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Good news: Your weekend moviegoing needs have been simplified. Every Thursday morning, our What To See guide will highlight the new releases opening in New York City and NYC repertory screenings that are most worth your time.
Here's your guide for the weekend of June 26 – June 28.
Revisit the Dope that happened back when movies like Dope didn't exist…
House Party (1990)
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Stars: Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin, Tisha Campbell, Martin Lawrence, A.J. Johnson, Robin Harris, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George, Jr., “Paul Anthony” George, Brian “B-Fine” George
House Party is the original hip-hop party movie, the forefather to this summer’s breakout hit Dope. And since it’s officially 25 years old now, it’s time to celebrate it with, what else, a party. On Friday night, June 26, the Museum of the Moving Image will host a special 25th screening, with co-stars Full Force (Bow Legged Lou, Paul Anthony and B Fine) in attendance for a post-screening Q&A with producer Warrington Hudlin.
Released in March 1990, House Party jumpstarted the longstanding union between rap culture and widely released feature films, turning its MC/actor lead Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin) into certified movie stars and household names. Unlike most other hip-hop-centric movies from the ’90s, which favored gritty and dark realism over lighthearted glee, director Reginald Hudlin’s comedy classic broke the mold and presented the rap generation—which, at the time, was more on-the-fringe than commercially omnipresent—as fun-loving, everyday teenagers. House Party was as groundbreaking as it was hip, funny and entertaining.
Admit it, NYC's nightclubs and bars can get played out. Pro tip: skip their lines and overpriced drinks, head to Queens with a friend and do the House Party foot-to-foot dance at the front of the theater.
Where to see it: Museum of the Moving Image, Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Spend a couple of hours with the music legend who inspired Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan and your other favorite soul singers….
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
Director: Liz Garbus
The key to making great, timeless art isn't rocket science: write meaningful and socially conscious lyrics and have a powerful singer belt them out. Follow those steps and the finished product will always find an audience.
To listen to someone who's mastered that kind of timeliness, revisit the discography of the late Nina Simone, the soul singer/songwriter whose time spent fighting as a civil rights activist informed her music with real-world importance. Simone’s career has been immortalized in What Happened, Miss Simone?, director Liz Garbus' critically acclaimed documentary that examines the singer’s cultural impact through an amalgamation of her songs, archival footage, and rare audio recordings of old interviews and firsthand recollections.
What Happened, Miss Simone? will also be available via Netflix Streaming over the weekend, but some music deserves more than laptop speakers or, at best, some Beats headphones. Pay an icon the respect she deserves by hearing Miss Simone's tunes on IFC's big screen.
Where to see it: IFC Center, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:40 a.m., 12:40 p.m., 2:55 p.m., 5:10 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9:50 p.m.
Just in case House Party didn't fill your "vintage hip-hop" quota…
Fresh Dressed (2015)
Director: Sacha Jenkins
You know how uber-nerds show up to Star Wars screenings wearing Darth Vader get-ups and brandishing toy light-sabers? At Fresh Dressed screenings this weekend, feel free to enter the theater decked out in those FUBU shirts and Karl Kani jeans that have been collecting dust in the closet for years now. Or if those fashion lines are too old-school, crack open the piggy bank, make like A$AP Rocky and cop some Givenchy gear before buying a movie ticket. Because, as Kanye West puts it in Fresh Dressed, “Being fresh is more important than having money.”
Culture-specific attire is optional, of course, but it’d definitely help elevate the mood for first-time director, and veteran hip-hop journalist, Sacha Jenkins’ impressively comprehensive and vibrant documentary. It’s a 90-minute journey down rap music’s memory lane, appropriately producer by Nasir “Nas” Jones, focusing on hip-hop’s style evolution—with an emphasis on its New York City origins—from the South Bronx’s motorcycle jacket days of the 1970s through Run-DMC’s Adidas-heavy looks in ’80s Queens and the new-millennium emergences of department-store-owning fashion lines like Diddy’s Sean John and Jay Z’s Rocawear.
Fresh Dressed’s talking heads lineup includes every possible player short of the late Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur (and, unfortunately, Jay Z, who’s absent here). Jenkins gets firsthand memories and opinions from Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Diddy, Pusha T, FUBU founder Daymond John (indeed, the Shark Tank guy), Damon Dash and basically everyone who started hip-hop’s most popular clothing brands. But what makes Fresh Dressed so vital is how it deconstructs why people wear what they wear, rather than simply displaying the "what."
Where to see it: Angelika Film Center, Friday and Saturday at 11:10 a.m., 1:20 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:40 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 10:00 p.m., 12:00 a.m.; Sunday at 11:10 a.m., 1:20 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:40 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 10:00 p.m.
NOTE: Fresh Dressed director Sacha Jenkins and NYC fashion legend Dapper Dan ("Dapper Dan was Tom Ford before Tom Ford," says Nas in the film) will be in attendance for post-screening Q&As on Friday, 6/26, and Saturday, 6/27, following each night's 7:50 p.m. showing.
That time conspiracy theorists, cult members and transgender call-girls all converged in Brooklyn…
The Russian Woodpecker (2015), The Invitation (2015) and Tangerine (2015)
Directors: Chad Gracia (The Russian Woodpecker), Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), Sean Baker (Tangerine)
Want to be ahead of the curve? Migrate down to Brooklyn this weekend and set up shop inside the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Rose Cinemas. Three films almost guaranteed to pop up on numerous “best of 2015” movie lists come December are set to screen during BAMcinemaFest’s final weekend.
The first is The Russian Woodpecker, a paranoia-drenched documentary about Ukrainian artist Fedor Alexandrovich, who’s obsessed with the enigmatic and unavoidably creepy mystery surrounding the 1986 Chernobyl disaster; Alexandrovich and director Chad Gracia put their lives and sanity on the line to infiltrate the disaster site and investigate an unnerving Soviet radio transmission. And if that’s not unsettling enough, there’s The Invitation, from director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body). Taking place over one night, The Invitation follows a grieving man (Logan Marshall-Green) who spends the night with his ex-wife’s new friends, following the death of their young son, and begins suspecting that her crew is more of a Manson-like cult than a Friends-like party.
Those two films provide the nightmare fuel before the mood lightens up considerably on Sunday, when the Sundance breakout Tangerine puts a bow on BAMcinemaFest 2015. Directed by New York filmmaker Sean Baker, it’s a subversive kind of screwball comedy that’s completely shot on an iPhone 5 and races around Hollywood with a pair of transgender prostitutes (played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) on the hunt for cheating boyfriend who also happens to be a gangster-wannabe pimp (James Ransone, matching James Franco’s Spring Breakers character’s hip-hop ridiculousness).
Where to see it: The Russian Woodpecker, BAM Rose Cinemas, Friday at 7:00 p.m.
The Invitation, BAM Rose Cinemas, Friday at 9:30 p.m.
Tangerine, BAM Rose Cinemas, Sunday at 9:30 p.m.
Because you've never met anyone quite like Amy before…
Director: Jason Banker
Stars: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Roxanne Lauren Knouse
Trend alert: there’s a growing wave of documentary-minded NYC filmmakers who are making gritty, reality-based narratives, and their films have been some of this year’s best. Last month, Queens-bred siblings Josh and Benny Safdie captured Manhattan’s drug scene with haunting intimacy and visceral force in Heaven Knows What, in which real-life former heroin addict Arielle Holmes plays a slightly fictionalized version of herself. And now there’s Felt, centered around a woman who’s unlike any other character in recent memory, genre film or otherwise.
New York-based filmmaker Jason Banker randomly met Cali native Amy Everson a few years back and was fascinated by her. A natural-born provocateur, Everson makes her own “skin suits” out of felt, including fake penises, and wears them to parties and clubs—wild, yes, but Banker saw something dark lurking beneath her raunchy hijinx. In Felt, he and Everson explore that edge, tapping into her real past traumas to tell a compelling yet no-punches-pulled story about a woman who’s essentially Everson (played by Everson) trying to connect with men but unable to open up to them. She meets a cute, nice guy (Kentucker Audley), falls for him, but then gets confronted by her most horrific impulses when the relationship turns complicated.
Felt operates exceptionally well on several levels: it’s an unconventional character study, giving a voice to a woman whose sanctuaries away from potential heartache are the costumes she hand-makes; it’s subtly romantic, detailing the highs and lows that come from finding unexpected love; and, once the climax hits, it’s the kind of psychological horror that’ll send you out of the theater in a daze.
And it’s almost all real. (The use of “almost” there will make more sense when the movie ends.)
Where to see it: IFC Center, Friday and Saturday, 12:55 p.m., 5:50 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 11:25 p.m.; Sunday at 12:55 p.m., 5:50 p.m., 9:30 p.m.