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Cinema Chat: Cinetopia Kickoff, 'Tolkien,' 'Detective Pikachu,' And More

Cinetopia Film Festival

There's a lot happening in the movie world this week, including the official start of the Cinetopia Film Festival!  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 about all of the new flicks coming to the big screen this weekend.


The Cinetopia Film Festival is an annual, curated festival in metro Detroit, featuring more than 50 of the best feature-length dramas, comedies, and documentaries from the world’s best film festivals (Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, and more).  This year, there will be about 120 total screenings of the 50 films selected for the festival AND Cinetopia also includes the Ann Arbor Jewish Film Festival. Cinetopia takes place over the span of 10 days with venues in Detroit, Dearborn, Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak and Ann Arbor.  Created in 2012 for the people of Southeast Michigan, Cinetopia brings many cinema artists to participate in special pre- and post-film events, including presentations, discussion panels, and Q&A sessions with directors, writers, and actors.  The 2019 Cinetopia Film Festival comes with major support by Michigan Medicine and the Knight Foundation. For more information, visit cinetopiafestival.org.

Kick off Cinetopia 2019 at our Opening Party May 10!

Before the film join us for food and drink at the Michigan Theater to kick off the start of Cinetopia 2019! Following the party will be a screening of "Before You Know It," with special appearances by co-writers and lead actresses, Hannah Pearl Utt (who also directed) and Jen Tullock!  Stage manager Rachel Gurner (Pearl Utt) still lives in her childhood apartment—along with her actress sister, Jackie (Tullock); playwright father Mel (Mandy Patinkin); and preteen niece Dodge.  Level-headed Rachel is the only thing standing between her family and chaos.  Then, in the wake of a sudden family tragedy, Rachel and Jackie learn their presumed-deceased mother is alive and thriving as a soap-opera star.

Mavericks & Makers Symposium – Celebrating Filmmaker Nancy Savoca!

Join us (and Nancy Savoca!) in celebrating the opening of her archive as it joins the illustrious company that comprise the U-M Library’s Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection at the Special Collections Research Center.  In celebration, Cinetopia is thrilled to bring three of Nancy’s gems back to the big screen, "Household Saints," "Dirt," and "Dogfight," with live Q&A’s and panel discussions to accompany. You will not want to miss this rare opportunity!

"Framing John Delorean" – May 11 at the Michigan or May 14 at the Maple Theater!

Who was the real John DeLorean?  To some, he was a renegade visionary who revolutionized the automobile industry.  To others, he was the ultimate con man.  For the first time, this film recounts the extraordinary life and legend of the controversial automaker, tracing his meteoric rise through the ranks of General Motors, his obsessive quest to build a sports car that would conquer the world, and his shocking fall from grace on charges of cocaine trafficking.  Interweaving a treasure trove of archival footage with dramatic vignettes starring Alec Baldwin.  Followed by a live Q&A with producer, Tamir Ardon and a chance to take a picture with a DeLorean!

"The Farewell"– May 11 at the State or May 14 at the Emagine Royal Oak!  A Chinese family discover that their beloved grandmother has only a short time left to live, and instead of telling, her they whip up an impromptu wedding to gather the family together before she passes.  Writer/director Lulu Wang imbues this film with warmth and knowing wit, while the uniformly excellent ensemble cast (anchored by a breakout performance by Awkwafina) invites us to share this extended clan’s joy and sorrow—and to feel a part of their family.  Attending Producer Eddie Rubin.

"Styx" – May 11 and May 14 at the State!

ER doctor Rike (played by Susanne Wolff) embarks on a one-woman solo sailing trip to Ascension Island in the Atlantic. When Rike comes across a sinking ship of refugees, she is quickly torn out of her contented and idealized world and must make a momentous decision.  Aptly named after the mythological river that separates the living from the dead, Styx is an astute modern-day parable of Western indifference in the face of marginalized suffering.

https://vimeo.com/289897587">"Making Mongomery Clift"– May 11 & 15 at the State and May 17 & 18 at the Emagine!

Montgomery Clift was one of the most influential actors in the history of cinema, bucking traditions on and off screen, but countless biographies have reduced him to labels like “tragically self-destructive” and “tormented.”  Now, nephew Robert Clift and Hillary Demmon rigorously examine the flawed narratives that have come to define Monty’s legacy.  On May 15, there will also be special guest appearances by directors/producers Robert Clift and Hillary Demmon!

"Welcome to Commie High" – Sneak Preview May 12 at the Michigan!

During the late 1960s, a wave of experimental public schools based on humanistic and antiestablishment ideas, began spreading across the United States.  Community High School, situated in downtown Ann Arbor and considered a “school without walls” by its founders, was challenged from its opening day in 1972. Maligned with a bad reputation, threatened regularly with closures, it was called “Commie High” by some that questioned its merits (and proudly by many within its culture).  This documentary explores the humanistic and anti-establishment growth of this school.

https://vimeo.com/319095910">"Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool" – May 12 at U-M Angell Hall!

Miles Davis: Horn player, bandleader, innovator.  Elegant, intellectual, vain.  Callous, conflicted, controversial.  Magnificent, mercurial. Genius.  The very embodiment of cool.  The man with a sound so beautiful it could break your heart.  The central theme of Miles Davis’s life was his restless determination to break boundaries and live life on his own terms.  Featuring never-before-seen archival footage, studio outtakes, and rare photos, this documentary by Stanley Nelson tells the story of a truly singular talent and unpacks the man behind the horn.

"One Child Nation"– May 12 at the State and May 17 at the Emagine Royal Oak!

GRAND JURY PRIZE WINNER, U.S. DOCUMENTARY, SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2019!  China’s One Child Policy, the extreme population control measure that made it illegal for couples to have more than one child, may have ended in 2015, but the process of dealing with the trauma of its brutal enforcement is just beginning.  The film explores the ripple effect of this devastating social experiment, uncovering one shocking human rights violation after another.

"Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" – May 13 at the Maple, May 15 at the State and May 17 at the Emagine!

A documentary by Timothy Greenfield that offers an artful and intimate meditation on the life and works of the acclaimed novelist.  From her childhood in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio to ‘70s-era book tours with Muhammed Ali, from the front lines with Angela Davis to her own riverfront writing room, Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, America, history and the human condition as seen through the prism of her own literature.

"Ancient Law"– Jewish Film Festival Selection and free member screening on May 14 at the Michigan!

The digital restoration of this lost gem from the silent era features a new score by Donald Sosin and Grammy Award-Winning Klezmer Violinist Alicia Svigals.  In a shtetl in Galicia, the son of a rabbi gets a bug for acting, much to the chagrin of his very traditional father.  The son becomes the object of a Viennese arch duchess’s affections, and, with a sweetheart waiting back home, he must decide between two divergent paths.

"Bite Me" – May 17 at the Emagine Royal Oak and May 18 at Cinema Detroit!

A subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her.  Set in modern-day New York City, the film follows two seemingly incompatible misfits as they struggle to break free from their identity crises and discover who they really are.  The central tension and heart-warming joy of the film comes from watching these two outsiders surrender to the terrifying act of falling in love.  Followed by a live Q&A with director Meredith Edwards!

Join us for our Closing Night Film and for our MCity Block Party May 19!

"Autonomy" will play as our closing night film at the Michigan and will feature special guest appearances by Alex Horowitz, Director, and Eddie Alterman, Executive Producer and Chief Brand Officer for Hearst Autos!  This documentary is a cinematic exploration of the world of automated vehicles—from their technical history to the personal narratives of those affected by them to the many unanswered questions about how this technology will affect modern society.  Following the film, head over to MCity where we are hosting an Ann Arbor street party with food, trucks, entertainment, automated vehicles up close, self-guided tours, and more!



At the State (Opens Friday, May 10): This film explores the formative years of the renowned author's life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school.  Their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up and weather love and loss together, including Tolkien's tumultuous courtship of his beloved Edith Bratt, until the outbreak of the First World War which threatens to tear their fellowship apart.  All of these experiences would later inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-earth novels such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Stars Nicholas Hoult ("Mad Max: Fury Road;" "The Favorite;" "About a Boy") as Tolkien and Lily Collins ("Okja;" "To the Bone") as Edith Bratt. 



At the Michigan (Plays Thursday, May 9 & Friday, May 10): For Diane (played by Mary Kay Place), everyone else comes first.  Generous but with little patience for self-pity, she spends her days checking in on sick friends, volunteering at her local soup kitchen, and trying valiantly to save her troubled, drug-addicted adult son (played by Jake Lacy) from himself.  But beneath her relentless routine of self-sacrifice, Diane is fighting a desperate internal battle, haunted by a past she can't forget and which threatens to tear her increasingly chaotic world apart.  Built around an extraordinary, fearless performance from Mary Kay Place, the narrative debut from Kent Jones is a profound, beautifully human portrait of a woman rifling through the wreckage of her life in search of redemption. 

"Master Z: Ip Man Legacy"

At the Michigan (Plays Monday, May 13 & Wednesday, May 15): In this film, legendary action director Yuen Woo-Ping draws on a stellar cast (Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, Tony Jaa, and Max Zhang) to create a hard-hitting martial arts blast worthy of its place in the celebrated IP MAN universe.  Following his defeat by Master Ip, Cheung Tin-Chi (played by Max Zhang), tries to make a life with his young son in Hong Kong, waiting tables at a bar that caters to expats.  But it's not long before the mix of foreigners, money, and triad leaders draw him once again to the fight.  


"The Chaperone"

At the Michigan: This film follows Louise Brooks, the 1920s silver screen sensation who never met a rule she didn't break, epitomized the restless, reckless spirit of the Jazz Age.  But, just a few years earlier, she was a 15 year-old student in Wichita, Kansas for whom fame and fortune were only dreams.  When the opportunity arises for her to go to New York to study with a leading dance troupe, her mother (played by Victoria Hill) insists there be a chaperone.  Norma Carlisle (played by Elizabeth McGovern), a local society matron who never broke a rule in her life, impulsively volunteers to accompany Louise (played by Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer. 

"Amazing Grace"

Shot in 1972 over a 48-hour period in Watts’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, this stirring documentary captured the live recording of the most successful gospel album in history by Aretha Franklin.  This album marked Franklin's thrilling return to her gospel roots after she'd earned 11 consecutive No. 1 pop and R&B singles, won five Grammys and released more than 20 albums.  

"Avengers: Endgame"

At the State: In this film, adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle.  Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers -- Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, and Bruce Banner -- must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos -- the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe. 


"Pokémon: Detective Pikachu"

In this film, ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son, Tim, to find out what happened.  Aiding in the investigation is Harry's former Pokémon partner, wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds).  Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces to unravel the tangled mystery.

"The Hustle"

In the hilarious new comedy, Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway have winning chemistry as a pair of con artists plying their trade in a stunning seaside town in the south of France.  Josephine Chesterfield (Hathaway) is a glamorous, seductive Brit with a sprawling home in Beaumont-sur-Mer and a penchant for defrauding gullible wealthy men from all corners of the world.  Into her well-ordered, meticulously moneyed world bursts Penny Rust (Wilson), an Aussie who is as free-form and fun-loving as Josephine is calculated and cunning.  Despite their different methods, both are masters of the art of the fleece, so they con the men that have wronged women.

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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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