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Cinema Chat: 'Shang-Chi' Rules Box Office, 'The Lost Leonardo,' 'The Alpinist,' And More

Michigan Theater
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It's been over a week since school started. Maybe a good movie is what you need. WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins about what films are on the way this weekend at your local theaters.


The box office’s pandemic-era woes might not be entirely banished, but the massive opening-weekend success of Destin Daniel Cretton’s Marvel Cinematic Universe feature, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” has made a sterling case for the return of the of blockbuster. With an estimated four-day gross of over $93 million, the Simu Liu-starring MCU entry handily busted a number of myths: that attention for the franchise is flailing, that audiences won’t turn out in theaters for event films, that tentpoles require established stars to lead them, and that Labor Day is an undesirable release date.

It also proves something that Marvel has long known, but has yet to fully capitalize on: moviegoers are very eager to see “diverse” Marvel Cinematic Universe films starring actors of color and featuring stories rooted in their cultural identities. When Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” arrived in theaters in 2018, the film smashed record after record — and, much like “Shang-Chi,” wildly exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise: Recent studies report that diverse films make more money at the box office, full stop.


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.



This film tells the inside story behind the painting “Salvator Mundi,” which, many, but not all art experts consider to be a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which  at $450 becomes the most expensive painting ever sold. From the moment it is purchased from a shady New Orleans auction house, and its buyers discover masterful brushstrokes beneath its cheap restoration, the fate of “Salvator Mundi” is driven by an insatiable quest for fame, money and power. But as its price soars, so do questions about its authenticity. Is this multi-million dollar painting actually by Leonardo -- or do certain power players simply want it to be? Unravelling the hidden agendas of the world's richest men and most powerful art institutions, the film reveals how vested interests became all-important, and the truth secondary.


Marc-André Leclerc climbs alone, far from the limelight. On remote alpine faces, the free-spirited 23-year-old Canadian makes some of the boldest solo ascents in history. Yet, he draws scant attention. With no cameras, no rope, and no margin for error, Leclerc's approach is the essence of solo adventure. Nomadic and publicity shy, he doesn't own a phone or car, and is reluctant to let a film crew in on his pure vision of climbing. Veteran filmmaker Peter Mortimer ("The Dawn Wall") sets out to make a film about Leclerc but struggles to keep up with his elusive subject. Then, Leclerc embarks on a historic adventure in Patagonia that will redefine what is possible in solo climbing.


Live: "John U. Bacon - Let Them Lead" -- PLAYS TONIGHT AT 7 PM AT THE MICHIGAN

The locally based NY Times Bestselling Author John U. Bacon speaks about his new book, "Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons in Leadership from America's Worst High School Hockey Team." An uplifting leadership book about a coach who helped transform the nation’s worst high school hockey team into one of the best. Bacon’s strategy is straightforward: set high expectations, make them accountable to each other, and inspire them all to lead their team.

When John U. Bacon played for the Ann Arbor Huron High School River Rats, he never scored a goal. Yet somehow, years later he found himself leading his alma mater’s downtrodden program. How bad? The team hadn’t won a game in over a year, making them the nation’s worst squad—a fact they celebrated. With almost everyone expecting more failure, Bacon made it special to play for Huron by making it hard, which inspired the players to excel. Then he defied conventional wisdom again by putting the players in charge of team discipline, goal-setting, and even decision-making – and it worked. In just three seasons the River Rats bypassed 95-percent of the nation’s teams.

A true story filled with unforgettable characters, stories, and lessons that apply to organizations everywhere, "Let Them Lead" includes the leader’s mistakes and the reactions of the players, who have since achieved great success as leaders themselves. "Let Them Lead" is a fast-paced, feel-good book that leaders of all kinds can embrace to motivate their teams to work harder, work together, and take responsibility for their own success.


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


"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"

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. The film received positive reviews from critics, praising the film's fight choreography, its exploration and representation of Asian culture, and the performances (particularly that of Simu Liu and Tony Leung). 

"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.


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.


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.


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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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