We admit that Juan of the Dead is among our favorite films being screened on Friday as part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Latin Wave 8 film festival. The political satire that director Alejandro Brugués infuses in this over-the-top comedy is absolutely delicious. Unemployed Juan (wonderfully played by Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and his friends are among a handful of human survivors when zombies invade the island nation of Cuba. Juan soon realizes that there's money to be made off the situation, killing and disposing of zombies for those not so inclined. He sets up a hotline, answering the phone, "Juan of the Dead. We kill your loved ones for you. How can I help you?"
If you think any of this sounds like Shawn of the Dead, you're right, but this is more than a simple rehash. Brugués has given the story a completely Cuban flavor. There are plenty of jabs at the absurdity of life on the isolated island. News reports say that, like every other malady ever to hit Cuba, the walking, ravenous monsters are part of an effort by the United States to destabilize the country. Juan keeps one friend from fleeing in a raft by reminding him, "If you leave, you're going to have to work for a living."
If zombies don't interest you, there's sure to be something among the other eight movies that will satisfy. Several filmmakers are set to attend the festival, including actor Victor Prada of The Cleaner (El limpiador), Adrián Saba's 2011 drama about a forensic cleaner who discovers a boy hiding at a crime scene. Director Carlos Sorin attends the screening of his 2012 Gone Fishing (Dias de pesca), about a recovering alcoholic trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Producer Estefanía Ortiz will attend the screening of Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori's 2012 7 Boxes (7 cajas), a thriller set in Paraguay.
See Juan of the Dead at 11:30 p.m. on Friday. 1001 Bissonnet. For a full schedule, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $10 per screening.
For those who appreciated the Twilight saga but wish it had been played more for laughs -- well, intentional laughs -- the often-hysterical Mildred's Umbrella Company offers the perfect show Ravenscroft , our pick for Friday. With its mysterious setting, multiple characters with multiple secrets, and, of course, murder, it delivers all the elements expected of quality detective fiction, yet simultaneously "turns it inside out and breaks all the rules," Mildred's Managing Artistic Director Jennifer Decker teases. Director Rob Kimbro, who Decker says "has wanted to direct Ravenscrcoft for many years," goes a step further in his assessment: Kimbro promises that though he and the cast intend to interpret noted playwright Don Nigro's sturdy comedic whodunit "with love," he also warns this production won't be particularly respectful. "I apologize to those of you who might be bothered by that," director Kimbro adds. Well, as long as he's sorry.
8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Through May 18. Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. Pay-what-you-can to $25.
Apparently, collecting a $25 million paycheck has its down side. Chris Tucker, in town for a stand-up performance on Saturday, got $25 million Rush Hour 3 in 2005. Such as getting in deep, deep hock to the Internal Revenue Service. "That's the last time I let Wesley Snipes help me out with my taxes," Tucker says onstage, semi-explaining his financial problems. Unlike Snipes, Tucker has so far been able to avoid jail time to cover his $11.5 million tax tab, but his disposable income has been severely decreased. "A n**ga so broke these days, somebody rob me, they just be practicing," he clowns through his tears.
Tucker may be down, but he's by no means out. He's back on the stand-up stage with The IRS Tour, as he informally calls it. He's enjoying a residual glow emitting from a small but notable role in the critically respected Silver Linings Playbook. Following in the path of comedy idols Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, Tucker recently filmed his stand-up show for a feature-length movie. There's even talk of a Rush Hour 4. Wait a minute, isn't that how he got into this in the first place?
See Chris Tucker at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit bayoumusiccenter.com. $45.50 to $65.50.
Comic book enthusiasts can drop serious money on their collection, what with all the various series, their spin-offs and related merchandise. That's why Saturday's annual Free Comic Day is a welcome respite. Comic shops will be handing out free issues of new and exciting titles (not just the B-list rejects). And free comics aren't the only giveaways scheduled to be handed out; promotional swag will abound (hats, T-shirts, buttons, decals and the like). Most shops around town will be participating, so you'll have your choice of stores. We recommend stopping by 8th Dimension. Free issues include the launch of DC's Trinity War, where three branches of the Justice League will begin doing battle against each other following tragic events in Atlantis. For kids, make sure you grab Jamal Igle's Molly Danger and Jeremy Whitley's PrinceLess. (Parents looking for perfect kick-ass female role models need search no further than Molly and Princess Adrienne.) 8th Dimension will also be hosting Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion and demonstrating a new Star Wars X-Wing miniature tabletop game.
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Enjoy Free Comic Book Day 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Various locations, including 8475 Highway 6 North. For information, visit freecomicbookday.com. Free.
For lots of folks, Cinco de Mayo means a whirl of margaritas and tequila shots. Looking for a more family-friendly event? Let Leyenda Dance Company whisk you away to Mexico during Sunday's Cinco de Mayo at Miller celebration. Along with live music, the program includes Leyenda's performance of Mexican folkloric dances. Based in the United States, Leyenda is among the best folkloric performance companies on tour today.
Leyenda Dance Company performs at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Dr. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.org. Free.
Nancy Ford and Jef with One F contributed to this post.