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Posted on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 5:51 a.m.

A new 'Conan,' a new 'Fright Night,' a new 'Spy Kids,' and a restored 'African Queen' at the movies this week

By Russ Collins

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Editor's note: Comment on today's "Cinema Chat" for a chance to win free movie tickets to the Michigan Theater. Some time between now and 9 a.m. Monday, leave a comment on this column, written by the Michigan Theater's Russ Collins. Offer your opinion on a recent movie you've seen, or on anything Russ mentions. A winner will be randomly selected, and we’ll notify that person via the email address they signed up with. They will get two passes to a movie of their choice, courtesy of The Michigan Theater. Full rules here.

Opening at the multiplex

Film Review Conan the_Need-1.jpg
In “Conan the Barbarian,” a quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan (Jason Momoa, whose most recent work was in the highly acclaimed “Game Of Thrones”) realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil. Based on the pulp character created by Robert E. Howard, the film is a new interpretation of the Conan tales, and is not related to the films featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Conan the Barbarian” opens Friday.

Based on the 1985 horror film of the same name, “Fright Night” follows Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) as he confronts trouble that arrives when intriguing stranger Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. He seems like a great guy, but there's something not quite right—and no one, including Charlie's mom (Toni Collette), seems to notice. After witnessing some very unusual activity, Charlie comes to an unmistakable conclusion: Jerry is a vampire preying on his neighborhood. Rosie Fletcher of Total Film says the film is “slick popcorn horror, faithful to the fun and flair of the original.” “Fright Night” opens Friday.

From director Robert Rodriguez, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World” reunites the cast from the first three films and introduces "Aromascope," a technique that allows people to smell odors and aromas from the film via scratch-and-sniff cards (reminiscent of the infamous 1960’s Smell-O-Vision created by Hans Laube that made its only appearance in the 1960 film “Scent of Mystery”.) Marissa Cortez Wilson (Jessica Alba) has her world turned upside down when the maniacal Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) threatens to take over the planet and she's called back into action by the head of OSS, home of the greatest spies and where the now-defunct Spy Kids division was created. With a little help from a couple of very familiar Spy Kids, Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara). “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World” opens Friday.

Opening downtown

“Project Nim,” from director James Marsh and the team behind “Man on Wire,” is the story of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Following Nim's astonishing journey through human society, and the enduring impact he makes on the people he meets along the way, the film is an unflinching and unsentimental biography of an animal we tried to make human. Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger says, “A documentary detailing man's inhumanity to beast, 'Project Nim' ends up going past that to ask a deeper, disturbing question: Just who is the man, and who is the beast?” "Project Nim" opens Friday at the Michigan Theater.

In “Another Earth,” Rhoda Williams is a bright young woman, accepted into MIT's astrophysics program, whose life becomes irrevocably intertwined with that of brilliant compose, John Burroughs on the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth. “Another Earth” had its world premiere at the 27th Sundance Film Festival, where Variety reported, "(It) has been deemed one of the more highly praised pics of the fest as it received a standing ovation after the screening and strong word of mouth from buyers and festgoers." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel says, “The wildly improbable set-up is merely the jumping off point for an exploration of grief, guilt and redemption that plays out almost entirely between two people thrown together by circumstance.” “Another Earth” opens Friday at the State Theatre.

Classics playing downtown

Summer Classics continue with a new 35mm print of “The African Queen,” a sweeping film of cinematic action and romance that chronicles the adventures of Captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) and his passenger Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) as they navigate a trecherous river in German East Africa during WWI. The film, shot mostly in Africa, united the formidable talents of the stars with those of director John Huston in an outstanding adaptation of the 1935 C.S. Forester novel of the same name. “The African Queen” plays Aug. 21 at 1:30 p.m.. and Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Michigan Theater.

The Summer Docs series continues with “Sweetgrass,” a film that follows a group of shepherds who took a herd of sheep one final time through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, part of the extreme northwest of the United States. Spanning 300 kilometers through expansive green valleys, fields of snow, and across hazardous, narrow ridges—this is a journey brimming with challenges. The high mountains and trecherous terrain include wolves and grizzly bears which only add to the already major feat of keeping hundreds of sheep together. “Sweetgrass” plays Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Michigan Theater.

Russ Collins is executive director of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tune in to the audio version of “Cinema Chat” on WEMU radio (89.1-FM) each Thursday at 7:40 a.m. and 5:40 p.m., or listen to it online at WEMU's web site.


Erich Jensen

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Remember when the American Film Institute picked Bogart and Hepburn as the top two movie actors of the 20th century. Therefore, African Queen is a must see (even again).


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Project X was a film I watched a few too many times during my formative years. The depressing thing is that Project Nim is the non-fiction version. That said, I'll still have to see it.