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Cinema Chat: 'The Hateful Eight,' 'Carol,' 'The Danish Girl,' 'Youth' And More

Dec 30, 2015

The lobby of the historic Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor
Credit Michigan Theater / www.michtheater.org

Best wishes one and all for a Happy New Year!  Make sure you are setting aside the time needed to see all the award nominated films from 2015 as well as all the top films chosen by national movie critics. WEMU's David Fair and Michigan Theater Executive Director and CEO Russ Collins cover it for you as part of "Cinema Chat." 


1. 97%   Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)        333

2. 98%   Inside Out (2015)             301

3. 99%   Selma (2015)      217

4. 94%   Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)           311

5. 98%   Brooklyn (2015) 176

6. 99%   Shaun the Sheep (2015)                143

7. 93%   The Martian (2015)          280

8. 97%   Spotlight (2015) 174

9. 96%   It Follows (2015)               196

10. 93%   Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)            256

11. 98%   Paddington (2015)         130

12. 99%   Timbuktu (2015)             95

13. 97%   Room (2015)    145

14. 97%   What We Do In The Shadows (2015)      143

15. 100%  GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (2015)        66

16. 96%   Amy (2015)       166

17. 100%  Seymour: An Introduction (2015)          57

18. 99%   45 Years (2015)                74

19. 98%   Phoenix (2015)                98

20. 93%   Spy (2015)         212

21. 93%  Sicario (2015)    208

22. 96%   '71 (2015)           121

23. 92%  Ex Machina (2015)          219

24. 98%  About Elly (2015)             65

25. 97%   Red Army (2015)            89

26. 91%  Bridge of Spies (2015)   236

27. 94%  Carol (2015)       160

28. 96%  Tangerine (2015)             108

29. 96%   The Look of Silence (2015)         107

30. 95%  Wild Tales (2015)

Russ’s Top 15 Films of 2015 (in alphabetical order)

1.       45 Years (UK film I saw in the UK, opening soon in Ann Arbor

2.       Amy (wonderful documentary on the tragic Amy Winehouse)

3.       Bridge of Spies (Spielberg is just an amazingly gifted storyteller)

4.       Carol (GREAT performances from Cate Blanchet and Roony Mara)

5.       The Diary of a Teenage Girl (special author’s opening)

6.       Imperial Dreams (from Cinetopia, starring John Boyega from Star Wars in a MUCH different role)

7.       Inside Out (Pixar animation that helped me understand my 1 and 2 year old grandchildren)

8.       The Martian (wonderful sci-fi film that was very well done and a positive message for the world)

9.       Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Direct from Sundance screening)

10.   Phoenix (German film that was a compelling post holocaust drama)

11.   Selma (Civil rights movie on MKL, by Ava DeVernay)

12.   Spotlight (Great film with great cast, that told wonderfully a difficult story and reminded us why true journalism is import)

13.   Trainwreck (I love Bill Hader and Amy Shumer is a comic force to be reckoned with, plus it had LeBron James!)

14.   What We Do In the Shadows (Mockumentary on Vampires by the Flight of the Concords guys)

15.   Youth (poetic, odd and well-acted film, not everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it!) -

PLUS - Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (what can I say, I’m a fan and I was not disappointed)

Now Playing Downtown at the State and Michigan Theaters


“Carol” follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change.  A young woman in her 20s, Therese (Rooney Mara) is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens.  Nominated for five Golden Globes, the most of any film this year, “Carol” continues at the Michigan.

The Danish Girl 

“The Danish Girl” tells the true love story of Danish artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) as he makes the pioneering journey to becoming a woman, Lili Elbe, in the 1920s. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.  Peter Debruge of Variety writes “A year after Eddie Redmayne proved his incredible capacity for reinvention in “The Theory of Everything,” the freckle-faced Brit pulls off the ultimate identity overhaul… (he) gives the greatest performance of his career so far, infinitely more intimate — and far less technical — than the already stunning turn as Stephen Hawking that so recently won him the Oscar.”  Nominated for three Golden Globes including Best Actor and Best Actress, “The Danish Girl” continues at the State.


In “Youth,” two longtime friends – Fred (Michael Caine), an acclaimed composer and conductor, and Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker - vacation in the Swiss Alps. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. The two men reflect on their past, each finding that some of the most important experiences can come later in life.  “Youth” continues at the Michigan, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2015.


In “Joy,” writer/director David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle”) directs his dream team - Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper - in this story based on the life of American inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce.  Nominated for two Golden Globes including Best Comedy and Best Actress, “Joy” continues at the State.

Opening at the Multiplex

The Hateful Eight

In “The Hateful Eight,” a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers (Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins); as they lose their lead on the blizzard, the four seek refuge at a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass - where they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces (Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern).  As the storm overtakes the mountainside, our eight travelers realize they may not make it to Red Rock after all. “The Hateful Eight” opens on Thursday December 31. 

'Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens' continues to rake in the cash

The Disney and Lucasfilm tent-pole is quickly moving up the chart of all-time top-grossing films

J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens is speeding toward the $600 million mark in North America after earning $31.4 million from 4,134 theaters on Monday for a domestic total of $571.4 million.

It will become only the fifth film in history to cross $600 million domestically, after :

The Avengers ($623.4 million)

Jurassic World ($652.3 million)

Titanic ($658.7 million)

Avatar ($760.5 million)

That does not not account for inflation. And,  it's possible Force Awakens could overtake Avatar by the end of New Year's weekend. Worldwide, Force Awakens has cleared $1.16 billion for Disney and Lucasfilm, quickly moving up the chart of all-time top-grossing titles. On Monday, it took the No. 10 spot after passing up a slew of movies, including :

Transformers: Age of Extinction ($1.1 billion) 

Skyfall ($1.11 billion)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1.12 billion)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($1.124 billion) 

Minions ($1.157 billion)  

Force Awakens earned $39.4 million internationally on Monday for a foreign total of $589.7 million.  The movie has smashed one record after another since its debut. Add to that list becoming the fastest film in history to cross $1 billion at the worldwide box office, a feat it accomplished on Sunday, its 12th day in release. That compares to 13 days for Jurassic World, which boasted a day-and-date opening in China. Star Wars doesn't open in China until January. 9.