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Cinema Chat: 'The Handmaiden,' 'Loving,' 'Fantastic Beasts,' And More

Michigan Theater
Wikipedia Media Commons

The weather is changing, but don't let that stop you from catching a good movie.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins about the movie business and all the flicks heading to the big screen this weekend.

Opening Downtown

"The Handmaiden"

A ravishing new crime drama inspired by the British novel “Fingersmith.”  Having transposed the story to 1930s-era colonial Korea and Japan, director ParkChan-wook presents a gripping and sensual tale of a young Japanese lady living on a secluded estate and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a conman's plot to defraud her of her large inheritance.  “The Handmaiden” opens Friday.  94% positive reviews.  Critics Consensus: "The Handmaiden" uses a Victorian crime novel as the loose inspiration for another visually sumptuous and absorbingly idiosyncratic outing from director Park Chan-wook.

Special Screenings Downtown

"Top Gun"

Hotshot fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) goes to the Naval Fighter Weapons School to refine his flying skills. But Maverick isn’t only competing to be the top fighter pilot, he’s also fighting for the attention of his beautiful flight instructor (Kelly McGillis).  “Top Gun” plays Thursday, Nov, 17 at 9:30.

"Fast Times at Ridgemont High"

In the quintessential teen sex comedy, Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty but inexperienced teen interested in dating.  Given advice by her uninhibited friend Linda (Phoebe Cates), Stacy gets trapped in a love triangle.  Meanwhile, Stacy’s classmate Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), who lives for surfing and being stoned, faces off against Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), a strict teacher who has no time for the slacker’s antics. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” plays Monday, November 21 at 7 PM as part of the Kids in America: ‘80s Teen Classics film series.

"Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird"

The Toyota Family-Friendly Film Series!  Big Bird loves spending his days on Sesame Street with all of his different friends.  However, social worker Miss Finch (SallyKellerman) feels that Big Bird should live in an environment with only birds like himself.  Big Bird cannot help but think of his friends back home and begins an adventurous journey back to where he truly belongs.  Plays Saturday, November 19 at 11:30.  Free admission for kids 12 and under!

Continuing Downtown

"Gimme Danger"

JimJarmusch’s documentary about Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Ann Arbor proto-punk band that became and international trend setter has its last screening tonight at 9:55.

"A Man Called Ove"

Sweden’s biggest hit since “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”  Adapted from the best-selling novel by Fredrik Bachman, “A Man Called Ove” follows the titular character, Ove, the quintessential angry old man next door. An isolated retiree with strict principles and a short fuse, who spends his days enforcing block association rules that only he cares about, and visiting his wife’s grave, Ove has given up on life. Enter a boisterous young family next door who accidentally flattens Ove’s mailbox while moving in and earning his special brand of ire.  Yet from this inauspicious beginning an unlikely friendship forms and we come to understand Ove’s past happiness and heartbreaks.  What emerges is a heartwarming tale of unreliable first impressions and the gentle reminder that life is sweeter when it’s shared.  Alissa Simon of Variety calls the film “a touching comic crowd pleaser that may call for a tissue or two by the end.” 


A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, this film chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.  The story of his struggle to find himself is told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality.  At once a vital portrait of contemporary African-American life and an intensely personal and poetic meditation on identity, family, friendship, and love, “Moonlight” is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths.  Ty Burr of the Boston Globe writes, “In its quietly radical grace, it's a cultural watershed - a work that dismantles all the ways our media view young black men and puts in their place a series of intimate truths.” 

“Certain Women”

This film features a remarkable ensemble cast led by Michelle WilliamsKristen Stewart, and Laura Dern in a stirring look at three women striving to forge their own paths amidst the wide-open plains of the American Northwest.  As their stories intersect in subtle but powerful ways, a portrait emerges of flawed, but strong-willed individuals in the process of defining themselves.  Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post writes “(director Kelly) Reichardt lets her flawed, enigmatic heroines be, allowing them to keep struggling, persevering and relishing what can sometimes pass for tiny victories.”

Opening at the Multiplex

"Bleed for This"

This is the incredible true story of Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza (Miles Teller), a boxer who shot to stardom after winning two world title fights.  After a near-fatal car accident leaves Vinny with a broken neck, he is told he may never walk again.  Against all odds, Vinny returns to the ring just a year after the accident for what could be the last fight of his life.  “Bleed for This” opens Friday.  73% positive reviews.  Critics Consensus: Bleed for This rises on the strength of Miles Teller's starring performance to deliver a solid fact-based boxing drama that takes a few genre clichés on the chin but keeps on coming.

"The Edge of Seventeen"

This film offers an honest, candid, often hilarious look at what it's like to grow up as a young woman in today's modern world. Life isn’t easy for high school junior Nadine (HaileeSteinfeld), who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian (BlakeJenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). “The Edge of Seventeen” opens Friday. 92% positive reviews. Critics Consensus: "The Edge of Seventeen's" sharp script -- and HaileeSteinfeld's outstanding lead performance -- make this more than just another coming-of-age dramedy.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"

This film takes us to a new era in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, decades before Harry Potter and half a world away.  The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander’s (EddieRedmayne) brief stop in New York might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case and the escape of some of Newt's fantastic beasts.  “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” opens Friday.  85% positive reviews.  Critics Consensus: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" draws on Harry Potter's rich mythology to deliver a spinoff that dazzles with franchise-building magic all its own.

"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"

This film is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn, who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, has been hailed as a hero and brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks, the film reveals what really happened to the squad - contrasting the realities of the Iraq conflict with America's celebration back home.  “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” opens Friday.  47% positive reviews.  Critics Consensus: Director AngLee’s "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" has noble goals, but lacks a strong enough screenplay to achieve them -- and its visual innovations are often merely distracting.



This film celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (portrayed by JoelEdgerton and RuthNegga), who married and then spent the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case,Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry - and their love story has become an inspiration to couples ever since.  “Loving” opens Tuesday.

Warner Brothers Cartoons– the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 25

Enjoy a laugh with friends and family as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and all of the Looney Tunes gang take over the silver screen of the historic main theater. The Michigan Theater will show a selection of Warner Bros. cartoons for all ages and offer the perfect pit-stop during the start of the busy holiday shopping season.  

Sing Along “White Christmas” – also the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 25

Special Ticket Prices Apply!  With on-screen lyrics, interactive props, and more! Join us for caroling with the Barton organ from 7 – 7:30 PM.  Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play war buddies turned entertainers who fall for a pair of sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen).

FREE Holiday classic -- "The Muppet Christmas Carol"- Sunday, November 27 at 1:30 PM

Part of the Holiday Classics Film Series.  The Muppets perform the classic Dickens holiday tale, with Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit, the put-upon clerk of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (MichaelCaine).

"Elf" - Sunday, December 4 at 1:30 PM

"Prancer"- Sunday, December 11 at 1:30 PM

"It’s a Wonderful Life" - Sunday, December 18 at 1:30 PM  

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

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