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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor star in A Place in the Sun, playing at the Castro this Saturday as part of a five-day tribute to the late actress.

The wait is over. After a brief, regrettable hiatus, the Indie Theater Roundup is back, locked and loaded for a long summer, ready with the antidote to the foppish banality of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and the calculated naughtiness of The Hangover Part II. So, without further ado:

1. A Place in the Sun

Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: May 28
Why:
The late Elizabeth Taylor delivered one of her most acclaimed performances – and, in the process, became a star – opposite Montgomery Clift in this story of an aimless factory hand and a seductive socialite whose romance ultimately results in tragedy. Adapted from Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy, Sun won six Oscars, including a Best Director award for George Stevens; it plays Saturday at the Castro with Raintree County, for which Taylor earned her first of five Best Actress nominations.

2
. Hobo with a Shotgun
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: There’s nothing in Hobo with a Shotgun that you haven’t seen before in Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma pictures and the grindhouse films of the ’70s, save for perhaps better production values and an impressively grizzled Rutger Hauer. As well-constructed geek shows go, it’s got some heart, some laugh-out-loud one-liners and a sense of fun that escalates along with the body count. Is it a meaningful social critique? No, but does it really need to be?

3. The Room
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: May 27-28
Why: Popularly hailed as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," Tommy Wiseau's story of a well-to-do San Francisco banker undone by his insatiable hedonism has predictably become a midnight favorite. (Its outspoken supporters include Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd.) No surprise there – everybody loves a car crash, and whether you consider Wiseau's 2003 debut a profoundly incompetent drama or an intentionally dreadful comedy, The Room is the still-smoldering wreckage that keeps on giving.

4. The First Grader
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: An audience favorite at last year's Telluride and Toronto film festivals, First Grader recounts the real-life story of Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, an octogenarian veteran of the Mau Mau uprising who forced his way into the classroom when, in 2003, the Kenyan government offered free education to all citizens. His efforts were initially ridiculed, but his desire to read proved stronger than the taunts and threats. If that sounds like a recipe for feel-good drama, it is, but Justin Chadwick's arresting narrative resonates all the same.

5. Hesher
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: The online Urban Dictionary defines “hesher” as a “long-haired, usually mulleted person who rocks out to metal … generally seen wearing acid-washed jeans or [a] denim jacket covered with band and skull patches.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt's devil-may-care anti-hero is all of that in Spencer Susser's proudly subversive debut, about a fractured family recovering from tragedy with the help of a uniquely unhinged live-in guest.

6. Bill Cunningham New York
Where: Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: All Week
Why: “We all get dressed for Bill,” says Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, paying the ultimate compliment to legendary fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, whose work has been featured in the New York Times for 33 years. But who is Cunningham, the octogenarian-about-town relentlessly searching for the perfect shot? Bill Cunningham New York leaves us with as many questions about Cunningham as answers. That we bother to ask them at all is a tribute to the film’s effectiveness.

7
. Kill the Irishman
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: May 31-June 1
Why: Inspired by the true story of Danny Greene, a onetime labor leader turned gangster who rose to fame during the summer of 1976 as the man Cleveland's Italian mafia couldn't seem to murder, Kill the Irishman is a compelling chronicle of a man compromised by ambition and doomed by his brazenness, featuring a stellar cast led by Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Vincent D'Onofrio.