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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Quentin Tarantino's reimagining of World War II arrives this weekend, along with a host of compelling documentaries and another gripping (and significantly more fact-based) tale of Resistance heroism, Flame & Citron. Here as always are some of the finest films now playing at an indie theater near you.

1. Inglourious Basterds
Where:
Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When:
All Week
Why: Is Basterds, an audacious spaghetti western-style World War II fantasy, Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, as the movie’s final shot not so subtly seems to suggest? Having seen it three times – his are among the rare films that demand (and reward) repeat viewings – I believe it’s one of them, though there are others, namely Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Kill Bill: Vol. 2. In the end, we’re left with superior storytelling from one of cinema’s most talented practitioners.

2. The Cove

Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Put simply, The Cove is a stunning, heartbreaking achievement. Director Louie Psihoyos' documentary bravely exposes the savage slaughter of thousands of dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Japan, where fishermen use sonar emissions to drive their victims into a secluded cul-de-sac and spear them into submission; the sea literally turns red with blood. It's a horror show that unfolds with all the breathtaking suspense of an espionage thriller, and a necessary step toward raising awareness. See it.

3. Sita Sings the Blues

Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: August 21-24
Why: Alternative cartoonist and onetime San Francisco resident Nina Paley is officially on a roll. Following the abrupt dissolution of her marriage – her ex ended it via e-mail – she began exorcizing her frustrations through a series of animated shorts inspired by the Indian tale of Ramayana and set to the vocals of 1920s jazz legend Annette Hanshaw. Now comes the feature-length fruit of her labors – Sita Sings the Blues, a profoundly personal work of staggering visual brilliance that returns to the Red Vic for an encore after making its regional debut there in May.

4. American Casino
Where:
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When:
All Week
Why:
Washington power couple Leslie and Andrew Cockburn, the journalists, authors and filmmakers behind the infuriating and ultimately tragic new documentary American Casino, expose the predatory lending schemes that were greatly responsible for causing America's financial crisis – and caused millions to lose their homes in the process – while Republican lawmakers and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan did nothing to discourage them.

5. Pressure Cooker
Where:
Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201; Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-464-5980
When:
All Week
Why:
Pressure Cooker finds its inspiration in Wilma Stephenson, a no-nonsense taskmaster who has taught culinary arts classes at Frankford High School in Philadelphia for 38 years. Her personality lends itself naturally to compelling, real-life drama: She is unapologetically tough on students when they fail to meet her lofty expectations, but caring enough to take a motherly interest in their personal lives – and, with any luck, to lead them out of the inner city by priming them for culinary success.

6. The Hangover
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: August 25-26
Why: Todd Phillips may never be afforded the same respect as his more venerated peers, if only because directors who spend their careers chronicling the foolishness of badly behaving men rarely do. But after earning justified praise for his affable depictions of testosterone-driven silliness in movies like Road Trip and Old School, it’s hard to ignore his track record. The Hangover finds him going to the well once more, with results that are laughably deranged but hardly preposterous to anyone who’s ever lost a weekend in Vegas.

7. Thirst
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When:
All Week
Why: The latest from South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) takes no prisoners – it’s a brutal, exhilaratingly original tale of vampires struggling with their newfound taste for blood. One, a deeply spiritual priest (Song Kang-ho, of The Host) before his unholy conversion, attempts to strike a delicate balance between his beliefs and his after-dark feeding frenzies; his girlfriend (Kim Ok-vin), who makes Lady Macbeth look like a pussycat, has other ideas. Chan-wook’s story, co-written with Chung Seo-kyung, is hardly for the timid, but it’s a thrill to watch unfold.