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Cinema Chat: Michigan Theater's 40th, 'Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool,' 'Zombieland,' And More

Michigan Theater
Wikipedia Media Commons

There's a lot to celebrate this week, from the legacy of the Michigan Theater to the genius of Miles Davis!  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 new flicks coming to your local movie house this weekend.


We are throwing a party on Wednesday, October 23 to celebrate a flurry of noteworthy achievements.  2019 marks 40 years since the Michigan Theater was saved and began serving the community as a non-profit organization.  This is also the 25th Anniversary of a special relationship with WEMU 89.1 FM.  In 1994, Russ Collins and David Fair began their “Cinema Chat” program that has aired every Thursday since then.  Last but not least, we want to highlight Russ’ award for Outstanding Individual Contribution from the League of Historic American Theatres at their annual conference in July.

There will be a reception at 5:30 PM with hors d’oeuvres and open bar for a minimum donation of $40, as well as a member event at 6:30 PM with light snacks and cash bar!  For information on that, please contact Amber Duncan at aduncan@michtheater.org.

All guests are invited to stay for a screening of the new documentary film, featuring the Michigan Theater, titled "Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace" at 7:30 pm at the Michigan.  The film explores the plight of historic theaters across the US and highlights how certain theaters have been saved and gone on to become economic catalysts to their communities.  The film is also open to the public at regular ticket prices.  Thank you to WEMU 89.1 FM for being the media partner for the event, as well as our sponsorsLogan Restaurant and Chow Asian Street Food!


"Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool"

At the Michigan (Opens Friday, October 18): A Cinetopia Film Festival 2019 Favorite!  Miles Davis: Horn player, bandleader, innovator.  Miles was a singular force of nature, the very embodiment of cool.  The central theme of Miles Davis’ life, and of this film is Davis’ restless determination to break boundaries and live life on his own terms.  This documentary feature explores archival photos and home movies shot by Miles and his colleagues, his manuscripts and Miles’ original paintings, to explore the man behind the music.  Featuring interviews with some of the most well-known musicians on the planet, including Jimmy Cobb, Lee Konitz, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter,Ron Carter, Carlos Santana, The Roots, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; the film explores why Miles continues to be a relevant voice in today’s world.  

"Lucy in the Sky"

At the State (Opens Friday, October 18): In this film, Natalie Portman plays Lucy Cola, a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she’s deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar.  After returning to Earth from the lengthy space mission, Lucy begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small.  Also stars Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, and Dan Stevens.  


At the State (Opens Friday, October 18): Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at the 2019 Sundance Film FestivalAlejandro Landes' third feature is a survivalist saga set on a remote mountain in Latin America.  Belonging to a rebel group called “the Organization,” a ragtag band of child soldiers, brandishing guns and war names like Rambo, Wolf, Lady, and Bigfoot, occupies a derelict ruin atop a remote mountain where they train themselves, watch over a “conscripted” milk cow, and hold hostage a kidnapped American engineer, Doctora (Julianne Nicholson).  But after an attack forces them to abandon their base, playtime is over for the motley young crew. 


"Tel Aviv On Fire"

This film plays October 17-21 at the Michigan Theater.  Salam, a charming 30-year-old Palestinian living in Jerusalem, works as a trainee on the Palestinian popular soap opera "Tel Aviv on Fire," produced in Ramallah.  Every day, to reach the TV studios, Salam has to go through a rather difficult Israeli checkpoint.  There, he meets the commander of the checkpoint, Assi, whose wife is a big fan of the soap opera.  In order to please him, Assi puts pressure on Salam to change the end of the show.  Salam quickly realizes that Assi's ideas could be promoted to him as a screenwriter.  Salam's creative career is suddenly boiling, until Assi and the soap opera producers and financiers disagree on how it should end.  Stuck between an army colonel and Arab support, Salam can solve his problems with a final master stroke.


"Evil Dead II"

This film plays Friday, October 18 and Saturday, October 19 at 10:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of the Late-Night Horrors Film Series.  From DirectorSam Raimi, the second film of the cult "Evil Dead" series was a fresh take on horror genre that blended demons, violence, and comedy.  The film finds Ash Williams (played by Bruce Campbell) once again battling the undead at a secluded cabin in the woods.  After discovering an audiotape left by a college professor that contains voices reading from the Book of the Dead, Ash’s girlfriend Linda (played by Denise Bixler) becomes possessed by evil spirits that are awakened by the voices on the tape.  Ash soon discovers there is no escaping the woods.

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

This film plays Saturday, October 19 at 10:00 PM at the Michigan Theater with a shadowcast from The Leather Medusas!  We would like–if we may–to take you on a strange journey.  In this cult classic, sweethearts Brad (played by Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), stuck with a flat tire during a storm, discover the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (played by Tim Curry), a transvestite scientist.  As their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker (played by Meat Loaf) and a creepy butler (Richard O’Brien).  Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscular man named “Rocky.”


This film plays Sunday, October 20 at 1:30 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of the Toyota Family Friendly Film Series.  FREE for kids 12 & under!  This film adaptation of a Roald Dahl work tells the story of Matilda Wormwood (played by Mara Wilson), a gifted girl forced to put up with a crude, distant father (played by Danny DeVito) and mother (played by Rhea Perlman).  Worse, Agatha Trunchbull (played by Pam Ferris), the evil principal at Matilda’s school, is a terrifyingly strict bully.  However, when Matilda realizes she has the power of telekinesis, she begins to defend her friends from Trunchbull’s wrath and fight back against her unkind parents.


This film plays Tuesday, October 22 at 9:00 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of Halaloween: A Muslim Horror Film Fest presented by The Global Islamic Studies Center.  These screenings are free and will be every Tuesday at 9:00 PM in October!  "The Blair Witch Project" meets "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," seasoned with a dash of political satire.  College students seek out a legendary lost village while filming a documentary for a class project.  Jump scares, cannibalism, an ageless creature in red who might be a nod to "Don’t Look Now," and man’s inhumanity to man – along with a mysterious, much-discussed ending.

"A Murder in Mansfield"

This film plays Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre as a part of our Doctoberfest Film Series.  Followed by a post-film, live video Q&A with onscreen subject Collier Landry!  To celebrate our love for documentaries, we will show a new documentary every Wednesday at 7:30 PM this month!  Filmmaker Barbara Kopple explores the legacy of the 1989 murder of Noreen Boyle in Mansfield, Ohio.  Her 12-year-old son Collier gave a devastating videotaped testimony blaming his father for the murder.  Now, over two decades later, Collier returns to Ohio seeking to retrace his past and confront his imprisoned father, who remains in denial of his guilt.  Collier’s depth of character is a wonder to behold from childhood to adulthood.  Out of this tragic story, we witness the power of human resilience.  Pair this film with our Brewdog’s Hazy Jane IPA, brewed in Columbus, Ohio just 60 miles south of Mansfield.



At the Michigan: It is Winter 1968, and showbiz legend Judy Garland arrives in Swinging London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town.  It is 30 years since she shot to global stardom in "The Wizard of Oz," but if her voice has weakened, its dramatic intensity has only grown.  As she prepares for the show, battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans, her wit and warmth shine through.  Even her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband.  Featuring some of her best-known songs, the film celebrates the voice, the capacity for love, and the sheer pizzazz of "the world's greatest entertainer.

"Downton Abbey"

The worldwide phenomenon becomes a grand motion picture event, as the beloved Crawleys and their intrepid staff prepare for the most important moment of their lives.  A royal visit from the King and Queen of England will unleash scandal, romance, and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance. The television series followed the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who worked for them at the turn of the 20th century in an Edwardian English country house.  Over its 6 seasons, the series garnered 3 Golden Globe Awards, 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, 69 Emmy nominations in total, making Downton Abbey the most nominated non-US television show in the history of the Emmys – even earning a Special BAFTA award and a Guinness World Record for the highest critically rated TV show along the way.


At the State: Winner of the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival!  Director Todd Phillips' film centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen.  Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society.  A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him.  Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.  

"Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice"

In this film, Ronstadt is our guide through her early years of singing Mexican canciones with her family; her folk days with the Stone Poneys; and her reign as the "rock queen" of the '70s and early '80s.  She was a pioneer for women in the male-dominated music industry; an early advocate for human rights, and had a high-profile romance with California governor Jerry Brown.  Ultimately, her incredible voice was lost to Parkinson's disease, but her music and influence remain as timeless as ever.

"Ad Astra"

Astronaut Roy McBride (played by Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.  His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.  Also starring Ruth NeggaLiv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.


"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil"

In this Disney film, a sequel to the 2014 global box office hit opening Friday, October 18, Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) and her goddaughter Aurora (played by Elle Fanning) begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and dark new forces at play.  The years have been kind to Maleficent and Aurora.  Their relationship, born of heartbreak, revenge and ultimately love, has flourished.  Yet, the hatred between man and the fairies still exists.  Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer!

"Zombieland: Double Tap"

A decade after "Zombieland" became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer ("Venom") and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick ("Deadpool") for this sequel, opening Friday, October 18.  In the sequel, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors.  But most of all, they must face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

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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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