Have any Film Scene readers ever actually met someone named Thor? Because I have. He seemed about as gentle and easygoing a cat as one might come across. No hammer that I could see, but hey, who ever really knows?
The latest blockbuster action flick featuring the Marvel Comics’ superhero of the same name plays twice on July 26 at the historic Tybee Post Theater. “Thor: Ragnarok” stars Chris Hemsworth in the title role as the Norse god-turned crimefighter (I know, I know…) and is said to be the most consistently funny entry in the ever-expanding Marvel Universe franchise of linked fantasy-action flicks. Showtimes at 3 and 7 p.m. (admission info on this and all our featured screenings can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings).
“The King,” a road trip connected to Elvis
A few nights later, the Post presents an intriguing new independent documentary that’s in current release, and which has sharply divided both critics and viewers. “The King” was directed by Eugene Jarecki, a two-time winner of Sundance Film Fest’s coveted Grand Jury Prize. He’s best known for being an executive producer on the way-cool doc “Don’t Blink” about the pioneering, iconoclastic fine art photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank. He is the director of the political doc “The Trials of Henry Kissinger” and a co-screenwriter of the influential indie film “Freakanomics.”
Billed as a “musical road trip across America,” “The King” takes an unusual approach to a perceived nexus between the life and death of Elvis Presley and the increasingly disintegrating notion of “the American Dream.” The structure of the film itself is quite interesting. The director acquires Elvis’ own 1963 Rolls Royce and drives it across the country, stopping in Memphis, New York City, Las Vegas and other locations intimately connected with the late singer and pop-culture phenom to interview a broad cast of both well-known musicians and celebrities and unknown Americans about their thoughts on Elvis, his legacy and the current state of affairs in the USA.
Some call the film “brilliant” and “provocative,” while others decry it as a ham-fisted attempt to attach political viewpoints to Presley’s story merely to provide a hook to draw in viewers who might otherwise avoid such a message movie. Regardless of how you may feel after seeing the film, provoking vigorous discourse is —generally speaking — what documentaries are all about, so anyone even remotely interested in either the early days of rock and roll or the country’s recent, swift decline into tribalism may want to patronize the Tybee Post and support this rather bold booking on their part. Four screenings only at 7 p.m. Aug. 2, 3 and 5, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on August 5 only.
If you’re looking for a film the entire family can enjoy (especially small children), the historic Mars Theatre in nearby Springfield. will show visionary writer-director Brad Bird’s brand-new animated superhero blockbuster “Incredibles 2” at 7 p.m. on July 26-28. The long-awaited sequel to the severely charming animated smash “The Incredibles” is garnering strong reviews across the board.
“Newsies: The Broadway Musical”
Heading out to the Southside of Savannah, the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall will present three different high-definition digital streaming events over the next seven days. First up is “Newsies: The Broadway Musical,” a professionally filmed live stage performance of this acclaimed musical which was itself based upon and adapted from the live-action Disney film of the same name.
That film, which famously starred a young Christian Bale, was something of a flop upon initial theatrical release, but gained a solid following on home video, which led to its re-imagining as a big-budget stage show. That show became a hit on its own and has been immortalized here. It screens twice only, at 7 p.m. July 26 and at 12:55 p.m. July 28. It also screens July 26 at Cinemark in Bluffton.
“Sailor Moon” anime double feature
July 28 is also the date that the Regal Stadium 10 kicks off a two-day double-bill of a pair of the most beloved Japanese anime titles around. They’ll screen both the first and second films in the “Sailor Moon” series. First up is “Sailor Moon R – The Movie,” followed by “Sailor Moon S – The Movie.” Both are key elements of the internationally successful media franchise of the same name, which sprung from a series of early 1990s Japanese manga comic books. The tale of a young girl who uses supernatural powers to search for a magical talisman that can prevent the destruction of the entire solar system was later developed into animated TV series, and that led to these bigger-budget films. Each of the two movies (from 1993 and 1994, respectively) runs just over an hour and will be shown in their full, uncut Japanese versions, which are rarely, if ever, seen here in the USA.
All of this is meant to prepare viewers for the third movie in the series, which will be screened the following week, accompanied by a never-before-seen related short film. Although I always prefer to see live action foreign films in their original, spoken language (abetted by English subtitles), I prefer to see animated films dubbed into English, so I can concentrate on the wonderful visuals without distraction. For those who feel the same way, the English dubbed version of this double-feature will be shown at 12:55 p.m. July 28, while the original Japanese language version (with English subs) will be shown at 7 p.m. July 30. Note: These films will also be shown at the exact same times in nearby Bluffton, S.C., at the Cinemark multiplex.
Jerry Garcia birthday celebration
Finally, to mark the 76th birthday of the late, great classic rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Jerry Garcia, on Aug. 1 Fathom Events will present the "8th Annual Grateful Dead Fan Meet-Up at the Movies." Once more, they’ve partnered with the band’s archivists to unveil a previously unseen professionally-shot multi-camera film of one of the fabled psychedelic group’s late-period concerts on the big screen.
This three-hour show was recorded live at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium on July 7, 1989. It finds the group noodling their way through improv-heavy arrangements of their own originals like “Hell in a Bucket,” as well as blues standards like “Little Red Rooster” and a few Bob Dylan tunes, such as “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” This was the very last musical event ever held at JFK Stadium, which was demolished shortly thereafter. Expect remastered sound and visuals on this vintage recording, along with plenty of beards, tie-dyed shirts and the scent of both patchouli and something unmistakably familiar yet unnamed in the theater itself. Showtime 7 p.m.
Russian comedy at its finest
And finally, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running and award-winning weekly Wednesday night series of overlooked or marginalized feature films from around the world continues at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Aug. 1 with an extremely rare public viewing of the 1973 Russian sci-fi satire “Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future.”
Directed by Leonid Gaidai, who is known as perhaps the greatest Russian director of comedic films (his films broke box-office records in that country and are as popular over there as “Monty Python” films are in Britain or Judd Apatow or Paul Feig films are here in the USA). This nutty historical farce concerns a nebbish-y fellow named Shurik who develops a working time machine. However, in a strange twist of events, a petty thief and the manager of Shurik’s apartment complex are both accidentally sent into 16th century Moscow while the evil Tsar Ivan the Terrible is sent forward in time to 1973. This situation allows for all sorts of goofing on the then-current state of the Soviet Union (which could likely never have been done onscreen were it not couched in a sci-fi/fantasy realm).
While a certain amount of the humor in this film hinges on cultural misunderstandings and verbal confusion between the modern-age folks and their ancient counterparts, a strong knowledge of Russian history and the nuance of that country’s language is not required to enjoy the movie. There are plenty of universally understood and appreciated comedic moments that can appeal to viewers of all backgrounds. Plus, there’s plenty of physical and even slapstick comedy on display. In fact, some have compared the film’s pace, style and good-natured humor to Rob Reiner’s adorable cult classic “The Princess Bride.”
Packed with many of the biggest Soviet stars of that time, the film generated catchphrases, which are still known and used to this day in Russia. The PFS will screen the full, uncut version, which has never been released in the USA, in spoken Russian and German, with English subtitles. Showtime is 8 p.m.
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.