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Posted on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:52 a.m.

Acclaimed 'Middle of Nowhere,' free screening of 'Elf,' and more at the movies this week

By Russ Collins

Christmas is a-comin’ soon!

Give the gift of movies! Our local multiplexes, Quality 16, Rave and Brighton Cinemas, have gift movie cards that make excellent stocking stuffer and Chanukah gifts. The Michigan Theater has a Holiday Gift Store that offers movie passes, night out packages and Michigan Theater branded gifts for the movie lover. And, prepare to spend part of Christmas Day in a theater (I suggest the Michigan Theater!) because the acclaimed movie based on the worldwide hit musical “Les Miserables” opens that day. It stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway and is directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”). It is a sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo's epic tale. The Michigan Theater will set aside select special “sing-along” screenings on Dec. 26 and 30, for those who feel the need to join in with song.

Opening downtown


"Middle of Nowhere"

Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, “Middle of Nowhere” follows Ruby, a bright medical student who sets aside her dreams and suspends her career when her husband is incarcerated. But through a chance encounter and a stunning betrayal, this steadfast wife is soon propelled in new and often shocking directions of self-discovery—caught between two worlds and two men in the search for herself. Tom Long of the Detroit News says, “This film is about a particular African-American experience, true, but it's also about the human experience. It will haunt you. It should.” “Middle of Nowhere” plays Dec. 9 and 10 at the Michigan Theater.

“The Flat” is documentarian Arnon Goldfinger’s complicated and shocking story about three generations trying to piece together their lives in the aftermath of World War II. Sifting through a dense mountain of photos, letters, files, and objects, Goldfinger begins to uncover clues that seem to point to a greater mystery. John Anderson of Newsday says, “A fascinating and sensitive examination of Jewish-Nazi collaboration, generational amnesia and the delicate construction of the thing we call history.” “The Flat” plays Dec. 11 and 13 at the Michigan Theater.

Opening at the multiplex

“Playing For Keeps” follows a down-on-his luck former soccer star (Gerard Butler) who returns home to put his life back together. Looking for a way to rebuild his relationship with his son, he gets roped into coaching the boy’s soccer team. But his attempts to finally become an "adult" are met with hilarious challenges from the attractive "soccer moms " who pursue him at every turn. Aslo starring Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Dennis Quaid. "Playing For Keeps" opens Friday.

Special screenings downtown

It’s the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an "archeological" dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn’t the one you want coming to town. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is a reimagining of the most classic of all childhood fantasies, and is a darkly comic gem soon to be required perennial holiday viewing. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” plays December 7 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Michigan Theater.

Director Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell team up in “Elf”, the story of a regular-sized man who was raised as an elf. When the news is finally broken to Buddy that he’s not a real elf, he decides to head back to his place of birth, New York City, in search of his biological family. Elf also stars Ed Asner, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Zooey Deschanel, and Bob Newhart. “Elf” plays on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Michigan Theater and admission is free!

"Barrymore,” based on the 1997 Broadway production, is set in 1942, and follows acclaimed American actor John Barrymore, a member of one of Hollywood's most well-known theatrical dynasties, as he rehearses the Shakespearean triumph that made him a household name, “Richard III”. No longer a box office star, the film finds Barrymore in his faded glory reckoning with the ravages of his life of excess, only months before his premature death. The role of Barrymore is played by Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer, reprising his 1997 Tony Award-winning role. His nuanced performance has earned him rave reviews and, for a film that didn’t find a distributor after its World Premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, talk of a third Academy Award nomination. “Barrymore” plays on Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. at the Michigan Theater.

“Shut Up and Play the Hits” is a look at LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy over a 48-hour period, from the day of the band’s final gig at Madison Square Garden to the morning after the show. Proceeds from this event support 826michigan, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization serving 2,500 students in Washtenaw County with free creative-writing and tutoring programs. “Shut Up and Play the Hits” plays Thursday, Dec. 13 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.