89.1 WEMU

Cinema Chat: 'Author,' 'Demon,' 'The Birth Of A Nation,' 'Deepwater Horizon,' And More

Sep 29, 2016

Michigan Theater Lobby
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

It looks like we're in for a wet, autumn weekend, so how about spending it at your local movie house?  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins about the movie business and all the films hitting the big screen this weekend.

Opening Downtown

"Author: The JT LeRoy Story"

The documentary film recounts the astonishing odyssey of wunderkind JT LeRoy, whose tough prose about a sordid childhood captivated icons and luminaries internationally – but LeRoy didn't actually exist.  He was the creative expression of 40-year-old San Francisco former phone-sex operator turned housewife, Laura Albert.  The film takes us down the infinitely fascinating rabbit hole of how Laura Albert breathed not only words, but life, into her avatar for a decade.  Critics Consensus: "Author: The JT LeRoy Story" serves as a worthy primer on its fascinating subject as well as an insightful look at the ever-evolving nature of modern celebrity.  “Author: The JT LeRoy Story” opens Friday.


Critics Consensus: Ambitious and beautifully shot, "Demon" delivers a gripping -- and sadly final -- testament to the singular talent possessed by Polish director/co-writer Marcin Wrona.  In this film, newly arrived from England to marry his fiancee Zaneta, Peter has been given a gift of her family’s ramshackle country house in rural Poland.  It’s a total fixer-upper, and while inspecting the premises on the eve of the wedding, he falls into a pile of human remains.  The ceremony proceeds, but strange things begin to happen…  “Demon” plays October 1-3.

"White Girl"

NYC college girl Leah (Homeland's Morgan Saylor) seeks out pleasure in any form. Between getting high with her roommate and snorting lines with her boss, Leah falls for Blue (Brian Marc), a young man dealing drugs on her corner.  Summer love crashes to a halt when Blue is arrested, and Leah is left with a serious bag of his coke.  Enlisting the help of an overpriced lawyer (Chris Noth), Leah finds herself deep in debt as she crosses all boundaries to get Blue back.  “White Girl” plays Oct 1-3.


This film explores the life of Ukrainian-born "bad boy of ballet" Sergei Polunin, who became the Royal Ballet's youngest ever principal dancer at age 19.  But two years later - at the height of his success - he walked away from it all, resolving to give up dance entirely.  Beyond celebrating the raw talent and wild ambition of Polunin, “Dancer” considers how wealth and success may not be enough when it comes to finding personal and professional identity.  “Dancer” plays October 4-6.

"The Birth of a Nation"

Set against the antebellum South, this film follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker, who also directed), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner (Armie Hammer) accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves.  As he witnesses countless atrocities - against himself and his fellow slaves - Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.  “The Birth of a Nation” opens Friday, October 7 at the Michigan with special advance screenings on Thursday, October 6. 

Special Screenings Downtown

The Manhattan Short Film Festival returns to Ann Arbor!  It’s an extraordinary global event when over 100,000 people in over 300 cities across six continents gather in cinemas, galleries, universities, museums, and cafes for one purpose: to view and vote on the finalists’ films in the annual festival.  The Manhattan Short Film Festival plays tonight at 7 PM.


When this film premiered ten years ago, satirist Mike Judge told of an impossible future in which our collective intelligence had dropped so low, it threatened to destroy the world.  In this future, America was run by a corrupt, sociopathic former pro-wrestler with severe anger management issues…  Flash forward to today.  Over the past months, Judge’s sadly prescient film has transcended its cult classic status to become a vibrant and essential facet of this election conversation.  The Alamo Drafthouse and the League of Women Voters present “Idiocracy” on Tuesday, October 4 at 9:45 PM.  Following the screening, the cast and crew of “Idiocracy” will take part in a live-streamed Q&A.

Continuing Downtown

"The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years"

This film is based on the first part of The Beatles’ career (1962-1966), the period in which they toured and captured the world’s acclaim.  The film explores how John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr came together to become this extraordinary phenomenon, and delves into their inner workings: how they made decisions, created their music and built their collective career together.  Directed by Ron Howard, “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years” is now playing at the Michigan Theater.

"The Hollars"

Struggling artist John Hollar (John Krasinski, who also directed this film) is forced to navigate the small middle-American town he left behind.  When his mom, played by UM grad and Emmy award-winning character actress Margo Martindale, becomes ill, John Hollar returns his home town.  Back home, he is immediately swept up in the problems of his dysfunctional family, high school rival, and an over-eager ex-girlfriend as he faces impending fatherhood with his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) in New York.  “The Hollars” will have a few screenings throughout the week.

Opening at the Multiplex

"Deepwater Horizon"

This film tells the story of one of the world’s largest man-made disasters, which occurred on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.  The film honors the brave men and women whose heroism would save many on board and change everyone’s lives forever.  Starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, and Kate Hudson, “Deepwater Horizon” opens Friday.


In the action comedy, David (Zach Galifianakis) is an uncomplicated man stuck in a monotonous life.  Day in and day out, he drives an armored vehicle, transporting millions of other people’s money with no escape in sight… until his work crush Kelly (Kristen Wiig) lures him into the scheme of a lifetime.  David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash…the only problem is he hands the money over to a wild group of double crossers and has been set up to take the fall.  “Masterminds” opens Friday.  

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"

When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers...and their powerful enemies.  Based upon the best-selling novel and directed by Tim Burton, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” opens Friday.

"Queen of Katwe"

Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her family.  Her world changes one day when she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a missionary who teaches children how to play chess.  Phiona becomes fascinated with the game and soon becomes a top player under Katende's guidance.  Her success in local competitions and tournaments opens the door to a bright future and a golden chance to escape from a life of poverty.  Also starring Lupita Nyong’o, “Queen of Katwe” opens Friday.

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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