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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Rather than venturing into Sherwood Forest for Ridley Scott's original but curiously flat take on the Robin Hood legend, spend this weekend at one of the city's indie theaters, where a worthwhile selection of alternatives awaits. Among them:

1. 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.

2. The Oscar-Nominated Short Films of 2010
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: May 13-15
Why: Unless you're a hard-core cinephile or you play one on the Internet, chances are good you haven't seen the 2010 Oscar nominees for Best Short Film. Curious to know what you're missing? Head to the Red Vic this weekend for a series of animated adventures, from the laughably macabre Lady and the Reaper to the Wallace and Gromit murder mystery A Matter of Loaf and Death. Yet the cream of this year's crop resides in the live-action department: The New Tenants, a hilarious Danish import in which two less-than-gregarious roommates come face to face with their oddball neighbors (including an excellent Vincent D'Onofrio) and murderous landlord.

3. La Mission
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Perhaps best known as Det. Rey Curtis, the clean-cut Law & Order homicide investigator, Benjamin Bratt has lately shown off his darker side – first as a recovering junkie turned unorthodox sobriety counselor on A&E’s now-defunct The Cleaner, and here as Che, a mostly reformed ex-con from San Francisco’s Mission District. La Mission, filmed on location and directed by brother Peter Bratt, chronicles Che’s compelling struggle to overcome his demons, and his frustrating reticence to accept his son’s homosexuality.

4. Casino Jack and the United States of Money
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) profiles Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, currently imprisoned for defrauding American Indian tribes and corrupting public officials, in Casino Jack, an exhaustive portrait that follows him from his early days as a fervent supporter of Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign to his 2008 sentencing. His story, we soon learn, is stranger than fiction – outrageous, uproarious and, considering his uncomfortably close ties to the Bush administration, infuriating.

5. Fish Tank
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: May 18-19
Why: Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize and bolstered by the impressive arrival of newcomer Katie Jarvis, writer-director Andrea Arnold’s follow-up to her acclaimed Red Road (2006) follows the misadventures of 15-year-old Mia, who feels flattered by the attentions of her mother’s new boyfriend. Could Connor, played by Michael Fassbender of Inglourious Basterds, rescue her from an unfulfilling home life or prove to be the latest in an escalating series of disappointments?

6. The Human Centipede
Where: Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: May 14-15
Why: Dieter Laser, star of the memorably titled Suck My Dick (2001), creates an unforgettable bogeyman in the demented Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon who mutilates his unwilling patients and joins them together, perversely imitating the form of a centipede, in a grisly operation. Winner of the Best Picture award at last year's Screamfest, Tom Six's latest chiller is, according to its press notes, "guaranteed to shock and divide." You've been warned.

7. The Square
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week
Why: Brothers Nash and Joel Edgerton, whose latest collaboration is a taut portrait of desperation and escalating terror, have been likened in many circles to a young Joel and Ethan Coen, and it's easy to understand why. Based on the evidence presented in The Square, in which a corruptible protagonist (David Roberts) falls victim to his own greed, lust and ambition, the Edgertons are skillful filmmakers who appreciate the power of a lean, bruising narrative fraught with moral ambiguities and, in this case, too-obvious irony. Catch it on the big screen while you still can.