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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

With the Mill Valley and Cinema by the Bay film festivals fast approaching, October promises to be one of the year's most exciting months for Bay Area moviegoers. Until then, there's no shortage of vital, engaging films awaiting you at the local indie theaters. Among them:

1. This Is Spinal Tap
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: Sept. 18-19
Why: Spinal Tap is the gift that keeps on giving. No matter how often you’ve seen it, you’re still likely to discover a punch line missed, a gag overlooked. It’s no exaggeration to call it one of the sharpest, most viciously dead-on parodies ever committed to film, but Rob Reiner’s classic mockumentary also boasts historical significance: Not only did it turn hair metal on its head, embarrassing rock luminaries like Steven Tyler, Robert Plant and Eddie Van Halen, it planted the seeds for star Christopher Guest’s own sublime satires, including Waiting for Guffman (1996) and 2000’s Best in Show.

2. The Informant!
Where: Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: All Week
Why: Steven Soderbergh's highly stylized farce is never boring, and the humor resonates more often than not, but watching inept corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) bury himself in ludicrous deceptions is a chore; at some point, his madness becomes maddening. What makes the movie work is Damon’s inspired performance: His manic, unflagging energy is appealing at first, but seems finally like the last recourse of a man desperate to escape the voices in his head.

3. Amreeka
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Cherien Dabis' feature-length directorial debut, winner of the Director's Fortnight prize at Cannes, finds subtle, heartfelt humor in the journeys of Muna (Nisreen Faour), a single mother, and Fadi (Melkar Muallem), her teenage son, who leave the West Bank for small-town Illinois. Once there, they face a considerable adjustments – Fadi to American high school, and Muna to her newfound job at the local White Castle. Dabis handles both with the deft touch of a veteran filmmaker.

4. The Baader Meinhof Complex
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: An Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, director Uli Edel's ambitious epic traces the rise, fall and fleeting rebirth of Germany's Red Army Faction, an urban guerilla group that railed against German capitalism and enjoyed the height of their notoriety during the 1970s. Their methods, which included robbing banks, assassinating judges and killing cops, are recreated in compellingly chilling fashion here.

5. Moon
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Having been unceremoniously dumped by most first-run theaters shortly after its June 12 release, Moon returns for yet another weeklong stay at the Opera Plaza. The tale of a solitary lunar employee (Frost/Nixon’s Sam Rockwell) whose mission to solve earth’s energy crisis with Helium 3 extracted from the moon’s surface is compromised by his swiftly deteriorating health, Duncan Jones’ debut represents an increasing rarity: a sci-fi fantasy that’s as serious-minded as it is entertaining.

6. 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.

7. In the Loop
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Armando Iannucci’s scathing political comedy, a consistently hilarious Sundance darling that’s drawn comparisons to Dr. Strangelove and Thank You for Smoking, brings with it an all-star cast featuring Tom Hollander, Steve Coogan, James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky and Peter Capaldi of BBC’s Torchwood.