We've arrived at one of those rare times of the year when there is hardly anything going on in and around Savannah on the alternative cinema front. Meaning that over the next seven days, to the best of my knowledge, there are only two - count 'em - two specialty film screenings taking place within easy driving distance of the center of town.
Only a few years ago, this sort of schedule would have been par for the course. Up until relatively recently, it was not uncommon here in the Hostess City of the South for a couple of weeks or more to transpire without any niche-oriented or especially notable big-screen events - save for the regularly scheduled offerings of a few longstanding grassroots community film organizations such as CinemaSavannah or the Psychotronic Film Society.
These days, this column is routinely overwhelmed with options deserving coverage thanks to the SCAD Cinema Circle's series of live-moderated classic and/or historically important feature films (which take place several times throughout the year at downtown's Trustees Theater); the Tybee Post Theater's monthly "Date Night" and "Girls Night Out" events (which pair beloved, well-known feel-good flicks - or bittersweet romantic weepers - with wine and sometimes chocolates); "The Look Back," the new Savannah LGBT Center's recently launched monthly Queer Cinema series; and the newly revamped Lucas Theatre's myriad of vintage Hollywood offerings.
Also consider the newly released arthouse titles and high-def streaming theatrical and ballet performances; the free monthly counterculture political and message documentaries presented at The Sentient Bean coffeehouse by a few local activist organizations such as Veterans For Peace; and the increasing number of HD streaming events placed in local corporate multiplexes by the national promoter Fathom Events.
Add in the established, locally produced annual festivals such as the SCAD Savannah Film Fest, the Savannah Jewish Film Fest, the Armstrong State University Francophone and Spanish film fests, and the horror-themed Graveface Fright Fest, plus the ever-growing number of touring festivals making eagerly awaited stops in our area (which includes two separate Mountainfilm festivals and the Black Maria Short Film Fest).
There have never been more diverse and high-quality entertainment options for adventurous movie lovers in the Coastal Empire (or Creative Coast, for you whippersnappers and smartphone types).
Looking ahead to the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, there are plenty of extremely cool one-night-only engagements of both edgy new motion pictures and overlooked gems from decades past on tap in and around Savannah proper. Those will be discussed in depth in future installments of Film Scene, so keep picking up Do Savannah in racks around town, and reading it online at dosavannah.com, where you can often find exclusive content and extended versions of certain articles and columns.
As for the next seven days' worth of (decidedly non-mainstream) projected art, Fathom Events is presenting yet another universally acknowledged masterpiece of Japanese anime from writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, the late, great pioneering animator who founded the famed Studio Ghibli. This time out, it's the 2004 classic of the genre, "Howl's Moving Castle," a supernatural fantasy that doubles as a sly piece of anti-war allegory with strong feminist undertones.
Based loosely on a British novel by the same title, the movie deals with a young woman who is transformed by a witch into an elderly lady, and winds up aligned with a wizard, assisting in a fierce resistance against war with a neighboring kingdom. Filled with magical elements and utilizing transmogrification as a recurring plot point, the story involves violence, love and pacifism. It won numerous international awards when first theatrically released and was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the U.S. Academy Awards. To date it has grossed hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, making it one of the most financially successful films ever made in Japan.
For this special three-day run (Nov. 26, 27 and 29) at the Cinemark multiplex in nearby Bluffton, S.C., Fathom Events will offer both versions of the film, the one dubbed into spoken English by a voice cast that includes Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall and Christian Bale, and the original Japanese language version, which includes English subtitles. The English dub will be shown at 12:55 p.m. Nov. 26 and again at 7 p.m. Nov. 29, while the subtitled print can be seen at 7 p.m. Nov. 27. Admission price information can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings.
If you have never seen one of Miyazaki's mesmerizing and beautiful animated features on the big screen, do consider making the drive to Bluffton for this rare opportunity to catch one of this finest in a proper theatrical environment.
And finally, on Nov. 29 at The Sentient Bean, the PFS of Savannah's ongoing weekly Wednesday night series of overlooked movies from around the world continues with an ultra-obscure Italian-made action flick from 1983 that has never been released in the U.S. "Thunder" aka "Thunder Warrior" is a rather shameless knock-off of the basic plot from the first Rambo movie "First Blood," but that's where the similarities end.
In this fast-paced revenge movie, the long-haired Vietnam vet who returns to his hometown only to find that corrupt local officials have been disrespecting his kinfolk is a Native American quick to oppose the crooked sheriff who's been messing with his tribal lands and relatives. Instantly run out of town, he returns to wreak all kinds of retribution on the racist bullies profiteering off his family's heritage.
Shot in Arizona on an extremely low budget by director Fabrizio De Angelis (best known to genre movie fans as the producer of such infamous Italian exploitation and horror flicks as "Zombie Flesheaters," "1990: The Bronx Warriors," "The Beyond" and "The House by the Cemetery"), "Thunder" stars the momentarily famous, untrained leading man Mark Gregory (aka Marco Di Gregorio) who was discovered selling shoes at a shopping mall and made a handful of trashy, drive-in-style pictures before mysteriously vanishing in 1989. He's joined by B-movie favorite Bo Svenson ("Kill Bill," TV's "Walking Tall") as the evil lawman and Antonio Sabato ("Gang War in Milan").
Folks who appreciate the simple pleasures of cheesy dialogue, bare-knuckles fight scenes and amateurish acting should find plenty to like about this legitimately unknown slice of Euro-action. This uncut print is in spoken English. 7 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.
Until our next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: "Howl's Moving Castle"
When: 12:55 p.m. Nov. 26; 7 p.m. Nov. 27 and Nov. 29
Where: Cinemark, 106 Buckwalter Pkwy., Bluffton, S.C.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 29
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.