With springtime comes the blooming of flowers and usually the blossoming of allergies. So what better way to stay out of nature's way than by planning some indoor activities, relaxing in front of a big movie screen that's showing the latest cinema curios and classic hits or, if your allergies allow, venture to some outdoor films to tie your love of film with breathing in some fresh air? Get your calendars open and see what May has in store for you on the cinematic storm front. In chronological order, here are the ten best movie events this month.
10) Choose Your Own AGFA Adventure
May 4 (results show May 11), Alamo Drafthouse, Littleton
Hidden deep within the storied hills of Austin, Texas, is a mysterious bunker that holds countless 35mm treasures known as the American Genre Film Archive. This dense collection of movies serves the purpose of rescuing gems usually ignored by the fancy film houses and preserving them for future audiences who deserve to see obscure horror, kung fu, exploitation oddities on the big screen. For this free screening series, the Alamo Drafthouse here is picking up a tradition founded by its Austin predecessors and bringing in the first reels of five different films. Each one will be screened for the audience, roughly twenty minutes a reel, and then when the dust settles the audience will vote on which batshit crazy film they want to watch in its entirety the following week. Break the Monday doldrums and take a chance on a wild film you may never have the opportunity to see again. Reserve your seat with a $5 food & beverage voucher at drafthouse.com.
9) A Film For All Seasons Classic Arthouse Film Series
Wednesdays, from May 6, Landmark Chez Artiste
Landmark’s classic film series switches venues for the spring to present some true greats from the annals of arthouse history every Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The list of titles shines a light on titles lesser known to mainstream audiences but important in their influence on the complete canon of cinema. May’s entries kick off with Jean Renoir’s upper-crust drama Rules Of The Game, and continue with Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, Cocteau’s Beauty & The Beast, Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock, Tati’s Playtime and Powell and Pressburger’s gorgeous The Red Shoes. Watching even one of these titles will raise your cinematic IQ and, fair warning, don’t be surprised if you start shopping for movies that only appear on the Criterion Collection. Get your ticket at landmarktheatres.com.
8) Czech That Film
May 7 – 10, Sie FilmCenter
The fourth incarnation of this foreign-exchange film series brings some of the best and brightest voices of new Czech cinema to the Denver Film Society for a four-day weekend of cultural comparison. The bundle kicks off with Andrea Sedlácková’s Fair Play, with the director in person, whose drama introduces a gifted young runner in the ‘80s whose Olympic dreams — and desire to leave the Iron Curtain — run into trouble after she’s recruited for secret testing that includes steroid injections. The foreign focus closes with the drama Clownwise and the comedies Krasno and Icing. Czech it all out for yourself and grab a ticket at denverfilm.org.
May 8 & 9, Landmark Esquire Theatre
In 1981, the most dangerous movie ever was made — but it has barely seen the light of day before now. No animals were harmed in the making of the film, but seventy cast and crew members were! That oddity is Roar, starring and directed by Neal Marshall, who portrays an animal preservationist (a role he carried over into his real life) living in the African plains with a wild menagerie of more than one hundred animals, including lions, tigers (no bears!) and cheetahs all fighting for dominance on the land. When his family — played by Marshall’s real life wife Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and real stepdaughter Melanie Griffith (Working Girl) — arrive, they get caught in the middle of nature’s fury. The insanity of this film’s existence comes from an eleven-year journey to get Roar to the screen. That journey included Marshall and Hedren raising 100 wild animals in their Beverly Hills home, money being pulled right and left due to its crazy nature and, after realizing the film could only star Marshall and his family because of their familiarity with the animals, the five year production which saw almost all of the cast and crew mauled (cinematographer Jan De Bont was scalped by a lion and required over 200 stitches), attacked and endangered, most of it caught on film for the final cut. The efforts of all involved are paramount to what Roar became – a tense animal thriller that infuses a Disney premise with crack cocaine – that exists as a miracle of filmmaking that we will never see the sights of ever again, thank God. Roar screens at Midnight at the Esquire but if you can’t stay up late, the Alamo Drafthouse will be playing it May 8 – 10 during earlier hours. Pick your showtime at landmarktheatres.com and drafthouse.com.
6) Church Of Coen: The Hudsucker Proxy
May 10, Syntax Physic Opera
Theresa Mercado and Ian O’Dougherty’s monthly reverential worship of the complete collection of Coen Brothers films is still trucking along since kicking off in January, and based on sequential order, the Coens' Hudsucker Proxy is next on the docket. Released in 1994, Hudsucker was a hard sell to mainstream audiences, but as the Coens' screwball fifth film, “hard sell” was beginning to become their middle name. The filmmaker’s ode to Preston Sturges’s comedies follows a lowly mail-room clerk (Tim Robbins) who is put in charge of Hudsucker Industries following the death of its owner, as a scam set forth by its board to send shares plummeting and give them a shot to save the company. When an intrepid, motor mouthed reporter (Jennifer Jason Leigh in a Hepburn soaked performance) smells something afoot, she sets out to expose the scam. As is gospel in the Church of Coen, Mother Theresa and Elder Ian will lead discussion before the film and introduce a local musical guest, this month is the Quartet, who will play a song based on a number that appears in the film but give it their own unique spin. Amen. For more info on the series, visit physicopera.com.
5) Mad Max: Fury Road
Opens May 15 at various Denver theatres
When the third film in the Mad Max trilogy, Beyond Thunderdome, was released in 1985, we were all thirty years younger (or not born yet), and Mel Gibson was a ways from falling off his Hollywood throne. Mad Max’s writer/director/creator was the scrappy Aussie George Miller who followed up his explosive, and intensely shot series, not with another action masterpiece but with…Babe, the movie about the talking pig. But the extended tale of Max Rockatansky and his adventures in a continually devolving Australian apocalypse were never far from Miller’s mind — just too big to film. Miller finally got his next chapter moving in 2003 but international safety concerns over the proposed Namibian shooting locations shut it down until 2009. Fury Road replaces Mel Gibson with British actor Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception) and introduces us to a mysterious female road warrior, played by Charlize Theron, whose shaved head and missing limb guarantee a rough and tumble fight. Miller has promised a film full of practical special effects, which made his original three films so captivating, with minimal CGI interaction, a pledge that seems solid once you watch the trailer and get excited to reunite with the dark and dusty hero we thought we might never see again. Find showtimes and theaters for Mad Max: Fury Road at fandango.com.
Opens May 15, Landmark Chez Artiste
The grandfathers of the documentary, Albert and David Maysles, have brought the lives of real people and real moments to the big screen for decades. Portraits like Grey Gardens have taught audiences and filmmakers exactly how to study and observe the smallest stories and personalities to bring the humanity to light, while films like Gimme Shelter, have shown how a band as big as the Rolling Stones could be affected when caught in the maelstrom of fame and tragedy. David passed away in 1987, leaving brother Albert to fend for himself in the filmmaking world that they built themselves. Despite his climbing age, the filmmaker kept capturing people in his lens and turning out captivating films. This March, Albert passed away but left behind two films – In Transit (with a TBD release) and Iris, which tells the boisterous story of 93-years-young fashion icon Iris Apfel, the quick-witted New York icon who continues to influence that world decades after she first landed in it. Iris as a film feels like a companion piece to Maysles’s life itself as he continued to shine despite his age and influence on countless other filmmakers with his refusal to sit still and keep on moving despite the ever changing speed of the world around him. Fitting, that as one of his final works it will continue to tell his tale as well, long after he’s gone. Get your ticket for Iris at landmarktheatres.com.
3) Film on the Rocks
May 23, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
As springtime moves into summertime, one thing stays constant year after year: Film on the Rocks. The beloved outdoor film series that takes over Red Rocks Amphitheatre and fills it, not with swaying concert-goers, but with focused film fans instead, is back and ready to party. Produced by the Denver Film Society, the schedule and dates are still under wraps and awaiting a full announcement on May 14 but one tasty morsel has escaped: the first film will be Saturday, May 23 with the usual fanfare of pre-show entertainment, courtesy of local comedians and bands, with the selected films rolling at dusk. Given the late-night odyssey of showing a flick in one of the world’s most beautiful venues, FOTR is a great night out for grownups, but feel free to bring the kiddos when the PG-rated fare rolls around, so you can show them that film and nature can exist outside of their tiny tablet screens. Visit deverfilm.org on May 14 for the full schedule and tickets.
2) Maximum Bondage
Begins May 24, Alamo Drafthouse
November is soooooo far away, and anticipation for the release of the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, is just going to explode by the time we get to that month. To help, we might as well look back on the films that first made us fall in love with that sexy, skilled spy from back in the day — and the Alamo Drafthouse is one step ahead of you. They’re kicking off a ten-week series, Maximum Bondage, screening the best Bond films every Sunday at 5 p.m. from now into July starting with the one that first got us to set our sights on 007, Dr. No. Starring Sean Connery, the film is awash in the swinging colors of the '60s and full of double entendres, stunts and evil plans by a sinister villain for world domination. The series hasn’t strayed much from that formula over these last few decades but if it aint broke, don’t fix it. We guarantee that the Alamo will keep the martinis, shaken not stirred, coming to your seat for every thrilling adventure, which continues the following Sunday with From Russia With Love. Get tickets at drafthouse.com.
1) Historic Elitch Theatre Outdoor Film Series
Begins May 29, Historic Elitch Theatre
The Historic Elitch Theatre is continuing its restoration as a venue that will soon reinvigorate its neighborhood with the stage stylings that first seasoned its boards over 100 years ago. Since moving back in for renovation four years ago the Elitch Theatre Foundation has helped light up the neighborhood with a free summer outdoor film series to remind audiences that a true gem of history is sitting right under their noses. This summer, the series kicks off with a nod to the great actors who once studied and played on its stage by screening the 1977 classic musical Grease with two of its stars, Sid Caesar and Eve Arden — or Coach Calhoun and Principal McGee to film lovers — on hand for the festivities and to wax poetic on their time honing their craft in Denver so long ago. The series will continue every other Friday with more family fare including 101 Dalmations (June 12), The Goonies (June 26), Back To The Future (July 10), Cinderella (July 24) and Into The Woods (August 7). Tickets are free but with a suggested $5 donation that will go directly to support the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation. Get more info on the series and the theatre at historicelitctheatre.org.