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The Detroit Weekend Watchlist


In honor of the world premier of Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit, our watchlist this week is going to be focused on films that were either set in or shot in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.

Shelby Cadwell

1) True Romance (1993) - Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, this crime drama/romance has a pop culture pedigree that's difficult to top, and an impeccable cast to match it (Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, and Christopher Walken are top billed, but I'd be remiss to not mention Brad Pitt, whose cameo as a stoner roommate is hilarious). This movie has action, suspense, comedy, and as the title implies, plenty of romance. Although the film's focal characters – Clarence and Alabama – end up in LA, their love story begins in a movie theater in Detroit, situating this "true romance" in the heart of the Motor City.

Available to stream on Crackle.

2) 8 Mile (2002) - A film about rapper Eminem's life starring the "rap god" himself may not sound like a particularly promising venture, but this film is surprisingly well done. Mathers has a sort of quiet desperation that works well in the film, and Kim Basinger – playing his alcoholic mother – convincingly vacillates between bitter and doting. Both set and filmed in Detroit, 8 Mile shows both the dark side of the city - poverty, violence, drugs – and the optimism that makes Detroiters hold their heads high despite all the trouble.

Available to rent on Amazon for $3.99.

3) It Follows (2014) - This horror movie from Michigan native David Robert Mitchell includes scenes shot in Detroit, Clawson, Berkley, Northville, Sterling Heights, and Troy. Based on eerie dreams the director had as a child, the film focuses on a young girl who is "infected" with a curse to be followed by a creature that can take the shape of any person, but can only be seen by her. If the creature catches her, it will kill her. But she also learns that the curse can be passed along to another person through sexual contact. Rather than spoiling the story, I'll just say that the premise, the acting, and the directing of It Follows all work to create an unsettling and deeply disturbing story. One of the earliest scenes in the film – shot in the abandoned Packard Plant – is sure to terrify, especially if you're a Detroit-native who has spent time exploring the 'ruins' of the city.

Available to stream on Netflix.

Matt Linton

1) Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – There was a time when Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest stars on the planet. It was a long time ago. Nevertheless, the basis for that mega-stardom was a trifecta of great films – 48 Hours in 1982, Trading Places in 1983, and this film in 1984 (the highest-grossing film that year). Murphy plays Axel Foley, a smart-mouthed Detroit cop who travels to the uber-glitzy (and white) Beverly Hills to solve the murder of his childhood friend. The movie is a rare balance of action and comedy, without leaning too far in either direction. And it features an incredible chase through Detroit to kick off the film.

Available to rent on Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play Movies.

2) The Crow (1994) – Alex Proyas’ film (adapted from the comic book by James O’Barr) centers on a spectral figure who is resurrected to avenge his fiancée’s murder, as well as his own. Set (but not shot) in Detroit, the action is centered around Devil’s Night, famous at the time for being the night before Halloween, when several fires would be set around the city. It’s got great action sequences, a cool urban/gothic aesthetic, and what should have been a star-making performance by Brandon Lee.

Available to rent on Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play Movies.

3) Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) – There’s arguably nothing more “Detroit” than Motown, and this documentary celebrates the true foundation of the Motown sound – the Funk Brothers. Narrated by Andre Braugher, the film chronicles the contributions of the session band that played and recorded with some of the biggest names to come out of Motown, from the Temptations and the Four Tops to Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. Considering the number of hit songs they played on, it’s a little known story that’s well-worth checking out.

Available to rent on Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play Movies.

New in Theaters This Week . . .

[Click the posters for more information]

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