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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Whether you're more enticed by the sound of screaming guitars or the terrified shrieks of Nazis under siege, the city's indie theaters have movies perfectly suited to your tastes. Among them:

1. A Single Man
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: An official selection of the Toronto, Tokyo and London film festivals, former fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut, about a homosexual English professor contemplating suicide after the death of his lover, gives Colin Firth (BBC's Pride and Prejudice) what he has long deserved: a richly conceived starring role worthy of his talents.

2. The Messenger
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Oren Moverman's gripping drama about Army officers charged with breaking bad news to the families of fallen soldiers is essential viewing. With a sharply observant script co-written by Moverman, a veteran of the Israeli army, and career-best performances from Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster, it handles a touchy subject – the emotional impact of the Iraq war on combatants and the loved ones left behind – with intelligence and considerable grace.

3. Me and Orson Welles
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Christian McKay, who previously starred in a one-man stage show as the Citizen Kane director both in his prime and his declining years, is a revelation in Richard Linklater's new comedy, with a performance both fearless and mesmerizing. This is a man who has done his homework. He captures Welles’ mannerisms, including his incomparable rumbling baritone, with uncanny precision. But to describe McKay as a master impersonator would be an injustice. He is channeling a prodigious spirit here, and his work should put him in the first rank of Oscar contenders.

4. It Might Get Loud
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Dec. 16-17
Why: Oscar-winning documentarian Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) assembles three legendary guitar gods – Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, U2’s The Edge and Jack White of the White Stripes – to reflect on the formation of their unique sounds, their creative processes, and to play never-before-released samples of their latest compositions.

5. Brothers
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Jim Sheridan’s sure-handed remake of Danish director Susanne Bier’s 2004 drama is not about a torrid love triangle, as the film’s ad campaign provocatively suggests. It is about Sam (Tobey Maguire), a Marine whose experiences as a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan leave him bitterly withdrawn from his family, and his struggle to reconnect. His wayward brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) reaches out to him, but are their fraternal ties strong enough to survive Sam’s postwar meltdown?
 Sheridan (My Left Foot) tells their story with intelligence and restraint, astutely recognizing that Sam and Tommy's problems run deeper than mere jealousy.

6. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: Rather than indulging in endless flights of whimsy, as he did to distracting effect in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Wes Anderson returns to spectacular form with Fox, his delightfully exhilarating adaptation of Roald Dahl’s popular children’s book. Here, he eschews muddled melodrama for wryly self-mocking humor that never condescends to its audience. It’s a gas from the get-go, and welcome proof that Anderson hasn’t lost his flair for comedy that people actually laugh at.

7. Inglourious Basterds
Where:
Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When:
Dec. 11-12
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.