We were just lamenting the hot-hot heat of July, and now the dog days of summer are upon us. Though the summer movie blockbuster season is starting to putter out, we found some great ways to spend time in the comfort of your favorite theater’s air conditioning while its silver screens sparkle some fun just for you. Here are the top ten movie events of August, in chronological order.
10) Sinister Saturdays
August 1, 8, 15 at Alamo Drafthouse
Denver-reared filmmaker Scott Derrickson managed to do something to horror audiences in 2012 that was shocking: He truly scared them with his creepy film Sinister, about a family that unwittingly awakens a family-murdering entity. Now that hit film has spawned a sequel sans Derrickson but full of scares. In a lead-up to the film’s release on August 21, the Alamo is getting its creep on by offering free late screenings during Sinister Saturdays, kicking off with Gore Verbinski’s grippingly effective remake of Hideo Nakata’s Japanese great The Ring. The fun continues with Night of the Living Dead and, of course, the original Sinister — so loosen that belt, because your pants are sure to be scared right off. For tickets and more info, go to drafthouse.com.
9) Midnight Madness: Friday
August 7-8 at Midnight at the Esquire Theatre
Hard to believe, but it has been twenty years since F. Gary Gray’s urban comedy came out like a breath of fresh weed to let out a little steam from the pressure cooker of heavy inner-city films — Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society among them — that had laid down hard lessons about living in South Central L.A. And in an odd turn, star Ice Cube, who'd starred in Boyz, came back to the hood to lay down laughs, not shots. Friday is a great comedy of errors rolled into one fat joint. It also introduced the world to the comedic joy of Chris Tucker and the ubiquitous phrase “Bye, Felisha” — just in case you were wondering which Felisha your friends were talking to and why everyone wanted her to leave. For tickets and more info, go to landmarktheaters.com.
8) Westerns: The Golden Years
August 13-16 at Sie FilmCenter
Keeping things old-school, like prairie old-school, the Sie FilmCenter is busting out the wagon wheels and tumbleweeds and paying tribute to a classic genre that, weirdly, doesn’t get enough screen time in this cowtown. This nine-film, four-day series has all of the finer points and deep cuts on lock with the works of John Ford, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and more on display with huge, dusty vistas and shifty-eyed gunslingers filling every frame. Take your pick of your fave silver-spurred, silver-screen classic — but don’t miss a special panel, Designing the Modern Western, which will feature the costume designer and set decorator from Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight, who will share their experiences of infusing a new film with just the right amount of seasoned Western juices. For tickets and more info, go to denverfilm.org.
7) Miracle Mile with director Steve De Jarnatt in person
Friday, August 14, at 8 p.m. at Alamo Drafthouse
Television director Steve De Jarnett spent a brief time making movies in the late ‘80s, but managed to create two apocalyptic epics destined for cult audiences, 1987’s Cherry 2000 and 1988’s Miracle Mile, which will be featured at the Alamo with the film’s writer/director in-person. Mile is the tale of a man (Anthony Edwards) who finally meets the love of his life (Mare Winningham) just as he receives word that nuclear warheads are on their way to Los Angeles and will hit in just about seventy minutes. Edwards springs into action to lead a random group of strangers to safety and locate his love before the world comes to an untimely end. It's not really the stuff of a big, happy blockbuster, but Mile was perfect for video-store and late-night-cable junkies looking to get a fix of an original and captivating tale of love in the time of (expected) fallout. For tickets and more info, go to drafthouse.com.
6) Straight Outta Compton
Opens August 14 at a theater near you
Friday’s F. Gary Gray returns to the big screen after 2009’s Law Abiding Citizen to helm the true story of music’s most dangerous entity, rap stalwarts N.W.A. The origin story of a different set of superheroes – Ice Cube, Easy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella – Straight shows how a group of hot-headed L.A. street toughs came together to take on the status quo and buck against authority using only their lyrics, swagger and red-hot talent. Written with the input of the group's surviving members and starring Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. as his father, the film promises to ring truer than any music tale that has been run through the Hollywood machine. Hollywood mavens might not know what hit ’em. Find tickets and showtimes at fandango.com.
5) Tom at the Farm
Opens August 14 at the Sie FilmCenter and Alamo Drafthouse
Chances are good that you don’t know the works of writer/director/actor Xavier Dolan — and that is a crying shame. Dolan is Quebec’s wunderkind of cinema who, since turning eighteen, has put out five amazing pieces of film that show the practice, originality and power of someone much older and more experienced than the now-26-year-old. Distribution woes have kept most of his canon hard to find (though all of his previous works are ready to view on Netflix), but now his (technically) fourth film is hitting American shores — and it may be his most accessible yet. It's the tale of grieving Tom (Dolan himself), who goes to visit the family of his recently deceased boyfriend, only to find that his family knows nothing about Tom or their son’s sexuality. Things take a turn for the dark when the boyfriend’s brother begins a knowing game with Tom, and a series of Hitchcockian twists puts the young man in some psychological crosshairs. Start your Dolan education with this taut thriller and then go back and right the wrongs by catching up on all the great films from this young master. For tickets and more info, go to denverfilm.org.
4) Being Evel
Opens August 21 at Sie FilmCenter
The wild and true tale of super daredevil Evel Kneivel gets the documentary treatment via Colorado filmmaker Daniel Junge, editor Davis Coombe and cinematographer Robert Muratore. The team sorted through hours of archival footage to show the intensity of the stunts and stardom that captivated the world in the ‘70s and made every little boy want to drive their bikes off a flaming ramp. With interviews from those closest to the stunt man, who both loved him or hated him, and those inspired by him — like exec producer Johnny Knoxville – Being Evel gets to the heart of a dangerous life spent pumping with thrills and spills. For tickets and more info, go to denverfilm.org .
3) Clueless / Empire Records 20th Anniversary Double Feature
Saturday, August 22, at 7 p.m. at Sie FilmCenter
Based on the impact of these two cinematic gems that had an attitude and vernacular all their own but still resonate with audiences today,1995 was a great year for pop culture. Amy Heckerling’s Clueless used Jane Austen’s Emma as the jump-off for the tale of an L.A. debutante trying to do good deeds and change the life of those around her. As if! The film created a lexicon of phrases and words that you’ll still hear falling out of the mouths of teens and nostalgic adults alike, and the presence of stars Alicia Silverstone and the late Brittany Murphy have us “buggin'” over how quickly time flies.
Empire Records had less of the terminology but more of a relatability for audiences at the time, who could identify with the plight of customer-service work in a record store. A winning cast makes the ol’ memory jingle lik eyour favorite '90s song, with Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, Robin Tunney, Ethan Embry and the return of Matthew Caulfield as the sexy Rex Manning.
Speaking of '90s song, both films also left their print on music, as their soundtracks made ear warriors out of the likes of the Gin Blossoms, No Doubt and Jill Sobule. For tickets and more info, go to denverfilm.org.
2) Film on the Rocks: The Breakfast Club
Wednesday, August 26, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Thirty years ago, filmmaker John Hughes got the attention of a generation when he introduced us to the detention crew at Shermer High School, who start out socially separated strangers and end up thick as thieves as they work through their problems, differences and similarities during one extended day. Making stars out of its young cast — Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy – the film also put creator Hughes on the cinematic map and made him the go-to adult for teens by showing them he was still just as old as they were, if only in his heart. This teen classic should hit you hard when it plays to a sold-out house at Red Rocks, where it just might unite thousands of strangers in one massive fist pump in the air by the time the credits roll. For tickets and more info, go to denverfilm.org.
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1) Turbo Kid
Opens August 28 at Sie FilmCenter
The less said about this genre-bending film-festival hit, the better — so I’ll just offer the synopsis to hint at the neon-colored treats inside of it: “It's 1997. In a ruined post-apocalyptic world, the orphaned Kid survives on his own through drought-ridden nuclear winter, traversing the Wasteland on his BMX, scavenging for scraps to trade for a scant supply of water. When his perpetually chipper, pink-haired new best friend Apple is kidnapped by a minion of evil overlord Zeus, the Kid summons the courage of his comic book hero and prepares to deliver turbocharged justice to Zeus, his buzzsaw-handed sidekick Skeletron, and their vicious masked army.” Fans of ‘80s movies, Mad Max and late-night cable scrambles are going to lose their mind when Turbo Kid lights the screen this month. For tickets and more info, go to denverfilm.org.