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Cinema Chat: Sundance Preview, 'Seasons,' 'The Brand New Testament,' 'The Founder,' And More

Michigan Theater
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In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks with Michigan Theater spokesperson Amanda Bynum about the movie business and all the films coming to the big screen this weekend.

Opening Downtown


This is the awe-inspiring and thought-provoking tale of the long and tumultuous shared history that binds humankind with the natural world.  After traveling the world alongside migrating birds (“Winged Migration”) and diving the oceans with whales and manta rays (“Oceans”), filmmaking team Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud explore the lush green forests and megafauna that emerged across Europe following the last Ice Age.  Featuring exceptional footage of animals in the wild, “Seasons” opens Friday.

"The Brand New Testament"

God exists, and He's a jerk.  Living in a high-rise apartment in Brussels, He takes sadistic delight in dreaming up new "laws" to torment humanity and He's a petty tyrant to His ten year-old daughter, Ea.  Ea has had enough of her Father's abuse, so she hacks into His computer and leaks to the entire world - by text message - the only thing He has over them: their inevitable death date.  With her Father in pursuit, Ea writes her own New Testament to try to fix the mess her Father has made of humanity.  “The Brand New Testament” opens Friday.

Special Screenings Downtown

"Fire at Sea"

This film takes place in Lampedusa, a once peaceful Mediterranean island that has become a major entry point for African refugees into Europe.  We meet Samuele, a boy who lives simply, climbing rocks and playing with his slingshot.  Yet nearby, we also witness thousands of men, women, and children trying to survive the crossing from Africa in boats that are too small for such a journey­.  “Fire at Sea” plays Thursday, January 19.

"The Age of Shadows"

The Korean Cinema Now film series premieres with “The Age of Shadows.”  A Korean police captain in the Japanese police force is given a special mission to infiltrate the armed resistance fighting for Korean independence.  He approaches a leader of the resistance, and soon these two men who stand on opposite sides become close without revealing their inner thoughts.  Presented by the Nam Center for Korean Studies at U-M, “The Age of Shadows” plays Saturday, January 21 at 1 PM.  Admission is free!

"Tokyo Drifter"

The “KURO: The Dark Edge of Japanese Filmmaking” film series continues.  Tetsuya “Phoenix Tetsu” Hondo is looking forward to his forced retirement after his gang is disbanded.  But when he refuses an offer he shouldn’t, what follows is a blood-soaked take on the wandering Samurai.  “Tokyo Drifter” plays Monday, January 23 at 7 PM.

“Branded to Kill"

Hanada, a.k.a. “No. 3 Killer,” the third-best hit man in Japanese organized crime has got a problem: the hunter has become the hunted thanks to a single missed shot.  “Branded to Kill” follows at 9:30 PM.

"I Voted?"

The Science on Screen series is back!  An unknown South Carolina candidate inexplicably wins his U.S. Senate primary in a landslide, despite never having campaigned.  Filmmaker Jason Grant Smith sets out on a personal odyssey to expose the loopholes and pitfalls of our electoral system.  The screening features a special post-screening presentation by J. Alex Halderman, PhD., Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Computer Security and Society at the University of Michigan (he’s featured in the film).  “I Voted?” plays Wednesday, January 25 at 7 PM.

"Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened"

One of the truly legendary musicals in the history of Broadway, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, opened to enormous fanfare in 1981, and closed after sixteen performances.  This film draws back the curtain on the extraordinary drama of that show’s creation – and tells the stories of the hopeful young performers whose lives were transformed by it.  Directed by Lonny Price, a member of the original cast, “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” plays Thursday and Friday, January 26-27.

Opening at the Multiplex

"20th Century Women"

During the summer of 1979, a Santa Barbara single mom and boardinghouse landlord (Annette Bening) decides the best way she can parent her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann) is to enlist her young tenants - a quirky punk photographer (Greta Gerwig), a mellow handyman (Billy Crudup), and her son's shrewd best friend (Elle Fanning) - to serve as role models in a changing world.  “20th Century Women” opens Friday.

"The Founder"

This film tells the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California.  Kroc was impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential.  The film details how Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.  “The Founder” opens Friday.


This is the latest film from plot-twist master M. Night Shyamalan.  Even though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others.  When he is compelled to abduct three teenage girls, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him - as well as everyone around him.  “Split” opens Friday.

"XXX: Return of Xander Cage"

Extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) comes out of self-imposed exile and finds himself on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon.  “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” opens Friday.

"The Resurrection of Gavin Stone"

A washed-up former child star is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian to land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood.  “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” opens Friday.

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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

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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