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Cinema Chat: 'Learning to Drive', 'Meru', 'Listen to Me Marlon', 'The Visit' And More


Get a preview of this week's movie offerings in the area with the latest edition of Cinema Chat. Additionally, we cover Hollywood news and the latest on the film festival circuit. 

Cinema chat is a weekly feature on the latest films with WEMU's News Director and Morning Edition host, David Fair and Russ Collins, Executive Director of the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher or get weekly updates via emailOpening Downtown

Learning to Drive

“Learning to Drive” stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a middle-aged book critic who is shattered when her husband leaves her. In order to visit her daughter (Grace Gummer), who lives upstate, Wendy begins taking driving lessons from Darwan (Ben Kingsley) an American citizen originally from India who makes a living as a cabbie and giving driving lessons. The two strike up a friendship that helps her learn to take control of her life, and him adjust to his new life after an arranged marriage.  Moira McDonald of the Seattle Times says “It's a beautifully acted tale of friendship, and about how sometimes, you just need to move forward - in a car, or otherwise.”  “Learning to Drive” opens Friday at the Michigan.


“Meru” is the most talked about film of the fall, especially here in Ann Arbor. This spectacular outdoors adventure charts the attempts of a trio of American climbers to be the first to scale the Meru Peak called the Shark’s Fin, in the Himalayan mountain.

The mountain's perversely stacked obstacles make it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world's toughest climbers. In 2008, renowned alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and RenanOzturk tried to tackle Meru, but their trip quickly declined into a 20-day odyssey in sub-zero temperatures with depleting food rations. Despite making it to within 100 meters of the summit, their journey was not a successful one.

Defeated, the trio returned to their everyday lives, where the siren song of Meru continued to beckon. By 2011, Anker had convinced his two friends to undertake the Shark's Fin once more. “Meru” is the story of that journey, an expedition through nature's harshest elements and one's complicated inner demons.  Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times says that “Meru” is “one of the most outstanding documentaries of the year.”  “Meru” opens Friday at the State Theatre.  93% positive reviews

Special Screenings Downtown

The Piano

Shown as part of Directed by Women, “The Piano” plays Thursday September 10 at 7 PM at the State Theatre as part of a global initiative designed to focus attention on female film directors and their work. Directed by Jane Campion “The Piano” features Holly Hunter as Ada, a frontier wife who has willed herself not to speak, and her strong-willed young daughter Flora (Anna Paquin). Ada immediately takes a dislike to her husband, Stewart, when he refuses to carry her beloved piano home with them. But Stewart makes a deal with his overseer Baines (Harvey Keitel) to take the piano off his hands. Baines agrees to return the piano in exchange for a series of piano lessons with Ada that become increasingly sexually charged.


The Spielberg: Man and Monsters film series kicks off with “Duel!”  Originally released as a TV movie, “Duel” established Steven Spielberg as an up-and-coming director to watch. Based on the short story by Richard Matheson (who adapted the story for the screen), this early Spielberg feature-length directorial effort stars Dennis Weaver as a terrified motorist stalked on a remote and lonely road by the driver of a mysterious tanker truck.  “Duel” plays Monday September 14 at the Michigan. The series continues through Saturday, November 28

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

“Cobain: Montage of Heck” explores the life of Kurt Cobain, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Nirvana, who remains an icon 20 years after his death. The film takes a journey through his life and his career with Nirvana through the lens of his home movies, recordings, artwork, photography, and journals.  “Cobain: Montage of Heck” plays Tuesday through Thursday at the State.  97% positive reviews.

Listen to Me Marlon

“Listen to Me Marlon” explores a previously unknown side of the acting legend Marlon Brando.  Unbeknownst to the public, Brando - who remained deliberately mysterious for his entire professional life - created a vast archive of personal audio and visual materials over the course of his lifetime, often deeply confessional and completely without vanity or evasion. Now - for the first time ever - those recordings come to life. Charting his exceptional career as an actor and his extraordinary life away from the stage and screen, the film reveals the Brando’s complexities and contradictions by telling the story in his own words.  “Listen to Me Marlon” plays Thursday September 17 at the Michigan and continues next week.

Opening at the Multiplex

The Visit

“The Visit,” the latest from director M. Night Shyamalan, tells the terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents' remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.  “The Visit” opens Friday.

The Perfect Guy

In “The Perfect Guy,” after a painful breakup, successful lobbyist Leah (SanaaLathan) jumps into a passionate relationship with a charming stranger. When her ex-boyfriend resurfaces in her life she has to figure out who she should trust and who she should fear.  “The Perfect Guy” opens Friday.