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Cinema Chat: MTV Movie Awards, Le-Weekend, Under The Skin, Heaven Is For Real and More

Apr 17, 2014

WEMU's David Fair and Michigan Theater Executive Director Russ Collings present this week's edition of Cinema Chat!   

Opening Downtown  

Credit Michigan Theater

In “Le Week-end” Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as Nick and Meg, a long-married British couple visiting Paris for the first time since their honeymoon decades prior in an attempt to rekindle the fire in their relationship.

A surprise invitation from Nick’s old friend Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), an amusingly boorish American academic, soon leads them to an unexpectedly hopeful vision of what their love and marriage might still become. 

Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News has high praise: “Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are plummy perfection as a British pair in their 60s who hope to reenergize their marriage with a trip to Paris.” “Le Week-end” opens Friday at the Michigan Theater.

A.O. Scott, New York Times - A mellow, playful, slightly melancholy atmosphere pervades much of "Le Week-End," the latest collaboration between the screenwriter Hanif Kureishi and the director Roger Michell.

David Edelstein, Vulture -- Le Week-End is a marital disintegration-reintegration drama that opens with a dose of frost and vinegar and turns believably sweet-and unbelievably marvelous, in light of what had seemed a depressing trajectory.

Lou Lumenick, New York Post -- A bickering middle-aged English couple return to Paris to celebrate their ill-fated 30th anniversary in this ruefully funny delight from director Roger Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi.

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York -- Make room for the modest but affecting pleasures of veteran actors tearing into the subject of golden-years resignation.

Jonathan Kiefer, Village Voice -- The great insight in director Roger Michell's fourth collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi is its vision of Paris as an arena equally amenable to romantic comedy and sulking tragedy.

Dave Calhoun, Time Out -- Lightly played, often very funny and shot all over Paris with energy and wit, and boosted by superb, inquiring turns from Broadbent and Duncan.

“Under The Skin,” Jonathan Glazer‘s latest film, stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress who preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland. Critical consensus is that the message may prove elusive for some, but the absorbing imagery and Scarlett Johansson’s mesmerizing performance make “Under the Skin” an unforgettable movie experience. 

Alfonso Cuaron, director of “Gravity,” says, “Pure Cinema. You’re just hypnotized by the whole journey.” “Under The Skin” opens Friday at the State Theatre. Its message may prove elusive for some, but with absorbing imagery and a mesmerizing performance from Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin is a haunting viewing experience.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap -- Johansson provides an extraordinary window into an alien being; through her eyes, we see and hear the world as someone not from here would. Her performance is the payoff that makes Glazer's enigmatic storytelling choices so effective.

Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice -- There are dozens of mysteries in Under the Skin that don't cohere in any logical way but work like gangbusters on the imaginative subconscious.

Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press -- When you wake up from this odd dream, you may wonder what the point was. It's probably there, but it's lost in that dark fog.

Anthony Lane, New Yorker -- Glazer is nothing if not ambitious; the rough edge of naturalism, on the streets, slices into the more controlled and stylized look of science fiction, and the result seems both to drift and to gather to a point of almost painful intensity.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter -- Viewers willing to embrace a purely visual experience without dramatic, emotional or psychological substance will comprise an ardent cheering section, but the film provides too little for even relatively adventurous specialized audiences to latch onto.

In “The Unknown Known” Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris offers a mesmerizing portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key architects of the Iraq War, and a larger-than-life character who provoked equal levels of fury and adulation from the American public.                                                    

 Rather than conducting a conventional interview, Morris has Rumsfeld perform and expound on his “snowflakes,” tens of thousands of memos (many never previously published) he composed as a congressman and as an advisor to four different presidents, twice as Secretary of Defense.

Critics have high praise; Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal observed, “What's so striking is the abstract nature of [Rumsfeld’s] discourse; what's so chilling is his dispassion.’

John Anderson of Newsday said, “Morris doesn't ‘break’ Rumsfeld, as some think he did [Robert] McNamara [in “The Fog of War”]. He has held a mirror up to the man, and found no reflection. The viewer simply has to realize that what's important is what's not there.”

“The Unknown Known” opens Friday at the Michigan Theater.

Opening at the Multiplex

In “Transcendence” Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, where his highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. 

However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed - to be a participant in his own transcendence into a powerful digital existence.  “Transcendence” opens Friday.

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News -- Transcendence is a movie that's of two minds. It's well-grounded, but also over the top. It's a man-vs.-machine epic and also an intimate drama. It's quirky-smart yet sci-fi silly. And it winds up being half as good as it could be.

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic -- Wally Pfister's film tries to ask big questions but isn't smart enough to answer them.

Lou Lumenick, New York Post -- It's not a horrible premise for a movie, but the execution is exceedingly trite and sloppy.

Jake Coyle, Associated Press -- "Transcendence" is clunky and lifeless. It's like the movie version of a paranoid TED talk.

Scott Foundas, Variety -- "Transcendence" is a most curious name for a movie that never shakes free from those hoary old cliches about the evils of technology and the danger by which man plays at becoming a god.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap -- A sleek, smart techno-thriller loaded with interesting ideas - until it stops being any of those things.

“A Haunted House 2” stars Marlon Wayans as Malcolm who, after exorcising the demons of his ex, is starting fresh with his new girlfriend and her two children. After moving into their dream home, Malcolm is once again plagued by bizarre paranormal events with spine-tingling tension and hilarious punch-lines. “A Haunted House 2” opens Friday. NO ADVANCED REVIEWS.

"Bears" showcases a year in the life of a bear family in this Disney nature documentary. Set against a majestic backdrop "Bears" captures the fast-moving action and suspense of life in one of the planet's last great wildernesses - Alaska. “Bears” opens Friday.

Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book of the same name, Heaven Is For Real” brings to the screen the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son's extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. Starring Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly, “Heaven Is For Real” opened Wednesday.

Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times -- Preachy and pretty, "Heaven" is a classy-looking product with a vanilla flavor and a pastel palette.

Jessica Herndon, Associated Press -- We might have expected more from writer-director Randall Wallace, who brought us the Oscar-nominated "Braveheart." But the material is pretty cookie-cutter and more typical of an afterschool special.

Linda Barnard, Toronto Star -- Kinnear ... remains a consistent screen presence, even if the material he's been handed lately rarely matches his talents.

Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice -- Unlike many of the features targeted to what Hollywood is calling the "faith audience," the movie is well-acted and shot, often thoughtful and (intentionally) funny.

Hitchcock Downtown

“Easy Virtue” is a newly restored Hitchcock silent film that will be presented with live organ accompaniment. A divorcée hides her scandalous past from her new husband and his family. Based on the Noel Coward play, it stars Isabel Jeans and Franklin Dyall. “Easy Virtue” plays Sunday, April 20 at 5 PM at the Michigan Theater.

“Rear Window,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, finds professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries stuck in his apartment with a broken leg. He spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors and begins to suspect that the man opposite may have murdered his wife. “Rear Window” plays Tuesday, April 22 at 7 PM at the Michigan Theater.

Special Screenings Downtown

Based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, “War Horse” takes audiences on an extraordinary journey from the fields of rural Devon to the trenches of First World War France.

With its stirring musical score, this powerfully moving and imaginative drama is a show of phenomenal inventiveness. At its heart are astonishing life-size puppets by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, who bring breathing, galloping, charging horses to thrilling life on stage. “War Horse” plays Wednesday, April 23 at 7 PM. Presented in partnership with UMS.