The best movies and free screenings this summer

Forget Netflix at home. Summer's the time to either go see a big blockbuster in an air-conditioned theatre, or enjoy an old flick al fresco. Happily there are lots of options

Catch a flick with some fresh air

This year’s Yonge-Dundas Square City Cinema program spotlights Canadian actors and filmmakers, starting with the adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie in Strange Brew (June 27), mixing in classics like Bon Cop, Bad Cop (July 18) and The Blues Brothers (July 25) with more recent work like Whip It (July 11) and Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz (August 15). I still have no idea how they got to screen that in public.

On Wednesday nights, Harbourfront’s Free Flicks series (curated and introduced by NOW’s Norman Wilner) has thoughtful work like Kirsten Carthew’s The Sun At Midnight (June 28), Philippe Falardeau’s My Internship In Canada (August 2) and Amma Asante’s Belle (August 9) alongside crowd-pleasers like Air Bud (July 5), Wayne’s World (July 12) and Meatballs (July 19). 

The St. Lawrence Market BIA has lined up three screenings in St. James Park: a Pride Week screening of Pride (June 22), The LEGO Batman Movie (July 27) and Grease (August 24). 

The Aga Khan Museum hosts two Saturday-night outdoor screenings toward the end of the summer: George Miller’s CG penguin musical Happy Feet on August 12 and Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s beloved Singin’ In The Rain on August 26.

Christie Pits Film Festival‘s theme for this year’s Sunday-night screenings is Eyes On The Prize, films about “competition, camaraderie and the drive to win.” The festival opens June 25 with Harold Lloyd’s silent classic The Freshman, with a live musical score by the Holy Gasp. This series is free/pwyc, with a suggested donation of $10.

And speaking of paid outdoor series, the Open Roof Festival is back at 99 Sudbury with Tuesday-night double-bills of cinema and live music all summer long, launching June 27 with the Anne Hathaway-Jason Sudeikis monster mash Colossal. The full lineup has yet to be announced, but last year’s program included the Toronto premiere of Anna Rose Holmer’s brilliant The Fits, so we’re hoping things are equally ambitious for 2017.

City Cinema, June 27-August 15 at Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas East), free,

Free Flicks, June 21-August 30 at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), free, 

St. James Park movies, June 22-August 24, (120 King East), free,

Aga Khan Museum Outdoor screenings (77 Wynford), August 12-26, free, 

Christie Pits Film Festival, June 25-August 20, (750 Bloor West), pwyc, 

Open Roof Festival, June 27-August 29, $15, 

Martinis and movies

Drunken Cinema has upped the ante on the movie-going experience. The organizer behind the movie drinking game series has come up with a brilliant way to combine a night out at the movies with a night out at the bar with friends. Every month, a screening of your favourite sleazy slasher or cult classic is accompanied by fun props, popcorn, prizes and, of course, booze – you can’t have a drinking game without it. Pick your poison at the bar or indulge in the night’s themed cocktail at the Steady Cafe & Bar. Be sure to book your spot – go solo and join a team of new friends or go with your pals. Reserve early, seating is limited and spots go quickly. 

Monthly (upcoming dates: June 9 and July 8) at the Steady Cafe & Bar (1051 Bloor West), $5-$10,

Watch Baby Driver for the summer’s best soundtrack

Music has always been an essential element of Edgar Wright‘s movies – Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End use their pop soundtracks to illustrate and comment on the stories, and of course Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is just wall-to-wall indie rock, even if one of those numbers is 13 seconds long. But with his new summer movie, Baby Driver, Wright reaches even further: the playlist and the narrative are inextricable, as Ansel Elgort‘s eponymous wheelman performs impossible stunts to the beats of Golden Earring, Beck and Queen – and a new track by Danger Mouse, Run the Jewels and Big Boi. How can this not be the soundtrack (and possibly movie) of the summer? 

In theatres June 28.

Discover pioneering female filmmaker Ida Lupino 

If you enjoy spending summer days in the dark, TIFF Cinematheque puts a spotlight on the groundbreaking work of Ida Lupino, a Hollywood star in the 1940s and 50s who made the jump to directing and tackled themes like chronic illness and sexual assault. Given Nicole Kidman’s recent comments in Cannes about how women diretors continue to be underrepresented in Hollywood, this retrospective is particularly timely. Some of Lupino’s hard-to-find films – like Never Fear, Outrage, The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist – are part of the series Ida Lupino: Independent Woman, which also includes a selection of classics by other filmmakers in which she starred.

August 4-September 2, TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West), $10-$15.

See Idris Elba sling guns in The Dark Tower

Fans of The Dark Tower books have been waiting a long, long time for the movie version. Stephen King has been talking about a possible adaptation since the first book was published in 1982, and 35 years later it’s finally here, directed by Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair). Matthew McConaughey seems like a good call for the sinister Man in Black, but Idris Elba is the perfect choice to play the book’s hero, gunslinger Roland Deschain. The role seems tailored to Elba’s intelligence, wit and off-the-charts charisma, and we cannot wait to see what he does with it.

Opens August 4.

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