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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

The return of Japanese filmmaking master Akira Kurosawa to the big screen should be reason enough to abandon the beautiful sunshine for nearly three hours. If not, a strong weekend of debuts should sweeten the deal. As always, here's a list of some of the finest films currently playing at an indie theater near you.

1. Ran
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Akira Kurosawa's classic 1985 retelling of King Lear, about an aging Japanese warlord betrayed by three sons hungry for power and fortune, is an epic built for the screen. The Embarcadero is bringing it back for one week only, in celebration of the film's 25th anniversary and the 100th birthday of the legendary director, who died in 1998. For the uninitiated, this one's not to be missed.

2. Solitary Man
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: It is tempting to think of Solitary Man a belated coming-of-age story, but that would suggest Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas, brilliant) learns something from his rapid nosedive to the nadir of a lengthy midlife crisis. One of the movie’s great strengths, in its convincing portrayal of a man unwilling or unable to put the brakes on his decline, is that Kalmen’s redemption is left as unfinished business. Screenwriter Brian Koppelman offers no facile solutions, and Douglas, who has played different versions of Kalmen before, doesn't leave us wanting them.

3. Micmacs
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, The City of Lost Children) returns with another wildly original madcap fantasy – also, the opening-night selection at last month's San Francisco International Film Festival – about a luckless homeless man (Dany Boon) who concocts an ambitious plan to take revenge on the weapons manufacturers responsible for ruining his life.

4. Splice
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: Genetic engineers Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) want to experiment with human DNA, but the pharmaceutical company that subsidizes their research forbids it. They could put the idea to bed, but what fun would that be? Emboldened by their recent successes, which include a hybrid caterpillar rich with life-saving proteins, they throw a human embryo into the mix, with disastrous, comic and disturbingly kinky results.

5. Green Zone
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: June 4-5
Why: The creative pairing of Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass has yielded two gripping sequels to The Bourne Identity (2002) and now Green Zone, another skillful exercise in breakneck storytelling that finds Greengrass questioning the sincerity of America’s search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There is real energy here, an urgency nearly vitiated by one particularly tiresome shootout but invigorated by Damon, who gives his conflicted hero the same authoritative presence that made Bourne so appealing. By now, Damon is an old hand at this sort of thing, and his intelligence shines through as always.

6. The Secret in Their Eyes
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Juan José Campanella's riveting romantic thriller finds a former criminal-court employee (Ricardo Darín, of Nine Queens) revisiting his 1974 investigation into the rape and murder of a recently married beauty. What he discovers speaks to the turbulent climate of his native Argentina in the mid-'70s and the failings of that country's legal system, and ultimately draws him into a complicated but gripping web of intrigue.

7. The Secret of Kells
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: June 6-8
Why: A surprise but deserving nominee for Best Animated Feature, The Secret of Kells features 75 minutes of wondrously rendered landscapes and richly detailed hand-drawn animation, cruder but no less gorgeous than its 3-D competition at last month's Oscars. The story, a mix of Celtic history and folklore about a medieval manuscript long considered sacred by the Irish, is engaging for moviegoers all ages, but the magic here is most evident in the film's dazzling artistry.