Greetings again, adventurous movie lovers.

I hope some of you were able to come out to the Jewish Educational Alliance last week and catch CinemaSavannah’s one-show-only exclusive matinee engagement of esteemed writer-director Paul Schrader’s latest low-key, slow-burn drama “First Reformed.” There was a large crowd for this thought-provoking and emotionally draining picture, and, as has been the case with many audiences who’ve seen it, our local viewers were openly and audibly divided on the merits of the film as the final credits began to roll.

Personally, I really loved the picture — including its not-entirely-shocking finale (which, despite what some may opine, was nowhere near as confusing as many seem to believe) — and am thankful we got a chance to see it in this market on a large screen in a quiet and respectful environment as the filmmaker intended.

Looking ahead to the next seven days’ worth of specialty screenings taking place in the greater Savannah area, there are plenty of other shows to be excited about. As always, admission info for every one of the screenings listed in Film Scene can be found in the accompanying sidebar.

Drums, anime, more

Starting off on the Southside, the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall plays host to four high-def digital streaming events. At 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9, they’ll offer a live simulcast of “Big, Loud & Live 15.” That’s the catchy moniker given to Drum Corps International’s preliminary competition, which takes place in Indianapolis and features the crème de la crème of school marching drum corps — all of whom are hoping to be crowned 2018 DCI World Champion. It’s hard to underestimate the adrenaline rush viewers will receive when watching such a bombastic display of loud, tightly choreographed percussion and syncopated footwork. You’ll probably want to bring earplugs.

 

Then, on Aug. 12, the series known as GhibliFest continues with yet another limited national theatrical re-release of a critically acclaimed anime feature from the vaunted Studio Ghibli (known worldwide for decades as the premiere Japanese animation studio). This time out it’s “Grave of the Fireflies,” an unusually dour and tragic animated adaptation of author Akiyuki Nosaka’s semi-autobiographical late-1960s short story of the same name. Set in Japan amidst the horrors of WWII, it’s the tale of a young brother and sister who struggle to survive in the dire wartime conditions, battling malnutrition and destruction.

Often mistakenly interpreted as an anti-war message movie (which its director adamantly denies) there is no getting around the fact that the mood and tone of the film conspire to present human conflict on such a grand scale as a despicable and unforgivable act. The poignancy and impact of the film’s setting and plot is enhanced by the fact that it is an animated rather than live action feature, and critics worldwide have hailed it as one of the finest “war films” ever made. As with other GhibliFest titles, this will be shown in its original Japanese theatrical version, rarely seen publicly here in the USA. It screens at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 and 15 with a spoken English soundtrack, and at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 in spoken Japanese with English subtitles.

 

Also taking place at the Regal Stadium 10 at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 is an encore presentation of “Rachel Hollis presents: Made for More,” a live, one-woman stage show starring the “inspirational and empowering” Hollis, author and CEO of the popular mom-centric blog The Chic Site.

Elvis 50th anniversary

And finally, at 7:30 p.m. on both Aug. 16 and 20, this venue plays host to Fathom Events’ 50th anniversary big-screen celebration of Elvis Presley’s legendary “1968 Comeback Special.” Quite the sensation when it first aired on U.S. network television in December of that year, this highly conceptualized, intimate live concert found the rock 'n' roll pioneer backed by a phenomenally talented combo of some of the top R&B and pop session musicians of their era, ripping through a cross-section of his beloved hits as well as a bit of newer material.

Though it was never marketed as a “comeback” show due to Presley’s distinct dislike for such a promotional angle (he believed it only reinforced the notion that his musical stature had tanked during the eight prior years, in which his manipulative manager forced the singer to concentrate on a movie career at the expense of his reputation as a singer and stage performer), this mesmerizing TV special did in fact completely reinvigorate and rehabilitate Elvis’ commercial potential as a touring musician.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention that while the show itself appears to have been recorded live, in truth the backing musical tracks were recorded in a studio prior to the “concert,” and Presley merely sang live vocals to those tracks, karaoke-style. Still, his charisma and physical presence carries the show and proved fodder for countless Elvis impersonators to come. For this big-screen presentation, the original video and audio footage (which was top-notch by late ‘60s standards) has been restored and enhanced as much as possible to accommodate for enlarging the image to cinematic size and the sound to modern-day norms. As a bonus, an additional, new featurette will be shown as well, which finds the director and producer of the famed special reminiscing on its making and legacy.

 

Date Night with 'Body Heat'

Heading out to Tybee Island, the historic Tybee Post Theater’s Date Night series continues Aug. 9 with one of the most infamous and steamiest crime dramas of the past half-century. Director Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 feature “Body Heat” is a dark, treacherous and relentlessly sultry homage to the glory days of the old B&W film noir movement. Shot in full color and set in Florida, it stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Richard Crenna as the participants in a dangerous love triangle fraught with deceit and the threat of violence.

If you love old-fashioned crime or mystery flicks with a wicked edge of sexual tension, “Body Heat” is for you, and the combination of the Post’s large screen and intimate seating should make a perfect complement to this tense and claustrophobic film. 7 p.m. showtime, and each ticket includes your choice of a drink (beer, wine, soda or water) and a piece of chocolate.

 

'Mamma Mia!' again

The very next night, the Post kicks off a three-day engagement of the new sequel to the 2008 box-office sensation “Mamma Mia! The Movie,” a barely plotted “jukebox musical” that found a bevy of major movie stars who probably should have known better (including Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan) belting out a succession of 1970s and 1980s pop tunes by the Swedish supergroup ABBA for no apparent reason. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” finds many members of that original film’s cast back in the saddle, diving into a few handfuls of additional ABBA hits.

Now before you peg me as some sort of ABBA hater, dig this: I am a fan of the group and have been since I was a child when their songs were first reaching American radio. I just don’t have much patience for crassly conceived money-making ventures based around shoehorning pre-existing, culturally significant intellectual property into a completely different context just to make a buck (or, in this case, hundreds of millions of bucks). That said, I am clearly in the minority on this one, and screenings of this sequel are apparently proving to be festive audience sing-alongs. So, if that sounds like your bag, you’ll enjoy yourself tremendously. Showtimes at 7 p.m. Aug. 10, 11 and 12, with an additional 3 p.m. matinee Aug. 12.

Can’t make it out to Tybee for this three-day run? “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" is also playing a few minutes from Savannah in the other direction at Springfield’s historic Mars Theatre. 7 p.m. showtimes at that similarly sized venue Aug. 9, 10 and 11.

 

Lucas shows a thriller

Heading downtown, the beautiful Lucas Theatre’s successful summertime series focusing on “Hitchcock or Hepburn” films continues Aug. 10 with a single, 7 p.m. showing of iconic British suspense filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller “Dial M for Murder,” starring Ray “Frogs!” Milland and Grace Kelly. A taut and stylized tale of adultery and assassination that pales when placed alongside many of the director’s other bona fide classics, it still holds up remarkably well after all these years. Which is to say that even an average Hitchcock thriller is better than most any other director’s attempts at the same type of subject matter.

Most viewers who have seen “Dial M for Murder” likely have no idea that it was originally shot in a special, hot-for-the-time 3-D process, making it Hitchcock’s only foray into the gimmicky world of three-dimensional filmmaking. However, not long after its initial theatrical release, all 3-D prints of the film found themselves locked in the studio’s vault, as their proprietary projection process fell out of favor with audiences. Thus, for decades, most folks only ever saw a standard 2-D version of the film. That all changed in 1980 when a rare 3-D print was allowed to be shown and aficionados of that approach realized that Hitchcock did something no one had ever attempted before: he’d shot a 3-D movie as though it was not in 3-D: meaning that he avoided most all of the clichés associated with the genre.

No swords or fingers relentlessly appeared to poke out of the screen and into the viewers’ laps. Rather, this film is choreographed just as one would expect of a stage play (which is how it began before transitioning to this filmed adaptation), with plenty of straightforward, long shots and the occasional close-up. Yes, yes, Hitch does finally go all-out with piercing the fourth wall in the final reel, but by then the egregious nature of this “reveal” is almost giddily appreciated rather than reluctantly accepted.

For this Lucas Theatre screening, the standard 2-D version will be shown, which is in no way a letdown. If you’ve never seen this slightly lesser-known example of Hitchcock’s masterful directorial technique on the big screen, now’s your chance.

 

Actor tribute

And, last but not least, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running (15 years and counting) Wednesday night series of underappreciated (and sometimes downright obscure) feature films from around the world continues at The Sentient Bean with a special tribute to the late, great leading man and character actor Robert Culp. Almost to the day of the 88th anniversary of his birth, the PFS will screen the uncut, widescreen version of a forgotten, British-made heist flick from 1975 that finds Culp sharing triple billing with Telly “Kojak” Savalas and James “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” Mason.

“Hitler’s Gold," which was also known under the alternate title “Inside Out,” is sadly unknown by most viewers but is an extremely enjoyable action romp about a group of British and American WWII veterans who reunite 30 years after the end of that war and partner with former Nazi soldiers (that’s right, with the enemy!) for a dangerous, mercenary-style mission. The goal? To sneak behind the Iron Curtain into Soviet-run Germany and steal $6 million in gold looted by the Nazis during the war. It’s a film filled with high-tension moments that does not rely on big explosions, nudity or special effects, but rather on a tricky plot, well-crafted dialogue and great onscreen repartee between the actors that borders on comedy at times.

In that respect, it’s much like the old, original “Mission: Impossible” TV series (as opposed to the current theatrical incarnation of that franchise). Rarely seen for decades, it’s a minor gem that should appeal to fans of low-budget 1970s action filmmaking. The PFS will also raffle off several Robert Culp-related prizes before the film. 8 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine 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.

 

IF YOU GO

What: “Big, Loud & Live 15”

When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9

Where: Regal Stadium 10; Cinemark (Bluffton)

Cost: $19.26

Info: fathomevents.com

 

What: “Body Heat”

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 9

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $10

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

 

What: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 9-11

Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield

Cost: $7

Info: marstheatre.com

 

What: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 10-12 and 3 p.m. Aug. 12

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $5-$8

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

 

What: “Dial M for Murder”

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 10

Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Cost: $5-$8

Info: lucastheatre.com

 

What: “Grave of the Fireflies”

When: 12:55 p.m. Aug. 12, 7 p.m. Aug. 13 and 15

Where: Regal Stadium 10; Cinemark (Bluffton)

Cost: $13.38

Info: fathomevents.com

 

What: “Rachel Hollis presents: Made for More”

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13

Where: Regal Stadium 10

Cost: $16.05

Info: fathomevents.com

 

What: “Hitler’s Gold”

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 15

Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.

Cost: $8

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

 

What: “Elvis ’68 Comeback Special”

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16 and 20

Where: Regal Stadium 10; Cinemark (Bluffton)

Cost: $16.05

Info: fathomevents.com