If you have not availed yourself of the opportunity to see the full run of "Harry Potter" films once more (or, for many readers, the very first time) on the big screen as they were intended to be enjoyed, there is still time to catch the final three installments of that record-breaking cinematic phenomenon at the historic Lucas Theatre.
This Friday and Saturday mark the final in that lovely balconied venue's series of "Harry Potter Weekends" and provide a rare chance to catch all the nuances and production design flourishes that distinguish this box-office sensation, which continues to enthrall young and old alike. (Yes, there are tons and tons of full-grown folks who adore these ostensibly kid-oriented films.)
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" screens at 7 p.m. Feb. 16, while parts one and two of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will be shown at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, Feb. 17. Bring the family, grab some popcorn (and maybe some beer or wine, if you're old enough) and have a blast. Got a SCAD ID? If so, you can get into each film for only $2. Full admission prices for all Film Scene events can be found in our accompanying sidebar listings.
Golden Age comedy
Looking ahead to the rest of the non-mainstream cinematic offerings taking place over the next seven days or so, Fathom Events - the company that mounts limited engagements of specialty high-definition digital programming in theaters nationwide (such as revivals of classic movies, filmed performances of world-class ballet, opera and stage plays, big-screen airings of popular TV shows and exclusive showings of religious-oriented documentaries) - has partnered once more with Turner Classic Movies to resurrect another timeless motion picture from Hollywood's Golden Age. This time out, it's the fast-paced 1940 screwball comedy "The Philadelphia Story," starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.
Based on a well-received Broadway play of the same name that also starred Hepburn, this film was key in rehabilitating her image within the movie industry, as several of the star's projects immediately preceding "The Philadelphia Story" had done poorly at the box office and led to Hepburn being viewed among film financiers as unbankable and unworthy of casting in major roles.
"The Philadelphia Story" proved to be a sizable hit and a major success among critics, effectively relaunching her career. Hepburn plays a wealthy and flighty socialite whose glitzy life becomes instantly complicated when her flashy ex-husband (Grant) re-enters her life just before she is set to remarry. Comedic tension increases when she finds herself involved with an intrepid investigative journalist (Stewart) whose presence irks her ex.
The film wound up making a tidy profit for MGM Studios and was nominated for six Oscars. It won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (which went to Stewart). Universally acclaimed as one of the greatest screwball comedies ever made, it holds an amazing 100 percent Fresh rating on Rottentomatoes.com and is virtually guaranteed to appeal to viewers of all ages.
As an added bonus, TCM host and film critic Ben Mankiewicz (whose great uncle, the famed Joseph L. Mankiewicz, produced the movie) will offer an introduction and additional commentary on the film. It screens twice each day, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 18 and 21 at the Regal Stadium 10 and in nearby Bluffton, S.C., at the Cinemark multiplex.
On Feb. 22 at the same two venues, Fathom presents a one-day-only digital stream of Britain's National Theatre's recent stage revival of playwright Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning 1955 classic "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
This new production of the sultry, tense, Mississippi-set dysfunctional family drama stars Jack O'Connell and Sienna Miller and was captured during a performance in late 2017. Now dig it: Tickets to this 7 p.m. showing cost a whopping $23.54 each. However, if you wait just a few weeks, in early March the exact same high-def stream will be shown at the historic Lucas Theatre, and tickets to that presentation range from a high of $15 to a low of just $5. I'll let you, dear readers, decide which screening to attend.
Now, if you were lucky enough to have caught the sneak preview screening of director Sean Baker's stunning new drama "The Florida Project," which stood as one of the high points of the most recent SCAD Savannah Film Festival, you know just how special that film is. Shot on location in the very shadow of Disneyworld, this (barely) fictionalized depiction of the unsettling situations facing low-to-no-income families in and around Orlando who've fallen on hard times and through society's cracks is, quite simply, a must-see.
It stars Willem Dafoe as the put-upon manager of a long-term-stay motel primarily patronized by otherwise homeless customers who must scrape by on whatever odd jobs or scams they can work to simply stay afloat and off the streets. He was named Best Supporting Actor by several major film critics' associations as well as nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Academy Awards, the British Film and Television Awards and the Golden Globes, among others. His phenomenally naturalistic performance is featured alongside a star-making turn by newcomer Brooklynn Prince as a 6-year-old resident of the motel and a flat-out amazing performance by Bria Vinaite (who had never acted in a film before) as the young girl's headstrong mother.
The film, which is at the top of most critics' lists as one of the best films of 2017, has inexplicably passed Savannah by, and other than that sold-out sneak preview at our local film festival, it will not play a regular run in any area theater. This anomaly led local film organization CinemaSavannah to make special arrangements to bring "The Florida Project" to town for a single matinee showing at the Jewish Educational Alliance on Feb. 18. The movie will screen promptly at 4 p.m. in that facility's auditorium, and this will likely be your only chance to catch it on a big screen in this area.
I cannot emphasize enough what a mesmerizing and impressive piece of work this motion picture is, and I hope you will consider supporting this screening by making plans now to attend.
A few nights later, on Feb. 21 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society's 14-year-long weekly series of underappreciated and/or marginalized feature films from around the world continues with an incredibly rare public showing of the infamous "so-bad-it's-great" 1988 Hong Kong-made action-adventure-horror flick "Robo Vampire."
"Written" and "directed" by the legendary Z-grade filmmaker Godfrey Ho (under the pseudonym Joe Livingstone), this is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies Ho has ever made - and that's saying a great deal, as he is known worldwide for his inept and nonsensical style of moviemaking, which involves splicing (without permission) as much as 45 minutes worth of footage from unrelated, pre-existing films into his own 90-minute features to pad out their running time, and then re-dubbing the dialogue in an attempt to convince viewers that what they are seeing is one continuous, logical and coherent motion picture.
Sound like a ridiculous method that's fraught with continuity problems? It is.
The "plot" of this bizarre celluloid mash-up has something to do with an American cop who is killed in the line of duty and brought back to life as a cyborg who looks like Robocop (if his outfit only cost $65), only to be sent to rescue a female Chinese drug enforcement agent who's been kidnapped by an evil warlord. The only problem? The warlord has paid a corrupt Taoist to create an army of Chinese vampires and fill their lifeless bodies with heroin, so he can smuggle it in their coffins. You still with me on this? The vampires are under the Taoist's control, and he uses them to defend and protect the kidnapped girl, which means they must battle the fake Robocop.
But here's the best part: These "vampires" don't appear to bite anyone or suck blood, as one might imagine. Rather, they shoot fireballs from their arms (which look suspiciously like bottle rockets from the fireworks stores across the Talmadge Bridge in South Carolina) and hop around like giant bunny rabbits. Seriously.
"Robo Vampire" must be seen to be believed and is a truly bizarre and highly entertaining mess of a film, which has never been released theatrically in the U.S. (for good reason), but has earned a devoted international cult fanbase. Director Ho is considered the Ed Wood of China, and that's gotta be worth a look, right? 8 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the film.
Francophone Film Fest
The next day, Feb. 22, marks the start of the two-day Francophone Film Fest out at the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University. This will be the 10th year in a row that the school's French Club has sponsored this free showcase of contemporary and classic French feature filmmaking and, while it remains one of the most under-the-radar events of its kind in the area, it is surely one of the most notable.
True, the films are screened in a fairly collegiate environment (it is a university, after all), meaning the screening space feels a little like a large classroom. However, the selection of films is always well-considered, and they are shown on a decent-sized screen in their original spoken French with English subtitles, for those of us who don't speak the language. This year, they have condensed the event into five films over just two days, by adding in afternoon shows to their standard evening screenings.
The first day's selections are: 2016's Oscar-nominated animated film "Ma Vie de Courgette" aka "My Life as a Zucchini," a bittersweet dramedy about a police officer and his friends who attempt to help a young orphan adjust to life with foster parents (1 p.m.); and 2017's female-led drama "FrontiÃ¨res" aka "Borders," in which a quartet of independent women from different backgrounds find commonalities on a West African bus trip (6 p.m.).
These films are free. For a list of all the films, go to news.georgiasouthern.edu. Don't forget to check next week's issue of Do Savannah for a separate feature just on this festival.
Girls Night Out
And finally, on Feb. 22, Tybee Post Theater continues its "Girls Night Out" series with a one-show-only presentation of beloved director Frank Capra's 1935 Oscar-winning smash "It Happened One Night," starring the radiant Claudette Colbert and the dashing Clark Gable. It's the tale of a spoiled heiress whose wealthy father attempts to destroy her marriage to a character he doesn't care for. This leads the daughter into a chance meeting with a snarky newspaper reporter, and before you can say "meet cute," he's fallen for her.
A staple of late-night TV screenings in the 1970s, it is rarely seen these days, but has stood the test of time and remains a true gem of an old movie that should be appreciated by today's young people just as well as it was over 80 (!) years ago. I mean, hey, how can you pass up an opportunity to see a film that won Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture? Admission includes your choice of a beverage (hard or soft), or you can make reservations in advance at tybeeposttheater.org for $35, which includes a three-course dinner before the 7 p.m. film at 80 E. Gastropub, just a few blocks from the venue.
Until next week, 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. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO:
What: "Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince"
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 16
What: "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt. 1"
When: 3 p.m. Feb. 17
What: "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2"
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
Cost: $5-$8, $2 with SCAD ID
What: "The Philadelphia Story"
When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 18 and 21
Where: Regal Stadium 10 and Cinemark Bluffton
What: "The Florida Project"
When: 4 p.m. Feb. 18
Where: Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10, cash only
What: "Robo Vampire"
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 21
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: 10th annual Francophone Film Fest
When: Various times Feb. 22-23
Where: Ogeechee Theatre, GSU's Armstrong Campus
What: "It Happened One Night"
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 22
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $10 or $35 with dinner
What: National Theatre Live: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 22
Where: Regal Stadium 10 and Cinemark Bluffton