Looking for a motion picture experience that’s something a bit out of the ordinary? Look no further than this preview of the area’s upcoming specialty and alternative cinema offerings over the next seven days or so. For celluloid omnivores, there’s plenty to take in.
We start things off out at Tybee Island, where one of the area’s most unique venues, the historic, restored 200-seat Tybee Post Theater presents another in its ongoing "Date Night" series of beloved romance-driven pictures. On April 19, the Post will screen 1951’s “The African Queen,” award-winning writer-director John Huston’s big-budget, Technicolor adaptation of C.S. Forester’s book of the same name. During the start of WWII, it’s the story of a man and woman who fall surprisingly in love during a rough and tumble ride down Africa’s Ulanga River.
“The African Queen” stars Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart (he won the Oscar for this film), and admission to this 7 p.m. show includes your choice of a drink (beer, wine or soda) and a piece of chocolate. As always, full ticketing info for all the events mentioned in this column can be found in the accompanying sidebar.
‘My Neighbor Totoro’
Downtown that same night at SCAD’s Trustees Theater (it began as the Weis Theater in the early 1940s), you can watch the wondrous 1988 Japanese anime feature “My Neighbor Totoro,” from the esteemed and routinely praised team of artists known as Studio Ghibli. A masterpiece of family-oriented fare, this incredibly entertaining and heartwarming fantasy is about two young girls and their father, who must grapple with ghostly spirits. It was a smallish box-office hit across the globe when first released.
In the decades since, it has become regarded as a true classic of hand-drawn cel animation. In fact, it has become such an iconic piece of work that in 2005, it was re-released without English subtitles, but rather sporting a newly recorded English language soundtrack featuring such well-known American actors as Dakota Fanning and Tim Daly dubbing the Japanese dialogue. That English version will be shown at this Broughton Street venue at 8 p.m. April 19 (free admission to anyone with a valid SCAD ID).
Two nights later, on April 21, CinemaSavannah brings another acclaimed, esoteric foreign feature to town for a special, one-day-only booking at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery just south of Forsyth Park (this is a small, black box theater used mostly for community events). It’s the Southern U.S. premiere of 2017’s Australian-made Western drama “Sweet Country,” starring Bryan Brown and Sam Neill.
Set during the 1920s in that country’s Northern Territory frontier land, this action-thriller was produced and directed by Aboriginal Australians who bring their own historic and enlightened sensibilities to this story of an Aboriginal farmworker who must flee for his life when a racist posse seeks to lynch him for his shooting (in self defense) of a white man. Critics worldwide have absolutely adored this (sadly) historically accurate recreation of the often brutal and lawless Australian outback during that time. It took home the Special Jury Prize at the prestigious Venice Film Festival and the Platform Prize at the Toronto Film Fest.
Director Warwick Thornton (2009’s “Samson and Delilah”) was already known for his stellar cinematography, and reviewers and audience members alike have gushed about the breathtaking composition of this film and the way it captures the rough, majestic beauty of Australia’s expansive countryside. A tough, bleak film that deals with the ugly and brutal side of human nature in a — slightly — less evolved era, this will be its exclusive area engagement, and comes just a couple of weeks after its New York premiere. In English and the native Arrernte language, with English subtitles when required. Two shows only, at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Admission is cash only.
Regal’s Stadium 10 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall will host three different digital streaming shows from Fathom Events this week, all of which will be shown in high-definition. First up, on April 22, is another Japanese anime classic from Studio Ghibli: 2002’s “The Cat Returns.” It’s a family-friendly fantasy about a young girl who saves a cat from being hit by a car, only to later receive an unexpected visit from the King of Cats, who announces that as thanks for her good deed, she is to be married to the Prince of All Cats and live in the Cat Kingdom.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, that old story…”
This special three-day-only theatrical re-release is part of something Fathom calls “Studio Ghibli Fest,” which is a nine-month series of top-notch anime features from that estimable company’s back catalogue of rarely-seen-in-public screenings here in the States. They are being digitally streamed to over 700 theaters across the country. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy classic Japanese anime features just as their creators intended. The film screens three times only — at 12:55 p.m. April 22, and 7 p.m. on both April 23 and 25. The first and third days’ shows will be dubbed into spoken English, while the second day’s show boasts the original Japanese language soundtrack and English subtitles.
A new ‘documentary’
Next up in Fathom’s offerings at the same venue over the next seven days is “Fragments of Truth,” which will be shown April 24. This Christian-themed and financed “documentary” purports to prove that despite overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary, the Gospel manuscripts of the New Testament are both literal and accurate representations of history and predictions of mankind’s future. The film, which is unrated, but likened by its own producers to a PG-13 rating for its subject matter, is hosted by Craig Evans (who has taken part in numerous archaeological digs in the Holy Land) and features “Raiders of the Lost Ark” actor John Rhys-Davies and biblical manuscript expert Dan Wallace. Showtime is 7 p.m.
‘The Karate Kid’ with a bonus
On April 25, the third Fathom event is one that may bring smiles to the faces of plenty of folks in their 30s and 40s. It’s a one-show-only screening of the 1984 box-office hit “The Karate Kid,” starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita as — respectively — a young, sensitive martial arts student and his wise older mentor. Director John G. Avildsen (who’d previously made a name for himself with Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 boxing underdog flick “Rocky”) essayed parts of that film’s story arc in this picture, but aimed squarely for the teen and pre-teen demographic. The result? A fairly hokey yet extremely well-crafted, inspirational anti-bullying message movie.
As a special bonus, in addition to the original 1984 movie, this extended, 2-hour and 45-minute program will include the first two episodes of the soon-to-be-released YouTube series “Cobra Kai,” a 30-minute action drama based on “The Karate Kid.” Macchio and William Zabka reprise their original roles as arch-rivals from high school who are now parents of their own children. Showtime is 7 p.m.
‘Intrepidos Punks’ Mexican biker pic
And last but not least, if you dig over-the- top exploitation flicks from days gone by, on April 25 you may want to make a beeline to the Psychotronic Film Society’s weekly Wednesday night series of overlooked and underappreciated feature films from around the world at The Sentient Bean. That night, they’ll screen the completely uncut version of the ultra-rare Mexican biker picture “Intrepidos Punks,” which was made in 1980, but not released in that country until 1985, and never officially released on DVD in the USA.
Packed with crazy behavior, delinquency of all forms (i.e., fightin’, killin’, and treatin’ women poorly) and South of the Border punk rock-inspired fashions and attitudes (multi-colored Mohawks, anyone?), it’s virtually unknown even in Mexico, let alone here in the States. This Spanish-language print with English subtitles and terrific theme music was originally scheduled to be shown back in late January, but had to be postponed until now due to technical problems. Not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. Can you dig it? 8 p.m. showtime with discounts on organic wine and craft beer during the show.
Until 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 the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.