Movies to Catch in Theaters this December in Ann Arbor

The Boy and the Heron

Hayao Miyazaki has returned from retirement to make “The Boy and the Heron.” The storyline has similarities to Totoro but with a little darker edge. A young boy, Mahito, witnesses the bombing of a hospital during World War II where his mother is a patient. A few months later he moves to the countryside with his father and new stepmother. Mahito must come to terms with his mother’s death and his new family. Like Totoro, there is a lot of magic with moments of humor, although the story is ultimately a study on mortality. Magical worlds and real life intersect for these characters and give them deeper insights into their own lives. 

Opens at the State Theatre Dec. 8.


Bradley Cooper’s follow-up to his directorial debut, “A Star Is Born” (2018), is finally here. “Maestro” is the story of famed conductor Leonard Bernstein and focuses in equal parts on his career and his marriage to Felicia Montealegre which was fraught with tension due to his immersion in work and his affairs with men. The film spans the beginnings of his career in the 1940s and 50s, filmed in black and white, through the 60s and 70s, filmed in bright colors, and beyond. This one is sure to garner some Oscar nominations, particularly for Carey Mulligan in the role of Bernstein’s wife. 

Opens at the Michigan Theater Dec. 7.

Dream Scenario

“Dream Scenario” is a strange head-trip comedy that touches on our current obsession with instant fame, sudden cancellation, and all that happens in-between. Nicholas Cage stars as mild-mannered professor, Paul Matthews, who becomes famous for an unlikely reason — then begins appearing in everyone’s dreams. He doesn’t even do anything in these dreams, he’s just kind of there, hence, he is famous for nothing. Michael Cera plays Trent, the head of a marketing firm specializing in viral trends. While Paul sees this as an opportunity to study this phenomenon and publish his findings, Trent wants him to be a spokesperson for Sprite. Things get stranger yet when his presence in people’s dreams becomes sinister and public affection wears off. Cage dials down his usual intensity for this role, and Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli examines our consumer culture as only someone from the outside can. There’s a Spike Jones surrealist style here, not unlike “Being John Malkovich,” and a heap of praise so far from critics. 

Now playing at the State Theatre.

Poor Things

This is the first feature from Yorgos Lanthimos since his 2018 triumph, “The Favorite.” Based on a book by Alasdair Gray, “Poor Things” is best described as a riff on Frankenstein with Emma Stone as Belle, the girl who is saved from death and recreated by Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) — a man she calls God. Soon she falls for a conman named Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) and runs away with him — in essence leaving the Garden of Eden. This is a film about how men attempt to control women through bodily autonomy, financial imprisonment, and more. Possibly one of the most provocative and creative films, both visually and story wise, this year.  

Opens at the Michigan Theater Dec. 22.

Free Christmas films from Michigan Theater

Once again Michigan Theater offers a free holiday classics series. If you’d like to see The Grinch,” Dec. 10, or “Home Alone,” Dec. 17, go to Michigan Theater’s website and order them while they last!

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