and the abused. For these men and women, hope is a novelty. Self-esteem a luxury. Recovery a faraway ideal. But within the UGM is one man, an ex-Army Ranger, who believes in them. Believes in life. Believes in mountains. And he will attempt to use one of the most treacherous peaks in North America, 14,400 foot Mt Rainier, to give these recovering addicts hope again. Will their personal mountains be too steep to overcome?

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