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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Whether you're fascinated by fashion, stoked on surfing or just seeking an alternative to the latest Fast & Furious, here's a list of some of the finest films currently in rotation at a San Francisco indie theater near you.

1. Sin Nombre
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s feature debut, an award-winning hit at this year’s Sundance, follows an unlikely pair of traveling companions – one a delicate young Honduran woman (Paulina Gaytan), the other an erstwhile gang member (Edgar Flores) trying to outrun his brutal past – as they head for the U.S. border, hoping to live the American Dream. What they find is another story altogether, but Fukunaga infuses their journey with moments of breathtaking beauty and haunting, unforgettable violence.

2. Alien Trespass
Where: Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: All Week
Why: Hungry for a helping of ’50s-style schlock? Look no further than R.W. Goodwin’s Alien Trespass, which lovingly recalls a postwar era of tenuous peace and prosperity when Americans had little to fear but nuclear holocaust and, of course, the occasional UFO invasion.

3. Valentino: The Last Emperor
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: The Last Emperor focuses on the final two years of Valentino Garavani’s tenure as head of the haute-couture empire he built over a stressful near half-century with longtime business manager and confidant Giancarlo Giammetti. If Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary seems to capture the spirit of an era’s end, there’s a reason. “You and I are the only ones left,” German designer Karl Lagerfeld tells Valentino on the eve of his 2007 retirement. “The rest is crap.”

4. Ride-On!
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: April 3-6
Why: Filmmakers Eric Nelson and Curt Myers will host the Friday and Saturday night screenings of their popular hour-long documentary about big-wave surfing. Bolstered with new footage taken from late November’s “swell of the decade,” the surf-obsessed duo’s updated effort promises an evening of thrills and watery spills.

5. Tokyo!
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: Wildly uneven but never uninteresting, Tokyo! is exactly what you might expect from a trinity of filmmakers (French directors Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, joined by Korea’s Bong Joon-ho) who seem to revel in confounding expectations. It’s disjointed and frustratingly problematic at times, inspired and strangely beautiful at others. For those seeking a clean break from the cinematic norm, though, this surreal triptych might be the weekend’s best bet.

6. Sunshine Cleaning
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Crime pays in director Christine Jeffs’ offbeat comedy about a single mom (Amy Adams) and her hopelessly irresponsible sister (Emily Blunt) who look to make a quick buck cleaning up murder scenes. The movie itself is perhaps too sunny for its own good – wringing laughs from grim portraits of human desperation is a tricky business – but Adams and Blunt make the most of their partnership with performances that transcend a dubious premise.

7. The Great Buck Howard
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: John Malkovich, rarely funnier, plays Howard, a has-been “mentalist” whose glory days on the Carson-hosted Tonight Show seem a distant memory as his song-and-sleight-of-hand act plays to diminishing crowds in second-tier towns. A lesser man might feel the strain, but Howard, whose love of performing is as intense as his oversized ego and caustic temperament, stubbornly carries on. Under the top or over it, Malkovich is a pleasure to watch.