Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

January is traditionally treated as a dumping ground for Hollywood's most embarrassing blunders and stalest leftovers, but there are still plenty of viable options for those seeking a satisfying night at the movies. Among them:


1. Let the Right One In
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: Disgracefully snubbed by Oscar voters in this year’s foreign-film category, Swedish import Let the Right One In is the moving tale of a 12-year-old innocent (newcomer Kåre Hedebrant) whose soul mate, and sole protector from the bullies at school, is a surprisingly tender vampire – at least, that is, until she bears her fangs.

2. Donnie Darko
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Jan. 23-26
Why: Dismissed by some as a convoluted riddle wrapped in an impenetrable enigma, the 2001 theatrical cut of Richard Kelly’s fiercely imaginative masterpiece defies easy description. (It could be summed up, however insufficiently, as a tale of suburban angst mitigated by romance, adventures in time travel and eerie hallucinations involving a malevolent rabbit.) Released three years later, perhaps as a concession to his critics, Kelly’s extended cut is slightly less satisfying – it leaves less to the imagination than his uncompromised original – but for the uninitiated, it’s definitely worth a look.

3. Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: If you’ve never heard of Scott Walker, there’s a reason. The erstwhile lead singer of the Walker Brothers, a pop trio whose mid-’60s hits inspired a much larger following in Britain than their native United States, Walker shrugged off the life of a burgeoning teen idol to embrace his passion for moody, discordant ballads. His second career as an experimental composer effectively removed him from mainstream consciousness, but earned him an impressive roster of fans, including Brian Eno, Thom Yorke, Jarvis Cocker and David Bowie, who helped produce Stephen Kijak’s riveting documentary.

3. Waltz with Bashir
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: Ari Folman’s animated documentary, inspired by interviews with veterans of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, is anguished, timely and profoundly affecting.

4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week

Why: Woody Allen’s finest offering since Deconstructing Harry arrives at a bittersweet conclusion – that our most passionate desires are almost invariably trumped by life’s mundane imperatives – but along the way, it serves notice that the Brooklyn-born director has, at 72, lost none of his talent for thrusting his characters into slyly comical binds without hitting a single false note. Catch it on the big screen while you still have the chance.

5. The Wrestler
Where: Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: All Week
Why: After nearly two decades spent disfiguring his once-pretty face, suffering embarrassing run-ins with the law and starring sporadically in straight-to-DVD clunkers, Mickey Rourke is suddenly in contention for the first Oscar of his curious career. Here’s your chance to find out the reason.

6. The Reader
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Inspired by the well-received but controversial novel by German author Bernhard Schlink, director Stephen Daldry’s unhurried take on The Reader may be set against the polarizing backdrop of the Holocaust, but that’s not the focus of his film. This is a movie about coming to terms with the past and learning to forgive, even when faced with an unspeakably ugly reality. It poses difficult questions and offers no facile answers, only quietly forceful performances (particularly by Oscar nominee Kate Winslet) that make its characters and their personal tragedies seem achingly real.

7. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Jan. 27-28
Why: Kevin Smith’s latest is a classic love story dressed up as something a bit racier, and not only do we know where it’s going, we know just how it plans to get there. His directorial style hasn’t changed much over the years – it’s just unrefined today as it was 14 years ago, when he made his noisy debut with Clerks. But he keeps the tone agreeably light, loading the movie with visual gags and cringe-worthy physical comedy to match his gleefully vulgar dialogue, and his aim is often true.