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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Whitney Able stars as an American daughter of privilege trying to escape alien-infested Mexico in Gareth Edwards' Monsters.

The Giants are world champions, the season of Oscar contenders has arrived, and the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival is in full swing this weekend at the Castro. Whether you're a sports fan or a cinephile, it's a great time to be in the Bay Area. Here are some of the most exciting features now playing at an indie theater near you.

1. Monsters
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: To make a $15,000 movie about monsters, first-time feature director Gareth Edwards had to keep his monsters scarce. No matter: Save for a strained social metaphor introduced in the movie's waning moments, his post-invasion fantasy, set six years after giant, squid-like aliens have occupied Central America, is tense, engaging and thought-provoking.

2. Carlos
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: Olivier Assayas (Boarding Gate) follows international terrorist Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramirez, of The Bourne Ultimatum) through two decades of diabolical schemes, narrow escapes and sexually charged affairs. The French director's smartly paced five-and-a-half-hour epic, originally made for TV, considers the amorality of political alliances, as well as the disintegration of ideological conviction, embodied here by a brash, headline-hungry mercenary.

3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: The final installment of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) once again suffering at the hands of her countless male oppressors, languishing first in a hospital and later in jail. Hornet's Nest stays true to the formula of its predecessors – the icy cyberpunk gets her revenge, with timely assists from ace investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) – and efficiently ties together the thrilling saga's loose ends.

4. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 10-11
Why: Tamra Davis (Billy Madison) gathers an impressive cast of art-house luminaries (including Julian Schnabel and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore) to pay tribute to the onetime graffiti artist turned Neo-expressionist painter. Yet it is Basquiat himself, who died at 27 of an apparent heroin overdose, who provides the most compelling insights into his life and career, courtesy of a candid interview from 1985, unearthed for the first time in the remarkable Radiant Child.

5. Ran
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Nov. 11
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 Castro is bringing it back for one night 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.

6. Tamara Drewe
Where: Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa St., 415-221-8184
When: All Week
Why: Who is Tamara Drewe, the surgically enhanced siren at the laughably cold heart of Stephen Frears' new comedy? Even by the end of her strange, confused journey, we're not sure how to feel about her, much less what she's learned from her casual seductions of men seemingly unworthy of her time or ours. For Frears, this is slight stuff, but Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper (The History Boys) make the most of it with spirited turns as the titular femme fatale and her self-obsessed rock-star boyfriend.

7. I'm Still Here
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 5-6
Why: Ever wonder what happened to Joaquin Phoenix, the talented star of Gladiator and Walk the Line, who abruptly ended his acting career to become a hip-hop wannabe? So did we. Casey Affleck's new documentary, boasting the production values of a glorified home movie, captures Phoenix's fall from grace with depressing precision. Is it an elaborate hoax? According to Affleck, it is – after months of speculation, he's admitted as much – but I'm Still Here cleverly keeps us guessing.