Coming up in repertory film: Sci-fi action, screwball comedy, and more

Catch Chris Rock in outer space, down on the Delaware, when 'The Fifth Element' screens at FringeArts on August 16.

Each summer, Philadelphia hosts dozens of outdoor film screenings around the city. Many are family-friendly affairs, with selections that reliably appeal to the broadest possible audience. (Disney’s Moana is a popular pick this year.) The Awesome Fest used to offer an alternative for grown-up movie lovers, stacking its outdoor program with indie films and genre classics, but it’s been depressingly absent from the scene for the last two years.

Luckily, FringeArts has stepped in to provide its home at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge as a venue for free outdoor screenings every Wednesday until the end of August. Wrapping up the series this month is a trio of films that ought to satisfy cinephiles and casual viewers alike.

Movies on the Delaware

The Fifth Element, French director Luc Besson’s lush foray into sci-fi action/comedy, will screen on August 16. A polarizing blockbuster upon its release in 1997, the film features Bruce Willis as the typically smartass reluctant hero, an almost completely silent Milla Jovovich as a secret-carrying human experiment, and Chris Tucker (of Rush Hour fame) hamming it up in drag.   

Weekend at Bernie’s, one of the last great screwball comedies of the 1980s, will screen on August 30. A tale of working stiffs trying shamelessly to get ahead by convincing Hamptons partygoers that their dead boss is still alive, the film sharply divided critics with its crude, dark humor. (Inevitably, there’s a necrophilia gag.) But its commitment to edgy kitsch makes the film a wholly entertaining and subversive romp.

Both screenings are free and take place outside at 140 N. Columbus Blvd. If you’re in the mood for more conventional popcorn fare, FringeArts will also show Independence Day on Wednesday, August 23.

’90s films, heavy and light

The late ’80s and early ’90s saw an advent of socially conscious films telling stories from American ghettos — mostly Brooklyn (Do the Right Thing), South Central Los Angeles (Boyz n the Hood), and Harlem (Juice). Overseas, something similar was happening: A slew of films portraying life in housing projects on the outskirts of European cities. One of these, 1995’s La Haine, follows the sons of immigrant families during riots in the high-rise slums of the Parisian suburbs. The Barnes Foundation will screen La Haine on September 4. Tickets cost $14 for the general public and $7 for students and members.

Indie giant Wes Anderson has one of the most distinct visual styles of any director working today, and you can see the seeds of Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel in his 1998 breakthrough, Rushmore. The film stars frequent Anderson collaborators Bill Murray, Luke Wilson, and — in his own career-launching role — Jason Schwartzman as they deadpan their way through an academic love triangle. Rushmore will screen at The Prince on September 7. Tickets cost $13.  

Starting in the early ’80s, movies for and about teenagers began to set the template for the styles, social groupings, and comedic sensibilities of high-schoolers. John Hughes comes to mind, but director Amy Heckerling, whose Fast Times at Ridgemont High arguably kicked off the teen-comedy genre in 1982, deserves plenty of credit. She continued in the same tradition with 1995’s Clueless, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma transposed to the mall-dappled landscape of Southern California. Teenage girls, and some boys, have imprinted on Alicia Silverstone’s self-ordained matchmaker character for some 22 years now. The Ritz at the Bourse will show Clueless on September 1 as part of its Midnight Madness series.

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