The Michigan Theater will provide Ann Arbor area audiences a couple of special preview screenings this week.

On Monday, July 29 at 8:00 PM, AMC, the cable channel best known for “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” will provide a free, sneak peek of the first episode of AMC’s highly-anticipated original new drama series “Low Winter Sun.” The special screening will be followed by a live, in person interview with the cast and crew, including lead actors Mark Strong and Lennie James and show creator Chris Mundy. Set and filmed in Detroit, “Low Winter Sun” begins with the murder of a cop by a fellow Detroit detective. Seemingly the perfect crime, in reality the murder activates forces that will forever alter the detective’s life and pull him into the heart of the Detroit underworld. Based on the award-winning 2006 British miniseries of the same name, it stars Mark Strong (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy;” “Zero Dark Thirty”) and co-stars Lennie James (The Walking Dead, Jericho, Snatch). Chris Mundy (Criminal Minds, Cold Case) serves as writer and executive producer.  The screening and cast interview and Q&A will take place in the Michigan Theater’s historic auditorium.  Admission is free!

“The Wolverine,” this week’s Hollywood summer blockbuster film, will have a preview screening  in the Michigan Theater’s screening room, tonight, Thursday, July 25 at 7:00. Seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Opening and Playing Downtown

“Renoir,” a beautiful French film directed by Gilles Bourdos, is set on the French Riviera in the summer of 1915. It is a lushly atmospheric drama that tells the story of the celebrated Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, in declining health at age 74.  His middle son Jean (who became an acclaimed filmmaker) returns home to convalesce after being wounded in World War I. The elder Renoir is filled with a new, wholly unexpected energy when a young girl miraculously enters his world. Blazing with life, radiantly beautiful, Andrée will become his last model, and the wellspring of a remarkable rejuvenation. At the same time, Jean also falls under the spell of the free-spirited young Andrée. Their beautiful home and majestic countryside grounds reverberate with familial intrigue, as both Renoirs, père et fils, become smitten with the enchanting and headstrong young muse. “Renoir” locates a fascinating moment of change, one century’s way of thinking giving way to the next, and the passing of the torch from a great painter to the great filmmaker of such classics as “Grand Illusion” and “Rules of the Game.” “Renoir” opens for a limited run on Friday.

“Much Ado About Nothing,” Joss Whedon‘s modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about 2 pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words, is back in town at the State Theater.  Shot in just 12 days (and using the original text), the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.  It is a genuine treat. “Much Ado About Nothing” re-opens on Friday.

The Michigan Theater’s Summer Classic Film Series continues with “Rocky” on Sunday, July 28 at 1:30 PM and Tuesday, July 30 at 7:00 PM.  For Sylvester Stallone, this was a make-or-break opportunity — just like Rocky’s million-to-one shot. “Rocky” managed to register with audiences and won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Continuing at the Michigan is the summer Art House hit the everyone likes, “The Way, Way Back” a coming of age film with a great cast including Toni Collette, Steve Carell, and Sam Rockwell.  Continuing at the State is “Girl Most Likely,” “Only God Forgives” and the summer’s best documentary and an all-around great film “20 Feet From Stardom.

At Area Multiplexes

If you miss or are shut out of the sneak peek screening at the Michigan Theater’s screening room you can see “The Wolverine” starting Friday at your local multiplex. Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine in this sequel to the member of the X-Men’s first solo outing. Mark Bomback and The Usual SuspectsChristopher McQuarrie penned the script, which takes its inspiration from the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Marvel miniseries from the 1980s, dealing with the character’s adventures in Japan as he fights ninjas in the ceremonial garb of the samurai.  James Mangold (“Knight and Day”) directs.

“The To Do List” is a comedy about close friends and a special summer project, loosely inspired by the real-life adventures of first-time writer/director Maggie Carey. Set in 1993, valedictorian Brandy Klark wants to shed her uptight image before college, so she assembles a to do list of all the “activities” she missed out on in high school. Quickly realizing that she’s way out of her depth, Brandy solicits her best friends, older sister and burnt-out boss for their help and advice. If the group is going to complete the list by September they’ll need plenty of imagination and very open minds.  Cast includes Aubrey Plaza and  SNL alumni Bill Hader (Maggie Carey is Hader’s wife) and Andy Samberg.


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