Minnesota-bred filmmakers play key roles in one of the most anticipated entries in this year's Sundance Film festival, "Cedar Rapids," starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly as insurance salesmen on a wild weekend in Sin City, Iowa. The R-rated corporate comedy is the feature debut for writer Phil Johnston, a former KARE 11 reporter whom the trade paper Variety named one of its 10 Screenwriters to Watch. The film was produced by University of Minnesota alum Jim Burke, whose credits include Alexander Payne's "Election" and Bobby and Peter Farrelly's "Kingpin." You can view the trailer at www.slashfilm.com/cedar-rapids-trailer/
COLIN COVERTDowling toasted in Dublin
When Joe Dowling last staged a play abroad -- the Vermeer-themed drama "The Girl With a Pearl Earring" in London in 2008 -- it was met with mostly negative reviews. The critical reception has been much better for his latest production, John B. Keane's "The Field," which opened this week at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, where the play premiered in 1965. The drama centers on a tenant farmer played by Irish-American stage legend Brian Dennehy. Dowling's "sensitive" direction serves the playwright's "scabrous wit" "more than well," said the Irish Times. The show transfers to two other venues in Ireland before closing Feb 26. Dowling's next play at the Guthrie is "Arsenic and Old Lace," opening in April.
ROHAN PRESTONDiamonds aren't forever
Note to ostentatious rappers everywhere: Leave your gaudy, diamond-encrusted necklaces in the tour bus when you come to Minnesota. Yep, the recent phenomenon of rappers who get their chains snatched has come to our fair state. New Orleans native Gudda Gudda (protégé of Lil Wayne) was performing Saturday at Club Olmeca in Burnsville when a fan snatched a chain off the rapper's neck. Online hip-hop news outlets have posted a 7-minute video of the incident and ensuing fracas. In the footage, Gudda immediately jumps off stage and throws a few blows before security intervenes. Gudda verified the incident on Twitter. While it's embarrassing, he shouldn't feel too bad. He joins a sorry pantheon of rappers that includes Young Buck, Young Berg and even 50 Cent.
TOM HORGEN'Some Assembly' disassembled
A decade before Girl Talk became famous for mashing up rock and hip-hop samples, there was "Some Assembly Required," which also throws in news bites, preacher sermons, kangaroo mating calls -- you name it. For 12 years sonic wizard Jon Nelson has been weirding out Radio K listeners and scaring many a late-night driver into questioning their sobriety level, but "Assembly" is about to become a thing of the past. Nelson is signing off with one final show -- episode No. 262! -- airing Tuesday at 11 p.m. (at 104.5 or 100.7 FM, 770 AM or RadioK.org). "I think I've said just about all I can say on the subject -- for now, anyway," said Nelson, who also wants to make time for himself as a new dad and a record maker. To mark the finale, he's issuing an appropriately madcap compilation CD titled "50/50," featuring 50 tracks that are 50 seconds long and contain at least 50 percent recycled audio material. Get it at Some-Assembly-Required.net.
CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDERGreat balls of ice
Ben Folds genuinely likes performing in Minneapolis, he said in a phone interview last week, but you'll never catch the North Carolina piano rocker spending more time here than he has to -- not after his 7th Street Entry gig in January 1996. "The temperature was minus 40," his war story started. He and the band faced the already-daunting task of unloading his baby grand piano into the club without proper winter gear. "It was so cold, we twice had to go inside to save ourselves and just left the piano out there in the middle of the street, with cars driving around it," Folds remembered with an incredulous laugh. They finally got the thing indoors, but it took so long, the hammers inside the piano froze. "For about the first hour of the gig, they were frozen solid, which was pretty bad," said Folds. "But then it got worse when the hammers started to unfreeze, and then they sounded all soggy. There was even steam rising up out of the piano." One word explains his willingness to return to First Avenue this Sunday: roadies.
CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDERPutting the P in 'PHC'
Singer/banjo player Abigail Washburn was thrilled to be on "A Prairie Home Companion" last Saturday even though guest host Sara Watkins, not Garrison Keillor, handpicked her for the show. Washburn was so excited that she brought her mom along and insisted on having their photo taken with Mr. Lake Wobegon. On the air, Washburn gushed on behalf of her band: "This is a major life event for all of us. Our moms and grandmothers are peeing in their pants with excitement."