February is the month for love in all of its syrupy forms — and our list of cinematic valentines is packed tighter than a chocolate box. Though lacking in stories actually about love, each one of these movies is perfect for a date or a solo outing that might lead to your meeting someone afterward in the lobby. Take a chance, kids! Here, in chronological order, are the top ten film events in Denver this month.
10. Hail, Caesar!
Opens Friday, February 5, at a theater near you
After thirty years of their films, it should be a national holiday whenever the Coen Brothers release a new one into the world. Alas, our government has yet to recognize their work — but fans still clamor for the weirdo spins that the Coens bring to each and every one of their pictures. Their seventeenth movie, Hail Caesar!, turns its kooky camera back on Hollywood to tell the tasty tale of an epic film shoot in a 1950s Tinseltown thrown into a tizzy when its biggest star, played by George Clooney, is kidnapped for ransom. Featuring an all-star cast featuring Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill and more. Everyone's around to see just where this screwball investigation is headed. Find theaters and showtimes at fandango.com.
9. Denver Jewish Film Festival
February 10 through February 21
Mizel Arts & Culture Center
For twenty years, the Denver Jewish Film Festival has presented scores of films that celebrate the meaning of being Jewish and also explore the differences that come with the faith. This year’s fest may be the biggest yet, with a salute to the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) that's part of a special focus on “arts and culture.” See the full program and get tickets at maccjcc.org.
8. Midnight Madness: The Hunger
Midnight Friday, February 12, and Saturday, February 13
David Bowie tributes are flying fast and furious around theaters as fans continue to grieve his passing. The most delicious Bowie film may well be Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire tale The Hunger. The late starman plays John Blaylock who, along with his gorgeous wife, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve), paint the town red looking for blood to keep up their youthful facades. When the pert Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) enters their lives, she brings a score of beautiful complications. The film is a masterpiece in mood, style and heat, and most of that is from Bowie, who continues to mystify and enchant without singing a single word in this modern, gothic masterpiece. Tickets at landmarktheaters.com.
7. Scream Screen: When Animals Attack
9:30 p.m. Saturdays, February 13 though March 5
Best Bloodthirsty Horror Host and notable animal lover Theresa Mercado is back with Scream Screen, her horror series at the Sie, and this month she’s making sure that animals get their due with her special salute to the sweet aggressions that our four-legged pals have toward us all. First up is Monkey Shines, George Romero’s non-zombie tale of a paraplegic whose relationship with his helper monkey turns out just as well as can be expected. The series continues with all of God’s creatures attacking a dumb couple in Long Weekend, a rabid St. Bernard attacking a mother and son in Cujo, and a bullied misfit leading an army of rats against his enemies in Willard. Enjoy these furry tales on the big screen and you’ll be convinced that, yes, your cat really is thinking about how it’s going to eat you the minute you fall ill or lower your defenses. Get tickets at denverfilm.org.
6. Denver Actors Fund: Heathers
6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 14
Well, fuck us gently with a chainsaw: This month the Alamo has teamed up with the Denver Actors Fund to start a new film series and give back to our community at the same time. Due to a slew of red tape around the rights to the movie, the 1988 cult hit Heathers hasn’t seen a screen in over two decades — but this is a special occasion, and director Michael Lehmann will be at the Alamo not only to present the film, but to watch scenes from an upcoming musical production of the movie, one that defined and inspired a generation of outcasts to tear down their idols (without homicide, hopefully) and remember: “Teenage suicide, don’t do it!” The new Denver Actors Fund series will raise monies (50 percent of all box office) for medical needs of actors in Denver’s theatrical community. Get tickets at drafthouse.com.
Keep reading for five more of the best film events in Denver this month.
5. Church of Coen: A Serious Man
8 p.m., Sunday, February 14
Syntax Physic Opera
Speaking of the Coen Brothers, Church of Coen — a free, ambitious series that pops up the second Sunday of every month — has been presenting the Coens' canon over the past year in chronological order. Not including Hail, Caesar!, there are three more to go: True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis and the quiet, masterful A Serious Man. This dark comedy follows a put-upon teacher whose world begins to unravel as he dives deep within his Jewish faith for help that may only come the deeper he sinks. As is customary at the Church of Coen, the February 7 screening of A Serious Man will be preceded by a musical selection tied to the film, this time by Megan Fong of M.Florea. The screening is free, so arrive early for a seat. Find more info via the Church’s Facebook page.
4. The Witch
Opens Friday, February 19, at a theater near you
Modern horror filmmaking takes a less-is-more approach that's resulted in some great movies over the last couple of years — Trick ‘R Treat, You’re Next, The Babadook, It Follows — and advance buzz suggests that The Witch will be the next terror-ific movie to shred your nerves. The feature debut from Robert Eggers, The Witch transports us to New England circa 1630, where a family must make a new life on a small property that sits at the edge of a malevolent forest. Dread sets in, and before you know it, the animals are acting creepy, one of the children goes missing, and all literal hell breaks loose. Will this film become the next Exorcist? It's spent the last year bubbling into a rolling boil at film festivals everywhere, leaving viewers screaming like hot tea kettles. Find theaters and showtimes at fandango.com.
3. Rolling Papers
Opens Friday, February 19
Sure, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2012 was a huge deal, and the story was covered by every major news organization in North America — but legalization also changed mainstream journalism when the Denver Post launched The Cannabist, a news section devoted to covering cannabis. Local filmmaker Mitch Dickman’s Rolling Papers focuses on charismatic editor Ricardo Baca as he leads a group of writers through the new world of reporting on pot 24/7, covering everything from false THC measurements to how other states are juggling their own legalization transitions and woes. Rolling Papers is the best of homegrown cinema: a true tale about some of Colorado's most interesting personalities, made and shot by some of the state’s best film storytellers. Light it up and pass it around when the doc hits town this month. Get tickets and showtimes at denverfilm.org.
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2. Metropolis, with live score by Loanword
Special Encore Show 2 p.m. Sunday, February 21
There’s something about Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film classic that lends itself to constant musical interpretation. from Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 score to at least two live versions that came through Denver over the past year. So what makes this screening stand out? For one, it will be presented on 16mm film, a format that rarely gets love in these digital days; for another, the live score by Loanword, the outfit of Billy Overton and the wonderful Paul Buscarello, promises to be a one-of-a-kind treat. Buscarello is a talented young Denver musician and songwriter whose fresh talents have transformed the live-film-scoring game around these parts. Gone are the days of the one-man piano tickling: Although Buscarello brings that, he also adds a cache of other unique sounds and devices to take Lang’s cinematic tale and give it a modern spin all its own. The February 3 screening sold out, so the Sie added this second show; get tickets at denverfilm.org.
1. Kumiko the Treasure Hunter with the Zellner Brothers
7:15 p.m., Thursday, February 25
One of 2015’s best, but sadly unseen, films was Kumiko the Treasure Hunter. Telling the curious tale of a lowly Japanese office girl (Rinko Kikuchi) who becomes obsessed with the Coen Brothers' Fargo and reads into its “based on a true story” tag that the satchel of money buried by Steve Buscemi at the film’s end is buried treasure. With nothing to lose, she sets off for North Dakota, where cultural differences and a slightly cracked psyche make for one of cinema’s most thrilling, original adventures. It's written and directed by another set of bros, David and Nathan Zellner, who put their own spin on the bizarro true story of a Japanese woman who came to North Dakota for the same reason and died in the snow during her treasure hunt. The Zellners will be at the Alamo to talk about Kumiko and also introduce their favorite Werner Herzog film, Stroszek, which inspired their ambitious filmmaking dreams. Get tickets at drafthouse.com.