In the world of cinema, May brings us the official slide-into-summer movie season, when the big-ticket blockbusters share screen space with little art-house flicks and classics to keep every theater – whether a multiplex or a twin cinemathèque – poppin’ like the corn at the concession stand. Here are the ten best film events in Denver this May, in chronological order.
1. A Film For All Seasons: Revolutionary Classics Part I
Wednesdays beginning May 3, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Landmark Theaters’ A Film for All Seasons has brought top-notch programming that dives into rewarding topics to the Esquire. Last season’s edition brought a stellar selection of women-themed films; this spring’s selections showcase American films that weave the United States' most intriguing politics, struggles and cultural moments into a fascinating tapestry of Americana. With views on Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl in The Grapes of Wrath, Kubrick’s nuclear comedy Dr. Strangelove, race relations in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, the television-news opus of Network and the union fable Norma Rae wrapping up the month, viewers will be treated to a bevy of American flashpoint histories. The theme continues in June with Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, the dystopian 1984, and gay drag fantasia To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Get your tickets at landmarktheaters.com. Watch the series trailer here.
Opens May 5
Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) returns with perhaps the most intimate portrait of Wikileaks editor Julian Assange ever filmed. Granted unprecedented access to the polarizing figure, Poitras was with Assange during every step of the 2016 presidential campaign, filming under intense scrutiny from the U.S. government – making this documentary both personal and timely. Poitras pulled the film just weeks ago in order to re-edit it after Attorney General Jeff Sessions's latest claims that prosecuting Assange is of the “highest priority." What will the doc reveal when it is finally released that Wikileaks has not? The world is waiting to know. Get tickets at denverfilm.org. Watch the Risk trailer here.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Opens May 5
Denver area theaters
Writer/director James Gunn’s first foray into the Marvel Universe, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, was a runaway hit and considered by many comic-book fans to be the perfect interpretation of characters, fun and storylines that yet hadn't emerged since the studio began throwing its historic properties on screen roughly a decade ago. The science-fiction comedy is hard not to love with its cast of singular Guardians – a ragtag group of intergalactic misfits including a talking tree and a pissed-off raccoon soldier – led by Chris Pratt’s charismatic space brat Starlord, who in this new chapter will discover the origin of his real parents while facing an onslaught of new enemies and allies from the far corners of the universe. This new entry promises an all-new soundtrack of classic American pop-rock hits – one of the original’s greatest additions – to make every space battle just as enjoyable as the popcorn in your lap. Buy tickets at fandango.com. Watch the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer here.
4. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
May 5-6, 12 a.m.
In 1970, Roger Ebert teamed up with notorious smut director Russ Meyer (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Mudhoney) to produce a big-budget film for Hollywood heavy 20th Century Fox. Ebert wrote a screenplay that was a sequel to the studio’s 1967 hit film Valley of the Dolls about a female music group devoured by fame and its many temptations. With Meyer at the helm, Beyond was destined to become a brazen, raw movie that left any controversies related to its predecessor in the dust. This story is about yet another music trio hitting fame and taking decadence to the nth degree, with women playing men, lesbian sex scenes, gun fellatio and more. Beyond’s screenplay presented a bizarre side of film critic Ebert, who seemed to come alive working with his pal Meyer, a friendship built on the duo’s mutual appreciation of very large-breasted women and a desire to push America’s mores to their limits. Ultimately, the film may have been too "beyond." Ebert never wrote another screenplay, and Meyer returned to his indie sex-film roots, leaving behind this taboo testament to a bizarre moment in time. Get tickets for the film at landmarktheaters.com. Watch the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls trailer here.
5. Wall Writers
May 6, 7 p.m.
As part of the MCA's exhibit of the same name, the Sie presents Wall Writers, a new documentary, narrated by John Waters, that explores the history of graffiti writers and artists from their catalogued inception on the streets of Philadelphia and New York City from 1967 to 1973. Highlighting interviews with the art form’s originators – many appearing for the first time on camera – the film shows graffiti’s emergence through stories of urban decay, angry politicians and the journalists ready to cover one of the biggest art movements of the twentieth century. As an added treat for this screening, director Roger Gastman will be joined by infamous artists TAKI 183, MIKE 171, SJK 171, SNAKE 1, WICKED GARY and others for a spirited Q&A session after the film.
Grab your tickets at denverfilm.org. Watch the Wall Writers trailer here.
6. Film on the Rocks – Superbad
May 15, 7 p.m.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison
The best outdoor movie experience in Colorado, Film on the Rocks, is celebrating its eighteenth birthday of screening popular film hits for thousands of people in one of nature’s greatest venues. As this new season showcases ten films running the gamut from adolescence to adulthood, what better way to celebrate that transition than with a screening of Greg Motolla’s 2007 hit Superbad? The comedy stars Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Emma Stone playing teens just trying to grow up while overcoming awkwardness. That struggle is absent from the rest of the Film on the Rocks season, which this month also includes the latest Star Wars episode Rogue One and the Colorado premiere of Long Strange Trip, an epic documentary on Red Rocks alumni the Grateful Dead, which will be preceded by a musical tribute to the legendary rockers. As always, each film at Film on the Rocks includes local bands and comedians who entertain the crowds as they wait for the sun to go down so that the film can roll and our dream movie screen under the stars can flicker to life again. Buy tickets and see the full summer schedule at denverfilm.org. Watch the Superbad trailer here.
7. Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake Grand Opening
Alamo Sloan's Lake
4255 West Colfax Avenue
Nearly four years in the making, the Alamo Drafthouse is finally expanding beyond its first Colorado location deep in Littleton with a new flagship in Denver along the West Colfax corridor. The new Alamo Sloan's Lake is the first big piece of a major redevelopment of the historic neighborhood and the first cinema – complete with famed food service right to your seat and a strict no-talking/no-texting policy alongside quality programming – to ensconce itself in that part of town. Boasting eight screens of state-of-the-art 4K movie magic (but sadly no 35mm for true film cineastes), the theater is poised to welcome the many fans it gained in Littleton and introduce many more to the legend of the Alamo Drafthouse name, which has been enchanting viewers in more cities than ever before. Alongside the theater experience, the Alamo will open the doors to Barfly, its highly designed tavern that nods to the Beat poets who once roamed the dirty streets and bars on Colfax, with themed art and a special stage featuring a rotating slate of performers to keep things moving for guests before or after the film. The theater officially opens on May 15, but folks can experience a “soft opening,” as the venue trains its waitstaff and seasons its kitchen, with a full slate of screenings starting on May 11. Reserve your seats and peruse the menu at drafthouse.com.
8. Reel Social Club Shorts Fest
Presented by LivWell Enlightened Health, the second annual Reel Social Club Shorts Fest brings dozens of short films to the Sie FilmCenter for two days of bite-sized but ultimately satisfying cinema. With themed packages of films, an opening/closing night, a late-night program, digital animations, music videos and a special tribute to the early short works of auteur David Lynch, the RSC Shorts Fest is Denver’s best bet for a watch-apalooza of the world’s greatest flicks for people with short attention spans. Get a festival pass or tickets at denverfilm.org.
9. Alien: Covenant
Opens May 19
Denver area theaters
Despite a lukewarm reception to Prometheus, director Ridley Scott’s 2012 return to the Alien franchise that he first launched in 1979, early word on this new entry – a followup to Prometheus and a continuation of the prequel to his original sci-fi horror masterpiece – is that it has everything that fans want, which seems to namely be aliens, aliens, aliens! Word on the Hollywood street is that Scott is so excited to be exploring the early universe that brought us ultimately to Alien that he has a few chapters in mind to keep people coming back to the well for future frights. Here’s hoping Covenant can match even a tenth of the original’s tension, originality and terror. Buy tickets at fandango.com. Watch the Alien: Covenant trailer here.
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Opens May 26
TBD Landmark Theater
What do you want the world to know about you after you die? Vanessa Gould’s (Between the Folds) eye-opening documentary follows the small group of obituary writers at the New York Times who report about the good, the bad, the special moments, the meaningful milestones and family lineages of the recently deceased and turn those investigations into some of the most concise and interesting obits to appear in print. The documentary is sure to answer these questions: How do you illuminate the lives and achievements of strangers? What is the legacy that you wish to leave behind? Get tickets at landmarktheatres.com. Watch the Obit trailer here.