Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week


One of the year's best films arrives this weekend in the form of Hot Tub Time Machine, a delightfully inane, raunchy comedy that puts the movies it will inevitably be compared to – last year's The Hangover, for instance – to shame. Elsewhere:

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: An acclaimed mystery thriller (and, in Europe, already a box-office smash), Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's bestseller about a disgraced journalist and a troubled computer hacker investigating the disappearance of an industrialist's niece is a tightly constructed showcase for its captivating young star, Noomi Rapace.

2. Waking Sleeping Beauty
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Bruised egos were frequent, rising talents (including a young Tim Burton and John Lasseter) came and went, but Walt Disney’s entertainment juggernaut, which took a hit to its reputation as Hollywood’s foremost producer of classic cartoons during the early '80s, enjoyed a surprising rebirth from 1984 to '94, the magical decade chronicled in Don Hahn's fascinating new documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty. Tensions ran high throughout, but Hahn seems more inclined to recall the good old days than to focus on increasingly strident office politics.

3. The Ghost Writer
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Roman Polanski's paranoid political thriller, based on a 2007 novel by Robert Harris, is the controversial director’s most compelling work since Chinatown (1974), starring Pierce Brosnan as a disgraced former British prime minister and Ewan McGregor as the writer of his loaded memoirs.

4. Greenberg
Where:Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: Roger Greenberg is a man most people would wish they’d never met, yet Ben Stiller plays him brilliantly. He is manipulative and repulsive but oddly fascinating – far removed from the sympathetic goofs he so often plays in comedies like Meet the Parents and Night at the Smithsonian, yet clearly not far from his comfort zone. He seems to enjoy breaking with his good-guy image and testing the limits of his creepiness.

5. The Art of the Steal
Where:Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Don Argott (Rock School) asks us to consider the battle raging over the treasures of the Barnes Foundation, and it's an invitation well worth accepting. Founded in 1922 by millionaire art enthusiast Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation boasts a collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art worth roughly $25 billion. The only problem? Barnes left control of it to a small college, on the condition that the paintings never be exploited for commercial gain. Now, the city of Philadelphia, for one, wants to make them a tourist attraction. Art of the Steal is a powerful meditation on public vs. private rights, and, thanks to Argott, fascinating entertainment.

6. A Prophet
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Winner of the Grand Prix at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Jacques Audiard’s story of a 19-year-old whose life is redefined by six years in prison has been compared in some quarters to The Godfather, and the comparison makes sense on a superficial level. Malik (Tahar Rahim) goes to prison an innocent and leaves a criminal. We are grateful for his survival, but the violence that becomes second nature to him is nothing to celebrate, something Audiard understands. A Prophet is no fairy tale – there are neither heroes nor villains, merely men married to a desperate career path, fighting to eke out an existence. Malik proves better at it than most, but his tragedy is a depressingly common one: To save his life, he must sacrifice his soul.

7. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Where:Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: March 30-31
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.

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