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Cinema Chat: Cinetopia Recap, 'The Biggest Little Farm,' 'Aladdin,' And More

State Theatre

The 2019 Cinetopia Festival is in the books, but more is still on the way in the world of celluloid.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's Patrick Campion meets up with Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins to talk about the latest movie news and all of the new flicks coming to your local movie house this Memorial Day weekend.


Thank you to everyone who came out to participate in Cinetopia 2019.  It was the best, most successful festival yet.  When all the admissions are counted well over 30,000 will have participated in Cinetopia events.  Yet to come a summer full of outdoor screenings at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, at Kerrytown/Farmers Market, in Detroit and on Maynard.  Also, currently available for your enjoyment and edification is the exhibit at the Graduate Library on the U-M campus, which provides and inside look at the work and process of the seminal female film director Nancy Savoca, who was the subject of the Maverick & Markers Symposium, which took place during Cinetopia.  A huge thank-you to everyone who attended films May 10-19 at venues in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Birmingham/Bloomfield - we can't wait until next year so we can do it all again!

Cinetopia is made possible with major support from the Knight Foundation and Michigan Medicine.  Thanks also to our presenting sponsors Ford Motor Company Fund, State Street District, Exchange Capital Management, and The Applebaum Family Compass Fund.  Thanks to all our sponsors who helped make this year's Cinetopia the best yet!


AARP’s first original film "Care to Laugh" plays Thursday, May 23 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan!  This Big Hearts for Seniors fundraiser is presented by Memory Lane Assisted Living.  This is a feature-length documentary following Jesus Trejo, a rising star in the comedy world who is pursuing his dream of success while caring for his aging parents.  An only child, Jesus becomes his parents’ sole caregiver.  Transforming adversity into comedy, he uses his life experience as material for his routine.  VIP Reception begins at 5:30 PM and includes admission to the film and the reception, with delicious appetizers and a drink!  General Admission tickets include a live performance at 6:30 featuring Mr. B., Mark Lincoln Braun, Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano.

"The Biggest Little Farm"

At the Michigan (Sneak peeks on Thursday, May 23 and opens for full run Friday, May 24): This year's Direct From Sundance selection!  This film chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature.  Through dogged perseverance and embracing the opportunity provided by nature's conflicts, the Chester’s unlock and uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons, and our wildest imagination.


At the State (Opens Friday, May 24): Told from a wildly original, fresh and modern perspective, this film is an unfiltered comedy about high school best friends and the bonds we create that last a lifetime.  Capturing the spirit of our times, the film is a coming of age story for a new generation.  The story follows Dever and Feldstein's characters, two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, suddenly realize that they should have worked less and played more.  Determined never to fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night. From Director Olivia Wilde and starring Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis


At the State (Opens Friday, May 24): In this film, two lives intersect in Mumbai and go along together.  A struggling street photographer, pressured to marry by his grandmother, convinces a shy stranger to pose as his fiancée.  The pair develops a connection that transforms them in ways that they could not expect. 

"Hail Satan?"

At the State (Opens Friday, May 24): Chronicling the extraordinary rise of one of the most colorful and controversial religious movements in American history, this film is an inspiring and entertaining new feature documentary.  When media-savvy members of the Satanic Temple organize a series of public actions designed to advocate for religious freedom and challenge corrupt authority, they prove that with little more than a clever idea, a mischievous sense of humor, and a few rebellious friends, you can speak truth to power in some truly profound ways.  Screening on Friday, May 24 at 7:00 PM to feature post-film Q&A with on-screen subject Jex Blackmore!


"Bomb: A Love Story"

This film plays Friday, May 24 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  This screening is sponsored by Termeh at UM, introducing contemporary Iranian culture through seminars, workshops, book discussions, and movie screenings.  It’s 1988 and, at the height of the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran is bombed relentlessly.  The days that pass are full of foreboding, and yet, love, affection, hope, and life itself manage to sweep away the fear of death from those surrounded by it. Love may often be difficult to comprehend, but death is a horrible certitude.  The film shows how, even when faced with the darkness of death, love and hope will find a way.  The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s writer and director Payman Maadi!

"Office Space"

This film plays Saturday, May 25 at 10:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of the Like It’s 1999 Late-Night film series.  Corporate drone Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston) hates his soul-killing job at software company Initech.  While undergoing hypnotherapy, Peter is left in a blissful state when his therapist dies in the middle of their session.  He refuses to work overtime, plays games at his desk and unintentionally charms two consultants into putting him on the management fast-track.  When Peter’s friends learn they’re about to be downsized, they hatch a revenge plot against the company inspired by “Superman III.”

Like it’s 1999 continues in June, as well!

"The Great Gatsby"

This film plays Wednesday, May 29 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of Wine Down Wednesdays.  You’ve made it halfway through the week, so you deserve half-off a glass of wine at the State, paired perfectly with a film celebrating our love of wine.  Nick Carraway (played by Sam Waterston) is a young man from the Midwest living modestly among the decadent mansions of 1920s Long Island.  He becomes involved in the life of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (played by Robert Redford), a rich man who throws the most lavish parties on the island.  But behind Gastby’s outgoing demeanor is a lonely man who wants nothing more than to be with his old love, Daisy played by (played by Mia Farrow).  She is married to the bullheaded Tom (Bruce Dern), creating a love triangle that will end in tragedy.


This event plays Wednesday, May 29 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Each year, CatVideoFest curates a compilation reel of the latest, best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic internet powerhouses.  CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and raises money for cats in need through partnerships with local cat charities, animal welfare organizations, and shelters to best serve cats in the area.  What better way for us humans to come together than by watching cats?  10% of proceeds benefit the Humane Society of Huron Valley!


"Red Joan"

At the Michigan: This film takes place in a picturesque village in England, where Joan Stanley (played by Academy Award® winner Dame Judi Dench) lives in contented retirement. Suddenly her tranquil existence is shattered as she's shockingly arrested by MI5.  For Joan has been hiding an incredible past; she is one of the most influential spies in living history... Cambridge University in the 1930s, and the young Joan (Sophie Cookson), a demure physics student, falls intensely in love with a seductively attractive Russian saboteur, Leo.  Through him, she begins to see that the world is on a knife-edge and perhaps must be saved from itself in the race to military supremacy. Post-war and now working at a top secret nuclear research facility, Joan is confronted with the impossible: Would you betray your country and your loved ones, if it meant saving them?  What price would you pay for peace?  Inspired by an extraordinary true story, the film is the taut and emotional discovery of one woman's sacrifice in the face of incredible circumstances.  A woman to whom we perhaps all owe our freedom.

"Wild Nights with Emily"

Unique and surreal, this film sheds new light on the life one of our most celebrated poets. The poet Emily Dickinson's persona, popularized since her death, has been that of a reclusive spinster - a delicate wallflower, too sensitive for this world.  In this humorous drama, Molly Shannon captures the vivacious, irreverent side of Emily Dickinson that was covered up for years - most notably Emily's lifelong romantic relationship with another woman (played by Susan Ziegler).  After Emily's death, a rivalry emerges when her brother's mistress (played by Amy Seimetz) along with editor T.W. Higginson (played by Brett Gelman) published a book of Emily's poems. 

"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.  

"The Man Who Killed Don Quixote"

At the State: In this film, Toby (played by Adam Driver), a cynical advertising director, finds himself trapped in the outrageous delusions of an old Spanish shoe-maker (played by Jonathan Pryce) who believes himself to be Don Quixote.  In the course of their comic and increasingly surreal adventures, Toby is forced to confront the tragic repercussions of a film he made in his idealistic youth -- a film that changed the hopes and dreams of a small Spanish village forever.  Can Toby make amends and regain his humanity?  Can Don Quixote survive his madness and imminent death?  Or will love conquer all?


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.



The live-action remake of Disney's 1992 animated film will be in theaters nationwide!  The film stars Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, and Billy Magnussen.  A street rat frees a genie from a lamp, granting all of his wishes and transforming himself into a charming prince in order to marry a beautiful princess.  But soon, an evil sorcerer becomes hell-bent on securing the lamp for his own sinister purposes.


What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?  The visionary filmmaker of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Slither" presents a startling, subversive take on a radical new genre: superhero horror.

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— Patrick Campion is the WEMU Program Director.  You can contact Patrick at734.487.3363, on twitter @WEMUPC, or email him at pcampion@emich.edu

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