Cinema Chat: 'West Side Story,' 'Being the Ricardos,' 'Don't Look Up,' and more

Dec 9, 2021

Inside the State Theatre
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The holidays are inching closer, and some great flicks and live events are coming along with them. WEMU's Michael Jewett once again fills in for David Fair for our weekly conversation about all things movies with Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins.


LIVE ON STAGE: ANAIS MITCHELL & BONEY LIGHT HORSEMAN AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER

TICKETS NOW ON SALE THROUGH TICKETMASTER! Anaïs Mitchell is on tour is and coming to Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater on February 7, 2022. She'll be performing with a band (including JT Bates on drums and Michael Lewis on bass) and will play brand new music alongside older favorites including selections from "Hadestown." Bonny Light Horseman, Anais’s band with Josh Kaufman and Eric Johnson, will open! Tickets available now at TicketMaster.

OPENING DOWNTOWN

"West Side Story" -- OPENS FRIDAY DECEMBER 10 AT THE STATE WITH ADVANCED SCREENING TONIGHT

Love at first sight strikes when young Tony spots Maria at a high school dance in 1957 New York City. Their burgeoning romance helps to fuel the fire between the warring Jets and Sharks -- two rival gangs vying for control of the streets. Director: Steven Spielberg. Writer: Tony Kushner.

"Being the Ricardos" -- OPENS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10 AT THE STATE

Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos in Academy Award (R)-winning writer and director Aaron Sorkin's behind-the-scenes drama. A revealing glimpse of the couple's complex romantic and professional relationship, the film takes audiences into the writers' room, onto the soundstage and behind closed doors with Ball and Arnaz during one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom, "I Love Lucy."

Producer: Desi Arnaz Jr., Lucie Arnaz, Todd Black, Jenna Block, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch

"Don't Look Up" -- OPENS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10 AT THE MICHIGAN

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), an astronomy grad student, and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem: it's on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem? No one really seems to care. Turns out warning mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest is an inconvenient fact to navigate. With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), Kate and Randall embark on a media tour that takes them from the office of an indifferent President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her sycophantic son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), to the airwaves of The Daily Rip, an upbeat morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). With only six months until the comet makes impact, managing the 24-hour news cycle and gaining the attention of the social media obsessed public before it's too late proves shockingly comical -- what will it take to get the world to just look up?!

SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN

"Tokyo Godfathers" -- PLAYS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10 AT 10 PM AT THE MICHIGAN

Middle-aged alcoholic Gin (Toru Emori), teenage runaway Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) and former drag queen Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki) are a trio of homeless people surviving as a makeshift family on the streets of Tokyo. While rummaging in the trash for food on Christmas Eve, they stumble upon an abandoned newborn baby in a trash bin. With only a handful of clues to the baby's identity, the three misfits search the streets of Tokyo for help in returning the baby to its parents.

"To the Ends of the Earth" -- PLAYS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12 AT 2:30 PM AT THE MICHIGAN

Yoko (Atsuko Maeda) hosts a popular global travel show yet is cautious and insular like many young Japanese. But she has a bigger dream. On assignment in Uzbekistan, Yoko and her small TV crew attempt to catch a mythical fish but fail. They also film segments in Samarkand but feel it's lacking. Indifferent to her job, Yoko prefers texting her boyfriend in Tokyo. At night, she comes across a tied up goat and suggests releasing it on camera. The plan goes awry and Yoko feels indignant and naive. The team move to Tashkent where Yoko wanders into an opulent theatre, fantasizing she's on stage. She confides her ambitions to her cameraman but admits her heart's not ready. While filming, Yoko's timid nature inadvertently gets her in trouble with the police. At the station she hears of a disaster in Tokyo and realizes how important human communication truly is. Some of the team return to Japan but Yoko stays. As she ventures into the mountains she sings from the heart and her spirit is freed.

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

"C'mon C'mon"

A 2021 American black-and-white drama film written and directed by Mike Mills. It stars Joaquin PhoenixGaby HoffmannScoot McNairyMolly WebsterJaboukie Young-White, and Woody Norman. The film had its world premiere at the 48th Telluride Film Festival. It has received critical acclaim from critics.

Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his young nephew (Woody Norman) forge a tenuous but transformational relationship when they are unexpectedly thrown together in this delicate and deeply moving story about the connections between adults and children, the past and the future, from writer-director Mike Mills.

"The Power of the Dog"

This is a 2021 western drama film written and directed by Jane Campion, based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten DunstJesse PlemonsKodi Smit-McPheeThomasin McKenzieGenevieve LemonKeith Carradine, and Frances Conroy. It had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival.

Severe, pale-eyed, handsome, Phil Burbank is brutally beguiling. All of Phil's romance, power and fragility is trapped in the past and in the land: He can castrate a bull calf with two swift slashes of his knife; he swims naked in the river, smearing his body with mud. He is a cowboy as raw as his hides. The year is 1925. The Burbank brothers are wealthy ranchers in Montana. At the Red Mill restaurant on their way to market, the brothers meet Rose, the widowed proprietress, and her impressionable son Peter. Phil behaves so cruelly he drives them both to tears, reveling in their hurt and rousing his fellow cowhands to laughter -- all except his brother George, who comforts Rose then returns to marry her. As Phil swings between fury and cunning, his taunting of Rose takes an eerie form -- he hovers at the edges of her vision, whistling a tune she can no longer play. His mockery of her son is more overt, amplified by the cheering of Phil's cowhand disciples. Then Phil appears to take the boy under his wing. Is this latest gesture a softening that leaves Phil exposed, or a plot twisting further into menace?

"House of Gucci"

This is a 2021 American biographical crime drama film directed by Ridley Scott, based on the 2001 book "The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed" by Sara Gay Forden. The film stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, the wife of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), as their romance transforms into a fight for control of the fashion brand Gucci; Jared LetoJeremy IronsSalma Hayek, and Al Pacino also star.

Ridley Scott had wanted to do a film about the Gucci dynasty since acquiring the rights to Forden's book in the early 2000s. The project languished for several years and went through a handful of directors and rumored actors before Scott and Gaga were confirmed as attached in November 2019. Much of the rest of the cast joined the following summer, and filming began in Italy in February 2021, lasting through May.

The film is inspired by the shocking true story of the family behind the Italian fashion empire. When Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately... murder.

"King Richard"

This is a 2021 American biographical drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin, and follows the life of Richard Williams, the father and coach of famed tennis players Venus and Serena Williams. It stars Will Smith in the title role, Aunjanue EllisSaniyya SidneyDemi SingletonTony Goldwyn, and Jon Bernthal.

Armed with a clear vision and a brazen 78-page plan, Richard Williams is determined to write his daughters, Venus and Serena, into history. Training on Compton, California's neglected tennis courts--rain or shine--the girls are shaped by their father's unyielding commitment and their mother's balanced perspective and keen intuition, defying the seemingly insurmountable odds and prevailing expectations laid before them. Based on the true story that will inspire the world, the film follows the uplifting journey of a family whose unwavering resolve and unconditional belief ultimately delivers two of the world's greatest sports legends.

"Belfast" 

This is a 2021 coming of age drama-comedy film written and directed by Kenneth Branagh. The film stars Caitríona BalfeJudi DenchJamie DornanCiarán HindsColin Morgan, and newcomer Jude Hill. The film, which Branagh has described as his "most personal film," centres on a young boy's childhood amidst the tumult of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the 1960s. Belfast had its world premiere at the 48th Telluride Film Festival on 2 September 2021, and also won the People's Choice Award at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

"Eternals"

A 2021 American epic superhero film based on the Marvel Comics race of the same name. It is the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Chloé Zhao, who wrote the screenplay with Patrick BurleighRyan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo. It stars an ensemble cast including Gemma ChanRichard MaddenKumail NanjianiLia McHughBrian Tyree HenryLauren RidloffBarry KeoghanDon LeeHarish PatelKit HaringtonSalma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. In the film, the Eternals, an immortal alien race, emerge from hiding after thousands of years to protect Earth from their evil counterparts, the Deviants.

Chloé Zhao—who had also been in the running to direct Marvel's Black Widow (2021)— approached Marvel Studios about making the film as she had been a fan of the MCU. She wanted to work with the studio to bring her own take and world-building to the franchise.

Marvel Studios' latest film features an exciting new team of Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. Following the events of "Avengers: Endgame," an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind's most ancient enemy, the Deviants.

"The French Dispatch"

A 2021 American comedy-drama anthology film written, directed, and produced by Wes Anderson from a story he conceived with Roman CoppolaHugo Guinness, and Jason Schwartzman. The film stars an ensemble cast featuring Benicio del Toro, Adrien BrodyTilda SwintonLéa SeydouxFrances McDormandTimothée ChalametLyna KhoudriJeffrey WrightMathieu AmalricStephen ParkBill Murray, and Owen Wilson. Its plot follows three different storylines, as the French foreign bureau of a fictional Kansas newspaper creates its final issue. Filming took place between November 2018 and March 2019, with cinematographer Robert Yeoman, in the city of Angoulême, France. Following a delay, the film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on July 12, 2021.

IT'S THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

FREE Holiday Classics Series!

  • "Elf" -- Sunday, 12/12, at 1:30 PM at the Michigan (Meet & Greet with Santa follows the screening).
  • "It's a Wonderful Life" – Sunday, 12/19, at 1:30 PM at the Michigan.
  • "Frozen" -- Sunday, 12/26 at 1:30 PM at the Michigan.

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—Michael Jewett is the WEMU weekday jazz host.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org