Our March weather may have come in like a lion and out like a lamb but our April film events are coming in like a tiger and look like they'll keep coming like an elephant stampede. Mark your calendars for a month full of festivals, special guests and some really exciting ways to watch that most unifying of medias: cinema. Here are the ten best movie events in metro Denver for the month, in chronological order.
10) Furious 7
Opens April 2 at various Denver theaters
Long considered just a loud, guilty pleasure, the Fast & The Furious heptalogy has actually grown into one of cinema’s most beloved and creative of the big-budget bangers. Holding more than just hot-car stunts and explosions in its rearview, the F&F series succeeded by creating an interesting cast of people of every color and maintaining top levels of gender equality in its kick-assery. And though it's never managed to build a gay character to add to the diversity, the producers realized that a thick coat of homoeroticism (for both sexes) would last for miles. After the heartbreaking death of series star Paul Walker in mid-production in late 2013, the studio and creative team rejiggered the idea behind the film to find a way to say goodbye to their family member and give audiences the perfect "last ride" to what has been a satisfying fourteen years of suspending disbelief and having a good time at the movies. So sit back, fasten your seat belt and let's drive this car off a tall building together. Colorado bonus: Furious 7 shot an amazing car chase scene using Pikes Peak and Monarch Pass! Keep your eyes and tires peeled for our state’s zippy closeup. Find showtimes and theaters for Furious 7 at fandango.com.
9) Double Trouble In Denver: A Weekend Of Cinema Co-Directed by Mike Ott & Nathan Silver
April 3-5, Sie FilmCenter
Nurturing fresh new cinematic talent is one of the things that makes the Denver Film Society so great. All the movies of two young filmmakers, Mike Ott and Nathan Silver, have screened at the Denver Film Festival for a reason: They're exciting. Now Ott and Silver are planning on returning the love: They’ve joined forces and are shooting a co-directed new film this summer using our fair city as the backdrop. In honor of this upcoming marriage of creativity and vision, both filmmakers will be hitting the Sie FilmCenter to present films: Ott’s latest, Lake Los Angeles, on April 3 and Silver’s 2012 hit, Exit Elena, on April 4. To wrap up their extra-special visit and leave us looking forward to their upcoming collaboration, the duo will screen a shared favorite, Abbas Kiarostami’s Close Up, on a 35mm film print on April 5. Join their shenanigans and get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
8) Alamo Takes the Wheel
Through April at the Alamo Drafthouse
In honor of Furious 7 hitting screens this month, the Alamo Drafthouse's special programming will celebrate the relationship of cars in cinema with the Alamo Takes the Wheel series. Along with stand-alone screenings of such greats as Steve McQueen in Bullitt, Stephen King’s Christine, Stephen Spielberg’s Duel, the joyful Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ryan Gosling in Drive and Tarantino’s Death Proof — all films where vehicles are the real stars — the Alamo has tapped Autoweek’s Murilee Martin to host his favorite car movies every Monday. This collection includes the kooky ‘70s spooker The Car, Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke and the James Taylor-led Two Lane Blacktop. Rounding out the revving engines are some of the Alamo’s regular series timed for maximum overdrive with the 37th Chamber selecting Wheels on Meals for martial arts/car action, Science Friction driving Buckaroo Banzai Across the 31st Dimension and the Action Pack’s Talladega Nights and Tommy Boy quote-alongs. For showtimes and tickets, go to drafthouse.com.
7) Xicanindie Film Fest
April 9-12, Su Teatro
The Art District of Santa Fe's crown jewel for Latino arts, Su Teatro is hosting the seventeenth edition of its XicanIndie FilmFest, which shines the spotlight on Latino world cinema and the people who make it all come to life. Showcasing thirteen feature films and a short film package, XicanIndie’s special presentations with actors and filmmakers in person include Tapia, the story of boxer Johnny Tapia’s struggle and rise to fame; Strike One, a narrative about a young man’s struggle to cut his gang ties; and Aguruphobia, about one agoraphobic’s obsession with an Internet guru that turns weird when the guru takes an interest in helping her out. Also featured is Jamin Winans’ locally made The Frame, winner of Westword’s Best Colorado Film That Doesn’t Overdo Colorado award, with the cast present (including regular Su Teatro company members) talking about the making of this fantasy epic. For the full XicanIndie schedule, showtimes and tickets, go to suteatro.org.
6) Metropolis with a Live Score by Plastik Factory
April 15, Esquire Theater
Westword’s Best of Denver winner for Best Way to See a Classic Flick, the Esquire's A Film For Every Season series always screens true classics — but now it's going all the way back to the silent age to present Kino International’s recent “complete” restoration of Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi stunner, Metropolis. That would be enough on its own, but the screening will be given a modern refresh with a brand-new score by local group Plastik Factory, whose original score for Nosferatu used interactive loops and electronic soundscapes combined with live woodwinds and percussion to create a radical musical revolution. This same approach should play well when given Lang’s visionary tale of robots, love and death as a jumping-off point. Find tickets and showtimes at landmarktheatres.com.
5) Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter
April 17, A TBD Landmark Theater
Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, one of the most talked-about films at last year’s Denver Film Festival and one of the most original movies to come out in years, will finally hit town for an extended engagement. It's the story of Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi), a meek secretary in Japan who discovers a VHS copy of the Coen Brothers’ film Fargo in a cave and begins to obsessively watch it, taking the opening title's “This Is a True Story” to heart. Deciding that the fortune left behind in the film’s climax is real and awaiting recovery, Kumiko scraps her pointless life and makes her way to North Dakota to claim what she feels is hers. The film is a visionary wonder, filled top to bottom with dreamy visuals and an amazing performance from Kikuchi, who fills every frame with a desperate wonder that gives the audience a heartbreaking hope that everything will turn out all right for our young heroine. Directed with a focused folly by David and Nathan Zellner (Kid Thing, Goliath), the story is actually based on a bizarre actual incident in 2001, when a young Japanese woman was found dead in Minnesota supposedly looking for the same Fargo treasure — but the real story behind her death was so much more. The Zellner brothers are following their own thread through that “True Story” to build a devastatingly original tale all their own. For showtimes and tickets ,visit landmarktheaters.com.
4) Alex Cox Double Feature and Craft
April 21, Alamo Drafthouse
Filmmaker Alex Cox (Repo Man) has been ensconced in Colorado for the last few years as a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, but he has yet to be properly introduced to the cinephiles of Colorado so that he can share his vast film knowledge with the children. Leave it to the Alamo Drafthouse to present Cox and do it in style. This event will feature a 35mm double feature, with Cox’s own personal prints, of Straight to Hell and Walker, with a special craft dinner of paella and three beers to boot. Hell is Cox’s fantastic take on the spaghetti Western, a genre he knows well (check out his book 10,000 Ways to Die), with some inspired casting in rockers Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer! Walker is Cox’s twist on the biopic, telling the tale of adventurer William Walker, played by Ed Harris, who abandoned a normal career to become a soldier of fortune and eventually dictator of Nicaragua. Cox will be on hand to do Q&As after both films and grab a forkful of paella off your plate. Get tickets at drafthouse.com.
3) Cheatin’ with Bill Plympton In Person
April 22, Sie FilmCenter
Fans of the ‘90s animation staples Liquid Television and Spike & Mike’s touring packages know Bill Plympton very well. The animator has a distinct, hilarious style that has left an impression on a generation of viewers through the shorts Your Face, Guard Dog and Guide Dog, just to name a few. He’s animated five feature films since 1992 and is headed to the Sie FilmCenter this month to present his latest film, Cheatin’. It's a cautionary tale about the woes of being in a loving, loyal relationship and what can happen when jealousy and infidelity enter the frame — all told in Plympton’s over-the-top pencil sketches and hand-done watercolors. The film will open for an engagement after this screening, but you don't want to miss the chance to listen to this cartoon creationist in person. Get tickets at denverfilm.org.
2) Denver Silent Film Festival
April 24-26, Davis Auditorium at the University of Denver
The fourth edition of this festival hits DU’s Davis Auditorium for a three-day celebration of pure classic films, with ten cinematic events that range from full-length features with live musical scores to shorts packages to discussions with film historians and archivists, who will talk about the woes and joys of keeping 100-year-old films alive for new generations. The DSFF is the brainchild of our city’s most staunch film educator and fan, Howie Movshovitz, who has lined up great discussions and scores around this year’s selections from around the globe, all screened on 16mm. The movies include Denver’s own Douglas Fairbanks starring in The Thief of Baghdad; the Russian Bed & Sofa; a comedy shorts compilation with Lloyd, Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy; and a sobering look at one of the most problematic silent classics ever made, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. For the complete schedule and tickets, go to denversilentfilmfest.org.
What terrors will await when the Stanley Hotel reveals its new hedge maze during the Stanley Film Festival?
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1) Stanley Film Festival
April 30-May 3, Stanley Hotel in Estes Park
Winner of Westword’s Best Film Festival in the Best of Denver 2015, the Stanley Film Festival is back and ready to creep you out good and proper in Estes Park. The most haunting horror festival around will take over the spooky Stanley Hotel for four days of giving your goosebumps goosebumps. The full schedule will be announced on April 2, but on top of presenting an array of new cuts and classic stabs of the horror genre, the festival has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. They include a new, immersive mystery that you can play between flicks, a cache of wicked musical acts, live appearances by some of the freshest voices in horror. And then there's the hotel’s new hedge maze, a nod to Kubrick’s version of The Shining, the Stephen King classic inspired by the Stanley’s surroundings, which was designed after a global submission call yielded some twisted blueprints. Get your tickets and book your haunted room at the hotel (a must) by going to stanleyfilmfest.com.
And just in case you missed them, here are the cinematic winners of our Best of Denver 2015 awards:
Movie Theater - Programming: Sie FilmCenter
Best Movie Theater – Food/Drink: Alamo Drafthouse
Best Movie Theater – Comfort: Sie FilmCenter
Best Place To See A Classic Flick: Esquire Theater
Best Film Festival: Stanley Film Festival
Best Mini-Film Festival: Voices – Women + Film Festival
Best Cinema On Wheels: Davey B. Gravey’s Tiny Cinema
Best Place To See A New Local Film: Movie Night At Glob
Best Colorado Film That Doesn’t Overdo Colorado: Jamin Winan’s The Frame
Best Accompaniment for a Silent Film: Paul Buscarello
Best Bloodthirsty Movie Host: Theresa Mercado
Best Party Starting Movie Host: Megan Miles
Best Colorado History Documentary: Neal Cassady: The Denver Years
Best Science Fiction Film Curation: Science Friction