Open-air screenings | Festival | Chicago Reader

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Open-air screenings

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All movies are free and will be screened by video projection.

R Akeelah and the Bee Coming on the heels of Spellbound and Bee Season, this small gem (2006) about a South Central LA girl with a gift for spelling restores luster to the family genre. Keke Palmer gives a breakout performance as the title character, whose prodigious talent is nearly deep-sixed by her lack of self-esteem and her harried, widowed mom (Angela Bassett), who dismisses spelling bees as an extracurricular activity they can't afford. Laurence Fishburne plays Akeelah's coach, an academic burnout with a tragic past, and though his theatricality can be distracting, he drives home the story's moral about ambition and self-reliance. Writer-director Doug Atchison exalts teamwork and community to the point of corn--Capra in the hood--but the movie's uplift is undeniable. With Curtis Armstrong, J.R. Villarreal, and Sean Michael Afable. PG, 112 min. (AG) a Fri 6/1, dusk, Tilton Park, 305 N. Koster, 312-742-7529.

Open Season A 900-pound grizzly bear befriends a fast-talking mule deer three days before hunting season starts, and together they encourage the other forest animals to join forces against the hunters. Roger Allers (The Lion King), Jill Culton, and Anthony Stacchi directed this 2006 animated feature; among the voices are those of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, and Gary Sinise. PG, 99 min. a Fri 6/1, dusk, Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina, 312-742-7529.

Sixteen Candles John Hughes's 1984 film is a maddening tangle of styles. With his story of a suburban Chicago girl coming of age on her 16th birthday, Hughes invokes the classical unities of time, place, and plot symmetry, yet he trashes his careful structure every time he needs a gag--destroying the integrity of his characters, shattering the plausibility of his situations. The members of the Lampoon generation had clearly tired of the anything-goes format, but as they tried to make the transition to character comedy, they refused to give up their old attitudes--they wanted to be Chekhov and Mel Brooks, and the results are grotesque. As the girl, Molly Ringwald is natural and appealing, but she's lost in a world of blunt, vicious caricatures. With Paul Dooley, Carlin Glynn, and Anthony Michael Hall. PG, 93 min. (DK) a Wed 6/6, 8 PM, Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, 312-642-4600.

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