Cinema Chat: 'The Donut King,' 'Hillbilly Elegy,' 'The Climb,' And More

Nov 12, 2020

The State Theatre
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons /

As we enter mid-November, more movies are coming to your favorite Ann Arbor theaters!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's talks to Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins about all of the upcoming films coming to the Michigan Theater and State Theatre this weekend.


Joe Biden American Promise Tour
Credit The Michigan Theater /

Back in February of 2018, Joe Biden came to Washtenaw County on a tour for his book "Promise Me, Dad."  He gave a heartfelt talk about his family, especially his son Beau Biden, his political career, and his time as Barack Obama’s Vice President.  He was a kind and generous guest.  As he was leaving, he signed a poster for the event and said, “To All the Folks at the Michigan Theater.  What a spectacular venue.  Thank you for the hospitality. Joe Biden."

Congratulations, Joe Biden. Our soon-to-be President is one of thousands of notable persons who have “trod the boards” at the historic Michigan Theater. 


A note from actor Viggo Mortensen on movie-going:

"I’ve been to the cinema repeatedly since the start of the pandemic.  With a mask on, observing social distancing guidelines, I’ve seen most of the movies available.  I’ve felt as I do in my own home.  Safer, in fact, than walking down the street, and much safer than in any other public place.  I love going to the movies and will keep doing so." - Viggo Mortensen

Michigan Theater COVID-19 Testimonial
Credit The Michigan Theater /

State Theatre COVID-19 Testimonial
Credit The State Theatre /

At the State and Michigan Theaters in Ann Arbor, health and safety equipment and protocols include:

  • The ventilation systems is calibrated to use fresh filtered air;
  • Everyone’s temperature is taken as they enter the buildings;
  • Masks are mandatory at all times;
  • Seating is strictly limited (to 20% or less of capacity);
  • Everyone and everything is organized around socially distancing:
    • No-touch ticketing;
    • Special computerized ticketing allows you to sit together with family and friends, but keep socially distanced from other audience members;
    • Concessions (including the theater’s renowned popcorn) will only be available as patrons leave the theaters.

The Michigan Theater Foundation, operators of the State and Michigan Theaters in Downtown Ann Arbor, are pleased to be able to open their doors again to safely bring back the “normal” joy of getting out of the house and enjoy a big screen movie in a lovely historic theater!

But if you are still hesitant, we have lots of virtual programming at “” website!



This is a 2020 action-thriller and science fiction film written and directed by Christopher Nolan.  It stars John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son), Robert PattinsonElizabeth DebickiDimple KapadiaMichael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.  The plot follows a secret agent (Washington) as he manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III.  Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema shot on 70mm film.  Scenes of time manipulation were filmed both backwards and forwards.  In excess of a hundred vessels and thousands of extras were used.  The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances, production value, and visuals, which hangs together despite a complex plot. 

"The Donut King" -- NOVEMBER 13-15 & 17 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy builds a multi-million dollar empire by baking America’s favorite pastry — the donut.  Ted’s story is one of fate, love, survival, hard knocks, and redemption.  It’s the rags to riches story of a refugee escaping Cambodia, arriving in America in 1975 and building an unlikely multi-million-dollar empire baking America’s favorite pastry, the donut.  Ted sponsored hundreds of visas for incoming refugees and helped them get on their feet teaching them the ways of the donut business.  By 1979, he was living the American Dream.  But, in life, great rise can come with great falls.

"Hillbilly Elegy" -- NOVEMBER 13-15 & 17 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale Law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget.  J.D. must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction.  Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, J.D. comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey.

Based on J.D. Vance’s #1 New York Times Bestseller and directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, this film is a powerful personal memoir that offers a window into one family’s personal journey of survival and triumph.  By following three colorful generations through their unique struggles, J.D.’s family story explores the highs and lows that define his family’s experience.

"The Climb" -- NOVEMBER 13-15 & 17 AT THE STATE THEATRE

Kyle and Mike are best friends who share a close bond — until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancée.  This film is about a tumultuous but enduring relationship between two men across many years of laughter, heartbreak, and rage.  It is also the story of real-life best friends who turn their profound connection into a rich, humane and frequently uproarious film about the boundaries (or lack thereof) in all close friendships.

"Ammonite" -- NOVEMBER 13-15 & 17 AT THE STATE THEATRE

In 1800s England, acclaimed but unrecognized fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) works alone on the rugged Southern coastline.  With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now searches for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother.  When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down.  Proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unwelcome guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop, compelling the two women to determine the true nature of their relationship.


"Friday the 13th"-- NOVEMBER 13 @ 9:45 PM AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

Crystal Lake’s history of murder doesn’t deter counselors from setting up a summer camp in the woodsy area. Superstitious locals warn against it, but the fresh-faced young people — Jack (Kevin Bacon), Alice (Adrienne King), Bill (Harry Crosby), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) and Ned (Mark Nelson) — pay little heed to the old-timers.  Then they find themselves stalked by a brutal killer.  As they’re slashed, shot and stabbed, the counselors struggle to stay alive against a merciless opponent. 

"Guardians of the Galaxy" -- NOVEMBER 13 AT 10 PM AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

Brash space adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the quarry of relentless bounty hunters after he steals an orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain. To evade Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with four disparate misfits: gun-toting Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), treelike-humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel), enigmatic Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and vengeance-driven Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).  But when he discovers the orb’s true power and the cosmic threat it poses, Quill must rally his ragtag group to save the universe.

"Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" -- NOVEMBER 15 AT 4 PM AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

Easily excitable Neal Page (Steve Martin) is somewhat of a control freak.  Trying to get home to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his wife (Laila Robins) and kids, his flight is rerouted to a distant city in Kansas because of a freak snowstorm, and his sanity begins to fray.  Worse yet, he is forced to bunk up with talkative Del Griffith (John Candy), whom he finds extremely annoying.  Together, they must overcome the difficulties of holiday travel to reach their intended destination.

Planning Thanksgiving Holiday Celebratory Film Presentations

The day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 27,

  • 3:30, "Love Actually" – everyone’s favorite R rated Christmas movie
  • 4:00, "Frozen" (Granddaughter Ila’s favorite film - let it go & snow)!!

Saturday, November 28

Sunday, November 29

  • 3:00, The Michigan Theater’s special screening of "White Christmas"


Live in Concert: Laith al-Saadi

Laith al-Saadi
Credit The Michigan Theater /

Ann Arbor native guitar god and a finalist on TV’s “The Voice.”  Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM EST.  Hosted by Laith Al-Saadi, The Michigan Theater and The Ark - Ann Arbor


Showcasing the inspiring stories of six incredibly diverse activists as they work tirelessly to enact change to protect our civil rights and to motivate others to do the same—including peace movement leaders from the African-American, Latina, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities—this is the feature film debut of producer/director Cheryl Jacobs “CJ” Crim—a longtime producer, director and editor of television documentaries, who has won 12 regional Emmy Awards and two Silver Tellys, among others.  


This is a feature-length documentary that explores the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund’s life.  Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund focuses on her mother’s journey to give viewers an understanding of the power of art to transform consciousness and inspire social change. 

"Oliver Sacks: His Own Life"

These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary people and Oliver Sacks, the late neurologist and author, was just that.  Though he died five years ago, his eccentric personality uplifts the new documentary as he recounts his career and upbringing while ailing from terminal cancer.

Sacks would not allow his diagnosis to dampen his desire to remain a shining example of empathy and positivity; traits that could find energy and life in his most destitute patients.  And in this practice, and in the lining of this film, Sacks shows us that he is not a rare extraordinary person but rather that we are all, in fact, extraordinarily unique individuals.

You can read a wonderful essay by Nick Alderink, Programming & Media Coordinator about this film at the Michigan Theater website:


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon in her 80s.  From Betsy West and Julie Cohen, and co-produced by Storyville Films and CNN Films, the Oscar-nominated documentary explores the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court.  A journey that was largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans.

A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, which was co-founded by Justice Ginsburg in 1972.  Thank you to our partners at Magnolia Pictures.

"Meeting the Beatles in India"

Filmmaker Paul Saltzman retraces his journey of 50 years ago when he spent a life-changing time with the Beatles at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram on the banks of the Ganges River.  In 1968, he discovered his own soul, learned meditation, which changed his life, and hung out with John, Paul, George, and Ringo.  Fifty years later, he finds “Bungalow Bill” in Hawaii, connects with David Lynch about his own inner journey as well as preeminent Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, Academy Award nominated film composer Laurence Rosenthal, and Pattie and Jenny Boyd.  And much of this is due to Saltzman’s own daughter, Devyani, reminding him that he had put away and forgotten these remarkably intimate photographs of that time in 1968.

"Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President"

If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Gregg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States.  The documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and others.  Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House.  The surprisingly significant role that music played throughout Carter’s life and in his work becomes a thread in this engaging portrait of one of the most enigmatic Presidents in American history.

"Supa Modo"

2018 Cinetopia audience favorite!  Jo, a witty 9-year old terminally ill girl is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life. Her only comfort during these dull times are her dreams of being a Superhero, which prove to be something her rebellious teenage sister Mwix, overprotective mother Kathryn, and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfill. 

"Love & Busking (Fiction & Other Realities)" 

2019 Cinetopia Audience Favorite!  Bobby Choy, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Big Phony, makes his directorial debut with this intimate semi-biographical musical drama.  Bobby, a struggling Korean American singer-songwriter in New York, is suddenly given an opportunity to travel as a roadie for his best friend’s electro-pop band on a world tour.  When they arrive in Seoul, Bobby decides to ditch the band and stay in this “land where everyone looks like him” to investigate a feeling that could potentially fill a major void in his life.  He befriends Ina, a Korean busker facing her own personal struggles.  They seem to find success as they lean on each other for support. 

"Space Dogs" 

Laika, a stray dog, was the first living being to be sent into space and thus to a certain death.  According to a legend, she returned to Earth as a ghost and has roamed the streets of Moscow ever since.  Following her trace, and filmed from a dog’s perspective, the film accompanies the adventures of her descendants: two street dogs living in today’s Moscow.  Their story is one of intimate fellowship but also relentless brutality, and is interwoven with unseen archive material from the Soviet cosmic era.  A magical tale of voyagers scouting for unknown spaces. 

Warning: SPACE DOGS is Not Rated, and contains some graphic content and scenes of animal violence that some viewers, especially cat lovers, may find distressing.  Viewer discretion is advised.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at