So, you spent all your money on Fourth of July festivities. We’ve all been there. But that’s okay, because this week there’s still plenty to do on a tight or nonexistent budget, from jazz to dreampop music, films from around the world, and a couple of theater shows. Keep reading for ten of our favorite events that won't cost you more than $10 — and six of them are free! Check out the Houston Press calendar for even more things to do.
Peaceful Bones: The Inspiring Story of an Extraordinary Friendship During a Time of War, and the Heart warming Reunion 46 Years Later That Captivated the World book signing
7 p.m. Thursday, free
It's 1966. The Vietnam War has become “Americanized” under Lyndon Johnson, who has escalated U.S. involvement, and Hung Nguyen, a North Vietnamese squadron leader, is found dying in a rice field. When Nguyen is brought to Dr. Samuel Axelrad in Phu Cat, the army surgeon makes the only choice he can: He amputates Nguyen’s arm and saves his life. So began their unlikely friendship, their reunion 46 years later making headlines as Axelrad returned to Vietnam to give Nguyen something back: the bones of his arm. Axelrad, a native Houstonian, will discuss his memoir Thursday, an inspirational tale of humanity in dehumanizing times.
Summer Sounds on the Plaza: Boomtown Brass Band
7 p.m. Thursday, free (suggested donation $10)
Dixieland jazz comes to the Rothko Chapel on Thursday when its annual concert series, Summer Sounds on the Plaza, kicks off with the Boomtown Brass Band. Fans of Louie Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke – i.e., traditional jazz – will appreciate the upbeat, toe-tapping, ragtime local bassist and composer Thomas Helton’s six-piece play, from a mix of instruments including the guitar, tuba, saxophone, clarinet and trombone. Feel free to bring a blanket and your own picnic; Saint Arnold Brewing Company will provide the drinks, and Steel City Pops will be on site so you can purchase a popsicle to beat the heat.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - Mason
7 p.m. Friday, $7.58
“What’s in the box?” asks an increasingly desperate Brad Pitt in the third act of David Fincher’s breakout 1995 horror thriller Se7en. It’s a memorable end to a noir-ish detective story, which follows two cops, played by Pitt and Morgan Freeman, as they track a serial killer, John Doe, played by Kevin Spacey, who murders people in twisted, ingenious ways based on the Bible’s seven deadly sins. The film is bleak and unsettling, but it’s well acted (capping a year for Spacey that started with The Usual Suspects), immaculately paced and gory in all the right places.
“Fairy Tales in Lacquer” opening reception and vodka tasting
Russian Cultural Center – Our Texas
7:30 p.m. Friday, free
It all started in 1721, when Peter the Great announced that 94 lacquer tiles would adorn the palace in St. Petersburg. From there, a generation of artisans took up the art of painting lacquered wood and the resulting boxes filtered down to the masses. Different schools emerged, three of which will be represented in “Fairy Tales in Lacquer,” an exhibition of antique Russian lacquer boxes: the realism of Fedoskino; Palekh, noted for its gold border; and Kholuy, produced for the middle and lower classes. Friday’s opening reception includes a free tasting of Russian Standard’s new Cloisonné bottles, which themselves are reminiscent of Fabergé art.
Astragal and Donna Hayward Split Cassette Release Show with Rose Ette and alexalone
8 p.m. Friday, $10
If you didn’t know, all the cool kids release music on cassettes these days, and two local bands with fun name origins have joined forces to do just that on Friday: the post-punk dreampop three-piece Astragal (named for Albertine Sarrazin’s novel L'Astragale) and the aggressively emo Donna Hayward (yes, named for the Twin Peaks character). Together they will celebrate the release of their split cassette EP, from label Miss Champagne, at Walter’s Downtown along with the catchy tunes and dreamy vocals of Rose Ette and the atmospheric melodies of alexalone.
Slack Bay (Ma Loute)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
5 p.m. Sunday, $9
An annual summer escape is interrupted by two bumbling detectives investigating a string of missing tourists in director Bruno Dumont’s comedic film Ma Loute, starring Juliette Binoche. Dumont’s story is set in 1910, and evokes a past that includes the likes of the Keystone Kops and Laurel and Hardy. Cinema Scope magazine says, “With an added emphasis on mischievous wordplay like homonyms and double entendres, the provocative Ma Loute is in parts subversive, perverse, and politically incorrect, while it fashions a bifurcated study of good and evil, love and hate, and, ultimately, social injustice and the sheer vulgarity of vanity itself.” Sounds like quite a night at the movies.
8 p.m. Monday, free
Edward Scissorhands, the film that kicked off a quarter-century-long match made in Hollywood heaven – the ongoing professional bromance between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp – will screen on Axelrad’s patio on Monday. Burton’s bittersweet fairy tale, with its bright cinematography and strong cast (including the last film appearance of Vincent Price), is usually regarded as one of the best — if not the best — examples of Burton being Burton. The quirky 1990 film about a suburb’s reaction to Edward, the Frankenstein-like creation of an eccentric inventor, is so good, Dark Shadows can almost be forgiven. Almost.
The Gondoliers Sneak Peek
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
7 p.m. Tuesday, free
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Houston makes its annual summerly sojourn to McGonigel’s Mucky Duck to offer audiences a sneak peek at its upcoming production, The Gondoliers, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s final shows together. The cast – Dennis Arrowsmith, Taylor Surratt, Kaitlyn Stavinoha, Abigail Coy and Alistair Donkin, who will also serve as emcee, explaining the plot points, history and sharing anecdotes – will sing the songs and, boy, does The Gondoliers have songs. Later this month, they will take their show to the Wortham Theater for four performances over three days, July 21 through 23.
Italian Cultural and Community Center
7:15 p.m. Wednesday, $10
The ICCC brings yet another of the masters of commedia all’Italiana to its film series this summer: Mario Monicelli. In Monicelli’s The Organizer, the director tackles labor unrest in Turin, floundering until the arrival of a traveling professor, played by Marcello Mastroianni. It’s a historical drama, with comedic touches to its tonal resignation, cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno and an Oscar-nominated screenplay.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
8:15 p.m. Wednesday, free
Pippin, the princely son of Charlemagne, travels on a coming-of-age journey with a circus theme in Theatre Under the Stars’ production of the Stephen Schwartz musical at Miller Outdoor Theatre this summer. Leading the all-Houston cast are local favorite Holland Vavra — whom you may recognize as either a Honky Tonk Angel or a Marvelous Wonderette from performances at Stages — as The Leading Player, and Thomas Williams, who recently appeared in TUTS’s production of Heathers, as Pippin.