Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Same story, different week: The weather outside remains frightful, but the movies playing at your local indie theaters are delightful enough to justify the trip. Among them:

1. Where the Wild Things Are
Where:
Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Jan. 24-26
Why: How much you appreciate Spike Jonze’s beautiful adaptation of author Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are might depend, more than anything else, on your willingness to be challenged. Unlike many movies aimed at young audiences, this one is neither facile nor sugarcoated. It is uncompromising in its intelligence and unflinching in its depiction of the downside of childhood. That might explain why Wild Things enjoyed only modest success during its initial run in theaters, but for those who have yet to experience it, here's your chance.

2. A Town Called Panic
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: Belgian creative duo Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, whose short-length films about three plastic toys named Cowboy, Indian and Horse became a European TV sensation, bring their cheerfully bizarre vision to the big screen in A Town Called Panic, an audience favorite at the Toronto Film Festival and one of last year's most exhilirating animated adventures.

3. Invictus
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Clint Eastwood's latest belongs to that timeless genre, the stories of underdogs inspired to greatness and guided to victory on the strength of desire. It's hardly the director's most affecting work, but give Eastwood his due. He has taken a story about racism and rugby – not exactly box-office draws – and worked within a studio system that favors remakes and sequels to get his movie made. The result is an inspirational sports drama that sounds familiar notes but never misses a beat.

4. Creation
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Real-life married couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly don't have a catchy nickname – Jennany? Bettifer? P. B. & J.? – but they have a new movie: Creation, in which Bettany (Wimbledon) plays Charles Darwin as a man obsessed with the origin of the species and constantly butting heads with his religious wife (Connelly). Director Jon Amiel, who describes the film as "part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part heart-wrenching love story," seems strangely dispassionate in his approach to Darwin's journey, but Bettany's performance is a winner.

5. Inglourious Basterds
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When:
All Week
Why: Is Basterds, an audacious spaghetti western-style World War II fantasy, Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, as the movie’s final scene 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.

6. The House of the Devil
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Jan. 27-28
Why: The House of the Devil plays like an homage – Rosemary’s Baby is an obvious influence – but the irony here is that director Ti West’s latest is so superior to many of the movies whose spirit he channels, including 1979’s When a Stranger Calls and countless damsel-in-distress flicks from the ’80s. From his era-appropriate soundtrack (featuring Thomas Dolby, Greg Kihn and The Fixx) to the visual style of his opening credits and his slyly reverential camerawork, West gives his movie the look and feel of a 25-year-old relic, yet nothing about Devil seems stale.

7. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: Terry Gilliam's 12th feature, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, will be remembered as Heath Ledger’s last film – he brings manic intensity to his role as Tony, an amnesiac on the lam – and also for the spirited performances of the men who replaced him after his death: Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. Depp, who shot his scenes in a single day, is particularly effective here, bringing an appealing sense of mischief to the fantastical world of Parnassus.