Hot enough for ya? Yeah, yeah, I know. That hoary old quip. Well, you’ll be hearing a lot more of it for the next four or five months, as it appears summer has finally arrived. And with it, scalding hot and humid temperatures in our neck of the woods.
One great way to beat the heat? Take in a movie at one of the independently run or DIY venues in and around the greater Savannah area. Over the next seven days, there are a number of unusual options to choose from which exist outside the all-too-rigid confines of the corporate multiplex system.
Aladdin on Mars
We start off in the nearby city of Springfield, where their restored, single-screen historic movie theater specializes in family friendly programming. This week that means the brand-new live-action remake of Disney’s beloved animated hit “Aladdin,” starring Will Smith as the Genie who resides in a magical lamp.
This tale of a charming, downtrodden street thief who pretends to be a prince in order to win the love of the beautiful Princess Jasmine opened on almost 4,500 screens a few days ago and has already surpassed the massive prognostications for its box office success. How much money did it make in its opening weekend? Almost $113 million. That’s the second highest grossing weekend for a live-action remake of one of Disney’s previously successful animated classics.
Although some critics are panning this new, Guy Ritchie-helmed adaptation, others are praising it, and in general, audiences seem to be enjoying the over-the-top high jinks and spectacles it affords. Showtimes are at 7 p.m. May 30 through June 1 and again June 6, plus matinees at 3 p.m. May 26 and June 2.
Shifting gears and cities, downtown Savannah’s historic Beach Institute African-American Cultural Center just announced that at 6:30 p.m. May 31 they will present a free screening of the late filmmaker John Singleton’s 1991 directorial debut “Boyz n the Hood,” starring Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, with Angela Bassett in her feature film debut. This intense, heartbreaking urban drama is rooted in the harsh day-to-day realities of gang culture in South Central Los Angeles during the early 1980s, and its script was partially based on the director’s own upbringing.
Shot in sequence on location in Los Angeles, it wound up as a surprise box-office hit and critical success which ultimately grossed close to $60 million at theaters in North America. It became something of a cult classic on home video. Singleton found himself nominated for an Oscar for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, making him the first African-American and the youngest person ever to be given the Best Director nod.
Singleton’s career continued for decades, and saw him earn plenty of accolades and recognition for a variety of feature films and TV projects. Sadly, a few weeks ago at the age of 51, he died from complications arising from a stroke, which itself was caused in great part to high blood pressure. Following this special viewing of his best-known and most admired motion picture, audience members are invited to stay for a live panel discussion on the impact of this film and of Singleton’s career on the greater African-American community, and of the health dangers of hypertension, and best treatment practices. Showtime 6:30 p.m.
For the love of dogs
On June 4, the historic Tybee Post Theater kicks off a three-day engagement of the just-released sequel to the 2017 dramedy “A Dog’s Purpose.” That film was directed by respected moviemaker Lasse Hallström (“The Cider House Rules”), and was based on the best-selling book of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron. It starred Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad and Peggy Lipton, and tells the story of a devoted dog who is searching for his special purpose in life.
This sequel, entitled “A Dog’s Journey,” was based on the 2012 novel of the same name by the same author. That book was a sequel to the first in the series, and this film adaptation has another award-winning director at the helm, Gail Mancuso, known more for her work on the small screen in such TV series as “Modern Family,” “30 Rock” and “Roseanne.” Josh Gad returns for this second outing, along with Dennis Quaid. They are joined by Marg Helgenberger and Kathryn Prescott, among others.
This time, the movie follows four different dogs, each of whom interact with their owners and their environment, and whose inner thoughts the audience is privy to. Critics have not been nearly as kind to this installment as they have the first, with most noting that the characters in this film are extremely one-dimensional, and that the movie is filled to the brim with overly manipulative moments designed to play on the viewers’ love for dogs by placing the animals in harm’s way to elicit fear or sadness from the audience members. Said one online critic, “‘A Dog’s Purpose’ makes ‘Old Yeller’ look like a laugh-fest.” So, if you dig this sort of film, then by all means go see it at the Post. But, if you are considering bringing young children, make sure they are emotionally mature enough to grapple with the sight of dogs in dangerous or worrisome situations. Showtimes 7 p.m. June 4 through 6, with 3 p.m. matinees June 5 and 6.
PFS: Nice-guy Andy
And finally, last but not least, the Psychotronic Film Society’s ongoing Wednesday night series of underappreciated or downright obscure feature films from around the world continues on June 5 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on the southern end of Forsyth Park. In honor of the birthday of the late, great American leading man, comedian and character actor Andy Griffith, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 86, and was born in the first week of June 1926.
Griffith would have been 93 this year. He is best known all over the world for his long-running roles as widowed Sheriff Andy of the tiny town of Mayberry, North Carolina, in the 1960s TV sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show,” and as Southern lawyer Ben Matlock on the 1980s-1990s TV drama “Matlock,” Griffith. In his early years he was an accomplished gospel singer and clean nightclub comic. He also starred in a few handfuls of feature theatrical films and made-for-TV movies. Most of them are relatively under the radar and a few are essentially unknown or forgotten by all save for his diehard fans.
The PFS has tracked down a fully uncut copy of one of Griffith’s most obscure motion pictures and will screen it that night. While the exact title remains a closely guarded secret until showtime, it can be revealed that it’s one of his most unusual roles, in that he does not play the good guy. Rather, he’s a fairly despicable character, which can be quite a shock to those who have only ever seen him play humble, good-natured fellows. Truth be told, those who grew up in the area of North Carolina where Griffith hailed from had no shortage of anecdotes about what a nasty, mean-spirited and egotistical person Griffith could be, in marked contrast to the majority of his best-known onscreen performances.
This rare title has never been released on home video in any format anywhere in the world, but it finds Griffith channeling his natural inclination to be a right bastard, which helps him to turn in a powerful and believable performance as a real rotten fellow. It’s a must-see for anyone who only knows him for Ritz Crackers, “Matlock,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and the romantic comedy “Waitress.” Showtime 8 p.m. with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show, and a full vegetarian dinner menu available.
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.
IF YOU GO
When: 7 p.m. May 30-June 1, 6; 3 p.m. May 26, June 2
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “Boyz N The Hood”
When: 6:30 p.m. May 31
Where: Beach Institute African-American Cultural Center, 502 E. Harris St.
What: “A Dog’s Journey”
When: 7 p.m. June 4-6; 3 p.m. June 5-6
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
What: Secret Andy Griffith Feature Film
When: 8 p.m. June 5
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.