The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Dogfight, the Venezuelan Film Festival and More

Our suggestion for Friday might seem an odd plot for a musical. Bayou City Theatrics' Dogfight is about a group of young Marines on their way to serve in the Vietnam War. It's their last night in the States and as a joke, they make a bet  to see who can bring the ugliest girl to a party. There aren't a lot of musicals about cruel jokes against innocent women. That's not exactly something to sing about, but Dogfight somehow pulls it off. 

The story’s told in flashbacks by main character Eddie Birdlace, one of the Marines, as he rides a Greyhound bus to San Francisco. This is the Houston premiere of Dogfight, and the production is directed and designed by Bayou City Theatrics’ artistic director, Colton Berry, who also plays Birdlace.

“The original production involved quite a bit of choreography. Ours feels more like you’re watching straight theater, watching a play, and the music kind of flows seamlessly in the dialogue,” said Berry. “It’s a really intricate design and really so many different locations in this show, bops all over San Francisco, and an entire sequence in Vietnam and an entire sequence on a moving bus.”

It’s set on the night before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, though that isn’t referenced in the show. “There’s a lot of foreshadowing of all kinds of things that are to come,” said Berry.

Based on Nancy Savoca’s 1991 film of the same name, which starred River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, this adaptation contains music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Peter Duchan. “What this incredible young team of writers did is [they] took moments that stood out to them [from the film] and made them highlights in the piece but added this incredible energy and passion about all of the subjects,” said Berry. “If you’re a fan of music, especially a ’60s folk style, the score is epic, to put it lightly. It’s really one of the most interesting, hummable scores.”

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Through August 30. Bayou City Theatrics at The Kaleidoscope, 705 Main. For information, call 832-817-8656 or visit $35 to $40. 

One of our Saturday picks is Libertador (The Liberator), the story of Simón Bolívar, screening as part of the three-day Venezuelan Film Festival. 

The 2013 film directed by Alberto Arvelo shows Bolívar as a 19th-century superhero — a  military and political leader who selflessly freed country after country from Spanish rule — fighting more than 100 battles and riding horseback across 70,000 miles.

The Liberator is one of the first epic films [made in Venezuela].” says Irene Yibirin, founder and director of the Venezuelan Film Festival. “For many, many years, all of our films were low-budget or limited-budget, so this was one of the first mega-productions. It was shortlisted for the [2015] Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film; we’ve never even been close before.

“It was a super-production. They were able to re-create most of the battles in a way that has never been seen. All of the beautiful landscapes, going through the mountains to the snow, all done on location, not on set, not in studios. To be in the snow for 70 days, in the jungle, to actually go to the same places instead of on green screen.

“Simón Bolívar was like the first revolutionary. He never conquered any of the places where he went; he never wanted to become the president; he never wanted that power,” said Yibirin. “He just wanted to see a continent that was united, to become a strong force. He was freeing the people; he was never thinking of ransacking or stealing. He was welcomed wherever he would go. He was seen as the liberator.”

The Liberator screens at 7:15 p.m. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 531 South Mason. Other VFF films will be shown at Sundance Cinemas and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Katy) on August 13 and 14. For information, call 917-720-6984 or visit $5. 

Also on Saturday, we recommend the 2015 Championship Double-Header of Houston Roller Derby.  Expect to see “big hits, super-fast skating,” says Selph Destruction, blocker for the Houston Roller Derby’s team The Valkyries. “You very well could end up with a derby girl in your lap or your face. It’s pretty crazy.”

The Valkyries hope to unseat the Psych Ward Sirens in the championship. It won’t be easy; the Sirens are undefeated with a 6-0 season standing. Their not-so-secret weapons include Jekyll & Heidi, who, according to Destruction, “has this ass that’s as hard as a rock and really hard to get around,” and veteran Mistilla “the Killa” and top gamer SyRenge. With a season standing of 4-2 and a captain out with a broken ankle, The Valkyries are the underdogs. Their odds are pretty good, however, with phenomenal jammer Speed O’ (who also blocks) and rookie Slayer Moon, who “if she gets knocked down, she bounces off the floor; she can get through a pass without being touched.” With Dutch Destroyer out (she’s the one with the broken ankle), Destruction is on blocking, as well as co-captain Poysenberry Pie.

“The fan favorite is Kelly Killpowski, an ex-hockey player from Nova Scotia, Canada; she’s a force to be reckoned with,” says Destruction. Duking it out for third place will be the Bayou City Bosses and the Brawlers. “Both of them have been hit with major losses this year, for players moving away or having babies or getting injured,” said Destruction. “It’s anybody’s game. I don’t think that anybody wants to be last.”

While the former Bayou Music Center/newly renamed Revention Music Center no longer permits audience members to bring folding chairs to watch the bouts, there is seating for VIP ticket-holders and fans can bring stadium seat pads. A portion of ticket sales will benefit The Rose, Houston’s nonprofit breast cancer organization. 

6 p.m. 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit $15 to $25.

Our local movie guru Pete Vonder Haar suggested the classic spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly for a midnight viewing on Saturday. Here's what he has to say about the Clint Eastwood shoot-'em-up: If I’ve learned anything about the Old West, especially as seen in Italian director Sergio Leone’s films, it’s that it was a very sweaty place indeed. One could attribute the perspiration-filled atmosphere seen in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to the heat of the American frontier…but the film was largely shot in the Andalusia region of Spain. So much for authenticity.

Of course, the sweat could have been the result of the risks and rewards at stake. (Here’s a hint: lots. And lots.)

You have to admire the moral ambiguity of Leone’s universe in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the third in the so-called Dollars trilogy (as in: A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More). Itself a fresh take on the genre, that universe is the only place where Clint Eastwood’s character, Blondie, could seriously be regarded as the good one mentioned in the title.

There’s so much to take in here: Leone’s signature amalgamation of widescreen and close-up shots; Ennio Morricone’s famously haunting score; superlatively macho portrayals by Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef (as Angel Eyes, the bad one); and a nearly movie-stealing performance by Eli Wallach as Mexican bandit Tuco, the ugly one. (Eastwood almost balked at the role for fear of being upstaged.)

It all comes together to provide a singular viewing experience, making for both one of the all-time greatest Westerns and one of cinema’s most impressive accomplishments. There are a number of films that must be appreciated on the big screen, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is one of them. Go see it, and then maybe you can tell us what’s so blond about Eastwood’s character.

11:55 p.m. Friday and Saturday. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2175 or visit $10.50. 

“When women go wrong, men go right after them,” said Mae West in the film She Done Him Wrong. On Sunday, you can expect to see many notorious women — and a little murder — when Prohibition Supperclub & Bar transforms itself into the Golden Key Speakeasy circa 1926, with plenty of debauchery, self-indulgence and jazz for Magnolia City, an immersive murder mystery. Guests come attired in flapper dresses and long pearls, straw hats and saddle shoes, and dance, drink and mingle with gangsters, flappers and starlets.

“It’s very big in the UK and New York,” said Lian Pham, director of the Moonlight Dolls performing troupe, as well as this production. “It’s pretty trendy now. We took real Houstonians and created a story around it, based on real characters and some real events.”

The dancers of The Moonlight Dolls, one of Houston’s hottest burlesque acts, are hanging up their dancing shoes for the evening to lend their acting (and singing) chops to this murder mystery. Camille La Vie plays Mae West, known for pushing the boundaries of sex; Miss Kaleena Sue plays Annette Hanshaw, who shunned the spotlight but loved to sing; and Abby Cadabra is the outrageous radio personality Sophie Tucker, master of the double entendre and “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

“It’s kind of like being on a set when a movie is produced,” said Pham. “The clues are in the acts, whether through conversation, a fight, an altercation or a bartender gossiping about what’s going on.” “You can play a flapper or a businessman,” said Pham. “[Or] a pivotal role like mayor and possibly end up with evidence.”

5 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through October 4. 1008 Prairie. For information,  call 281-940-4636 or visit $35 to $60. 

Susie Tommaney and Pete Vonder Haar contributed to this post. 
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Olivia Flores Alvarez