'Frankenweenie,' 'Alice in Wonderland 3D' and more at the movies this week
“Frankenweenie,” based on Tim Burton’s 1984 short film, is a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life-with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor's fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new "leash on life" can be monstrous. Justin Chang from Variety says, “This beautifully designed canine-resurrection saga feels, somewhat fittingly, stitched together from stray narrative parts, but nonetheless evinces a level of discipline and artistic coherence missing from the director's recent live-action efforts.” “Frankenweenie” opens Friday.
“Taken 2” picks up where the first film left off. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) gets a surprise visit from his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), but the happy reunion turns sour when Lenore is taken hostage and Kim is forced to go on the run. Mills must once again utilize all his lethal skills to rescue them and eliminate any who are seeking revenge against him. “Taken 2” opens Friday.
In “Butter,” the local butter-carving champions, the Picklers (Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell), see their reign threatened by the emergence of a new, young, carving talent (Yara Shahadi). Although the satire at the core of the film is rather lightweight, it is an entertaining and perfectly paced comedy brought to life by one of the year’s best ensemble casts, which also features Alicia Silverstone, Ashley Greene, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde and Rob Corddry. “Butter” opens Friday at the Michigan Theater.
Also playing at the Michigan: the poetic and controversial documentary “Detropia.” Continuing, but soon to leave town, is Mike Birbiglia’s clever comedy “Sleepwalk With Me,” the music mystery documentary that everyone loves “Searching for Sugar Man,” and the Richard Gere’s thriller “Arbitrage.” Check michtheater.org for where and when these films are playing.
Special screenings downtown
The Manhattan Short Film Festival returns to Ann Arbor! An extraordinary global event in which more than 100,000 people in more than 300 cities across six continents gather in cinemas, galleries, universities, museums and cafes during the week of Sept. 28 - Oct. 7 for one purpose: to view and vote on the Finalists’ Films in the Annual Manhattan Short Film Festival. Upon entry at all participating venues, festival attendees are handed a voting card and an official program and asked to vote for the one film they feel should win. Votes are tallied by each host venue then emailed to the festival’s NYC headquarters. The Manhattan Short Film Festival plays tonight, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.
“Her Telling Heart,” based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, has its gala premiere screening this weekend. The screening also features a reading of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Michigan actress Barbara Coven-Ellis. A post-screening Q&A with actress/writer/director Heidi Philipsen-Meissner and director of photography Patrick Elliot follows the film premiere and reading. “Her Telling Heart” plays on Saturday, October 6 at 1 p.m.
The Toyota Family Friendly Film Series continues with “Alice in Wonderland 3D”! Director Tim Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) team up to deliver this visually dazzling take on the classic Lewis Carroll tale. “Alice in Wonderland 3D” plays Oct. 7 at 1:30 and admission is free for kids 12 and under.
The Agnieszka Holland Film Retrospective wraps up with three screenings and a conversation with Agnieszka Holland herself. A double feature of “Total Eclipse,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and based on a 1967 play by Christopher Hampton, plays Sunday, Oct. 7 at 4:30. Following that “Copying Beethoven,” starring Ed Harris and Diane Kruger plays Sunday, Oct. 7 at 7:30. On Wednesday, Oct .10 at 5 p.m., Agnieszka Holland herself will give the Copernicus Lecture. Following the lecture her film “In Darkness,” which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, will be screened at 7 p.m. All the film screenings and the lecture itself are free and open to the public.
The Motor City Movies: Discovering Detroit series continues with “The Myth of the American Sleepover.” Set in Detroit area suburbs it is a tender coming-of-age drama from first-time writer/director David Robert Mitchell. In the tradition of free-wheeling tributes to adolescence like “Dazed & Confused,” the film follows four young people on the last night of summer - their final night of freedom before the new school year starts. “The Myth of the American Sleepover” plays Monday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.
See you at the movies!
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.