From Buffalo.com: Dipson Amherst screens ‘Thursday Night Terrors’

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I wrote about a cool new horror film series for Buffalo.com.

Peter Vullo loves horror movies. And that fandom has led the Buffalo native to create a new film series, “Thursday Night Terrors,” that horror junkies should find unmissable. All of the films in the monthly series, which opens with Peter Jackson’s zombie gem “Dead Alive” on Aug. 25, start at 7:30 p.m. in the Dipson Amherst Theatre (3500 Main St.). Admission is $7 (box office, dipsontheatres.com).

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Aug. 25: “Dead Alive” (Peter Jackson, 1992);
  • Sept. 29: “Demons” (Lamberto Bava, 1985);
  • Oct. 27: “Fright Night” (Tom Holland, 1985);
  • Nov. 17: “Phantasm II” (Don Coscarelli, 1988);
  • Dec. 15: “The Thing” (John Carpenter, 1982).

“‘Dead Alive’ is the perfect introduction,” Vullo said of the five-film series. “It’s gory, gross, ridiculous and just plain fun to watch. It’s a completely unhinged splatterfest. The lawnmower scene in particular is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”

That infamous sequence is emblematic of what makes the “Thursday Night Terrors” selections so memorable. Vullo said he chose the five features because they all include the types of unforgettable moments – such as the spider-legged head from “The Thing” – that make the horror film experience so thrilling.

An assistant manager at the Dipson Amherst, Vullo hopes those attending the screenings “will feel like watching your favorite movies with friends. Some of my fondest memories are getting together with my friends and watching some ridiculous movie as a group. It’s a shared experience.”

Spree’s August ‘Coming Attractions’: Pixar, Sharon Stone (!), and Goodfellas

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Check out my August Buffalo Spree column.

August is generally a strange month in moviehouses, and 2016 is no exception: a mix of some biggies (DC’s Suicide Squad), some question marks (a remake of Ben-Hur that no one asked for), and some WTFs (the adults-only animated flickSausage Party).

Perhaps Western New York’s summer film series are the safest bet. The latest are listed here, along with a few other goodies.

Squeaky Wheel’s Thirteenth Animation Fest

Squeaky’s animation festival is a perennial summer favorite, a family friendly even that features a wildly diverse range of artists and mediums. Info was still to come as Spree went to press, so make sure to check squeaky.org. However, there is one big change this year, as the fest will be held in a number of different locations on various nights. It all kicks off on August 6. (First screening scheduled for Aug. 6; squeaky.org)

Tuesday Night Flix at Canalside

The Catholic Health-sponsored free outdoor film series goes all-in on family fare this month: Marvel’s The Avengers on August 2; the Robin Williams favorite Jumanji on August 9; some Pixar fun with Monsters, Inc. on August 16; Steven Spielberg’s unfairly maligned Hook on August 23; and Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on August 30. Young Audiences Western New York (YAWNY) has crafts planned pre-movie on August 2, 16, and 30. Note that there is just one more Canalside screening post-August, with Mean Girls—a.k.a., Lindsay Lohan’s finest hour—on September 6.  (8:30 p.m. on August 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30 on Pierce Lawn at Canalside;canalsidebuffalo.com)

Amherst Youth and Recreation Department 2016 Summer Movie Series

There are some recurring films in this summer’s kid-friendly outdoor film series, and that’s just fine. (As any parent knows, repeat viewing is nearly as common as tooth-brushing.) Following a screening of recent smash Zootopia at Bedford Park on August 5, the series moves back to its home base, the Clearfield Community Center, for screenings of Norm of the North (August 12), The Good Dinosaur (August 19), and The Avengers(August 26). (8:30 p.m. on Aug. 5 at Bedford Park, Amherst; 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 12, 19, and 26 at Clearfield Community Center, 730 Hopkins Rd., Williamsville; amherstyouthandrec.org)

Bacchus Summer Film Series

One of the most eagerly awaited summer series each year takes place on the back patio at downtown restaurant Bacchus. And really, you have to love a series that starts (in June) with Purple Rain and ends (in September) with Steel Magnolias. That’s range! August’s lineup includes—take a deep breath—Ghostbusters(August 3), Bridget Jones’ Diary (August 4), Goodfellas (August 10), The Wedding Singer (August 11), Frozen(August 14), Back to the Future (August 17), Beaches (August 18), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (August 24), Charlie’s Angels (August 25), Enter the Dragon (August 26), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (August 31). Just make sure not to mix up your days and bring the kiddos to Goodfellas rather than Frozen. Oops! (Dusk at 56 W. Chippewa St.; bacchusbuffalo.com.)

Movies in the Meadow

The Parkside Community Association’s annual series is held every Friday in August. This year’s lineup is Zootopia on August 5; the early Tom Hanks gem The Money Pit on August 12; the Mogwai shenanigans of Gremlins on August 19; and lastly, the Burt Reynolds-Goldie Hawn comedy Best Friends on August 26. The latter famously includes scenes shot in Buffalo. (The series ends the following week with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on September 2.)  (9 p.m. on Aug. 5, 12, 19, and 26 at Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park;parksidebuffalo.org)

Free Outdoor Family Movie Night and Kids Pajama Party at Green Acres Ice Cream

The Depew ice cream shop known as Green Acres offers some of the usual suspects this month—Inside Out on August 2, Kung-Fu Panda 3 on August 16, Norm of the North on August 23. But the highlight in my household is Hotel Transylvania 2 on August 16, since my daughter is obsessed with the Jell-O-like Blobby. Ice cream plus Blobby equals good times. (Movies start at dusk at 4357 Broadway, Depew;greenacresicecream.com)

Grand Island Movies in the Park

Perhaps you’re sick of hearing about Ghostbusters following the much-hyped July release of a new entry with a new cast. If not, then you’ll be excited to know the original film starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd screens at 11 p.m. on August 27 as part of the Grand Island Movies in the Park series. Ice Age: Meltdown starts off the night, at 9 p.m. (Town Commons, 2255 Baseline Rd., Grand Island; coreymcgowan.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics

Turner Classic Movies brings John Belushi back to the screen with a special presentation of National Lampoon’s Animal House on August 14 and 17. It starts with a specially produced intro from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, but the real draw is the film itself, an iconic classic that feels as funny today as it did upon release. Missing out on this one earns you a 0.0. Meanwhile, a very different bit of beloved cinema, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, returns on August 28 and 31 in honor of its sixtieth anniversary. (Animal House: 2 and 7 p.m. on Aug. 14 and 17; The King and I: 2 and 7 p.m. on Aug. 28 and 31; both at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Aurora Theatre Summer Family Film Series

The gorgeous and historic Aurora Theatre once again offers a summer of free family films. July featured the likes of Shrek and Paddington, while this month kids can watch The Lorax on August 3 and 6, and Night at the Museum on August 10 and 13.

11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays through August 13 at the Aurora Theatre, 673 Main St., East Aurora;theauroratheatre.com)

UB Undergraduate Student Association Summer Film Series

The University at Buffalo’s popular summer series started in June and has seen a nice selection of recent cinema, including Oscar winner The Revenant and the chilling sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane. The August lineup includes the acclaimed buddy comedy The Nice Guys (Aug. 1, 3 and 5); Captain America: Civil War (Aug. 8, 10, 12, and 28); X-Men: Apocalypse (Aug. 15, 17 and 19); Alice Through the Looking Glass (Aug. 22);Independence Day: Resurgence (Aug. 24 and 26); and Central Intelligence (Aug. 28). Locations for the free screenings are the Special Events Field adjacent to the Student Union and Greiner Hall on the North Campus, and the Hayes Hall lawn on the South Campus; check sa.buffalo.edu for specific locations for each date. (8:45 p.m.; check sa.buffalo.edu for locations, which vary between UB’s South and North campuses)

Buffalo Film Seminars

The latest season of Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian’s long-running film series starts with Ernst Lubitsch’s comedy Trouble in Paradise on August 30, and the rest of the fall semester features treats from the likes of Fellini, Welles, Ashby, De Palma, and Tarkovsky. (7 p.m. on August 30 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Transit Drive-In Retro Movie Tuesday

The Transit Drive-In’s retro lineup is the only one in WNY to feature Basic Instinct, so it’s earned my respect. August features Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (August 2); Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer (August 9); The Princess Bride and A Knight’s Tale (August 16); and the aforementioned Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction (August 30). The films for August 23 are TBA. Check transitdrivein.com for start times. (6655 S. Transit Rd., Lockport; transitdrivein.com)

Cultivate Cinema Circle

CCC’s summer season ends with King Hu’s newly restored wuxia favorite A Touch of Zen on August 4 andGasland director Josh Fox’s documentary In How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change on August 24. (Zen: 7 p.m. on August 4 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; Climate: 8 p.m. on August 24 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Flix Free Family Film Series

The popular free summer series at Flix is back again, and August features Rio 2 (August 6), Hotel Transylvania 2 (August 13), Curious George (August 20), and Minions (August 27). (10 a.m. Saturdays through August 27 at Flix Stadium 10, 4901 Transit Rd., Lancaster; dipsontheatres.com)

Robin Williams Films at the Riviera

The Riviera Theatre often has novel concepts for its film series, and this summer is especially interesting: a remembrance of the late Robin Williams. While his filmography is certainly checkered, there are numerous gems. July’s screenings included Hook and Dead Poets Society, while this month’s diverse list features Aladdin (11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on August 11); Good Morning Vietnam (7 p.m. on August 11); Jumanji (11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on August 18); and Good Will Hunting (7 p.m. on August 18). (67 Webster St., N.Tonawanda;rivieratheatre.org)

 

Also screening this month …

The Roycroft Film Society is in the mood for Mel, with Mel Brooks’s inspired 1976 comedy Silent Movie set to screen on August 13. It’s a unique choice from the filmmaker’s 1970s filmography, as it’s certainly less well known than the filmmaker’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein(8:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Free Family Movie Nights at Artpark features two of Pixar’s finest: Inside Out on August 15 and The Incredibles on August 22. (7:30 p.m. on August 15 and 22 at Artpark, 450 South 4th St., Lewiston; artpark.net)

Speaking of Pixar, this month’s free outdoor movie at Chestnut Ridge Park is Cars(8:15-10:30 p.m. on Aug. 19 at Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park; chestnutridgeconservancy.org)

The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s Thursday Film Series has a “summer camp” theme this month. The titles are TBA. (5-7:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, 11, 18, and 25 at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Sq.; buffalolib.org)

Here’s why you should be watching ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix

Stranger Things

I was thrilled to write about the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things” for the Buffalo News “You Should Be Watching” column.

“Stranger Things” saved summer. Seriously. Big-screen blockbusters are sputtering, “Game of Thrones” is done for the year, and real life is real scary. Thank goodness, then, for the fictional scares of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” an enthralling story of four friends, one monster, a mother on a quest to save her son, and a little girl named Eleven with special powers.

Title: “Stranger Things”

Year it began: 2016

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Who’s in it: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton and Matthew Modine

Typical episode length: 55 minutes or less

Number of episodes to date: 8

Brief plot description: A young boy disappears in a small Indiana town in 1983, and his three best friends, mother, older brother and the local police chief are determined to find him. But the appearance of a mysterious girl with extraordinary abilities means the quest will be more complex than anyone could have imagined.

Why it’s worth watching: From its title font – in the style of Stephen King paperbacks like “Needful Things” – to its Spielberg-esque focus on the friendship of “Dungeons and Dragons”-obsessed adolescent boys, there has rarely been a show as upfront about its influences as “Stranger Things.” But the series is more than just a 1980s pastiche thanks to its believable characters and the actors who inhabit those roles. Writer-directors Matt and Ross Duffer have assembled a cast of stellar veterans – a never-better Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine in bad-guy mode – and likable kids and teenagers. (The standout is young Millie Bobby Brown, whose performance as the powerful, wounded Eleven is heartbreaking.) The story of missing 12-year-old Will Byers culminates in a satisfying but nicely open-ended conclusion in Episode Eight. The ending, of course, has already led to prognosticating on the second season. Yes, the show is already overanalyzed … and it just premiered on July 15. But that, too, is part of the fun. Not since “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files” has there been a sci-fi (ish) series that truly warrants this level of theorizing and analysis. (If there’s an “Eleven” … Is there a “One,” “Two,” etc.? Can Matthew Modine’s hair get any whiter?) “Stranger Things” is an addictive joy, and I dare you to stop after one episode.

Yes, it’s almost time for TIFF16: Analyzing the first batch of announcements

La La Land; courtesy of TIFF

La La Land; courtesy of TIFF

TIFF16 is almost upon us … so I wrote about the festival’s first announcements for BuffaloSpree.com. The piece went live on July 27, hence the title, “42 days till TIFF16
Analyzing the first batch of Toronto Film Fest announcements.”

And we’re off … The fall festival season has begun. OK, it’s still July. But once the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) holds its introductory press conference, announcements begin to leak for fests in Venice and New York, and Telluride rumors begin, it’s clear the attention of cinephiles has moved on from summer cinema to autumn Oscar hopefuls.

TIFF15 was a fine festival, with highlights like eventual award winners Spotlight and Room, delights like Brooklyn and The Martian, and high-profile disappointments like Black Mass. At this point it’s too early to judge the TIFF16 lineup, especially since the eventual lineup will number around 300 (!).

Admittedly, the announcement of The Magnificent Seven as this year’s opening film is likely to disappoint all but the star-crazy folks who line up along King Street for a glimpse of celebrities. Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 western is an iffy proposition — the director’s last film was the justifiably forgotten The Equalizer— but it does star Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. The festival’s opening films are notoriously a mixed bag, but it’s especially hard to summon much enthusiasm for Seven.

Still, the list of forty-nine Special Presentations and nineteen Gala Presentations includes numerous highlights. Consider just a few of the films announced for this year’s festival, running from September 8 to 18:

  • La La Land: Director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was one of 2014’s finest films. His hugely anticipated follow-up starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land, could not look more enticing. A musical set in modern Los Angeles, the film boasts one of the most striking trailers in ages.
  • Nocturnal Animals: Designer Tom Ford made a startling debut as a director with 2009’s A Single Man, and his second feature is ridiculously star-packed: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Michael Sheen. Intrigued? If not, try the plot summary: “[T]he story of a woman who is forced to confront the demons of her past, as she is drawn into the world of a thriller novel written by her ex-husband.” Yes, you’re in, and so am I.
  • American Pastoral: Ewan McGregor is close to the last person I would’ve pictured as Philip Roth’s “Swede” Levov. But to McGregor’s credit, he found a way to bring the 1960s-set Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to life with himself as director and star. Considering how long it’s taken to see Pastoral hit the big screen, I’m willing to accept Obi-Wan as “Swede.”
  • A United Kingdom: Belle, Amma Asante’s 2013 hit, was a moving period drama. For her next effort, A United Kingdom, she has lined up two great actors — Selma’s David Oyelowo and Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike. It’s the “true story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1947 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.” Sounds like another fascinating historical film.

In addition to those four, there are recent Cannes’ favorites like Toni Erdman and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, buzzed-about Sundance smashes Manchester by the Sea and Birth of a Nation, and some real question marks. (Woody Harrelson as LBJ? Directed by Rob Reiner? Hmm.)

The Canadian lineup will be announced at a press conference next week, and plenty more announcements will arrive during the next month-plus. Fingers crossed for Kristen Stewart-starrer Personal Shopper, Oasis documentary Supersonic, and Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake.

Is it September 8 yet?

Pondering ‘Ghostbusters’: A film as fun — and as essential — as anything else in 2016

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“Ghostbusters” is as deliriously pleasurable as any film I’ve seen in 2016. And I say that with no hesitation. It is, in fact, as good as the flawed but ever-watchable originals, and in some ways even superior.

Yes, the world-building can be a bit much, the villain is lame and poorly conceived, the cameos are fun but almost overwhelming, the adherence to the original film, especially, is a bit too snug. (Thrown out of the college/PO’ing the mayor/etc.)

But it’s FUN. And FUNNY. And so much smarter than its trailers, and its prerelease buzz, might have you believe.

The greatness of Kate McKinnon has been well-documented (and very well, by the likes of Wired and Vulture), but let me join the chorus: her Holtzmann is one of the most utterly delightful creations in recent cinema. You can’t take your eyes off her, and that’s due to McKinnon’s charisma. I have not been a “Saturday Night Live” watcher for some time now, so this was my first KM experience. My goodness. (I’ve been scouring YouTube for the clip of her lip-syncing DeBarge, but no such luck.)

All four leads are quite good, especially Leslie Jones, and it would be hard not to relish Chris Hemsworth’s performance as the wonderfully idiotic Kevin. Interestingly, it is the interplay of the four leads that I’ll most remember. The same is true of 1984’s “Ghostbusters,” a film that works so well mainly because of the charms of its cast and the novelty of its concept. The effects and the story were adequate, at best; the same is true of “Ghostbusters” 2016. And that’s fine. (Several reviews criticized the effects-laden finale. Um, it’s “Ghostbusters.” That’s pretty much how things are going to end.)

It pains me that many will remember the 2016 “Ghostbusters” mainly for the absurd, inane culture-war horseshit that’s swirled around the film for months. I feel sorry for the haters, those whose misogyny or backwards sense of nostalgia keeps them from seeing and appreciating something so joyful. It’s their loss.

Driving home after the film, I realized what makes “Ghostbusters,” for me, such a profound success: It’s something that 5 or 10 or 15 years from now I can imagine watching with both my daughter and my son, and finding as enjoyable as I do now. But more than that, I can see my daughter loving the fact that onscreen are four women who are presented as something beyond The Girlfriend/The Wife/The Secretary. They are the heroes, and they are science nerds, and they are hilarious. It’s probably clichéd to say that I’m more cognizant of such things after having a daughter. But it’s true. Today, I see more clearly than I may have before exactly why these representations are downright essential. And above all other reasons, that’s why “Ghostbusters” is a landmark summer blockbuster. Regardless of how much money it earns or what the final critic consensus may be, this is important. This means something.

Other random thoughts:

  • Loved the “Bababooey” shout near the end, surely wedged in by Stern Show super-fan Paul Feig.
  • The blink-and-you-miss-it tribute to Harold Ramis felt more resonant than any of the cameos, actually.
  • I truly hope the film’s box office is strong enough to earn a sequel. Similar to the upcoming follow-up to “The Force Awakens,” the set-up is complete. Now Feig and company can go in whatever direction they’d like.
  • Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon.

July Coming Attractions: The dog days of summer are perfect for screenings

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July is not over! Only half over. I neglected to post my June Buffalo Spree Coming Attractions column, but July is updated the web and ready for your enjoyment.

The summer film series lineup is now in full swing, and there’s no better place for us to start our look at what’s on tap this month than Canalside.

Tuesday Night Flix at Canalside

It’s hard to think of a lovelier spot to watch a film than at Canalside, so the return of the Catholic Health-sponsored free outdoor film series is cause for celebration. The series started on June 14 and continues into September, and July’s lineup is relatively varied, and generally family friendly: The animated mouse immigration saga (!) An American Tail on July 5, the first Pirates of the Caribbean entry on July 12, Pixar’sFinding Nemo on July 19, and last summer’s dino sequel Jurassic World on July 26. The fine folks from Young Audiences Western New York (YAWNY) will offer up a special craft for the kids on select nights. In July, these are set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. (pre-movie) on July 5, 19, and 26. Note that Adirondack chairs are available for the first hundred guests. So, yeah. It pays to arrive early. (8:30 p.m. on July 5, 12, 19, and 26 on Pierce Lawn at Canalside; canalsidebuffalo.com)

A Twist of Lemmon, starring Chris Lemmon

The Fredonia Opera House offers an intimate opportunity to learn about the late Jack Lemmon on July 15. TheSome Like It Hot star’s son Chris presents a live performance called A Twist of Lemmon that features stories about his father’s work, his relationships with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Walter Matthau, and songs from Hollywood’s golden age. It’s a unique presentation that also includes a Q-and-A. (7:30 p.m. on July 15 at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Free Outdoor Movie at Chestnut Ridge Park

Chestnut Ridge played an important role in my young life, as a place to sled, run around, and play. I love that the Park continues to find new ways to draw in families, year-round. The latest example is a July 24 screening of Pixar’s The Incredibles. The witty superhero romp is as strong now as it was in 2004, and best of all? The screening is free. (9:15-11:30 p.m. on July 24 at Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park; chestnutridgeconservancy.org)

Films at the Library

The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system offers up two unique series this summer. The first, appropriately titled “The Dog Days of Summer,” will feature only films about canines. I’m down with that, especially if this list does not include Jim Belushi’s K-9. (The lineup has not yet been announced.) Meanwhile, the Town of Collins Public Library has mounted a Shakespeare Film Fest, and has scheduled three diverse picks for July. First is Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren, on July 12. The Twelfth Night-inspired teen romp She’s the Man, starring the now-MIA Amanda Bynes, screens on July 19. And Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society remains a fine film about the impact of the Bard’s work, as well as a showcase for the dramatic talents of the late Robin Williams. It screens on July 26. (“Dog Days of Summer”: 5 p.m. on July 7, 14, 21, and 28 at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Sq.; Shakespeare Film Fest: 6 p.m. on July 12, 19, and 26 at Town of Collins Public Library, 2341 Main St., Collins; buffalolib.org)

Free Outdoor Family Movie Night and Kids PajamaParty at Green Acres Ice Cream

Every Tuesday from July 5 to August 23, Depew’s Green Acres Ice Cream features a free family film. The schedule includes some of the biggest animated hits of the last year-plus: Minions on July 5, The Peanuts Movie on July 12, Zootopia on July 19, and The Good Dinosaur on July 26. (Movies start at dusk at 4357 Broadway, Depew; greenacresicecream.com)

Grand Island Movies in the Park

How does a free outdoor film series stand out in the busy WNY marketplace? The Grand Island Movies in the Park series pulls it off by pairing one for the kids and one for the teens. Pixar’s classic Finding Nemo screens at 9 p.m. on July 30, followed by Independence Day at 11 p.m. This is a clever double-bill, since sequels to both films were released on June 17 and June 24, respectively. (The series started on June 25 with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Marvel blockbuster Captain America: Winter Soldier.) (coreymcgowan.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—Planet of the Apes

There have been seven—seven!—Planet of the Apes films since the iconic 1968 original, and the quality is spotty at best. But there is no denying the pleasures of that first film starring Charlton Heston. The ongoing Turner Classic Movies Big Screen Classics series presents the film this month, and twenty bucks says it’s as entertaining as any new film released in the month of July. (2 and 7 p.m. on July 24 and 27 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Silo City Blockbuster—Rocky III and Creed

queaky Wheel brings two films in the ongoing Rocky Balboa saga to Silo City for a very special (and free) double bill on the weekend preceding the Fourth of July. While the quality of Rocky III is debatable, the third chapter in the battle between Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa and Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed is certainly fun. (Mr. T!) Last year’s Creed, however, is undoubtedly great. The film about Creed’s son Adonis (the great Michael B. Jordan) and an aged Balboa is heartfelt and utterly crowd-pleasing. (Rocky III at 9 p.m., Creed at 11 p.m., at Silo City, 87 Childs St.; squeaky.org)

Roycroft Film Society—Phoenix

The Roycroft has scheduled one of the finest foreign films of recent years for its July screening. Director Christian Petzold’s post-World War II drama is the story of a concentration camp survivor’s attempt to reconnect with the (non-Jewish) husband who believes she is dead, and to learn whether he betrayed her to the Nazis. The performances from stars Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld are stunners, and the final scene will leave you breathless. (4 p.m. on July 10 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora;roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Bacchus Summer Film Series

The truly unique summer film series held on the back patio at downtown favorite Bacchus offers a typically varied July lineup—some Dude, some Amy Schumer, some Kung-Fu, some Pixar: The Jerk (July 6),Trainwreck (July 7), The Big Lebowski (July 13), Ghost (July 14), The Incredibles (July 17), Dazed and Confused (July 20), The Princess Bride (July 21), Drunken Master (July 22), The Breakfast Club (July 27), andKnocked Up (July 28). (Dusk at 56 W. Chippewa St.; bacchusbuffalo.com.)

Cultivate Cinema Circle

CCC’s summer season runs into September, and July features two fascinating documentaries. First, however, is one of the greatest and most important films of the 1960s: Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders. Featuring Godard’s then-wife Anna Karina, this French New Wave highlight is almost as influential as the filmmaker’s 1960 classic Breathless. Next is Doug Block’s The Kids Grow Up (July 21), an intimate portrait of his daughter featuring footage filmed throughout her adolescence. The month concludes with Do Not Resist, a sobering look at American police culture. (Outsiders: 7 p.m. July 7 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; Kids: 7 p.m. on July 21 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; Resist: 8 p.m. on July 27 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Amherst Youth and Recreation Department 2016 Summer Movie Series

Little yellow things, feelings, glass slippers, and a very likable sheep make up the July Amherst Youth and Recreation list. The outdoor series features Minions on July 8, Inside Out on July 15, Cinderella on July 22, and Shaun the Sheep on July 29. (9 p.m. on July 8, 15, 22, and 29 at Clearfield Community Center, 730 Hopkins Rd., Williamsville; amherstyouthandrec.org)

The Screening Room

As usual, Amherst’s Screening Room is full of more treats than I can mention, so visit screeningroom.net for the full listing. Highlights include the Marilyn Monroe-starring, Niagara Falls-filmed (and set) thriller Niagara and the acclaimed Anthony Weiner-centered documentary Weiner on July 1 and 2. (Both films began their Screening Room runs in June.) Being AP, a documentary about horse-racing legend AP McCoy, screens on July 7. And July also features the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy Silver Streak, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and a film noir double bill. The latter includes Edgar G. Ulmer’s deliciously nasty 1945 Tom Neal-starrer,Detour. It was notoriously shot in six days, and has more imagination than most blockbusters. (3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

 

Also screening this month …

Fathom Events has a number of screenings on tap at the at the Regal Elmwood Center and the Regal Transit Center. In addition to the aforementioned ApesThe Met: Live in HD presents La Bohème on July 13 and Così fan tutte on July 20, both at 7 p.m. And audiences can explore history, spirituality, architecture and art in St. Peter’s and the Papal Basilicas of Rome at 7 p.m. on July 14. Visit fathomevents.com for details.

The Dipson Amherst Theatre presents Rigoletto from the Opera de Paris at 11 a.m. on July 24 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre (3500 Main St.; dipsontheatres.com).

Artist/filmmaker Marshall Arisman presents his documentary A Postcard from Lily Dale at 7:30 p.m. on July 29 at the Fredonia Opera House (fredopera.org).

The Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls offers five free outdoor screenings on Fridays in July: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on July 1, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on July 8, The Breakfast Club on July 15,Grease on July 22, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on July 29. All films are shown in Seneca Square. (senecaniagaracasino.com)

25 from 2016! Favorites from the first six months

2016

We’ve reached the midpoint of 2016, and while the world itself is (seemingly) in shambles, things are lovely on the film front. That’s a terrible observation, but it’s true. For the most part, I think 2016 has been strong. Here, in no particular order, are 25 films I’ve enjoyed so far this year. There is some cheating, with a TV miniseries and a Studio Ghibli reissue on the list. But it’s my list, so I’ll allow it. (See more on Letterboxd, including my star ratings for each.)

High-Rise
The Lobster
The Witch
Sleeping Giant
London Road
Hail, Caesar!
Only Yesterday
Hello, My Name Is Doris
The Jungle Book
The Club
Mountains May Depart
Darling
The Family Fang
April and the Extraordinary World
Captain America: Civil War
Green Room
Midnight Special
Sing Street
The Night Manager
Dheepan
10 Cloverfield Lane
O.J.: Made in America
Weiner
De Palma
The Neon Demon

2016 releases of note that I still need to see:
A Bigger Splash, Eye in the Sky, Love and Friendship, A Hologram for the King, Everybody Wants Some!, The Meddler, Genius, Swiss Army Man, Maggie’s Plan, Finding Dory, Money Monster, The Nice Guys, Keanu, The Shallows, Triple 9, Free State of Jones, Demolition, I Saw the Light, The Invitation, My Golden Days, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The BFG, Independence Day: Resurgence

New to DVD: Sally Field shines in ‘Hello, My Name Is Doris’

hello-my-name-is-doris-1024x682

New to DVD is one of the most charming films I’ve seen so far this year, “Hello, My Name Is Doris.” Audiences seemed to adore the Field and the film in theaters, and I expect it will win over even more viewers at home. Here’s my 3 1/2-star Buffalo News review.

“Hello, My Name Is Doris” is a rarity: a genuinely funny, sincere and believable film for adults, centered on an older woman. It’s the most purely enjoyable of a number of recent films focusing on women in their 60s navigating love and family issues — more entertaining than Blythe Danner’s “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” less predictable than Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma.”

And it offers star Sally Field her finest comedic role since (believe it or not) the underrated 1991 film “Soapdish.” Field gives an award-worthy performance as a character that could have been a one-note embarrassment.

It’s a real winner, certainly one of the sweetest adult releases this year. While it never quite breaks the mold or truly surprises, “Doris” succeeds as a character study with real heart and warmth.

Michael Showalter’s film begins just after the death of the title character’s mother. Doris (Field) has lived in the home she grew up in with her mother her entire life. The home is mess of accumulated bric-a-brac. Doris is accused of being a hoarder, and it’s difficult to argue with the designation.

A telling moment occurs early in the film, as Doris makes her way to work. Spotting a grungy lamp on the street, she seems struck with inspiration. She happily picks it up and lugs it to her office job.

On this day, she’s lodged in a crowded elevator with a handsome young man who compliments her offbeat glasses. He is John (“New Girl” star Max Greenfield), a newly hired co-worker, and he is utterly charming. Doris — an almost invisible figure in the office to most — is instantly smitten.

Smitten might be putting it mildly. Perhaps lust is more accurate. And why wouldn’t she be? John treats her with kindness and respect, unlike so many others. When he calls Doris “a true original,” it is not said with mockery or disdain.

With some confidence from a self-help seminar and a friend’s teenage daughter, Doris learns the art of Facebook stalking, buys the CD of John’s favorite band, and attempts to win over this much younger man.

She is successful to some degree, but things soon take a sad turn, although not an unexpected one. The film’s second half is a bit more somber, yet Field, Greenfield and an ace supporting cast (Tyne Daly, Peter Gallagher, Stephen Root) ensure even the darker moments are not overwhelmingly sad.

Occasionally the jokes are too easy. (Older woman at a rave! Older woman doesn’t understand social media! Older woman doesn’t know what “digits” means!) But “Doris” has some substantial thoughts on aging and romance, and unexpectedly becomes a paean to the joys of real friendship.

Above all else, it’s funny. Especially droll is Daly, as Doris’s longtime best friend, Roz. Some of her lines are truly memorable — yelling “FASCIST!” at a jogger who angrily passes her and Doris, or confronting Doris after she declines a Thanksgiving invitation with, “I can’t believe you’re doing this. I have two kinds of stuffing.”

One of the most memorable moments is a brutally honest argument involving Doris’s inclusion in John’s circle of young friends — Roz says they see Doris as “the weird little old lady in the funny clothes,” Doris tells Roz that it’s time she moved on from her late husband. This exchange is the film’s best:

Roz: “You’re telling me to move on? You have packets of duck sauce in your refrigerator from the 1970s.” Doris: “IT KEEPS.”

Director Showalter is something of a comic genius. A cast member of cult-classic sketch comedy “The State,” he is best known as an actor. But “Doris,” his second directorial effort, demonstrates that the “Wet Hot American Summer” star is the real deal.

For Field, “Doris” may just herald a career rebirth. She has had some successes over the past few decades — an Oscar nominated turn in “Lincoln,” a leading role on TV’s “Brothers and Sisters” — but it’s been some time since she had a plum role like this. Her Doris is a true original indeed.

From the May Spree: ‘One of WNY’s longest-running film fests returns, along with a twelve-hour (!) epic’

Out 1; courtesy of TIFF

Out 1; courtesy of TIFF

My Coming Attractions column in the May issue of Buffalo Spree promoted a Toronto showing of Jacques Rivette’s Out 1, but if you did not make it to TO, the 12-hour epic is now streaming on Netflix. On to the column …

If April was the prologue to the summer movie season, May is most certainly chapter one. While a number of winter and spring series are finishing up their runs, there are plenty of treats locally and north of the border. 

Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival: For more than three decades, the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival has brought unique, conversation-worthy cinema to Western New York. There are always gems to be found in the lineup of films, and 2016 is no exception. Opening film A La Vie tells the fascinating story of three women, all survivors of Auschwitz, reuniting fifteen years later, while the Montreal-set Felix and Meira earned director Maxime Giroux the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Times vary, so check bijff.com for the full schedule. (May 6-12 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; bijff.com)

Buffalo Film Seminars/Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road at the Dipson Amherst Theatre: The final selection for the spring 2016 installment of the Buffalo Film Seminars, The Fisher King features one of Robin Williams’s finest performances, and is certainly one of director Terry Gilliam’s most audience-friendly efforts. It also stars a pre-Lebowski Jeff Bridges and, you may recall, earned actress Mercedes Ruehl an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. And as I mentioned last month, Dipson’s recent Wim Wenders retrospective concludes with the five-hour director’s cut of 1991’s Until the End of the World. That, friends, is the month’s must-see. (The Fisher King: 7 p.m. on May 3; Until the End of the World: 12:30 p.m. on May 1; at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

The History of Terrorism—No Country for Old Men: The Burchfield Penney Art Center’s “History of Terrorism” series has been a real treat, and it ends with one of the more satisfying Best Picture Oscar winners of the last decade: Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men. The brothers’ Cormac McCarthy adaptation is the brutal and uncompromising story of a drug deal gone awry in 1980s Texas. There have been few movie villains as legitimately fear-inducing as Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, but watching No Country again will remind you that the entire cast was strong, especially Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. (6:30 p.m. on May 5; 1300 Elmwood Ave.; burchfieldpenney.org)

Cultivate Cinema Circle: CCC offers up two unique treats this month. The Royal Road, a 2015 Sundance Film festival selection, is a documentary intriguingly described as a “cinematic essay in defense of remembering [that] offers up a primer on Junipero Serra’s Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, the pursuit of unavailable women, butch identity, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo—all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes, and featuring a voiceover cameo by Tony Kushner.” Wow. Director Jenni Olson’s film sounds utterly fascinating, and ideal for the fab Cultivate Cinema Circle screening series. It’s set for May 26. Plus, Dziga Vertov’s experimental silent essential Man With a Movie Camera screens earlier in the month, on May 21. (Camera: 1 p.m. on May 21 at the Mason O. Damon Auditorium at Buffalo Central Library, 1 Lafayette Sq.; Road: 7 p.m. on May 26 at Dreamland Studio & Gallery, 387 Franklin St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Is John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off truly a classic? Hard to say; it’s undoubtedly a cult classic, and celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year. It’s certainly a fun pick for TCM’s ongoing series, and will feature specially produced commentary from Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. (2 and 7 p.m. on May 15 and 17 at Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Old Chestnut Film Society—The Rainmaker: Running strong since 1983, the Old Chestnut Film Society continues to program some of the greats of the twentieth century. Its current series featuring films starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn comes to a close on May 13 with The Rainmaker. Hepburn received an Oscar nomination for the 1956 drama costarring Burt Lancaster. (7:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

The Nitrate Picture Show: While year two of the George Eastman House’s festival of film conservation actually starts in April—April 29, to be exact—I think we can get away with including it here. What makes the fest so noteworthy is that it features vintage nitrate prints from the Eastman’s world-renowned collection. The three days also feature lectures and workshops. (April 29-May 1 at the at the George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave., Rochester; eastman.org/nps)

May at the TIFF Bell Lightbox: The month features the usual roster of classics (Fargo on May 12, Double Indemnity on May 15), unique events (the Next Wave Jump Cuts Young Filmmakers Showcase on May 9), and special appearances (author Cheryl Strayed reflects on the 2012 adaptation of her memoir, Wild, on May 9). But the highlight of May is, without question, two nights of the late Jacques Rivette’s 1971 epic Out 1. Now, this is going to take some stamina, since the full runtime is more than … twelve hours long. But spread out over May 21 and 22—episodes one through four the first night, five through eight the second—makes things seem a bit more manageable. Originally planned as a television miniseries, Out 1 was unavailable for much of the last forty years. But the unwieldy, multi-character, Balzac-inspired film underwent a digital restoration in 2015, and now ranks among cinema’s most fascinating rediscovered works. (All films at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net)

Fredonia Opera House: The Opera House’s ongoing cinema series takes a lighter turn this month. First up isEddie the Eagle, the uplifting (if sappy) story of British Olympic sensation Michael “Eddie” Edwards. The Taron Egerton-Hugh Jackman starrer screens on May 14 and 17. On May 21 and 24, catch the long-awaited My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. I’ve not seen it yet, but if you liked the first one … etc. Note that the latter film will also screen at Lockport’s Historic Palace Theatre on May 1 and 2. Check lockportpalacetheatre.org for showtimes.(7:30 p.m. at 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

North Park Theatre: One of the greatest films of all time screens at the North Park on May 8: Yasujiro Ozu’sLate Spring. Note that this is a restored version of the Japanese director’s 1949 stunner. Also scheduled this month is the recent anime film Harmony. It screens on May 17 and 18. As always, check northparktheatre.org for an updated schedule. (Spring: 11:30 a.m. on May 8; Harmony: 9:30 p.m. on May 17-18; 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

The Screening Room: It’s nearly impossible to succinctly run down the May schedule at Amherst’s Screening Room, so visit screeningroom.net for the full listing. Highlights? The low-budget horror film Darling belongs at the top. This black-and-white homage to Polanski’s Repulsion first screened on April 29 and 30, and remains at the Screening Room for showings on May 3, 5, and 7. Ridley Scott’s iconic classic Alien is set for 7:30 p.m. on May 6, 7, 10, and 14. Local film The Butcher screens at 7 p.m. on May 15, while The Light Beneath Their Feet, starring Taryn Manning, makes its Buffalo premiere on May 20. It continues on May 21, 24, and 26. (Visit website for times for Darling and The Light.) (3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

Roycroft Film Society: One of last year’s most surprising Oscar nominations came in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category. The Swedish hit The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared deserved the nom, but seeing the obscure film in the Oscar mix was still unexpected. The East Aurora-based Roycroft Film Society has chosen this adaptation of  Jonas Jonasson’s bestseller as its May presentation. (4 p.m. on March 13 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Also screening this month …

The Dipson Amherst Theatre presents the Paris Opera’s production of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust on the big screen. (11 a.m. on May 22; at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Also screening at the Amherst Theatre is the National Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It(noon on May 15; at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Note that Toronto’s Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, continues through May 8. The popular festival started on April 28. One of the highlights is Off the Rails, a documentary directed by Adam Irving. The film introduces us to Darius McCollum, “a man with Asperger’s syndrome whose overwhelming love of transit has landed him in jail some thirty times for impersonating New York City bus drivers and subway conductors and driving their routes.” That’s a fascinating description. Rails makes its international premiere at Hot Docs on May 4. Learn more about the film at  offtherailsmovie.com(schedule TBA; hotdocs.ca)

The twenty-sixth annual Toronto LGBT Film Festival is an eleven-day fest featuring more than 200 films and videos. That’s an impressive number. (May 26-June 5; details TBA; insideout.ca/initiatives/Toronto)

After the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival comes to an end, hit the QEW for the final days of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. (May 5-15; tjff.com)

Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea came and went without much enthusiasm last December, and while it’s nothing special, this tale of the 1820 sinking that inspired Moby Dick is worth a viewing. The Town of Collins Public Library will show the film at 1 p.m. on May 6. (2341 Main St., Collins; buffalolib.org)