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Cinema Chat: 'Mary Poppins Returns,' 'Vice,' 'Aquaman,' And More

Dec 20, 2018

E. Liberty Street in Ann Arbor
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

There's only a few shopping days left until Christmas, but there's always time to squeeze in some new and fantastic movies.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about all of the new and returning films hitting theaters this holiday weekend.


"Mary Poppins Returns"

Nominated for 4 Golden Globes® including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor!  In this film, Michael (played by Ben Whishaw) and Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children and their housekeeper, Ellen (played by Julie Walters), living on Cherry Tree Lane.  After Michael suffers a personal loss, the enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins played by (played by Emily Blunt) re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. 

"Mary Queen of Scots"--Opens Today

This film explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan).  Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).  Each young Queen beholds her "sister" in fear and fascination.  Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence.  Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth's sovereignty.  Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones - and change the course of history.

Directed by Josie Rourke.  Written by Beau Willimon.

"Vice"--Opens Tuesday, December 25

Explores the epic story about how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.  Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, Justin Kirk as Scooter Libby, Bill Camp as Gerald Ford. 

It is the second theatrical film to depict the George W. Bush administration, following Oliver Stone's "W.," and the third collaboration between Bale and Adams, following "The Fighter" and "American Hustle."

Written and directed by Adam McKay.  McKay has a creative partnership with actor Will Ferrell ("Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Step Brothers," "The Other Guys") and he wrote and directed "The Big Short."

"Roma"--Limited Engagement Ends Today

Nominated for 3 Golden Globes® including Best Picture and Winner of The Golden Lion at The Venice International Film Festival!  This film ends its theatrical run today at the Michigan Theater.  The most personal project to date from Academy Award-winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón ("Gravity," "Children of Men," "Y Tu Mama Tambien"), this film follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City.  Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s.


"At Eternity's Gate"

At the Michigan: Golden Globe® nominated for Best Actor!  Academy Award® Nominee Julian Schnabel's film is a journey inside the world and mind of a person who, despite skepticism, ridicule and illness, created some of the world's most beloved and stunning works of art.  This biographical drama film about the final years of painter Vincent van Gogh’s life, starring Willem Dafoe, who won Best Actor at The Venice Film Festival for his portrayal, is based on letters, common agreement about events in his life that present as facts, hearsay, and moments that are just plain invented.  Also starring Oscar IsaacMads Mikkelsen, and Rupert Friend.

"The Favourite"

At the State: Nominated for 4 Golden Globes® including Best Picture and Best Actress!  This film akes place in the early 18th century, while England is at war with the French.   A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper.  When a new servant Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.  Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots.  As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen's companion.  Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics, or rabbit stand in her way.

"Vox Lux"

At the State: In this, Celeste is a 13-year-old music prodigy who survives a horrific school shooting in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1999.  Her talent shines through during the memorial service when she sings a song that touches the hearts of the mourners.  Guided by her sister and a talent manager, the young phenom transforms into a rising pop star with a promising future.  Eighteen years later, Celeste now finds herself on the comeback trail when a scandal, personal struggles, and the pitfalls of fame threaten her career.  From Director Brady Corbet and starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law.

"Green Book"

At the State: In this film, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans.  Confronted with racism, danger-as well as unexpected humanity and humor-they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime. 


At the State: Winner of the FIPRESCI and Vulcain Prize, and a nominee for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival!  In this film, Jongsu is a frustrated introvert whose already difficult life is complicated by the appearance of two people into his orbit: first, Haemi, a spirited woman who offers romantic possibility, and then, Ben, a wealthy and sophisticated young man Haemi returns from a trip with.  When Jongsu learns of Ben’s mysterious hobby and Haemi suddenly disappears, his confusion and obsessions begin to mount, culminating in a stunning finale.  Starring Steven Yeun ("The Walking Dead," "Sorry to Bother You"), Jeon Jong-Seo, and Yoo Ah-In.


Winner of The Un Certain Regard Award at The Cannes Film Festival!  This film by director Ali Abbasi follows customs officer Tina, who is known for her extraordinary sense of smell.  It’s almost as if she can sniff out the guilt on anyone hiding something.  But when Vore, a suspicious-looking man, walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time ever.  Tina can sense Vore is hiding something she can’t identify.  Even worse, she feels a strange attraction to him.  As Tina develops a special bond with Vore and discovers his true identity, she also realizes the truth about herself. 


Mamoru Hosoda, the Japanese director of hit animated features "Summer Wars" and "Wolf Children," has reunited with high-profile banner Studio Chi-zu for this film.  When four-year-old Kun meets his new baby sister, his world is turned upside down.  Named Mirai (meaning “future”), the baby quickly wins the hearts of Kun’s entire family.  As his mother returns to work, and his father struggles to run the household, Kun becomes increasingly jealous of baby Mirai… until one day he storms off into the garden, where he encounters strange guests from the past and future, including his sister Mirai, as a teenager.  Together, Kun and teenage Mirai go on a journey through time and space, uncovering their family’s incredible story.  But why did Mirai come from the future? 



This film is an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas.  Starring Jason Momoa in the title role, the film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime--one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be... a king.

Directed by James Wan.  Written by Will Beall, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Amber Heard as Mera, Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, 

Patrick Wilson as Orm/Ocean Master, Dolph Lundgren as Nereus.


On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.  When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.  Directed by Travis Knight.  Written by Christina Hodson.  Stars Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.

"Welcome to Marwen"

When a devastating attack shatters Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) and wipes away all memories, no one expected recovery.  Putting together pieces from his old and new life, Mark meticulously creates a wondrous town where he can heal and be heroic.  As he builds an astonishing art installation--a testament to the most powerful women he knows--through his fantasy world, he draws strength to triumph in the real one.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis.  Written by Robert Zemeckis, Caroline Thompson

"Second Act"

This is a comedy in the vein of "Working Girl" and "Maid In Manhattan."  Jennifer Lopez stars as Maya, a 40-year-old woman struggling with frustrations from unfulfilled dreams.  Until, that is, she gets the chance to prove to Madison Avenue that street smarts are as valuable as book smarts, and that it is never too late for a Second Act.  Directed by Peter Segal.  Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens, Treat Williams, Milo Ventimiglia.

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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 dfair@emich.edu