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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

If Muggles and the fresh-faced wizards and witches of Hogwarts aren't magical enough to pique your interest, here's a list of the most satisfying alternatives currently in rotation at an indie theater near you.

1. Dead Snow
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week
Why: Blood spills early and often in director Tommy Wirkola’s amusingly campy tale of eight medical students on vacation in Norway, where the snow-swept hills boast a terrifying secret: A battalion of Nazi zombies whose sadism seems to have been dulled by neither time nor death.

2. Humpday
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: If Lynn Shelton’s dialogue-rich comedy seems intent on upping the ante presented by this spring’s I Love You, Man, that’s no accident. The movie, about a pair of straight friends – Ben (Mark Duplass), married and seemingly domesticated, and Andrew (Joshua Leonard), a laid-back bohemian type – who decide it would be the pinnacle of high-concept art (or something like that) to make their own gay porn flick, isn’t really about the sex so much as the bond that unites two men laughably unsuited to taking their relationship to the next level.

3. The Hurt Locker
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Americans have cast their ballots at the polls and the box office, and the message is clear: Our military presence in the Middle East is only slightly less popular than the movies inspired by it. The Hurt Locker may not reverse that trend, which felled recent offerings like Ridley Scott’s underrated Body of Lies and the equally overlooked Rendition, but that takes nothing away from Kathryn Bigelow’s most gripping thriller to date. It’s not only as emotionally involving an action movie as you’re likely to find this year, but also a tense, forceful meditation on the addictive nature of combat.


4. Julia
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week

Why: The incomparable, chameleonic Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) returns, this time as a self-loathing alcoholic hitting rock bottom in French filmmaker Erick Zonca’s relentlessly downbeat story of an ill-fated kidnapping. Hardly a walk in the park, but effective all the same.

5. Departures
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Yôjirô Takita’s Departures chronicles in tenderly sentimental terms the odd, life-affirming journey of an unemployed cellist (Masahiro Motoki) who, through a simple twist of fate, winds up preparing the deceased for burial. The story, by onetime Iron Chef writer Kundo Koyama, is predictable, but it unfolds with a satisfying, unhurried grace.

6. Outrage
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: July 20-21
Why: Oscar-nominated documentarian Kirby Dick (Twist of Faith) returns to muckraking form with a blistering exposé of gay politicians attempting to lead secretive lives and promoting homophobic agendas. Dick’s fierce indignation seems justified, his argument convincing, and his willingness to “out” a handful of closeted, mostly Republican lawmakers (including California Congressman David Dreier) comes close to shocking. But most compelling is his film’s central argument – that this very specified form of hypocrisy subverts democracy and marginalizes the freedoms millions of gay Americans hope to enjoy.


7. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: July 17-19
Why: Watching the members of Anvil, a Toronto-based quartet of hair-metal pioneers still looking to recapture the magic of the early ’80s, isn’t as amusing as Spinal Tap, because the humiliations and indignities they endure are depressingly real. But Sacha Gervasi’s powerfully affecting new documentary about the band leaves room for cautious optimism: These guys can play, and they’re going to keep doing it until the world starts listening.