Whether your idea of a great movie-watching experience is in the darkness of an air-conditioned theater or the more social "blanket and lawn chair outdoors" variety, August is shaping up to be a strong month for art house films in Houston. This month we've got odes to musical greats (Elvis, Selena, The Beatles, Jason Mraz and the Grateful Dead), a Q&A with the detective who inspired Black Klansman, a few anniversary milestones (South Pacific's 60th, Grease's 40th, Jurassic Park's 25th), a Godzilla roar contest, a planet-saving mini festival and — to honor the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman — a retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Curator Dr. Anthony Pinn continues his monthly film series, Death and Dying in the United States, with a screening of Daughters of the Dust. In the early 1900s a family of former West African slaves, living off the coast of South Carolina, considers migrating to the continental United States but risks losing their ancestors' carefully-preserved Yoruba traditions.
For more information, call 281-888-9677 or visit 14pews.org.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Alamo's new Katy location has been cranking out the hits since its big opening in late July with plenty of Graveyard Shift thrillers, throwbacks, Kids Camp bargains and even an upcoming Marie Antoinette afternoon tea (powdered wigs encouraged).
Don't miss a visit by Ron Stallworth, the gutsy Colorado Springs detective who inspired Black Klansman; he's doing a Q&A at Alamo on August 23 and will discuss how he fearlessly took on the KKK.
Elvis will be in the building, or at least his 1963 Rolls-Royce will, in a new documentary by two-time Sundance Grand Jury winner Eugene Jarecki. The King is a sort of musical road trip with stops in New York, Memphis and Las Vegas, with guest appearances by Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, Mike Myers and more. The journey traces the rise and fall of Elvis Presley as a metaphor for the state of our nation.
Don't miss the fun at this month's interactive movie parties and try to guess what props Alamo will have on hand. Don your bathrobe and slippers and enjoy pre-film bowling at The Big Lebowski, play fight with inflatable swords for The Princess Bride, get inked with a temporary tattoo during The Fifth Element, clomp together coconut halves during the horse scenes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, throw down the checkered flag for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and the 21-and-uppers can sip s'mores martini cocktails during Wet Hot American Summer.
The Graveyard Shift is where night owls relive all the blood and gore from classic and rarely seen horror movies. Come out, if you dare, to see Martyrs, Puppet Master (a double feature), Nightmare on Elm Street (the Dream Warrior Trilogy) and Anguish. And, if you've been binge-watching YouTube Red's Cobra Kai, then "wax on, wax off" where it all began when Alamo reprises The Karate Kid.
For more information, call 281-492-6900 or visit drafthouse.com/houston/theater/lacenterra.
Asia Society Texas Center
Bring beach chairs, blankets and snacks to view Godzilla, the granddaddy of all monster movies, on the Festival Lawn. Study up, too, because there's a Kaiju trivia contest and a "best Godzilla roaring" contest.
On a more cerebral level Asia Society Texas Center, in collaboration with the Australian Consulate-General in Houston, is screening Jasper Jones, adapted from Craig Silvey's bestselling novel. Part mystery, part study on race relations, this mature story of first love and courage stars Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, Levi Miller, Angourie Rice, Dan Wyllie and Aaron McGrath
For more information, call 713-496-9901 or visit asiasociety.org/texas/events.
Aurora Picture Show
Throw away any preconceived notions about animation during the Rush Process Animation Festival. Come early on August 17 to animate yourself in the GIF booth then view DIY shorts made from stop-motion, cut-out and paint-on-glass. Come back August 18 for a closer look at The Visionary Films of Suzan Pitt, with a retrospective of Visitation, Joy Street, Crocus and Asparagus.
For more information, call 713-868-2101 or visit aurorapictureshow.org.
If you spot a lot of tie-dye and a few gray hairs, it's because the month kicks off with the 8th Annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies, showcasing the 1989 concert at Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium.
On the new music front, SiriusXM is presenting Jason Mraz: Have It All the Movie, a creative journey featuring music from Mraz's sixth studio album, Know. It's a docu-style feature that includes never-before-seen footage plus a special performance from The Mranch.
Other throwbacks include TCM Big Screen Classics presentations of The Big Lebowski (with The Dude) and South Pacific (celebrating its 60th year), as well as a 25th anniversary celebration of TriStar's Rudy, starring Sean Astin.
Diehard Elvis fans can catch a 50th anniversary celebration of the famous Elvis '68 Comeback Special, a pivotal event that marked his return to live performance and renewed The King's singing career.
For more information, call 855-473-4612 or visit fathomevents.com/events.
Landmark River Oaks Theatre
Explore the music that helped launch Beatlemania as Scott Freiman delves into that fateful 1962 meeting with EMI producer George Martin. Deconstructing The Beatles: 1963 “Yeah Yeah Yeah looks at those rich 18 months afterwards that spurned four number one singles (including “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”) and two chart-topping albums.
The past, present and future of Texas songwriting legend Blaze Foley are creatively captured in the Ethan Hawke-directed Blaze, starring Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Ben Dickey and Charlie Sexton.
This month's midnight movies includes Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket, The Room and Office Space ("I'm going to need those TPS reports.").
For more information, call 713-524-2175 or visit landmarktheatres.com.
Historic Market Square Park
Our love for baseball is riding high, so there's no better time to rewatch Field of Dreams than at Historic Market Square Park on August 24. Bring your blankets and lawn chairs, nosh on yummies from Niko Niko's, and relive the magic that can only happen when you really and truly believe. Don't miss a special appearance by the Astros' Shooting Stars and take a photograph of the World Champion Trophy.
For more information, call 713-650-3022 or visit facebook.com/events/556646158062766.
Memorial City Mall
If it's Friday, that means it's time for another Friday Family Movie Night at Memorial City. This month's flicks include Ready Player One, Iron Man, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War.
For more information, call 713-464-8640 or visit memorialcity.com/events.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
The price is right (free) so you won't mind the heat with the popular Movies at Miller. Bring your picnic blanket and plenty of water to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Grease, the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park, and enjoy the "Tale as Old as Time" in 1991's Beauty and the Beast. And see if you can find all of the Easter eggs (Cars, Toy Story, Finding Nemo), secret cameos and hidden messages in Disney's Coco, about a boy who journeys to the Land of the Dead to try to lift a family curse.
For more information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
For unfiltered looks at the effects of war and conflict in other parts of the world, MFAH is serving up thoughtful cinematic fare: In the Last Days of the City shows the growing dissent in Cairo before the revolution in Egypt and The Guardians demonstrates how female farmers do just fine while the men are off to war in early 20th century France.
East meets West and the ancient collides with the contemporary in Paul Thomas Anderson's documentary Junun, captured at India's Mehrangarh Fort in 2015 when Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Israeli composer Shy Ben Tzur and a host of vocalists and musicians jammed at this mountain top museum. We'll catch a glimpse of another musical great, this time closer to home, when MFAH screens 1997's Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos.
Art lovers won't want to miss two offerings from the Armchair Travel: Exhibition on Screen Series. Both filmed during exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, we'll get a closer look at the paintings in a 2016 show as well as the gardens that inspired Monet, Matisse and Van Gogh; and, later this month, Britain's golden boy David Hockney is interviewed along with snippets from his 2012 and 2016 blockbuster exhibitions.
But it's the kickoff of MFAH's monthlong love letter to Ingmar Bergman, the master storyteller who forced us to ponder metaphysical and spiritual questions for more than 60 years, that gets our attention. Ingmar Bergman's Cinema: A Centennial includes the haunted ballet dancer in Summer Interlude, the twisted and psychosexual power plays in Sawdust and Tinsel and his international breakthrough film, Summer with Monika, with its sensual tale of young love.
For more information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/films.
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Star Cinema Grill, Vintage Park
Bayou Land Conservancy is our regional host for Wild & Scenic On Tour, where activism gets inspired. The daylong August 30th event includes an (unofficial) History of the National Parks, a look at the ghosts of the now extinct gray wolves who still haunt us in Canis Lupus Colorado, and the negative impact of our compulsion to use plastic straws.
They're also screening a short based on Wallace Stegner's 1960 letter to Congress about the importance of wilderness, the damage caused by gold dredging at Idaho's Salmon River, a look at an obsessive park ranger's mission to kill an invasive species in Love of Place, and an interesting take on how Biomimicry just might be the answer to solving our most pressing problems.
For more information, visit wildandscenicfilmfestival.org