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A ‘Grand’ summer of free outdoor films at UB North and South

There are several reasons to champion the free outdoor University at Buffalo Student Association Summer Film Series, and near the top is the fact that this includes both the North and South campuses. This is a crucial and very wise way to positively promote UB’s role in the University Heights neighborhood, and while the Hayes Hall lawn may lack the open space of Baird Point, it’s a fine spot at which to enjoy a film.

That is all well and good, but what about the movies? Like all years, it’s a rather mixed bag in terms of quality, genre and audience appeal, but I applaud that. These are all recent works, and that makes for a nice break from the “Dirty Dancings” found elsewhere this summer. (Last year’s UB lineup featured a few dips into the past, but for 2014, it’s all recent fare.)

That being said, opening on June 24 (North Campus) with this spring’s “Robocop” remake is a bit wacky. Director José Padilha’s film pleased almost no one, abandoning the needle-sharp satire of the original for rather straightforward action. (It screens at South Campus June 25, and again at North Campus on June 27.)

However, it was certainly less widely seen than the second selection, the Marvel smash “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” so “Robo” is perhaps a fresh choice. (“Cap” is presented at South Campus on July 2 and at North on July 1 and 3.)

Last summer, UB’s summer series drew my undying love for including Ryan Gosling’s multigenerational crime epic “The Place Beyond the Pines” — if you’ve not seen “Pines,” get on that, for the sequences set to Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” alone” — and the third selection in 2014 is similarly wonderful: Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel.”

While the Ralph Fiennes-starring film is now on DVD and Blu-ray, it’s still an exquisite pick for the series. I think it’s Anderson’s finest work since “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

The other picks veer from interesting (“Transcendence,” “Monuments Men,” “Noah,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) to the opposite of interesting (“A Million Ways to Die in the West,” “The Other Woman”), with some recent blockbusters in the mix, too (“Godzilla,” “Neighbors,” “Maleficent”).

It’s a nicely eclectic bunch, and if you’ve longed to see Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones on a big screen while lounging at Baird Point, your dream has come true.

For the full schedule, visit