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Cinema Chat: 'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens', 'Sisters', 'Carol' And More

Michigan Theater

This is the week one of cinema's biggest franchises returns. 'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens'  hits theaters Friday. There are plenty of other movie options this weekend, too. Additionally, Indie Wire and the American film Institute have kicked off the award season. It's all covered for you in this week's 'Cinema Chat' with David Fair and Michigan Theater Executive Director Russ Collins.

INDIE WIRE – Film Honors 2015

BEST FILM: Mad Max: Fury Road -- Runner-Up: Carol

BEST DIRECTOR: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road -- Runner-Up: Todd Haynes, Carol

BEST LEAD ACTRESS: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years -- Runner-Up: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST LEAD ACTOR: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs -- Runner-Up: Géza Röhrig, Son of Saul

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria -- Runner-Up: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies -- Runner-Up: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST DOCUMENTARY: The Look of Silence -- Runner-Up: Amy

BEST FIRST FEATURE: Son of Saul -- Runner-Up: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

BEST UNDISTRIBUTED FILM: Chevalier -- Runner-Up: Right Now, Wrong Then

BEST SCREENPLAY: Spotlight -- Runner-Up: Carol

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: Carol -- Runner-Up: The Hateful Eight

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Carol -- Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST EDITING: Mad Max: Fury Road -- Runner-Up: Carol

MOST ANTICIPATED OF 2016: The Witch -- Runner-Up: The Lobster












Opening at the Multiplex

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” continues thirty years after “Return of the Jedi.”  After defeating the Galactic Empire, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his allies face a new threat from the evil KyloRen (Adam Driver) and his army of Stormtroopers.  Plot points and character reveals have been kept secret by director JJ Abrams and the franchise’s new home with Disney, including a review embargo until Wednesday morning at 12:01 AM.  “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” opens Friday, with early screenings at most theaters on Thursday evening.


Saturday Night Live alumni Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-star in “Sisters,” a comedy about a pair of 30-something sisters who learn that their parents' house has been put on the market, and who decide to spend one last rowdy weekend in the home where they grew up.  “Sisters” opens Friday.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

In “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami...and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother.  “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” opens Friday.

Opening Downtown


“Macbeth” is Shakespeare’s story of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader (Michael Fassbender) brought low by ambition and desire. A thrilling interpretation of the dramatic realities of the times and a reimagining of what wartime must have been like for one of literature's most famous and compelling characters, it’s a story of all-consuming passion and ambition set in war-torn Scotland.  Guy Lodge of Variety writes “Fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed, it’s a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquisitely in period.”  Also starring Marion Cotilliard as Lady Macbeth, “Macbeth” opens Friday at the Michigan.


“Carol,” an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt, follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change.  A young woman in her 20s, Therese (Rooney Mara) is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (CateBlanchett), an alluring older woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. After an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their relationship deepens, Carol’s husband (Kyle Chandler) begins to question her competence as a mother. The film has been nominated for several Golden Globes, including best picture, best director (Todd Haynes) and both Blanchett and Mara have been nominated for their stellar performances.  “Carol” opens Thursday, December 24 at the Michigan and continues next week.

The Danish Girl

“The Danish Girl” tells the true love story of Danish artist Einar Wegener (Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne, nominated for a Golden Globe for this role) and his wife Gerda (Golden Globe nominee Alicia Vikander) as he makes the pioneering journey to becoming a woman, Lili Elbe, in the 1920s. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking role as a transgender pioneer.  “The Danish Girl” opens Thursday, December 24 at the State and continues next week.

Special Screenings Downtown

It's A Wonderful Life

“It’s A Wonderful Life” is an inverted version of “A Christmas Carol.” The great Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey, a good man who deferred his own dreams for the benefit of his small town. The classic film also features Lionel Barrymore as the misanthropic banker, Donna Reed as George Bailey’s devoted wife, and Virginia Patton, better known locally as Ginny Moss, as George’s beautiful sister-in-law. Ginny was a contract player in Hollywood’s heyday and appeared in over a dozen studio pictures, before coming to Ann Arbor. “It’s A Wonderful Life” plays Sunday at 1:30 PM. Free admission!  Presented as part of the Michigan Theater’s Holiday Classics Film Series.

Still Playing Downtown


In “Trumbo,” screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) had it all: wealth, fame, Oscar nominations.  But he refused to name names for the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Cold War, and was jailed and blacklisted for his political beliefs.  Despite this, Dalton used words and wit to go on to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice of the blacklist.  “Trumbo” continues at the Michigan.


“Brooklyn” tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs the comfort of her mother's home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.  Ronan, previously nominated for an Academy Award for 2007’s “Atonement,” is considered a sure thing for the Best Actress Oscar nomination for her remarkable performance.  “Brooklyn” continues at the State.


In “Spotlight,” the Boston Globe’s tenacious reporters delve into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church.  Their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's establishment, causing a crisis in one of the world's oldest and most trusted institutions.  “Spotlight” boasts a stellar cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Stanley Tucci.  “Spotlight” continues at the State.  

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