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Opening Downtown

Noam Chomsky is the subject of “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?,” the latest film from innovative director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). It is a unique animated documentary on the life of the controversial MIT professor, philosopher, linguist, anti-war activist and political firebrand. Through complex, lively conversations with Chomsky and brilliant illustrations by Gondry himself, the film reveals the life and work of the father of modern linguistics while also exploring his theories on the emergence of language. The result is not only a dazzling, vital portrait of one of the foremost thinkers of modern times, but also a beautifully animated work of art. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic says, “What emerges from the chats and the drawings and the animation is an often-fascinating glimpse at both genius and the creative process (itself a kind of genius, after all). If it sounds boring, it isn’t. If it sounds weird, it is – but weird in a good way.” “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?” plays Wednesday & Thursday, January 8 & 9 at the Michigan Theater.

“Spinning Plates” is a documentary about three extraordinary restaurants and the people who bring them to life. A world-renowned chef competes for the ultimate restaurant prize in Chicago, while privately battling a life-threatening condition. A 150-year-old restaurant in Iowa is still standing only because of an unbreakable bond with the community. And a fledgling Mexican restaurant in Tucson struggles as its owners risk everything to survive and provide for their young daughter. These compelling stories of family, legacy, passion and survival reveal how meaningful food can be, beyond mere nourishment, and how preparing and sharing food can connect us to one another. Inkoo Kang of the Village Voice says, “Splendid and engrossing … a love letter to that singular intersection of artistic innovation, cultural legacy, community pride, and family-sustaining (or -straining) commerce known as the restaurant.” “Spinning Plates” plays Monday & Tuesday, January 6 & 7 at the Michigan Theater.

New York Film Critics Screening at the Michigan

Academy Award nominees Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga star in “At Middleton” as straight-laced George and eccentric Edith, two strangers who meet on their children’s campus tour at the idyllic Middleton College. Failing comically to connect with their kids, George and Edith play hooky together, ditching the official tour for a carefree adventure reminiscent of their own college years. But what begins as an afternoon of fun soon becomes a revealing and enlightening experience that will change their lives forever. A light-hearted romance for adults on the surface, “At Middleton” is a deeply moving portrait of roads not taken and the timelessness of youth. The screening will be followed by a conversation via Skype conducted by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone with actors Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia, and director Adam Rogers. “At Middleton” plays Tuesday, January 21 at 8 PM.

Continuing Downtown

Golden Globe-nominee “Saving Mr. Banks,” starring an all-star cast headlined by Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and  Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, is inspired by the untold story of how Disney’s classic film “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen—and the testy relationship that Disney had with Travers that almost derailed it. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap says,  “What could have merely been a studio’s love letter to itself winds up being a meditation on the power that art has for artists as a way to exorcise the past.” “Saving Mr. Banks” continues at the Michigan Theater.

Golden Globe-nominee “American Hustle” tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine says, “Reveling in its ’70s milieu and in the eternal abrasion of sexy women and covetous men, ‘American Hustle’ is an urban eruption of flat-out fun – the sharpest, most exhilarating comedy in years.” Also starring Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner, “American Hustle” continues at the State Theatre.

Opening at the Multiplex

“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” a spin-off of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, follows a young man named Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) as he’s designated for possession by the same malevolent demon from the previous films. The story begins at a party in June 2012. After a woman dies in the apartment beneath the party, some party goers set out with a camera to investigate, and discover items associated with black magic rituals. When Jesse discovers an inhuman bite mark on his arm, strange forces pursue him while his loved ones attempt to save him. “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” opens Friday.

See you at the movies!