August is here, marking the start of the long stretch between the summer and holiday movie seasons. To fill the gaps, local film programmers are getting in gear to roll out special acquisitions, programs and guest stars that will keep the movie-watching machine well-oiled and running smoothly. Here, in chronological order, are your ten best film bets for August.
10. Tangerine Dream
Saturdays at 9:30 p.m., July 31 to August 27
One of the leading pioneers of synth music was the delightfully named Tangerine Dream, an often forgotten team whose moody sounds dominated music in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, serving as an antidote to the dancefloor-tearing sounds of disco. For many listeners, their first introduction to TD was through their local movie house as the supergroup sneaked into our ears via the soundtracks of some epic films, forever tying visuals to their music and creating an exciting alternative to the run-of-the-mill film score. All August long the Denver Film Society will pay tribute to Tangerine Dream and its luscious licks with a series of some of the great films that used its sound to maximum effect: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, Tom Cruise's Risky Business, Michael Mann’s Thief and The Keep, and Ridley Scott’s fantastical Legend closing out the series. Get tickets at denverfilm.org.
9. Experimental Shorts With Live Scores
Monday, August 1, at 7:30 p.m.
Film will never go out of style, but the mechanics of cinema are always evolving. Talkies quickly pushed silent film into the background, but the magic of live musical scores has pushed silent films back to the forefront over the last decade or so, bringing with them a new generation of musicians looking to do more than just tickle a few piano keys next to a flickering screen. So the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is presenting an Evening of Experimental Silent Film, featuring four talented artists who’ve created their own scores for such iconic masterpieces as Un Chien Andalou, Lichtspiel, Menilmontant and Borderline. And the work of Christine Palmer (Rats and People), Kate Hannington, Billy Overton (loanword) and Paul Buscarello (Fauxdephone), whose recent dabbling in scores around town helped fuel this renaissance, should all score with audiences.
“There’s a lot of freedom in these short vignettes; you can approach a new score from a central theme and one angle rather than multiple story lines and paths,” says Buscarello. “These films are not plot-driven; it’s imagery, and it’s all about mood and not about a beginning, middle or end. With silent avant-garde, it’s nice to just jam with the film and not worry about plot logistics.”
Get your tickets (a bargain at $5!) at drafthouse.com.
8. Suicide Squad
Opens Friday, August 5
Denver area theaters
Some of today's biggest films are cooked up with comic-book characters. If DC Comics provide the meat and potatoes (Batman, Superman and, soon, Wonder Woman), Suicide Squad will add the spices. The Suicide Squad comprises some of DC’s worst and tastiest villains — Deadshot (Will Smith), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and beloved bad girl Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) lead the pack of baddies — who are collected as expendables by Viola Davis’s government official to take on a Top Secret “do-or-die” mission. Along the way they run into famed baddie The Joker (played to a new hilt by Jared Leto), who can’t decide if he wants to join the fun or just mess things up for everybody. Written and directed by action-drama pro David Ayer, the film has a lot riding on its bulky shoulders, mostly put there by many fans still dealing with all the mixed feelings they had over Batman Vs. Superman. Find theaters and tickets at fandango.com.
7. Sausage Party
Opens Friday, August 12
Denver area theaters
When the trailer for this hard R-rated animated fable accidentally ran in front of this summer’s family-friendly hit Finding Dory at one small town’s screening, it seemed like exactly what its creators — bad boys Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who brought us the adult comedies Superbad, This Is the End, Neighbors and more — had hilariously hoped would happen with their 'toon. Sausage Party is designed to look like the religious good time of Veggie Tales, whose computer-animated vegetables delivered righteous lessons. Party uses food as well to deliver its own morality tale — only with F bombs, violence and blue material as condiments — as we meet a grocery store of our favorite items that all dream of the day that humans take them home. But when a barbecue's worth of items — including hot dogs, buns and more — leave the store, their intended use becomes quickly apparent. Early reviews of the film have been loudly positive, with the promise that Party is more than just dirty jokes and animated blood; instead, it looks like a subversive, hilarious diatribe on the issues plaguing our human world, including racism, sexism and any other -ism ripe for an animated edible exploration. Find theaters and tickets at fandango.com.
6) A Weekend With Director Richard Kelly
Southland Tales screens Friday, August 12, at 7:45 p.m.
Donnie Darko screens Saturday, August 13, at 7:30 p.m.
Poor Richard Kelly. No other young filmmaker knows as well as he what it's like to be deemed the next big thing and then fall so far from those great heights. Kelly landed on Hollywood's radar in 2001 with his curious feature debut Donnie Darko, a time-traveling drama that became an immediate cult hit and branded the filmmaker a “visionary” new voice. Kelly next pitched an ambitious project, Southland Tales, a darkly comic World War III scenario in which Texas is bombed, sending the epicenter of world politics to Los Angeles, where a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an unstable action star (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and a cop (Seann William Scott) come together just in time to watch the fabric of time, the world and religion start to pull apart. Investors tossed $17,000,000 at Kelly to bring his story to life — a series of prequel graphic novels and a possible film trilogy were supposed to create a Star Wars-style empire — but when the director delivered a three-hour, complicated and kooky (complete with musical numbers) cut to the Cannes Film Festival, things went downhill fast. The studio sold the film to an independent distributor, which forced a cut of 35 minutes and put the kibosh on the linking prequel story and any hope of a continuing trilogy. What remains of Kelly’s passion project isn’t terrible — it's just completely misunderstood. The film was ahead of its time predicting not only the box-office rise of The Rock but the cult of reality TV celebrity, with Gellar’s Krysta Now foreshadowing Kim Kardashian (down to the cutesy K) and so much more. Kelly barely survived the aftermath of the film's release; he managed to make one last Hollywood blip in 2009, The Box, and then vanished. Now the Alamo has invited Kelly to emerge from his hidey-hole and talk about both his career high, Donnie Darko, and that maligned low, Southland Tales, to Denver audiences. Let the healing begin! Reserve your seat now at drafthouse.com.
Keep reading for five more big film events this August.
5) Multiple Maniacs
Screens Tuesday, August 16, at 9 p.m.
The self-described “King of Trash,” John Waters launched his career the only way he knew how: by grabbing a camera and creating wild screenplays and stories based on the aesthetics of his best friends. And it just so happened that one of his best friends was dirty-drag superstar Divine. Waters’s official feature debut, Multiple Maniacs, featured crazy pals Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pierce, Cookie Mueller and Edith Massey portraying a gang of perverse, depraved loonies led by the Divine one herself on a kidnapping and murdering spree. In some ways, the movie was almost an audition for Waters’s big, nasty follow-up, Pink Flamingos — but Janus Films, which oversees the Criterion Collection, deemed the lo-fi film itself worthy for a massive hi-fi restoration. Finally audiences can see every inch of Divine and Company clearer, yet filthier, than they’ve ever looked before. Get your tickets at drafthouse.com.
4. The Peculiar Films of Tim Burton
Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. beginning August 20
Just in time for the release of the latest Tim Burton extravaganza, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (an adaptation of writer Ransom Riggs’ own twisted version of the X-Men), the Sie FilmCenter is replacing its Roald Dahl kid’s program with a salute to the quirky tales of Burton. Things kick off good and proper with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (August 20), and will follow up with Batman, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. As you introduce your children to the joys of the dark edges of “family entertainment,” you can enjoy the free cereal bar (starting at 10 a.m.) that the Sie created for the Dahl series. Tickets to both film and food are just $5; kids six and under are free. Get them at denverfilm.org.
3. Lo And Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Starts Friday, August 19
TBD Landmark Theater
Everyone’s favorite monotone-yet-focused filmmaker, Werner Herzog is back with a new documentary focusing on the history and exploration of another mysterious region of the world (like his previous works on the Amazon, South Pole and Australian Outback): the vast, uncharted land known as the Internet, from its humble origins to its complicated and controversial current state. Herzog shows us places we’ve never seen in the digital landscape, using as guides everyone from a master hacker to a space-age entrepreneur to examine what a few decades down this technological rabbit hole has done. Get your tickets at landmarktheaters.com.
2. Blood Simple - New 4K Restoration
Opens Friday, August 19 (UPDATE: new date change from original August 4 listing)
All greatness has to begin somewhere, but while the first attempt of young filmmakers often shows signs of future greatness, it usually rates as an “almost there” first try. Not so for the Coen Brothers: Right out of the gate, the filmmaking duo produced the exceptional thriller Blood Simple, which is being celebrated with a new 4K restoration and week-long re-release in theaters. The noir-soaked masterpiece has all the secret affairs, jealous husbands and terrifying private dicks of the Hollywood classics of yore but with a sticky, hot Texas twist. Kicking off the careers of Frances McDormand, John Getz, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh and composer Carter Burwell, the film is now just old enough to have been missed by a generation of movie lovers. Tickets at denverfilm.org.
1. Miss Sharon Jones!
Opens Friday, August 26
TBD Landmark Theater
Two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A., Wild Man Blues) brings us an intimate portrait of an incredible woman, Sharon Jones, the beloved R&B chanteuse who rose from humble beginnings as a prison guard and wedding singer only to find herself sidelined by a recording industry that considered her “too short, too black, too fat, too old” to be the star that she always knew she was. Her breakthrough came after she met the music masters of Brooklyn’s The Dap Kings, which started her meteoric rise on the charts and in concert. But then Jones was diagnosed with a deadly illness that threatened to destroy everything she’d worked for. Kopple was given amazing access to the normally reclusive star, and paints a complete picture of a woman who truly knows her place — which happens to be square in the middle of a stage, singing her heart out. Get tickets at landmarktheaters.com.