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Cinema Chat: 'Guest Artist,' 'White Christmas' Sing-Along, 'Knives Out,' And More

State Theatre
Wikipedia Media Commons

It's Thanksgiving week, so let's serve up some turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and a side of movies!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair sits down with Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins to talk about the latest movie news and all of the flicks worth checking out during this extended holiday weekend.


  1. Thanksgiving Dinner – Remember, don’t talk about politics, but do talk and do about the following:
  2. Official Premiere of Jeff Daniels, Tim Busfield, & Melissa Gilbert’s New Film with Many Special Guests
  3. Michigan vs. Ohio State Football @ Noon
  4. The Michigan Theater’s Grand Holiday Tradition – A Classic Sing-Along – White Christmas


"Guest Artist"

This film plays Friday, November 29 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan.  Join The Purple Rose Theatre for an evening celebrating independent film with a screening of Jeff Daniels’ new feature film.  Originally produced as a World Premiere production for the stage at The Purple Rose Theatre, Daniels has re-imagined this work for the screen.  Produced and directed by Timothy Busfield, written and produced by lead actor Jeff Daniels, this movie was filmed in Chelsea, Michigan and NYC in late 2017.

Followed by a Q&A with Tim Busfield (producer/director), Melissa Gilbert (producer), Jeff Daniels (writer/producer/actor), Guy Sanville (casting director), Thomas Macias (actor), and others!  Proceeds for this event will benefit The Purple Rose Theatre and will bolster their commitment to producing new work in the 29th Season and beyond.

"Knives Out"

Opening at the Michigan: Acclaimed writer and director Rian Johnson ("Brick," "Looper," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi") pays tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie in this film.  When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig) is enlisted to investigate.  From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.  Also stars Chris EvansAna de ArmasJamie Lee CurtisToni ColletteDon JohnsonMichael ShannonLaKeith StanfieldKatherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell

"Dark Waters"

Inspired by a shocking true story, a tenacious attorney (played by Mark Ruffalo) uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths due to one of the world’s largest corporations.  In the process, he risks everything – his future, his family, and his own life – to expose the truth.  Also stars Anne HathawayTim Robbins, and Bill Camp.  


From a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, based on his own experiences, award-winning filmmaker Alma Har’el brings to life a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father through cinema and dreams in this film.  Fictionalizing his childhood’s ascent to stardom, and subsequent adult crash-landing into rehab and recovery, Har’el casts Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges as Otis Lort, navigating different stages in a frenetic career.  LaBeouf takes on the daring and therapeutic challenge of playing a version of his own father, an ex-rodeo clown and a felon.  Har’el’s feature narrative debut is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between filmmaker and subject, exploring art as medicine and imagination as hope.  


From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults("Krisha" and "It Comes at Night"), this is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.  Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike, the film traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban black family—led by a well-intentioned but domineering father—as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.  Starring Sterling K. Brown (NBC’s "This Is Us"), Kelvin Harrison Jr. ("Luce") and Lucas Hedges ("Boy Erased").  

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"-- OPENING DECEMBER 19 AT THE STATE THEATRE!  Tickets On Sale NOW (They are moving fast, 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.


"Fantastic Fungi"

This film will play December 4, 12, 17 & 19 at the Michigan.  It is directed by Louie Schwartzberg and narrated by Brie Larson, is a consciousness-shifting film that takes us on an immersive journey through time and scale into the magical earth beneath our feet, an underground network that can heal and save our planet.  Through the eyes of renowned scientists and mycologists like Paul Stamets, best-selling authors Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, Andrew Weil and others, we become aware of the beauty, intelligence and solutions the fungi kingdom offer us in response to some of our most pressing medical, therapeutic, and environmental challenges.  


"White Christmas"

This film plays Sunday, December 1 at 5:00 PM at the Michigan.  Arrive early at 4:00 PM to get your picture taken with Santa and at 4:30 PM to warm up your vocal cords with our carolers!  Each attendee will leave with a commemorative tree ornament that, if planted directly into the ground, will grow into wildflowers.  Singers Bob Wallace (played by Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (played by Danny Kaye) join sister act Betty (played by Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (played by Vera-Ellen) to perform a Christmas show in rural Vermont.  There, they run into General Waverly (played by Dean Jagger), the boys' commander in WWII, who, they learn, is having financial difficulties; his quaint country inn is failing.  So what's the foursome to do but plan a yuletide miracle: a fun-filled musical extravaganza that's sure to put Waverly and his business in the black!

Warner Bros. Cartoons

This will play Friday, November 29 at 11:30 AM at the Michigan.  Enjoy a laugh with friends and family as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and all the Looney Tunes gang take over the silver screen of the historic main theater.  The Michigan Theater will show a selection of Warner Bros. cartoons for all ages and offer the perfect pit-stop during the start of the busy holiday shopping season.

"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

This film plays Sunday, December 1 at 1:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Holiday Classics Film Series – FREE and open to the public!  This series is sponsored byOld National Bankand Sesi Mazda with media support from Ann Arbor Family Press.  In this live-action adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ beloved children’s story, Jim Carrey stars as The Grinch, a green, revenge-seeking recluse who plans on ruining Christmas for the citizens of Whoville once and for all.  But there is more to The Grinch than meets the eye, as director Ron Howard expands on the story, showing The Grinch’s story in the days and years leading up to the tale we’ve all heard.

Holiday Classics– Kick off the holiday season with some FREE Holiday Classics Sundays at 1:30 PM at the Michigan!

"The Last Waltz"

This film plays Monday, December 2 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Play it Loud! film series.  Seventeen years after joining forces as the backing band for rockabilly cult hero Ronnie Hawkins, Canadian roots rockers The Band call it quits with a lavish farewell show at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on Nov. 25, 1976.  Filmed by Martin Scorsese, this documentary features standout performances by rock legends such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, as well as interviews tracing the group’s history and discussing road life.

2019 Sundance Indigenous Shorts Program

This film plays Tuesday, December 3 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan.  A new collaboration between Art House Convergenceand Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, bringing six Indigenous short films from Sundance Institute Fellows to the Michigan Theater.  Selections include "Birds in the Earth," "Fainting Spells," "Jáaji Approx," "My Father’s Tools," "Throat Singing in Kangirsuk," and "Shinaab, Part II."  November is National Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, so join us in supporting Indigenous artists!

"The Room"

This film plays Thursday, December 5 at 10:00 PM at the Michigan.  It is an independently-produced drama film released in 2003 and is the brainchild of enigmatic director and actor Tommy Wiseau.  The film is mainly focused on a love triangle between Johnny, his girlfriend Lisa, and Johnny’s best friend Mark.  It has often been cited by numerous publications as the worst film ever made, due to its meandering storyline, the introduction of subplots that are never resolved, the inept direction by Wiseau, as well as his unusual performance, technical issues that aren’t usually a problem with other movies, the cinematography, musical score, and just about any other aspect you could think of.


"The Irishman"  

At the Michigan: 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

"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. 


An American-French drama film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival!  Unfolding over the course of a late summer’s day in the fabled resort town of Sintra, Portugal, this film follows three generations who have gathered for a vacation organized by the family matriarch (played by Isabelle Huppert).  In this fairy tale setting, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers – stirred by their romantic impulses – discover the cracks between them, as well as unexpected depth of feeling.  

"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. 

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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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