Feel like catching a movie out at the beach over the next week or so? Then you’re in luck, as there are four different feature films on tap just a short walk from the ocean.
That’s not something we here in the greater Savannah area could say just a few short years ago, but the lengthy, careful restoration of the old, historic Tybee Post Theater into a full-time, 200-seat multi-purpose performing arts venue has made seeing motion pictures on the big screen on Tybee Island a welcome reality for both locals and visitors alike. In air-conditioned comfort, no less!
Things start May 31 with the Post’s ongoing Girls’ Night Out series of romantic flicks from decades past. This time around, it’s the 1958 Paul Newman vehicle “The Long, Hot Summer,” directed by Martin Ritt (the same cat who gave us “Hud,” “Sounder” and “Murphy’s Romance”) and co-starring Orson Welles, Joanne Woodward and Richard “Oscar Goldman” Anderson.
Based on three separate works by iconic Southern literary giant William Faulkner, this steamy, angst-filled drama was named one of the Top 10 Films of that year by the National Board of Review. It is now regarded as one of the key pictures of its era. Showtime is 7 p.m., and admission (ticket prices for all Film Scene listings can be found in the accompanying sidebar) includes your choice of beer, wine or soft drink.
A few days later on June 5, the Post launches this year’s installment of its Summertime Family-Friendly Movie Series with the 2017 computer-animated kids’ film “Ferdinand,” based on the tale of a kind-hearted Spanish bull of that name whose strong convictions result in him refusing to participate in that country’s violent, popular sport of bullfighting.
“Ferdinand” features the voice talents of wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, “SNL’s” Kate McKinnon and "Doctor Who" himself, David Tennant. It received mixed reviews from critics, but terrific reviews from small children, which are really the only reviews that matter for a film such as this. It screens twice that day, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (and again at those same times June 12 and July 3).
The next day, June 6, the family-friendly selection at the Post is Pixar Studios’ 2017 CGI smash “Coco,” featuring the voice talents of, among others, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt and Edward James Olmos. Centered around Mexico’s famed annual Day of the Dead celebration, “Coco” was a massive hit at the international box office. It notably is the most expensive motion picture ever made that stars an all-Latino cast.
It swept the industry awards, and, in fact, beat out “Ferdinand” to take home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It, too, screens twice that day, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (and again at those same times June 13 and July 4).
And finally, on June 7, the Post amps up the explosions a good bit with the third in this series: 2017’s live-action reboot of the DC Comics superhero “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis and Chris Pine.
Now, seeing as how I am a diehard fan of the mid-’70s Lynda Carter-led network TV series incarnation of “Wonder Woman” (mostly out of affection for her co-star Lyle Waggoner), I have yet to avail myself of this massive blockbuster. In fact, I even adore the aborted TV pilot for that old series, which featured Cathy Lee Crosby in the role that later went to Carter. The final scene of that forgotten flick is one of the most emotionally touching in all of recorded history. However, it seems nearly everyone in the world swears by this reboot (as RottenTomatoes.com recently named it the “No. 2 Best Superhero Movie of All Time”), so you might catch me out at the Post giving this one an overdue try. Once again, two shows that day, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and again at those same times June 14 and July 5.
'Avengers' are back
Speaking of superheroes: on May 31, Mars Theatre in Springfield offers up the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the recently released “Avengers: Infinity War” for one show only, at 7 p.m. Can’t make this show? The Mars will also offer 7 p.m. shows June 1 and 2.
While we’re on the subject of the Mars, be aware that June 5, they’re also showing the animated “Ferdinand” as part of their “2 For Tuesday” Summertime series of kid-friendly popcorn flicks. It will screen twice that day, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with $2 admission. How can you go wrong?
‘I Can Only Imagine’
June 7-9, the Mars offers a 7 p.m. showing of the just-released indie feature “I Can Only Imagine,” which is based on the lyrics to the hit contemporary Christian song of the same name by the best-selling group MercyMe. Those lyrics were directly inspired by the father of that inspirational act’s frontman. His dad passed away from cancer, and this film is designed to help folks keep their religious faith during such trying moments in life. Aimed squarely at the faithful, it stars Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman and country music singer Trace Adkins.
Surf legend's life
Heading out to Savannah’s Southside, the Regal Stadium 10 multiplex hosts three streaming cinema events over the next seven days from Fathom Events. On May 31, they’ll screen “Andy Irons: Kissed by God,” a new inspirational sports documentary on the difficult life and untimely death of Irons, a three-time world champion surfer whose struggles with manic depression led him into opioid addiction and street drug abuse. The film is designed to encourage viewers who may need help with such things themselves (or know a loved one who does) into seeking treatment or counseling. With that in mind, after the film, a special live Q&A will take place with Irons’ family and friends — as well as an opioid addiction expert. Showtime 7 p.m.
For 'The Room' fans
Then, on June 1 and 4, check out “Best F[r]iends, Pt. 2,” the latest cinematic collaboration between Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau — both internationally infamous for the overly ambitious and bewildering 2003 cult flick “The Room.” This time, Sestero is not merely an actor in a Wiseau vanity project. Rather, he himself wrote this dark comedy thriller with both he and Wiseau in mind to play the two lead roles, which are based on themselves and rooted in the lengthy, ongoing and dysfunctional relationship between them in real life.
So much footage was shot during production of this tale of two business partners who fall into paranoia that it resulted in two 90-minute halves, and this is the second part (the first was shown a few months ago via Fathom). So, think of this as a two-part mini-series or as a standalone film and its sequel, but either way, both parts must be seen to view the entire story. Didn’t catch Pt. 1 back in March? Then skip this week’s debut and wait for the eventual complete Blu-Ray release. Showtime 8 p.m. each night.
That leaves the 50th anniversary re-release of Mel Brooks’ legendary comedy “The Producers,” starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as two conniving characters behind an unusual investment scam: an intentionally bad Broadway play designed to immediately flop and leave them enriched in the process. However, the play fails to offend its audience as expected, and instead becomes an instant sensation through being misunderstood as bold farce. This was Brooks' directorial debut, and decades later served as inspiration for Brooks’ own Broadway musical of the same name, which was later made into a movie of its own under the same title.
Got all that?
Well, this is the original film that started it all. The one that nabbed a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Brooks and mixed reviews from critics and audience members alike, virtually none of who could have ever imagined it would one day be reborn as its own Broadway show and smash musical film adaptation. It has been meticulously digitally restored and will be screened just four times, twice a day at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. June 3 and 6 at both the Regal Stadium 10 here in Savannah and the Cinemark multiplex in nearby Bluffton, S.C.
And that brings us to the next entry in the Psychotronic Film Society’s ongoing weekly series of underappreciated and/or downright obscure feature films from around the world. This award-winning series takes place every Wednesday night at The Sentient Bean Coffeehouse (which is transformed into a dark, quiet screening room), and is hosted by yours truly.
June 6 finds the PFS presenting one of the most ridiculous and flat-out fun rarities from the late 1960s that I’ve ever discovered: 1969’s “Latitude Zero,” starring Joseph (“Citizen Kane”) Cotton and Cesar “Lust in the Dust” Romero. Made in Japan using a combination of Japanese and American funds and starring a combination of Asian and American actors, it was directed (in spoken English) by Ishiro Honda, the man behind such landmark Japanese giant-monster movies as the original “Godzilla,” “Rodan” and “Mothra.”
An unusual blend of sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and comic book-style action, it’s the story of a hidden, utopian underwater nation populated by immortal humans who have sworn to protect the rest of the world by patrolling the oceans in a futuristic “super-submarine.” However, a jealous, immortal mad scientist (played by Romero with as much gusto as he gave to his over-the-top characterization of The Joker on the late-’60s “Batman” TV series) is determined to destroy the idyllic nation and dispatches a cadre of genetically altered monsters and mutants to attack the good people of Latitude Zero.
Imagine a cross between the seriousness of Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” the campy humor of that Adam West-led “Batman” series and the incredible miniature special visual effects of mod British TV shows like “Thunderbirds,” and you’ll come close to understanding the wonderful mash-up that is this completely obscure movie. Oh, did I mention that some of the set design, costumes and shots in this picture seem to have inspired the same in Wes Anderson’s 2004 cult classic dramedy “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou?”
The PFS will screen a rare uncut widescreen print of “Latitude Zero,” and if it sounds like your kind of film, then it certainly is. Showtime 8 p.m., with a full vegetarian menu available and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the film.
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.