Five Must-See Movies This July in Metro Phoenix

Cool it, Phoenix. There are plenty of ways to chill this summer, and moviegoing happens to be one of the most relaxing and cost-effective -- not to mention entertaining. Here are five flicks worth the hot car ride to an icy cold local theater.

A Band Called Death As the story goes, it was after seeing Alice Cooper in concert that the three brothers Hackney formed protopunk outfit Death. Armed with a seemingly aggressive name, which was actually inspired by the untimely passing of the young men's father, and music that didn't jive with the Motown sound, David, Bobby, and Dannis sought a record deal in mid-1970s Detroit and garnered interest, but they never completed a proper full-length album.

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While the 1970s weren't promising, the 2000s brought renewed interest in the group, as its largely forgotten 45 became a coveted record collector's item, going for nearly $1,000 on eBay. Then Drag City Records released two Death albums: one a seven-song professionally recorded partial album, and another collection of demos.

Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino's documentary A Band Called Death reveals the band's trajectory from a languishing genre-less act to an important chapter in the history of punk. The film screens at FilmBar through Thursday, July 4. Tickets to the 21-and-over showings are $8.

20 Feet From Stardom Sure, fame is fleeting. But what would it be like to stand onstage and perform alongside superstars night in and night out? Morgan Neville's 20 Feet From Stardom pulls backup singers center stage to look at the lives and careers of women who've helped shape pop music, including Darlene Love, the singer actually performing lead vocals on The Crystals' "He's a Rebel," and Merry Clayton, who sings with Mick Jagger in "Gimme Shelter."

The film opens Friday, July 5, at Harkins Camelview 5.

WarGames Never mind how off-the-charts adorable pre-Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick is in WarGames, this 1983 sci-fi film finds Broderick portraying hacker David Lightman, a kid who, while attempting to access unreleased video games, accidentally sets in motion a U.S. military nuclear war simulation. Ah-whoops.

The film screens at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 7, at Phoenix Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition "The Art of Video Games." Tickets are $5 for non-museum members and free for members.

Fully Awake: Black Mountain College That many graduates from experimental North Carolina college Black Mountain grew into acclaimed and influential artists is no coincidence. The now-closed school was founded as an interdisciplinary, progressive liberal arts program, and became known for not only its out-there ways (for example, students didn't have to attend class) but also its notable alumni and such esteemed lecturers as Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage. Although it was only open for 24 years, the college's impact on art and art education in America is apparent and explored in the documentary Fully Awake.

No Festival Required presents the film at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in conjunction with the exhibition "Learning to See: Josef Albers and the Interaction of Color." Tickets are $7.

Girl Most Likely The formula for Girl Most Likely is familiar, for sure. In Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's summer flick Kristen Wiig plays Imogene, a woman who's had a meltdown, moved in with her mom, and is trying to reestablish herself as a normal human in the world. So, yes, it's fairly tread-upon territory for the hilarious Wiig, whose turn as a losery maid of honor in Bridesmaids cemented her mainstream comedic stardom.

The just-plain likability of the former SNL star is reason enough for us to want to see Girl Most Likely. The actors cast alongside her, however, make it a must-see. Annette Benning portrays Wiig's mother Zelda, a former go-go dancer dating a serial liar/apparent samurai allegedly named George Bush (pronounced boosh) played by Matt Dillon. Also on the roster are Nathan Corddry (New Girl, 30 Rock) and Natasha Lyonne (Slums of Beverly Hills). The likely crowd-pleaser opens everywhere July 19.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski