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Cinema Chat: Ann Arbor Film Fest Continues, 'The Death Of Stalin,' 'Pacific Rim: Uprising,' And More

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The Spring 2018 Pledge Drive has wrapped up, so let's unwind with some good movies!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest movie news and all of the films you check out this weekend.


The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America, is internationally recognized, and each the festival engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences.  The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 20 countries of all lengths and genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction, and performance-based works.

Thousands of influential filmmakers and artists have exhibited early work at the AAFF, including Kenneth Anger, Brian De Palma, Agnes Varda, Andy Warhol, Gus Van Sant, Barbara Hammer, George Lucas, Les Blank, Matthew Buckingham, and James Benning.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival receives more than 3,000 submissions annually from more than 65 countries and serves as one of a handful of Academy Award®-qualifying festivals in the United States.  Our awards program presents more than $20,000 in cash and film stock/services to filmmakers.

Opened Tuesday, playing through Sunday, when it closes with the Winners and Highlights screenings.  Yesterday, Academy Award winning special effects artist John Nelson (Blade Runner 2049, Gladiator) presented a very cool illustrated presentation about how digital effects are built for modern movies.

For a detailed schedule of films and events, go to aafilmfest.org.

MARK YOU CALENDAR – Cinetopia Film Festival, May 31-June 10.  Passes now on sale at “cinetopiafestival.org


"The Death of Stalin"

Following its Midwest Premiere at the Cinetopia Presents Direct From Sundance event earlier this month with over 1,000 in attendance, this film returns by popular demand!  This historical political satire from Writer/Director Armando Iannucci, best known for his previous comedy "In The Loop" and creator of the Emmy Award winning "Veep," follows the Soviet dictator's last days as well as the chaos of the regime after his death.  With an all-star cast led by Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Simon Russell Beale, and Jeffrey Tambor, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said “Armando Iannucci's hilarious, profane satire about politburos pole-positioning for power could not be more timely. It's the funniest, fiercest comedy of the year.”


"Lone Wolf and Cub" Series

With four films left to present, the Lone Wolf and Cub mini-series will continue at the State Theatre with screenings every night at 7:00 PM through Sunday, March 25.  Based on the acclaimed manga, this series tells the story of a wandering assassin and his 3-year-old son through the wilds of Japan.  Still to come: "Baby Cart in Peril" tonight, "Baby Cart to Hades"on Friday, "Baby Cart in the Land of Demons" on Saturday, and "White Heaven in Hell" on Sunday.

"Spirited Away"

The “Ghibli for Kids” series also continues at the State Theatre, with this film playing this Saturday, March 24 at 1:30 PMand because it’s also part of the Toyota Family-Friendly Film Series Presented by the Benard L. Maas Foundation, kids 12 & under get in free!  During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.

"Blade Runner"

And a special midnight screening of the original 1982 film will take place at the State this Saturday, March 24 at 11:59 PM in celebration of John Nelson, who won an Oscar for his work on "Blade Runner 2049" and returned home to present a lecture this week at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.  In this neo-noir sci-fi cult classic, Harrison Ford stars at Rick Deckard, a blade runner who must pursue and terminate four replicants that stole a ship and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

"Red Beard"

At the Michigan Theater, the “Enter the Samurai” Film Series continues next Monday, March 26 at 7:00 PM. In this film written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, we take a break from samurais to show off one of the more dramatic pieces from the Japanese auteur.  This film takes place in 19th century Japan, where a rough tempered yet charitable town doctor trains a young intern.  On Monday, April 2, we return to the samurai epics with Kurosawa’s "Kagemusha."


Science on Screen returns next Wednesday, March 28 to present DavidLaChapelle’s 2005 Los Angeles dance documentary at 7:30 PM.  This presentation will also feature a post-film Q&A with Prof. Robin Wilson of the UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance and a founding member of the New York dance company Urban Bush Women.

"Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

And this film will conclude our“Ferrell Child: The Films of Will Ferrell” seriesnext week Thursday, March 29 at 9:30 PM.  In this 2006 comedy, Ferrell plays the number one NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby who stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. (played by John C. Reilly).  But when a French Formula One driver makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby's talent and devotion are put to the test.


"A Fantastic Woman"

At the State Theatre, the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film is back for another week!  From Chile, the film stars Daniela Vega as Marina, a transgender woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer, who faces scorn and discrimination after the sudden death of her older boyfriend.  “Not only was it the first Oscar win for Chile, but the first Oscar win for a film with a transgender performer in the lead.” (Jude Dry, Indiewire)

"A Wrinkle in Time"

New from Disney and Director Ava DuVernay ("Selma"), this will also remain for families that haven’t seen this fantastic sci-fi film which was adapted from the 1962 children’s novel.  Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and the young standout Storm Reid; Three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find their missing scientist father.

"Black Panther"

On its way to becoming the highest grossing superhero movie of all time, this film is also held over.

“The Shape of Water”

The Best Picture winner returns once again to continue an almost four month run!

And at the Michigan Theater, "Three Billboards Outisde Ebbing, Missouri" and "Call Me By Your Name"also remain with regular showtimes.


"Pacific Rim: Uprising"

This is the highly anticipated sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 action sci-fi epic and stars John Boyega as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity's victory against the monstrous "Kaiju."  But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father's legacy.

"Sherlock Gnomes"

With a voice cast featuring Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, and more, this is the sequel to the 2011 animated comedy "Gnomeo & Juliet."  After a string of garden gnome disappearances in London, Gnomeo & Juliet look to legendary detective Sherlock Gnomes to solve the case of their missing friends and family.


And the latest from Director Steven Soderberghshot entirely on an iPhone 7, this film follows a young woman who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or is it a product of her delusion?

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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
Russ Collins is the executive director of Marquee Arts, the nonprofit that oversees the Michigan Theater and State Theater in Ann Arbor.
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