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Cinema Chat: Star Wars And State Theatre Updates, 'The Beguiled,' 'Baby Driver,' And More

Michigan Theater
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In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins are back together to talk about the movie business and all of the new movies opening in theaters this Independence Day weekend.

Festival Hits Open This Week

“The Hero” starring Sam Elliot, was the opening film and a hit at Cinetopia Festival.  It opens Friday at the Michigan.  Also at the Michigan on Friday, Sofia Coppola's “The Beguiled” set at a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, brought Sofia Coppola the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival (only the second woman in the festival’s 70-year history to do so).  “Baby Driver,” opening at area multiplexes, has a great, smart action film buzz and great reviews.

Ron Howard’s ‘Star Wars’: Lucasfilm replaces a pair of distinctive filmmakers with Hollywood veteran

Ron Howard is taking over the production of Lucasfilm’s young Han Solo movie.  Lucasfilm czar Kathleen Kennedyis siding with the writer — long-time “Star Wars” consigliere Lawrence Kasdan.  Phil Lord and Chris Miller, comedy directors — “21 Jump Street,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Lego Movie” — not to mention the upcoming “Lego Ninjago Movie,” “America: The Motion Picture,” “MIB 23,” the Untitled Spider-Man Project, and a gaggle of TV series, were fired from the Han Solo prequel film.  Kennedy’s purpose is to stay on course and keep the “Star Wars” universe humming and intact as it spins into many orbits.  She can take responsibility for miscasting in this case, because Lord and Miller are who they are and, once hired, should be able to do what they do.

After the massive upheaval of Lord and Miller leaving the project with just a few weeks left to go in principal photography, Lucasfilm is desperate for anything resembling stability.  Howard is a good guy for that, a seasoned professional with plenty of blockbuster experience and two Oscars to boot, and he’ll likely be able to soothe frazzled nerves and get the mechanics of the filmmaking process running smoothly in no time.  That’s the draw here: He’s a safe choice, and what was so exciting about the initial hiring of Lord and Miller was that they weren’t.  Howard will surely make a perfectly serviceable feature, delivered on time and with a minimum of drama, but the fallout from this will always eclipse that final product.  Not just in terms of the Han Solo movie we’ll never see — though that stings, too — but because it shows that Lucasfilm and “Star Wars” aren’t ready to take a real gamble on unique talents just yet, even when they seem so happy to keep telling us that they are.

State Theatre Construction Continues:  Headed toward opening between October 15- November 15

With $1.15 million to raise to complete the $8.5 million State and Michigan Project funding, today the Michigan Theater announces a $200,000 challenge gift.  The challenge gift is offered to help push the campaign past the $8 million threshold, before the opening of the State Theatre, which is projected to be in late October or early November.  The newly renovated State Theatre will restore much of the exterior of this classic Art Deco theater designed by the renowned early 20th century architect C. Howard Crane who specialized in theater designs.  The New State Theatre will feature a restored Art Deco Lounge with full liquor license, and four beautifully appointed and comfortable cinema screening rooms that will seat 140, 100, 80 and 50 respectively.  The theaters will be fully accessible via elevator and escalator.  The spectacular Art Deco marquee, currently surrounded by scaffolding, is being carefully restored.

Opening Downtown

"The Beguiled"

An atmospheric thriller written and directed by Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola, this film weaves a story fraught with sexual tension, dangerous rivalries, and broken taboos following an unexpected turn of events.  At a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, where the young women have been sheltered from the outside world, a wounded Union soldier is taken in.  Soon, the house is taken over with sexual tension, rivalries, and an unexpected turn of events.  Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly writes “Coppola, who took home the Best Director prize for the movie last month at Cannes (only the second woman in the festival’s 70-year history to do so), has her own narrative hand to play, and she does it with a coolness that both obscures and inverts the most obvious interpretations of her characters’ choices.”  Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning, “The Beguiled” opens Thursday.

"The Hero"

The Cinetopia Film Festival hit returns to Ann Arbor!  Western star of yesteryear Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) likes to reminisce with his former-co-star-turned-dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), about the good times gone by, until a surprise cancer diagnosis brings his priorities into sharp focus.  Lee gets a fresh chance to reclaim the spotlight with the help of his new lover Charlotte (Laura Prepon) and an industry award for his work, all while searching for one final role to cement his legacy.  Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post writes, “There are moments when Elliott evokes more meaning and sympathy from the back of his wiry, weathered neck than most actors do from all manner of scenery-chewing… That’s the weird alchemy of screen acting: At its best, it’s a combination of careful technique, canny withholding and unquantifiable charisma.  And it’s what Elliott embodies in every frame of this modest but inordinately absorbing little movie.”  “The Hero” opens Thursday.

Special Screenings Downtown


The Summer Classic Film Series returns with more selections than ever celebrating generations of filmmakers and their nostalgic treasures.  Beginning this Father’s Day, Sunday, June 18, the Michigan Theater will begin screenings every Sunday at 1:30 PM, Tuesday at 7:00 PM, and Thursdays in July and August at 9:30 PM.  We’ll continue traditions with a Sing-Along of THE LITTLE MERMAID, screen a silent film with live organ accompaniment in Buster Keaton’s STEAMBOAT BILL JR, but we’ve also added three sub-series featuring the works of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, and Stanley Kubrick:

Early classics: "The Great Dictator"

In Charlie Chaplin’s first all-talking feature released in 1940, dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin) tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber (also played by Chaplin) tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel’s regime.  In an essay written in 2007,film critic Roger Ebert wrote “it is a funny film, which we expect from Chaplin, and a brave one.  He never played a little man with a mustache again.”  “The Great Dictator” plays Sunday, July 2 at 1:30 PM and Tuesday, July 4 at 7 PM as part of the Summer Classic Film Series.

Hitchcock Goes Hollywood

This year we have 11 selections of Hitchcock’s most popular films from his career working with Hollywood’s biggest stars like James Stewart, Cary Grant, Tippi Hedren, Grace Kelly, Doris Day and Sean Connery.  We will begin with his 1951 thriller/noir Strangers On A Train and work our way through his filmography, celebrating his most iconic images, and concluding the series with Psycho, which students will be able to attend for free! This series begins Sunday, July 9, and continues with a new film every Sunday and Tuesday at our normal time.

9-Jul               Strangers On A Train

11-Jul              Rear Window

16-Jul              To Catch A Thief

18-Jul             The Trouble With Harry

23-Jul              The Man Who Knew Too Much

25-Jul              The Wrong Man

30-Jul              Vertigo

1-Aug              North By Northwest

6-Aug              The Birds

8-Aug              Marnie

End of Summer Classics

13-Aug                        Steamboat Bill Jr.

15-Aug                        Steamboat Bill Jr.

20-Aug                        Wizard of Oz

22-Aug                        Wizard of Oz

27-Aug                        Sing-A-Long Little Mermaid

29-Aug                        Sing-A-Long Little Mermaid

3-Sep                          Children of Men

4-Sep                          Psycho

5-Sep                          Children of Men

Kubrick After Dark: "Lolita"

Stanley Kubrick’s film brings Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial tale of forbidden love to the screen. Humbert Humbert (James Mason) is a European professor who relocates to an American suburb, renting a room from lonely widow Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters).  Humbert marries Charlotte, but only to nurture his obsession with her comely teenage daughter, Lolita (Sue Lyon).  After Charlotte’s sudden death, Humbert has Lolita all to himself — or does he?  “Lolita” plays Thursday, July 6 at 9:30 PM as part of the Summer Classics: Kubrick After Dark series.

13-Jul  2001: A Space Odyssey       

20-Jul  A Clockwork Orange

27-Jul The Shining

Lynch After Dark                

Celebrating the return of Twin Peaks, we’ll take a look at career of David Lynch, featuring selections which find focus in science fiction, mystery, love, and the outright weird.  Beginning August 3rd with Eraserhead, this After Dark Series will also continue every Thursday in August at 9:30 PM with Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, and Lost Highway.

3-Aug             Eraserhead    

10-Aug           Dune

17-Aug            Blue Velvet

24-Aug            Wild At Heart

31-Aug           Lost Highway

Opening at the Multiplex

"Baby Driver"

A talented, young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game.  But after being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love, and freedom.  From acclaimed director Edgar Wright, “Baby Driver” opened Wednesday.

"The House"

Will Ferrelland Amy Poehler star in this film, which tells the story of a mother and father who blow their daughter's college fund and start an illegal casino in their basement to recoup the losses.  “The House” opens Friday.

"Despicable Me 3"

In the animated comedy, after he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down the latest bad guy to threaten humanity, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis.  But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother—a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps—one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad.  “Despicable Me 3” 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

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