A TIFF16 ‘how-to’ and ten under-the-radar picks

Things to Come, courtesy of TIFF

Things to Come, courtesy of TIFF

It’s now a little more than one week until the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, and two previews by yours truly were published this week. The first, for Buffalo.com, is a “how-to” guide for Buffalonians interested in attending, while the second, for BuffaloSpree.com, looks at 10 under-the-radar selections.

Lots more on the horizon, starting next Thursday, September 8 …

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.