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Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:02 a.m.

Harold and Kumar return, original 'Willy Wonka,' midnight 'Purple Rain,' and more at the movies this week

By Russ Collins

Win free movie tickets

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 downtown

Vera Farmiga's (“Up in the Air”) directorial debut, “Higher Ground,” depicts the landscape of a tight-knit spiritual community thrown off-kilter when one of their own begins to question her faith. Inspired by screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs' memoir, ”This Dark World,” the film tells the story of a thoughtful woman's struggles with belief, love, and trust—in human relationships as well as in God. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times says, “In a world where believers and agnostics are polarized and hold simplified ideas about each other, it takes a step back and sees faith as a series of choices that should be freely made.” “Higher Ground” opens Sunday at the Michigan Theater.

I saw this film at the Sundance Film Festival and enjoyed it very much. Being raised a Southern Baptist, I was reminded of the faith community of my extended family and how simple faith can enforce a spurious simplicity of the faithful that can segregate believers from the richness and potential of a complex and mysterious universe—God’s ultimate creation.

Special screenings

The Nam Center for Korean Studies presents “Young-ja's Heydays.” The film is arguably the most important of the “hostess melodramas” cycle that were very popular during the 1970s. Based on Cho Seon-jak’s bestselling novel, the film was Kim Ho-Seon’s first feature film and unexpectedly became a box office sensation of 1975. “Young-ja's Heydays” plays Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. and is part of the Cinematic City: Seoul film series. Admission is free.

“Purple Rain,” the first starring film for Prince, is the story of a young black singer, born and raised in Minneapolis, who reaches the pinnacle of stardom. Gorgeously photographed by Donald Thorin, the film is a glorified music video, highlighted by a catalog of Prince hits, including "I Would Die 4 U," "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy"; the score deservedly won an Academy Award and a Grammy. “Purple Rain” plays Saturday, Nov. 5 at 11:59 p.m. at the State Theatre.

Every bit as entertaining now as it was when originally released in 1971, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” tells the story of the impoverished Charlie Bucket, who, along with four other kids and their parental guests, wins a coveted golden ticket to enter the fantastic realm of Wonka's mysterious confectionery. “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” plays Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1:30 p.m. as part of the Family Friendly Film Series. Kids 12 and under are admitted free!

The Michigan Theater’s Great Directors: Stanley Kubrick series continues with “Barry Lyndon.” An extravagant version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel, it won four Academy Awards. “Barry Lyndon” plays Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.

Michigan Peaceworks, Michigan Theater, and Doctors Against Illegal Guns are proud to present a screening of “Living for 32,” the inspirational story of Colin Goddard, a survivor of the tragic gun shooting massacre which occurred on the Virginia Tech campus. The Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Opening at the multiplex

Brett Ratner directs “Tower Heist” with an all-star cast featuring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. “Tower Heist” is a comedy caper about working stiffs who seek revenge on the Wall Street swindler (Alan Alda) who stiffed them in a Madoff-scale scam. The workers at a luxury Central Park condominium plot the ultimate revenge: a heist to reclaim what he took from them. Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter says, “Ratner and screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson use the financial mayhem as a plot trigger for an elaborate scheme that, however far-fetched, is all but irresistible in its criminal legitimacy and its promise for just desserts.” “Tower Heist” opens Friday.

In “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,” the stoner kings return for a romp in 3D. Following years of growing apart, Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) have replaced each other with new friends and are preparing for their respective Yuletide celebrations. But when a mysterious package mistakenly arrives at Kumar's door on Christmas Eve, his attempt to redirect it to Harold's house ends with the "high grade" contents—and Harold's father-in-law's prize Christmas tree—going up in smoke. With his in-laws out of the house for the day, Harold decides to cover his tracks, rather than come clean. Reluctantly embarking on another ill-advised journey with Kumar through New York City, their search for the perfect replacement tree takes them through party heaven—and almost blows Christmas Eve sky high. “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” opens Friday.

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.


Mich Theatr

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:10 p.m.

All Family-Friendly Films in the current season can be found here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Hope to see everyone there on Sunday at 1:30!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

&quot;Purple Rain&quot; was the second movie, if I recall correctly, that has won both an Academy Award and a Grammy for the same film. Can you name the other? While at the U' in the early 80's, the film was such a cross-over hit, but those Prince fans (like me) had known about him since the previous three albums. Wow. Albums. Remember those? Brought each and everyone of them at Schoolkids Records. Love live Bergman!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

I love the burping scene in Wonka. Where is the Family Film Series located at? It is also kind of cool that Purple Rain is playing at the same theatre where it made its debut in AnnArbor.