Cinema Chat: Cinetopia Update, 'Frantz,' 'Jeremiah Tower,' 'Pirates Of The Caribbean,' And More

May 25, 2017

Michigan Theater Marquee
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair catches up with Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins and covers all the movies you can check out this Memorial Day weekend.  Plus, you'll get the latest on the Cinetopia Film Festival, which is only a week away!


Cinetopia Starts June 1!

Tickets for the Cinetopia Film Festival are on sale now!  Cinetopia runs June 1-11 in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Detroit, and will feature over 60 fantastic films direct from the world’s best film festivals, including Sundance, Toronto, Venice, Tribeca, and Cannes.  

The festival kicks off on June 1 in Ann Arbor, with the Michigan premiere of “The Hero” at 7:30 PM.  Western star of yesteryear Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) likes to reminisce with his drug dealer buddy Jeremy (Nick Offerman) about the good times gone by.  But when Lee runs into a roadblock, he gets a fresh chance to reclaim the spotlight with the help of his new lover Charlotte (Laura Prepon) and an industry award for his work.  

Later, the festival continues with the Michigan premiere of “Quest” at 9:30 PM.  Meet the Raineys – dad Christopher (a.k.a. Quest), mom Christine’a (a.k.a. Ma Quest), son William, and daughter Patricia (a.k.a. P.J.). The film follows this working-class family through eight years of their lives in inner-city Philadelphia, capturing every challenge and triumph in true cinema vérité style.  The Raineys are a unique American household, with Quest juggling two jobs to support his recording studio-slash-home for wayward artists and Ma working at a domestic violence shelter while caring for her daughter, son, and grandson, but they could also be anyone. What’s shared onscreen is stunning in its simplicity, addressing broader cultural conversations (drugs, violence, illness, and politics) through the lens of one loving, determined family and the community they influence.  

Cinetopia continues with 10 more days of great films, parties, and special events - review the schedule and get your tickets now!

Opening Downtown

"Frantz"

Set in Germany and France in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, this film recalls the mourning period that follows great national tragedies through the eyes of Anna, a bereft young German woman whose fiancé, Frantz, was killed during trench warfare, and Adrien, a French veteran of the war who shows up mysteriously in her town, placing flowers on Frantz’s grave.  What follows is a surprising exploration of how the characters wrestle with their conflicting feelings – survivor’s guilt, anger at one’s losses, the overriding desire for happiness despite everything that has come before, and the longing for sexual, romantic and familial attachments.  “Frantz” opens Wednesday, May 24.

Continuing Downtown

"The Lovers"

This film is a refreshing, funny look at love, fidelity, and family, starring Debra Winger and Tracy Letts as a long-married and completely dispassionate husband and wife.  Both are in the midst of serious affairs and are increasingly committed to their new partners.  But on the brink of officially calling it quits, a spark between them suddenly and unexpectedly reignites, leading them into an impulsive romance that forces them to navigate the hilarious complications of “cheating” on their respective lovers.  A mixture of humor and powerful emotion, the story is a uniquely honest take on modern marriage.  

“Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer"

Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) lives a lonely life in the margins of New York City power and money, a would-be operator dreaming up financial schemes that never come to fruition. Norman strives to be everyone’s friend, but his incessant networking leads him nowhere. Norman sets his sights on Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a charismatic Israeli politician alone in New York at a low point in his career. Sensing Eshel’s vulnerability, Norman reaches out with a gift, a gesture that deeply touches Eshel.  When Eshel becomes Prime Minister three years later, he remembers.  With his very real connection to the leader of a major nation, Norman is awash in the respect he has always craved, but his kaleidoscopic plans soon go awry, creating the potential for an international catastrophe he must struggle to prevent. 

"Their Finest"

The year is 1940, London.  With the nation bowed down by war, the British ministry turns to propaganda films to boost morale at home. Realizing their films could use "a woman's touch," the ministry hires Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as a scriptwriter in charge of writing the female dialogue.  Although her artist husband looks down on her job, Catrin's natural flair quickly gets her noticed by cynical, witty lead scriptwriter Buckley (Sam Claflin).  Catrin and Buckley set out to make an epic feature film based on the Dunkirk rescue starring the gloriously vain, former matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy).  As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley and their colorful cast and crew work furiously to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation.  

Special Screenings Downtown

“A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” 

This film follows Boone, a Bay Area social justice muralist, as she creates change through art – the theme of this evening benefiting the five Michigan Medicine programs of Big Hearts for Seniors.  Boone and the documentary’s producer, Mo Morris, will join the audience for a Q & A via Skype.  “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” plays Thursday, May 25 at 7 PM.

"The Player"

The Cinema Revolution Film Series concludes with Robert Altman’s brilliant satirical comedy on the tottering Hollywood studio system.  Certain that the anonymous threats he’s been receiving are the work of David Kahane (Vincent D’Onofrio), producer Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) tries to fix things over cocktails.  Instead, Griffin ends up murdering the screenwriter and courting the dead man’s girlfriend (Greta Scacchi).  As police investigate, Griffin concentrates on a prestigious film that might reinvigorate his career.  But he soon learns that David’s demise hasn’t been forgotten by everyone in Hollywood.  “The Player” plays Monday, May 29 at 7 PM. 

“Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” 

This film tells the story of Jeremiah Tower, who became one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy.  Tower was owner of Stars Restaurant in San Francisco, one of the top-grossing restaurants in America at the time.  But after several years, Tower mysteriously walked away and disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades, only to resurface in the most unlikely of places: New York City’s fabled but troubled Tavern on the Green.  There, he launched a journey of self-discovery familiar to anyone who has ever imagined themselves to be an artist.  Featuring interviews by Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, and Martha Stewart, this delicious documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of America’s first celebrity chef, whose brash personality and culinary genius has made him a living legend.  “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” plays Tuesday and Wednesday, May 30-31.

Opening at the Multiplex

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales"

Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new film.  The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil's Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea-notably Jack.  Jack's only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but, to find it, he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy.  “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” 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