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Cinema Chat: 'Up There,' 'The Report,' 'Ford v. Ferrari,' And More

Michigan Theater
Wikipedia Media Commons

It's been pretty cold outside lately, but the thought of a good movie should warm you up.  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 arriving on the silver screen this weekend.


"Up There"

This film plays tonight at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre.  Journalist Jack Cohen (Daniel Weingarten) is desperately searching for the big story that will change his career.  His current underwhelming assignment lands him in a sleepy mining town in Michigan where nobody speaks to strangers, especially reporters.  When a local girl, Emma (Zoe Kanters), offers to help, Jack begrudgingly accepts.  Unbeknownst to her, Jack uncovers details of her tragic past, and with it, the story he has been looking for all along.  Gaining Emma's trust, he writes a story, exploiting her tragedy for his own gain.  Emma's instability, threats from her veteran brother, and Jack's own ambitious treachery send him hurtling towards an explosive conclusion.  There will be a post-screening Q&A with writer, actress, UM grad, and Michigan native Zoe Kanters and special guests!

"The Report"

This is the story of Daniel Jones (played by Adam Driver), lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral, and ineffective.  With the truth at stake, Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden.  Also stars Annette Bening and Jon Hamm.  


From Martin Scorsese comes the biographical crime thriller, which had its world premiere at the 57th New York Film Festival.  This film follows Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro) as he recalls his past years working for the Bufalino crime family.  Now older, the WWII veteran once again reflects on his most prolific hits and, in particular, considers his involvement with his good friend Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975.  Also starsAl Pacino andJoe Pesci

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"-- OPENING DECEMBER 19 AT THE STATE THEATRE!  Tickets On Sale NOW (get them before they are sold out!)

This film is produced, co-written, and directed by J. J. Abrams.  It will be the third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following "The Force Awakens" (2015) and "The Last Jedi" (2017), and the final episode of the nine-part "Skywalker saga."  A year after the events of "The Last Jedi," the remnants of the Resistance face the First Order once again—while reckoning with the past and their own inner turmoil.  Meanwhile, the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its climax, altogether bringing the Skywalker saga to a definitive end.


"Anthropocene: The Human Epoch"

This film plays tonight at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of Science on Screen, an initiative of The Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Arbor Research Collaborative.  Join us for this encore screening of a documentary that follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group, who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.  This film is sponsored by University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability and Michigan Sustainability Cases and is followed by a post-film discussion featuring special guest Professor Adam Simon from UM Earth and Environmental Sciences!


This film plays Friday, November 15 and Saturday, November 16 at 11:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of the Late-Night Film Series.  Shallow, rich, and socially successful Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school’s pecking scale.  Seeing herself as a matchmaker, Cher first coaxes two teachers into dating each other.  Emboldened by her success, she decides to give hopelessly klutzy new student Tai (played by Brittany Murphy) a makeover.  When Tai becomes more popular than she is, Cher realizes that her disapproving ex-stepbrother (played by Paul Rudd) was right about how misguided she was — and falls for him.

Late Nights – Fridays & Saturdays at 10:00 PM at the State!

Grab some popcorn and come watch our favorite late night movies.

"Puccini's Madama Butterfly"

The Metropolitan Opera presents an encore screening of this event live in HD on Saturday, November 16 at 12:55 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Soprano Hui He takes on the heartbreaking title role of the doomed geisha, with tenor Bruce Sledge as the American naval officer who abandons her.  Paulo Szot is Sharpless, alongside Elizabeth DeShong as Suzuki, and Pier Giorgio Morandi is on the podium for Anthony Minghella’s sweeping production, a perennial audience favorite.  Also, don’t miss out on Philip Glass’ Akhnaten next Saturday, November 23 at 12:55 PM!


Mark your calendar for Saturday, February 1, 2020.  The U-M School of Music, Theater and Dance will jointly present the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of "Porgy and Bess," by George and Ira Gershwin.  The U-M is home to a substantial Gershwin archive and assisted with the research into this seminal and controversial musical masterwork.

"The Tempest"

A live broadcast will play on Sunday, November 17 at 2:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  “Magic is in the air” (Broadway World) in theStratford Festival’s latest production of Shakespeare’s final masterpiece, “an elaborate production with eye-popping costumes” (The New York Times), recorded live in 2019.  In Shakespeare’s great drama of loss and reconciliation, a long-deposed ruler uses magical arts to bring within her power the enemies who robbed her of her throne and marooned her on a remote island.  But what revenge does she mean to take?


This film plays Monday, November 18 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre as a part of our Journalism on Screen Film Series.  In this lauded satire, veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) discovers that he’s being put out to pasture, and he’s none too happy about it.  After threatening to shoot himself on live television, instead he launches into an angry televised rant, which turns out to be a huge ratings boost for the UBS network.  This stunt allows ambitious producer Diana Christensen (played by Faye Dunaway) to develop even more outrageous programming, a concept that she takes to unsettling extremes.

Journalism on Screen – Mondays at 7:30 PM at the State!

Each film in this series is followed by a Q&A with Robert YoonHoward R. Marsh, Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan and former CNN Director of Political Research, and Zoe Clark, Program Director of Michigan Radio and Co-Host of 'It's Just Politics'.'

"Owned: A Tale of Two Americas"

Presented by The Washtenaw Housing Alliance, in partnership with The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County in honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2019, this film plays Monday, November 18 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  This documentary explores the racial inequalities and disparities that stemmed from US postwar housing policies and discusses the aftermath of the 2008 housing market crash.  Following the film, there will be a short panel discussion featuring experts from the Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid-Michigan, University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Washtenaw County Government.

"Becoming Nobody"

This film plays Tuesday, November 19 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater.  This documentary represents the core arc of Ram Dass’ teachings and life: whether as Dr. Richard Alpert, the eminent Harvard psychologist, or as Ram Dass who serves as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies, he has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom.  Through his turns as scion of an eminent Jewish family from Boston, rock-star Harvard psychologist, counter-culture rascally adventurer, Eastern holy man, stroke survivor and compassionate caregiver, Ram Dass has worn many hats on his journey, the narrative of which is revealed in this film.  His ability to entertain and his sense of humor are abundantly evident in a conversation that brings us around to address the vast question of ultimate freedom.

"Le Sauvage"

This film plays Tuesday, November 19 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater as the finale of our Les Femmes Essentielles Film Series, which featured three of the most legendary actresses of French cinema from three of the most impactful filmmakers of the French New-Wave.  In this film, Nelly (played by Catherine Deneuve, who is perhaps the most iconic of all French actresses) has second thoughts about marrying Vittorio (played by Luigi Vannucchi) and runs away with the help of Martin (played byYves Montand). When Nelly’s attempt to secure a debt owed to her from a former employer goes sour, she steals a valuable painting and enlists Martin’s help to evade the men coming after her.  From DirectorJean-Paul Rappaneau.

"The Great Dictator"

This film plays Thursday, November 21 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater in association with "Jojo Rabbit."  Nominated for Five Oscars!  After dedicated service in the Great War, a Jewish barber (played by Charles Chaplin) spends years in an army hospital recovering from his wounds, unaware of the simultaneous rise of fascist dictator Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Chaplin) and his anti-Semitic policies.  When the barber, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Hynkel, returns to his quiet neighborhood, he is stunned by the brutal changes and recklessly joins a beautiful girl (played by Paulette Goddard) and her neighbors in rebelling.  The film will be followed by a post film discussion with Matthew Solomon, UM Associate Professor of Film History.


"Where's My Roy Cohn?"

At the Michigan: This is a thriller-like expose focusing on Roy Cohn, who personified the dark arts of American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues – from acting as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist-hunting subcommittee to molding the career of a young Queens real estate developer named Donald Trump. 

"The Lighthouse"

From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind modern horror masterpiece "The Witch," comes this hypnotic and hallucinatory tale shot in black-and-white.  This film follows two lighthouse keepers (played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.  The two are faced with solitude and start to lose their sanity and become threatened by their worst nightmares. 

"Pain and Glory"

At the State: Nominated for the Palme d’Or and Winner for Best Actor (Banderas) at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival!  This film tells of a series of reencounters experienced by Salvador Mallo (played by Antonio Banderas), a film director in his physical decline.  Some of them in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the 60s, his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s, the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable, the early discovery of cinema, and the void, the infinite void that creates the incapacity to keep on making films.  In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.  Also stars Penelope Cruz

"Jojo Rabbit"

Writer director Taika Waititi ("Thor: Ragnarok," "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.  Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (played by Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism. 


Winner of the Palme D’or Award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival!  Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale.  Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth.  And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else.  Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.  Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist, to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. 


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.  


"Charlie's Angels"

Director Elizabeth Banks takes the helm as the next generation of fearless angels take flight.  In Banks' bold vision, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally.  With the world's smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere.  The screenplay is by Elizabeth Banks from a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn.

"Ford v. Ferrari"

Academy Award-winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in this film, based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (played by Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (played by Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

"The Good Liar"

In this film, con man Roy (Ian McKellen) sets his sights on his latest mark: recently widowed Betty (Helen Mirren), worth millions.  And he means to take it all.  But as the two draw closer, what should have been another simple swindle takes on the ultimate stakes.  Legendary actors Mirren and McKellen star together on screen for the first time in this suspenseful drama about the secrets people keep and the lies they live.

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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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