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Cinema Chat: 'On Broadway' At The Michigan, 'Shang-Chi' At The State, And More

Michigan Theater
Wikipedia Media Commons

We're heading for an extra-long weekend, so why not catch a good movie? WEMU's David Fair gets in touch with Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins to discuss the newest films coming to your favorite movie houses this Labor Day weekend.


The Michigan and State theaters require all attendees over the age of 12 to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before films or live events. Masks will also still be required at this time. Attendees under the age of 12 will need to have their temperature checked and wear a mask at all times at the event. This is a temporary safety policy, which we expect to stay in place until the current flare up of COVID-19 infections recede.



From the makes of "RBG" – the Ruth Bater Ginsberg documentary--this contemporary history of Broadway is a pure joy!

As audiences prepare for the return of live theater after an unprecedented absence of 18 months, an all-star cast tells the inside story of the last time Broadway came back from the brink. The film shows how this revival helped save New York City, thanks to innovative work, a new attention to inclusion, and the sometimes uneasy balance between art and commerce. Interviews with legends of the stage and screen, including Hugh JackmanHelen MirrenChristine BaranskiAugust WilsonJames CordenAlec BaldwinJohn LithgowViola Davis, and Ian McKellen take us behind the scenes of Broadway's most groundbreaking and beloved shows, from "A Chorus Line" to "Hamilton." Archival clips of iconic performances by Lin-Manuel MirandaPatti LuPoneBernadette PetersJames Earl Jones, and Mandy Patinkin punctuate this hurly-burly ride through the main street of American show business. Now that New York City is facing an uncertain path forward in its recovery from a devastating pandemic, this documentary from Academy Award®-nominated director Oren Jacoby shows how Broadway led the way in the city's last great rebirth and provides a model of how it will come back again.

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" -- OPENS TONIGHT AT THE STATE

Based on the Marvel Comics featuring the character Shang-Chi, it is the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi alongside AwkwafinaMeng'er ZhangFala ChenBenedict WongMichelle YeohBen Kingsley, and Tony Leung. In the film, Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past after he is drawn into his father's Ten Rings organization.

This is the first Marvel Studios film with an Asian director (Destin Daniel Cretton) and a predominantly Asian cast. Filming began in February 2020 but was put on hold in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film is part of Phase Four of the MCU. It received positive reviews from critics, praising the film's fight choreography, its exploration and representation of Asian culture, and the performances (particularly that of Liu and Leung). The film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.



One-Night Event! Tracie BennettJanie Dee, and Imelda Staunton play the magnificent Follies in a dazzling National Theater of Great Britain production. Featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical was directed by Dominic Cooke ("The Courier") and filmed live on the London stage at the National Theatre in 2017.  New York, 1971. There’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow, the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves. Winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Olivier awards, Sondheim’s previous work includes "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd," and "Sunday in the Park with George." 

"David Byrne's American Utopia" -- OPENS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 AT THE STATE

Directed by Oscar-winner Spike Lee, this film is a groundbreaking cinematic event that inspires audiences to connect with each other and with the global community. This filmed version of the electrifying Broadway musical sensation brings Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe-winning musician David Byrne(Talking Heads) together with 11 musical artists from around the world to perform songs from across Byrne’s career. Hailed by critics as “pure bliss,” the performance is a joyful celebration of music and dance, a call to action to engage in our democracy, and an invitation to reimagine our own utopias. Featuring never-before-seen footage and a special introduction by David Byrne.


A special screening of this film will occur on Sunday. The screening was arranged for University of Michigan students, faculty and staff by U-M graduates (from the acclaimed Musical Theater Program by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the music and lyrics for this award-winning Broadway hit. It opened at the Music Box Theatre (designed by C. Howard Crane, who designed our very own State Theatre) in 2016. It was nominated for nine Tony awards, winning six, including Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Ben Platt, Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Rachel Bay Jones, Best Musical, and Best Score. The movie stars Ben Platt, who also stared in the Broadway production. 



 LATE NIGHTS - Fridays at 9:30 PM



Academy Award directorial nominee Stephen Daldry’s ("Billy Elliot," "The Hours," 'The Reader") new comedy, starring James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan, is the story of a family, like so many, who found a way to survive - together.

It is a British comedy-drama from a screenplay written by Dennis Kelly. It is a hilarious and heartbreaking story which intimately shows two partners forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of lockdown.

The film was broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 17 June 2021. Upon release, it received generally positive reviews from critics, with some calling it a "claustrophobic", "brilliant", and "honest" film set during the pandemic. However, a mixed response was given on its use of monologues and fourth wall breaks. In her review, Lucy Mangan from The Guardian gave the film four stars out of five and wrote that it "captures perfectly the emotional dilapidations of a dying relationship".

"Free Guy"

A bank teller discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game and decides to become the hero of his own story... one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way... before it is too late. Directed by Shawn Levy from a screenplay by Matt Liebermanand Zak Penn, and a story by Lieberman. The film stars Ryan Reynolds (who also produced) as a bank teller who saves his friends from deletion by the game's creator (Taika Waititi). Jodie ComerJoe KeeryLil Rel Howery, and Utkarsh Ambudkar also star.


This film had its world premiere on January 28, 2021 at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and the screening at the Michigan Theater will be one of only a handful of theatrical screenings to be allowed. An American dramatic film featuring a hearing teenage girl who is a Child Of Deaf Adults (CODA for short). Written and directed by Sian Heder, the film stars Emilia Jones as the hearing girl, with Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur as her culturally deaf parents and Daniel Durant as her deaf brother. Eugenio Derbezand Ferdia Walsh-Peelo also star in the film. The film, which is an English-language remake of the 2014 French-language film "La Famille Bélier" was filmed on location in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in the United States.


The much-anticipated musical film based on the life of American singer Aretha Franklin. Directed by Liesl Tommy (in her feature film directorial debut), from a screenplay written by Tracey Scott Wilson. The film stars Jennifer Hudson as Franklin. Forest WhitakerMarlon WayansAudra McDonaldMarc MaronTituss BurgessSaycon SengblohHailey KilgoreSkye Dakota TurnerTate Donovan, and Mary J. Blige.


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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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