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Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Ann Arbor-themed 'Answer This!,' silent classic 'Nosferatu,' a new '3 Musketeers,' and more 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.


A scene from "Answer This!"

Ann Arbor has been used as a movie set for many recent films. It stood in for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in “Cedar Rapids”; most recently, Ann Arbor served as several stops on the campaign trail in George Clooney’s “The Ides of March.” But in the very well-made and wonderfully enjoyable “Answer This!,” Ann Arbor is celebrated!

Writer/director Chris Farah and producer Mike Farah grew up in Ann Arbor. They both now live in California and have found success in the film industry in LA, but they came back to town to make this great-looking feature-length film. Personally, I think “Answer This!” is the best film ever shot and made in and around Ann Arbor, and it celebrates the character and nature of our town. “Answer This!” captures the look and feel of Tree Town beautifully. It is a not-to-be-missed film event.

Set at the University of Michigan in the world of competitive pub trivia, "Answer This!" is the story of a boy finally coming of age—when he's 30. The plot swirls around the brilliant trivia whiz Paul Tarson (Christopher Gorham). Paul is great at answering life's little questions, but horrible at answering the big ones—like what's he going to do after grad school? His disapproving professor father (Ralph Williams), though loving, is not much help. So Paul and his friends James (Nelson Franklin) and Izzy (Evan Jones) focus their smarts and skills at nerdy redemption when they enter the biggest challenge of their lives... a citywide pub trivia tournament, hosted by one Brian Collins (Chris Parnell). Among the academic travails and trivia, Paul falls for Naomi (Arielle Kebbel), a smart young undergrad who is also his student.  Her carefree, positive outlook opens his eyes on his town, his life and his plans.  “Answer This!” opens Friday at the Michigan Theater.

The Sunday, Oct. 23 screening of “Answer This!” at 7 p.m. will also include "A Night with Funny Or Die" and will feature exclusive never-before-seen clips from the celebrity comedy website, with a Q & A and appearance by “Saturday Night Live” alum Chris Parnell.

Also opening downtown

Inspired by a true story, “50/50” is a story about friendship, love, survival and finding humor in unlikely places. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star as best friends whose lives are changed by a cancer diagnosis in this comedy directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”) from a script by Will Reiser, partly based on Reiser’s own personal experience, as he was diagnosed with cancer while he was an associate producer on the HBO comedy series "Da Ali G Show.” “50/50” opens Friday at the State Theatre.

“Love Crime,” the final film from director Alain Corneau (“Tous les matins du monde”), pits the fiery talents of Ludivine Sagnier and Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas against each other in a deliciously twisted tale of office politics that turn, literally, cut-throat. When Christine, a powerful executive (Scott Thomas), brings on a naive young ingénue, Isabelle (Sagnier), as her assistant, she delights in toying with her naiveté and teaching her hard lessons in a ruthless professional philosophy. But when the protege's ideas become tempting enough for Christine to pass off one as her own, she underestimates Isabelle's ambition and cunning and the ground is set for all-out war. Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer says, “Corneau, a veteran of police procedurals and workplace dramas, skillfully plays out the scenarios of gamesmanship and humiliation, backstabbing and catfighting.” “Love Crime” opens Sunday at the Michigan Theater.

Special screenings

Tonight is the second in a series of archival films from 50 years of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, featuring a program of short archival films selected and presented by guest curator Mark Toscano, film preservationist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The AAFF 50th: Retrospective Series plays tonight at 7 p.m. at the Michigan Theater.

The UM Nam Center for Korean Studies and the Michigan Theater are proud to present a double feature of two important Korean films that played a crucial role in developing Korean cinema, “Sweet Dream” (1936) & “Madame Freedom” (1956). This double feature screens Saturday, October 22 at 2 p.m.

The Michigan Theater’s tribute to Stanley Kubrick continues with “Spartacus.” This presentation of the powerful classic features an additional five minutes of footage cut from the film’s original release, plus the original overture and extended soundtrack. Director Kubrick tells the tale of Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), the bold gladiator slave, and Varinia (Jean Simmons), the woman who believed in his cause. Challenged by the power-hungry General Crassus (Laurence Olivier), Spartacus is forced to face his convictions and the power of Imperial Rome at its glorious height.  “Spartacus” plays Monday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.

Halloween movie tradition

An Ann Arbor tradition continues this week with “Nosferatu”! This F.W. Murnau classic silent film was one of the first vampire movies ever made and was recently ranked twenty-first in Empire Magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema." The film is about a real estate agent (Gustav von Wangenheim) who begins conducting business with the eerie Count Orlok (the beyond-creepy Max Schreck), who goes on a rampage when he becomes obsessed with the man's beautiful wife (Greta Schröder). This very special presentation will have live organ accompaniment on the Michigan Theater’s grand Barton Organ by the Michigan’s gifted organist, Stephen Ball. Roger Ebert said it best: “It doesn't scare us, but it haunts us. It shows not that vampires can jump out of shadows, but that evil can grow there, nourished on death.” “Nosferatu” plays Thursday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Opening at the cineplex

In “The Three Musketeers” the hot-headed D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) joins forces with three rogue Musketeers (Matthew MacFadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson) in this reboot of Alexandre Dumas' classic story. They must stop the evil Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and face off with Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) and the treacherous Milady (Milla Jovovich).  Presented in 3D, “The Three Musketeers” opens Friday.

“Johnny English Reborn” returns Rowan Atkinson to the role of the improbable secret agent who doesn't know fear or danger in the comedy spy-thriller. In his latest adventure, the most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty's Secret Service must stop a group of international assassins before they eliminate a world leader and cause global chaos. “Johnny English Reborn” opens Friday.

“Paranormal Activity 3” continues the horror franchise, but this time Oren Peli and Jason Blum return to produce the highly secretive feature, with “Catfish” directing duo of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman taking on the helming duties. The film is envisioned as an origin story set in the 1980s. Joe Leydon of Variety says the film “…earns points for its low-key ability to keep viewers primed over long stretches to expect that something very bad, or even worse, may happen at any moment.” “Paranormal Activity 3” 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.


Jim and Janice Leach

Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

Nosferatu remains an enduring classic, if for no other reason than how it resolves the central problem of all vampire movies, that is, how can an undead creature of the night do something as ungainly as crawl out of a coffin without looking like an awkward scramble. Lugosi's Dracula, as I recall, resolves the problem in a different, far less cinematic way with a demure cut-away, but Nosferatu's full-figure, effortless rise is worth the price of admission. Sure, you've seen it in a hundred other movies, but this is the original and for my money the best. -Jim-


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

Answer This! is pure comedy and very well done.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

I got to see Answer This! both at the Michigan Theater world premiere last year, and at the red carpet premiere at Emagine Royal Oak last week. Great movie, and great showcasing of Ann Arbor!

Erich Jensen

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

Having seen Answer This, totally agree with Russ's opening comment, and it's fun to pick out the venues and logical/illogical sequencing of them.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

I had the opportunity to see "Answer This!" at the Michigan Theater during the advanced screening. Definitely a great movie on its own. The fact that it is set in, and as the author states celebrates Ann Arbor, only made it that much more enjoyable for me as a local yokel.

Tea Haus Lover

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

Great movie lineup this week! Definitely seeing the special screening of "Answer This!" on Sunday. Thanks, Russ!