The frost of winter is upon us all, and with it, the need and desire to seek refuge around a warm flame and bide the time until the new year dawns and the seeds of thaw can be planted. While some seek a roaring fire for their heat, others seek the warm glow of an illuminated theater screen to feel toasty. This month, all of the cinema chatter revolves around a certain sci-fi sequel that you don’t need us to point out to you, and a separate list rounding up all of the holiday films will follow this week. But for those not looking to space or to the North Pole, we present the best movies opening in town during December (in chronological order).
Opens Friday, December 4, at the Sie FilmCenter
All hail the return of filmmaker Spike Lee, whose cinematic voice once guided us through the choppy waters of racism in America — his School Daze, Do The Right Thing and the underseen Bamboozled still have prescient power today. But after a string of films that diverted from creative shit-starting, Lee has returned with Chi-Raq, his modern retelling of the Greek play Lysistrata. Set in current Chicago, so torn apart by gun violence and death that residents have adopted a more fitting moniker for the city, the film puts a classic spin on today's problems: it seems that “gorgeous nubian sistah” Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) has gotten the women of Chi-raq to hold off on sex until their men agree to put down their pieces if they want to get a piece. This satire hits all of the beloved Lee buttons, including politics, music, fiery rhyming dialogue, and an an all-star cast including Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Cannon, Dave Chappelle, Wesley Snipes and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson, who acts as one-man-chorus Dolmedes to tell the tale of one doomed city’s uprising and potential downfall. Welcome back, Mr. Lee, we’ve missed you. Find tickets and showtimes at denverfilm.org.
9) Cinema Contra: Space Dis-Placed
Screens Sunday, December 6, at Glob
Gentrification and development is a global situation that hits home here in Denver, where rising industries have sent the infiltration and modification of old neighborhoods to an all-time high, displacing residents with soaring rents and demolished spaces. As film is the great shared platform for which to discuss our world’s woes, Cinema Contra has gathered together a collection of experimental films for an evening of tales, visuals and speaking out about this new wave crashing into many a major metropolitan city and disrupting the working class, artistic communities and diversity as a whole. Included in the program is Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, Walt Disney’s Taxi Driver, Google Mission, The Crow Furnace, Under the Heat Lamp and more, including a fresh piece from some of Glob’s own artists about the rising gentrification of Brighton Boulevard and the so-called RiNo neighborhood. Get more info on the screenings here.
Opens Friday, December 11, at Landmark's Chez Artiste Theatre
Awarded the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary at this year’s Denver Film Festival, Kent Jones’s new film shines a light on one of cinema’s most fascinating collaborations. In 1962, Alfred Hitchcock sat down with fellow filmmaker François Truffaut for a series of interviews that would become one of the most inspiring books for aspiring auteurs to pore over. This new documentary talks to some of those inspired by the meeting — Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Olivier Assayas and David Fincher among them — about the power of this very special meeting of the minds and Truffaut’s underlined intention to remind the world that Hitch was truly one of film’s highest masters. Get tickets and showtimes at landmarktheaters.com.
7) In a Lonely Place: Vertigo
Screens Monday, December 14 at the Alamo Drafthouse
Perhaps Denver’s most unique and interesting transplant, crime novelist James Ellroy, has dug his claws into his new monthly series at the Alamo, which will explore film classics from all of the sorts of wild angles that match those in his own maze-riddled mind. Pouring out this month for your perusal is Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo, the dazzling, dizzying tale of one man’s (Jimmy Stewart) obsession with a woman (Kim Novak) who may not be who she’s supposed to be — or anyone at all. It will be translated by Ellroy, who will surely cut through the usual film-school BS reading of the film — and, trust him, he knows a thing or two about going wild over a blond dame. As with previous screenings in the Lonely Place series, copies of Ellroy’s new book will be available for purchase, and he’ll probably sign your dog-eared copy of The Black Dahlia, too. Look for tickets at drafthouse.com.
6) Entertainment / The Comedy Double Feature with Rick Alverson In Person
Screens Tuesday, December 15, at the Alamo Drafthouse
Not for the easily offended, the work of filmmaker Rick Alverson is as polarizing as it gets. His The Comedy cast cult actor Tim Heidecker as an entitled hipster assholing his way through life to no measurable avail, while his new film, Entertainment, casts real-life comedian Gregg Turkington/Neil Hamburger as himself, floating up and down the dive bars of California with a character built for annoyance whose dumb, nasty humor manages not to be as bad as the reality and the people whom he, and all of us, meet on a daily basis. Why focus on the viral detritus of the modern world with no redemption for his characters or us as viewers? You can ask the director himself when he appears at the Alamo with this double feature ready to make you squirm in your seat for a few hours and then put your mind at ease (or maybe not) with a Q&A after each film. Here’s dreaming that Alverson and fellow film fuss Todd Solondz (Happiness, Welcome to the Dollhouse) have each other on speed-dial to talk to about these things. Pick up tix at drafthouse.com.
5) Science Friction: Attack the Block
Screens Wednesday, December 16, at the Alamo Drafthouse
In a few days, the world is about to know actor John Boyega’s name because of his role in a certain outer space adventure film flooding into theaters everywhere, but true film fans have had a sparkle for the sly Brit since his turn in Joe Cornish’s amazing 2011 alien-invasion flick first kicked all of the ass in cinemas everywhere. Block introduces us to a gang of South London street toughs who must defend their working-class apartment complex from a thrush of gorilla-looking xenomorphs from another planet who don’t have a clue who they’re messing with, much to their disadvantage. If you’ve never seen Block, fix that mistake now with what is sure to be a spirited screening in beloved local scribe Jason Heller’s Science Friction series. Trust. Snatch some tickets at drafthouse.com.
Opens Friday, December 18, at a theater near you
December 18 is D-Day for a certain intergalactic space opera at theaters all across the world, but fear not, people who don’t know you’re Luke from your Leia: You can still go to the movies that week and have a satisfying great time. Just drop off your entranced partner/lover/kin at the multiplex so they can see a star war and glide easily to the box office and say, “One for Sisters, please.” Yes, opening the same day is the new comedy starring America’s dual cynical sweethearts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, as sisters who return to their childhood home to find that their parents are selling it and all of the memories therein. What’s a girl to do but send out the house, and their childhoods, with a mind-melting rager of a party? Oh, yeah, and John Cena is in the film, too. JOHN CENA!!! Pro tip: Given the politics of multiplexes and seating arrangements made by Disney for Star Wars, all “other” movies playing at your favorite movie palace are going to be relegated to the smaller houses, so snag your Sisters tickets a little bit ahead of time to guarantee that your counterprogramming decision goes just the way that you want it to. And may the force be ever in your favor… or whatever. Find theaters and showtimes at fandango.com.
3) The Forbidden Room
Opens Friday, December 18, at the Sie FilmCenter
The films of auteur Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg, The Saddest Music In The World) have the distinct property of feeling like the concussed fever dream of a silent movie blended with the phantasmagoric tears of early film color processing...and acid. His latest is no exception to the rule, and may, in fact, be his pinnacle of gonzo classic-film electrocution. The film’s thread (not plot) begins with a crew of trapped submariners chewing flapjacks to absorb their oxygen who meet a lost woodsman who shares his tales of escaping a bizarre cult of people. The other details may prove irrelevant to actually enjoying the mudslide ride that Maddin takes you on, with famed actors Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin and Mathieu Amalric along to help steer. Heads up! Get tickets at denverfilm.org.
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Opens Friday, December 25, at a theater near you
Famed director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, Safe) adapts Patricia Highsmith’s famed lesbian “thriller," The Price of Salt, into a lush portrait full of all of the longing and desire that filled her 1952 novel and caused a sensation back in the day. Haynes takes a calm, meandering walk back into the Technicolor-soaked world of Douglas Sirk melodramas that his films have steeped so much in, only this time the material and look take on a new level of realism, inspired by the post-war photography of Vivian Maier and others. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara deliver award-worthy performances, soaking up all the heat from plenty of stolen glances amid the winter’s chill of their secret romance. Will Carol continue to keep Hollywood’s closet door open for grand queer cinema that Brokeback Mountain so powerfully kicked down a decade ago? Here’s hoping. Find theaters and showtimes at fandango.com.
1) City Of Lost Children
Screens Saturday, December 26, at the Sie FilmCenter
Twenty years after it first debuted, Marc Caro and Jean-Peirre Jeunet’s followup to their genre-bending Delicatessen is still a visual wonder to behold. The fable of an aging mad scientist stealing children to harvest them for their dreams, and the older brother (Ron Perlman) of one of the kids searching for him and all of his city’s missing children still delights with a dank but vibrant coldness that's perfect for a post-holiday dip. Children sparked imagination in many a filmmaker when it debuted — or, as filmmaker Terry Gilliam (Brazil) excitedly noted, “The most astounding visuals of 1995, 1996 and maybe 1982. Be careful, it could be catching.” Catch this modern classic on 35mm film, to boot, and get your tickets at denverfilm.org.