Hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks and heat will always stamp our memories of summer, but it may be those moments we spend inside the refuge of our favorite movie theaters — scientifically cooled by refrigeration — that leave our minds and imaginations racing like a kid headed toward a water slide. Dive in, Denver: Here are your ten best bets for silver-screen satisfaction this month, in chronological order.
Opens July 1
Landmark’s Mayan Theater
It sounds too crazy to be true: Pop-culture journalist David Farrier, known for his “quirky” profiles on people, places and things, discovers a website that specializes in the world of “competitive tickling” — attractive, clothed men sitting on other attractive men and tickling them into hysterics — and sets out to interview the site’s queenpin, a woman named Jane O’Brien. What happens next is unexpected: O’Brien shuts down the request and begins a severe retaliation for the inquiry, which makes Farrier even more curious about just what the hell is going on in this bizarre sport. While trying to work his way to the truth (along with co-director Dylan Reeve), Farrier meets former tickle subjects who discuss just how weird the sport is and reveal how they were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to be subjected to tickling. But as the filmmakers dig deeper, things turn from kooky to sinister: The inevitable unveiling of O’Brien and her tickle empire may be the most shocking plot twist you’ve seen in a documentary in years. The film was a hit on this year’s film-festival circuit, where it pushed so many buttons that subjects in the film began showing up at screenings and confronting Farrier. Will you be tickled or terrified by what you see? Get your tickets at landmarktheaters.com.
9. Swiss Army Man
Opens July 1
Area movie theaters
One of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance was this offbeat story about Hank, a suicidal young man (indie darling Paul Dano), who finds the bloated corpse of another young man, Manny (Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe), washed up on a beach. That plot line provides enough fodder for a dozen art-house dramas, but it’s where Swiss Army Man goes — with the help of directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, or the Daniels, for short — that’s the real rub. The corpse seems to be alive and willing to talk to Hank (or Hank is wildly imagining the whole scenario) and helps rescue him from being stranded in the wilderness via his dead body’s flatulence, rigor mortis and boners. What follows is actually a sincere, heartwarming buddy comedy that is Weekend at Bernie’s magnified through an existential lens. It may not be for everyone, but it's definitely one of the strangest yet most endearing films you'll see in this summer of blockbusters. Get your tickets at fandango.com.
8. Maximum Bondage
Sunday, July 3 at 4:45 p.m., and subsequent Sundays
For a couple of months, the Alamo has been running James Bond classics on Sunday afternoons — though starting at 007 o’clock would be more appropriate. But July’s selections — Octopussy (July 3), A A View to a Kill (July 10), The Living Daylights (July 17), Tomorrow Never Dies (July 24) and The World Is Not Enough (July 31) are some of the series' most festive, with the revolving door of kooky Roger Moore, wooden Timothy Dalton and charmer Pierce Brosnan all on shaken, not stirred super-spy duty. This handful of Bond bests also includes some of the canon’s most varied Bond babes, with Grace Jones, Maud Adams, Tanya Roberts, Maryam D’abo, Teri Hatcher, Michelle Yeoh and, as a nuclear physicist in her greatest role, Denise Richards. Reserve your seats at drafthouse.com.
Opens July 8
In 1995, director Todd Solondz burst on the scene with Welcome to the Dollhouse, a gently nihilistic tale of lil’ Dawn Weiner — a disliked and put-upon suburban tween perfectly realized by actress Heather Matarazzo — trying to survive an adolescence of crushes, popularity and sibling rivalry. Solondz’s sincerity in subjecting Dawn to some truly dark places set the stage for the director’s future hits (Happiness, Dark Horse) and for his eventual return to Dawn’s story (though her funeral was revealed in 2004’s Palindromes). His new film uses an anthology format to follow a lost dachshund bouncing among oddball owners — including an adult Dawn (played by Greta Gerwig) — whose lives are changed by meeting the pup. For the Love of Benji this ain't, though, and Solondz has quite a few awkward things to show us since he last made us a little uncomfortable watching a film. Get ready, and get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
6. The Wailing
Opens July 8
For whatever reason, living in the shadow of batshit-crazy North Korea has had a positive creative effect on the filmmakers of South Korea. The country’s best visionaries — Park Chan-Wook, Kim Ki-Duk, Bong Joon-Ho and many others — have mastered the art of the taut thriller. Now Na Hong-Jin joins their ranks with his fifth film, The Wailing, a genre-bender that starts as a disease thriller but quickly turns into a cop procedural-slash-horror tale that has been a hit with audiences the world over. Don’t let its 156-minute running time freak you out; that’s still not as long as the latest Captain America film, and it will most certainly take you someplace you’ve never been before. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org
5. Roseanne for President
Opens July 15; Roseanne Barr in person July 16
Decades after changing the face of television with her hit sitcom, comedian Roseanne Barr set forth to become a viable presidential candidate in the 2012 election. She brought the issues she'd introduced in her show — family, class, race, gender, gay rights — to the forefront of a campaign that stressed the weaknesses of a broken two-party system. Documenting what inspired her idea to run, the application process and, more important, the campaign itself to its final conclusion, the film shows what happens when an individual who represents the American dream in all of its colors makes a bid for the highest post in the land. It could happen to you, it really could.
Barr, a former resident of Denver, will be at the show at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 16, to talk about the film and dispel any rumors that she's endorsed Trump. The truth is more interesting than you think. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
Opens July 15
Area movie theaters
After months and months of production, post-production, speculation, controversy, damnation and more, D-Day for Paul Feig’s all-female reboot of the classic 1984 supernatural comedy is finally here. Chances are we’ll all be scratching our heads at the fuss on July 16, wondering why a big-budget comedy starring a cast of beloved A-list actresses hit such a nerve before a single frame had even been filmed. Men’s groups (ugh) bemoaned the film’s need to be recast with comedy queens Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, with many claiming that this reboot was going to destroy the childhoods of millions and cause mass hysteria — dogs and cats living together! The film’s first trailer (the more well-received international trailer can be viewed above) even became the most “disliked” trailer in YouTube history, though conspiracy nuts smell a rat in the crunching of those numbers. Feig’s previous efforts with McCarthy — Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy — have all struck comedy gold, so why should this film, with even more female comedy power, be any different? In any case, remember that the original Ghostbusters films will not evaporate on July 15 — and even if this one stinks, Hollywood is working on at least 200 other reboots, remakes and rejiggerings. Find theaters and tickets at fandango.com.
3. Cinema Q
July 21 through July 24
After the biggest month of gay pride on record, the Denver Film Society's Cinema Q Film Festival will continue to tell the stories of the LGBTQI community. Kicking off the four-day fest is Strike a Pose, a new documentary that shines a light on the seven male dancers who joined Madonna for her legendary Blond Ambition 1990 tour (famously chronicled in the 1991 film Truth or Dare), and what has become of them 25 years later. The film will be followed by a vogue-tastic opening-night party in Henderson’s Lounge in the Sie’s lobby. Over the next four days, Cinema Q will offer a variety of programs exploring all angles of the GLBTQ spectrum — twelve features, a shorts collection and a hot-button panel, as well as a 25th-anniversary screening of Gus Van Sant’s queer love letter My Own Private Idaho, which stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as a pair of Portland hustlers whose relationship is strained by the highs and lows of life on the streets.
The fest will welcome a handful of in-person guests with their works: Lazy Eye (director Tim Kirkman), Political Animals (director Jonah Markowitz), Women Who Kill (director Ingrid Jungermann) and Bed Buddies (director Reid Waterer). Director Cecilia Aldarondo and subject Nylda Dieppa will close out the festival with their documentary Memories of a Penitent Heart, which chronicles an investigation into the filmmaker’s family and an ugly conflict that grew at its core. The panel discussion will feature Los Angeles Film Festival director of programming Roya Rastegar and award-winning filmmakers Jungermann and Jessica Devaney, who will discuss the state of — and frustrations with — lesbian cinema, an often scarce and complicated film genre; Denver writer and film critic Lisa Kennedy will moderate the panel. See the full film lineup and get tickets at denverfilm.org.
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2. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Opens July 22
Area movie theaters
Sweetie, darling, they’re back! Patsy and Edina, two of the most hapless, morally inept, strongly marinated and, most important, beloved characters ever produced by the BBC, have finally made it to the big screen. Years after their show ended in 1998, after six seasons chronicling the adventures of Edina (Jennifer Saunders), a cruel and clueless, fashion-obsessed PR wannabe, and her washed-up ex-model pal Patsy (former Bond girl Joanna Lumley), the Ab Fab girls set out to find model Kate Moss — who is currently without representation — and make her theirs. The film should be dripping with pop-culture jokes and good, dirty fun as fans wonder what targets P&E will sink their tobacco-stained teeth into. Find theaters and showtimes at fandango.com.
1. Taxi Driver - 40th Anniversary
July 29 at 10 p.m., July 31 at 2 p.m.
It was forty years ago that Robert De Niro uttered the line, “You talkin’ to me?” as psychotic cabbie Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. The film quickly became a true American classic, and shot everyone involved — director Martin Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader, actor De Niro and adolescent actress Jodie Foster (amazing as a teen prostitute) — into the stratosphere. Four decades later, the film’s violence and themes focusing on society and mental health still reverberate, mirroring issues that continue to plague us. To honor the film and share it with a new generation of film-goers, the Sie is offering two screenings on 35mm film, the way the movie first unspooled on hundreds of screens in 1976. For tickets, go to denverfilm.org.