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Cinema Chat: 'A Boy. A Girl. A Dream,' 'White Boy Rick,' 'The Predator,' And More

Sep 13, 2018

The Michigan Theater and State Theatre under the glow of a "Super Moon" in Ann Arbor.
Credit Courtesy Photo / G.E. Anderson

 

In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest movie news and all of the new flicks hitting theaters this weekend.  Among the new movies is a true crime story set in 1980's Detroit.

MICHIGAN THEATER - NEW SEATS AND SPECTACULAR NEW MOVIE SOUND SYSTEM AND PROJECTION

The Michigan Theater had new seats and new movie sound and projection systems dedicated yesterday at Ann Arbor's historic movie palace.  The new seats are comfortable, provide more leg room, are wider, but have a historic look appropriate for a 1920s movie palace.  They feature dark stained wooden backs, thick upholstery with a wood “reveal” in the front and the monogramed “M” logo, which was an original design element placed on the theater’s fire curtain.  Donors gathered yesterday to ooh and ahh the beautiful and comfortable new seats and were impressed with the clarity and sonic depth of the new sound system. Yet to be completed is the restoration of the vintage 1920s theater organ – which when it is fired back up in October will be two-thirds restored.  The full restoration of the organ will be completed next summer.  This is all part of the State & Michigan Campaign, which has raised $8.8 million to protect these two historic theaters and make them state-of-the-art places to experience fine cinema and performing arts events.

OPENING DOWNTOWN 

"A Boy. A Girl. A Dream" 

At the Michigan: 2018 Cinetopia Film Selection, this film follow Cass (played by Omari Hardwick), a handsome USC grad stalled in his career who is getting lost in the alcohol and drug-fueled world of LA club promotion.  On the night of the 2016 presidential election, he meets Frida (played by Meagan Good), a beautiful, spirited, Midwestern visitor dealing with a difficult breakup.  Their chemistry is undeniable. Nothing will ever be the same again. With a sense of quiet enchantment and magnitude in the mundane, director and Ann Arbor native Qasim Basir has created a visually sensuous, dreamlike film unspooling in real time, seemingly in one continuous take, that transports you to a singular moment in time—election night—when the texture of life seemed to indescribably yet drastically change. 

Celebrating Pasek & Paul – Sing Along "The Greatest Showman" – Friday, September 14

Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman,” the 2017 musical celebration of the life of one of America’s true original entertainment pioneers, the producer of the most famous touring circus in history, and the spiritual godfather of marketing.  Zac Efron plays Barnum’s playboy protégé, Zendaya is his trapeze-artist star.  Music and lyrics for "The Greatest Showman" are by UM Musical Theatre graduates and 2017’s showbusiness rock stars Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They won the Oscar for Best Song for “City of Stars” from The Greatest Showman, wrote the songs for academy award nominated Best Picture “La La Land” and the Tony bestowed Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen.”  

"White Boy Rick"

At the State: Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic and the War on Drugs, this film is based on the moving true story of a blue-collar father and his teenage son.  Rick Wershe is a single father who's struggling to raise two teenagers.  Wershe sells guns illegally to make ends meet but soon attracts attention from the FBI.  Federal agents convince his son, Rick Jr., to become an undercover drug informant in exchange for keeping his father out of prison.  When young Rick gets in too deep, he finds himself seduced by the lure of easy money and becomes a drug dealer himself. 

"Pick of the Litter"

At the Michigan: This film follows a litter of puppies from the moment they're born and begin their quest to become guide dogs for the blind.  Cameras follow these pups through an intense two-year odyssey as they train to become dogs whose ultimate responsibility is to protect their blind partners from harm.  Along the way, these remarkable animals rely on a community of dedicated individuals who train them to do amazing, life-changing things in the service of their human.  The stakes are high and not every dog can make the cut.  Only the best of the best. The pick of the litter. 

"Life Itself"  

At the Michigan: A young New York couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and throughout lifetimes.  Director and writer Dan Fogelman ("This Is Us") examines the perils and rewards of everyday life in a multigenerational saga featuring an international ensemble including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Laia Costa, Alex Monner, and Mandy Patinkin.  Set in New York City and Carmona, Spain, the film celebrates the human condition and all of its complications with humor, poignancy and love.

"The Captain"  

At the State: This film follows a German army deserter, Willi Herold (played by Max Hubacher), after he finds an abandoned Nazi captain's uniform in the final weeks of World War II.  Emboldened by the authority the uniform grants him, he amasses a band of stragglers who cede to his command despite the suspicions of some.   Citing direct orders from the Fuhrer himself, he soon takes command of a camp holding German soldiers accused of desertion and begins to dispense harsh justice. Increasingly intoxicated by the unquestioned authority, this enigmatic impostor soon discovers that many people will blindly follow the leader, whomever that happens to be.

"Fahrenheit 11/9" --OPENS NEXT THURSDAY, 9/20

At the State:  Filmmaker Michael Moore predicted that Donald Trump would become the 45th President of the United States.  Traveling across the country, Moore interviews American citizens to get a sense of the social, economic, and political impact of Trump's victory.  Moore also takes an in-depth look at the media, the Electoral College, the government agenda and his hometown of Flint, Michigan.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN

"Dazed and Confused"

September's $8 Midnight at the State theme is "Back to School!," and this Saturday, this film will be playing, which shows the adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976.  There will also be a bonus earlier screening Friday, September 14 at 9:30 PM!

Fatally Yours: A Film Noir Series

Special Guest Eddie Muller, president and founder of the Film Noir Foundation and host of TCM’s Noir Alley will kick off this film series with a special series introduction and a post-film discussion of the opening film, Orson Welles' "The Lady From Shanghai!"

The ‘Femme Fatale’ is a character archetype that uses cunning, charm, and sexuality to provoke the downfall and disaster of men.  In Fatally Yours, we will celebrate the women that drive the plots of these 1940s crime thrillers that defined and inspired decades of film history.

"The Yellow Ticket"– A Silent-Era Classic presented with live music

Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals (founder of the Klezmatic) and pianist Marilyn Lerner perform live-on-stage Svigals' award-winning score to the acclaimed 1918 Pola Negri silent-era film. 

Set in in Tsarist era, when sex work (prostitution) was legal and regulated.  For Eastern European Jewish women of the era, a "Yellow ticket" allowed young women to move out of rural shtetls and seek greater opportunity.  Thousands of young women, seeking higher education and opportunity beyond the confines of their shtetl, moved to Moscow and St. Petersburg, but access opportunity they took on the stigma of prostitution and the burden of degrading biweekly medical check-ups.

In the film, Pola Negri plays Lea, a bright adolescent girl who lives in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw with her ill father. She loves to read, and intends to study medicine at a university in St. Petersburg to help her ailing father.  She goes to Russia, where she learns that Jewish women must be sex workers to live in the city. Having limited options, she applies for the required “yellow ticket” and takes up residency at a brothel.  Lea applies to the University and is accepted.

So begins an unhappy life of studying by day and receiving scholastic honors, while reluctantly working as a party girl at night. Her fellow students, including a boy named Dimitri who is in love with her, then find her out.  Dimitri, in particular, is crushed to learn of Lea's double life.  Lea realizes that this will be the end of her scholastic career.

Plot complications start to build, but in this wonderful film, with a stunning performance by Pola Negri – a HUGE silent-era star, love and happy circumstance conquers all.  This is a NOT TO BE MISSED special Sound of Silents, presentation on November 14. Get your tickets now!

LIMITED ENGAGEMENTS DOWNTOWN

"Magic Pills"

On Monday, September 17, 2018 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater, this film will be playing.  Homeopathic medicine is one of the most widely used forms of alternative medicine on the planet but, despite its popularity, it has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years and is now a favorite target for skeptics and debunkers.  The controversy surrounding homeopathic medicine is founded in the belief that something so highly diluted cannot work without violating the laws of chemistry.  This film challenges viewers to decide for themselves by presenting new scientific discoveries, and real world successes that challenge these assumptions.  After the film, Bio Energy Medical Center’s homeopathic physician, Umangini Desai, will be hosting a live Q&A.

"Lady Bird"

On Wednesday, September 19 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater there will be a FREE screening of this film brought to you by A24.  Individuals interested must simply RSVP at facebook.com/A24GOESBLUE

 

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

"The Wife"

At the Michigan: This film follows Joan and Joe Castleman (played by Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce), who are complements after nearly forty years of marriage.  Where Joe is casual, Joan is elegant.  Where Joe is vain, Joan is self-effacing.  And where Joe enjoys his very public role as the great American novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm and diplomacy into the private role of a great man's wife.  As Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work, Joan starts to think about the shared compromises, secrets, and betrayals. 

"The Bookshop"

This film takes place in England 1959, where free-spirited widow Florence Green (played by Emily Mortimer) risks everything to open a bookshop in a conservative East Anglian coastal town.  While bringing about a surprising cultural awakening through works by Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, she earns the polite but ruthless opposition of a local grand dame (Patricia Clarkson) and the support and affection of a reclusive book loving widower (played by Bill Nighy).  As Florence's obstacles amass and bear suspicious signs of a local power struggle, she is forced to ask: is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?

"Juliet, Naked"

At the State: Based on the novel by Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity," "About A Boy"), this is a comic account of life's second chances.  Annie (played by Rose Byrne) is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (played by Chris O'Dowd) - an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (played by Ethan Hawke).  When the acoustic demo of Tucker's hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself. 

"Crazy Rich Asians"

This film is based on a global bestseller and follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu accompanying her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore.  She's also surprised to learn that Nick's family is extremely wealthy and he's considered one of the country's most eligible bachelors.  Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and something far, far worse - Nick's disapproving mother. 

"BlackKkKlansman"

From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero.  It's the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) is the first black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.  Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.  The young detective soon recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver), into the undercover investigation of a lifetime.

OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX

"The Predator"

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black's explosive reinvention of the Predator series.  In this film, the universe's most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter, and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species.  When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.  Opens Friday, September 14!

"A Simple Favor"

A stylish, post-modern film noir directed by Paul Feig centers around Stephanie (played by Anna Kendrick), a mommy blogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily's (played by Blake Lively) disappearance from their small town.  Stephanie is joined by Emily's husband Sean (played by Henry Golding) in this thriller filled with twists and betrayals, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge.  Opens Friday September 14!

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu