Seven different films spread across five different venues. That’s what’s on tap in this week’s installment of Film Scene, our weekly roundup of notable alternative cinema screenings taking place around the greater Savannah area. Over the next seven days, here are your options for either unusual, esoteric programming or unusual venues in which to catch otherwise mainstream features.

Out on Mars

First, we look to the nearby Effingham County city of Springfield, Ga., and their restored, historic Mars Theatre which has three different titles booked over the next week. The just-released CGI animated adventure-comedy “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” screens on June 27 through the 29 at 7 p.m. and then at a 3 p.m. matinee on June 30.

The sequel to a hit, kid-friendly 2016 animated flick about the behind-the-scenes world of domesticated pets living in a fancy-schmancy Manhattan hi-rise apartment building features the voice talents of several A and B-list comedians and actors, and has received almost uniformly positive reviews from critics.

 

Then, on July 2 at the Mars, their Two For Tuesdays series of family-oriented summertime movies continues with a one-day engagement of last year’s CGI animated feature “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” which uses deceptively rudimentary computer animation to tell the true-life tale of a stray dog whose extreme loyalty and keen instincts made him an invaluable asset to the U.S. military during WWII. So much so, that in the end, he wound up as the single most decorated canine in American history and was actually given the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Army. No, seriously.

This tear-jerker is said to be packed with interesting information about the war that will appeal to adult military buffs as well as young kids who just enjoy a good yarn about a loveable and tough dog. Listen out for the voices of famed actors Helena Bonham Carter and Gérard Depardieu. Two screenings only, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with $2 admission for all.

 

And, on July 4, the Mars kicks off an extended engagement of “Spider Man: Far from Home,” the latest entry into the seemingly never-ending Spider-Man franchise, which opens nationwide just two days earlier. This new, live-action feature finds mild-mannered Peter Parker and his pals on a European vacation, where he is unexpectedly tasked by Nick Fury to investigate mysterious creatures wreaking massive havoc across the continent. Showtimes are at 7 p.m. on July 4 through 6, 11 through 13 and 18, with 3 p.m. matinees on July 7 and 14.

Elton on screen

Heading out to Tybee Island, the historic Tybee Post Theatre screens “Rocketman,” the brand-new jukebox musical biopic of British glam-pop star Elton John’s formative years on June 27 through 30. 7 p.m. shows each night, with 3 p.m. matinees on June 28 and 30.

The film dramatizes John’s budding, incredibly successful songwriting collaborations with lyricist Bernie Taupin and the lifestyle of intoxicated excess that typified Britain’s early ‘70s rock scene. However, be aware that “Rocketman” was produced and authorized by John himself, and make of that inherent conflict of interest what you will.

A few nights later, the Post joins the Mars Theatre in booking “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” and they’ll screen it at 7 p.m. on July 2 through 5 and at 3 p.m. on July 3 and 5.

 

Terror and beauty

Moving into Savannah’s downtown Historic District, the beautiful, balconied Lucas Theatre is hosting a series this summer called Hitchcock or Hepburn, in which they are alternating classic feature films either directed by the late Alfred Hitchcock or starring the late Katharine Hepburn. On June 28, they’ll screen one of the most terrifying and exceedingly well-made and acted thrillers of all-time, Hitchcock’s 1960 B&W shocker “Psycho,” starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Simon Oakland.

Heavily influenced and somewhat inspired by the low-budget shockers of American writer-producer-director William Castle, “Psycho” sent a tsunami through the horror and suspense film genres worldwide upon its release. it masterfully distilled so many of the pre-existing elements of those forms to their most bare and powerful essences, while interpolating Hitchcock’s own idiosyncratic visual and editing style to create a new paradigm for unorthodox, disturbing murder mysteries that instantly begat hundreds of copycat pictures across the globe.

The ripples of “Psycho” can still be felt today in most any gruesome or horrific movie or TV show, including in other acknowledged classics of the genre such as “The Silence of the Lambs,” the original 1977 version of “Suspiria” and the more recent “Get Out.” Partially inspired by the real-life exploits of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein—whose unsettling crimes would later serve as partial fodder for the plot of director Tobe Hooper’s oft-imitated yet never equaled 1974 gem “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”—“Psycho” is the tale of an emotionally stunted young man who fixates upon a lovely older woman unfortunate enough to have chosen to stay at the remote roadside motel he manages on behalf of his elderly, disabled mother.

Little more needs to be said about this unqualified masterpiece. If you have not seen it before on the big screen, do yourself a favor and attend this presentation. But please do everyone else a favor and keep our mouth shut during the movie and turn any cell phones or other electronic devices completely off for the duration of the film so they neither light up nor make a sound. Movies of this type are meant to generate a mood, and moods of this sort are destroyed and rendered impotent by distractions of that sort. 7 p.m. showtime.

 

All drag, baby

Two nights later, Savannah’s LGBT Center on Bull St. hosts the latest installment of The Look Back, which is a monthly showcase of edgy Queer Cinema curated by the team of Max Arnzen of House of Gunt and yours truly. On the last Sunday of each month, Max and I program unusual, noteworthy examples of LGBTQ-related movies, both fictional and documentary, which would otherwise never be shown publicly in this area. Admission is free to all and so are the concessions.

It’s a chance for anyone and everyone to come together in the center’s cozy, 30-person capacity conference room and expose themselves to examples of groundbreaking cinema from around the world which offers all manner of perspectives on the LGBTQ experience.

This month’s selection is the 1991 sci-fi comedy “Vegas In Space,” the bizarre tale of three soldiers who are forced to go undercover and medically change their gender to infiltrate a planet occupied only by women. Their mission? To uncover and destroy a plot that could damage the entire universe. Oh, did I mention that every female role in the entire film is played by drag queens? Yep, “Vegas In Space” is the world’s first “All Drag Queen Sci-Fi Musical!”

Beloved by fans of high camp weirdness, this film was distributed by iconic fringe cinema firm Troma Pictures (“The Toxic Avenger” franchise), and is a stone gas. It’s a loving tribute to that unique brand of ultra-mod ‘60s and ‘70s sci-fi jiggle movies like “Barbarella,” and is guaranteed to entertain. Seating begins at 6:30 p.m., and try to arrive early, because seating is quite limited.

Folks are encouraged, but not required, to make a strictly voluntary donation at the door in any amount they wish, to help defray the costs of putting on the series. Consider joining The Look Back’s private Facebook Group for advance notice of each month’s selection.

 

PFS: Freedom day

And last, but not least, in honor of Independence Day, on July 3, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running weekly series of underappreciated or downright obscure feature films from around the world continues at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Forsyth Park with a one-time-only showing of famed fashion photographer William Klein’s harsh, little-known slap at U.S. imperialism, “Mr. Freedom.”

This 1968 satire was made by Klein after he had left America for France, and it’s a spot-on and withering attack on this country’s puffed-up, bullying attitude towards the rest of the world. The plot details an all-American, ultra-conservative superhero named “Mr. Freedom” who reacts in a knee-jerk fashion to any perceived threat to democracy. He basically beats, robs, kills and sexually assaults anyone who even appears to disagree with his own particular idea of what constitutes American ideals. Specifically, the French, who he believes are not sufficiently subservient to the USA. Sound familiar?

Yes, many film-literate folks have recently noticed that just over 50 years since this film was released to a befuddled viewing audience and vanished with barely a trace, it very astutely predicted a great deal about the mood and tone of today’s world politics. Of course, that’s because it’s an absurd satire and our real life situation has merely gotten more and more ridiculous until we have now caught up with this fantasy. Lucky us, huh?

Anyone who feels dissatisfied and terrified by the state of current political affairs is encouraged to come get a gander on what one prescient filmmaker imagined we’d ultimately become, and then make of that what you will. The PFS screens the full, uncut version of this rarely seen film, in spoken English. 8 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show and a full vegetarian and fair-trade 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

What: “The Secret Life of Pets 2”

When: 7 p.m. June 27, 28, 29; 3 p.m. June 30

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

Cost: $7

Info: marstheatre.com

 

What: “The Secret Life of Pets 2”

When: 7 p.m. July 2, 3, 5; 3 p.m. July 3, 5

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave. Tybee Island, Ga.

Cost: $5 - $8

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

 

What: “Rocketman”

When: 7 p.m. June 27, 28, 29, 30; 3 p.m. June 28, June 30

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave. Tybee Island, Ga.

Cost: $8

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

 

What: “Psycho”

When: 7 p.m. June 28

Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Cost: $8

Info: lucastheatre.com

 

What: “Vegas In Space”

When: 7 p.m. June 30

Where: Savannah LGBT Center, 1515 Bull St.

Cost: Free, donations accepted

Info: facebook.com/groups/2296346350647094/

 

What: “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero”

When: 10 a.m., 2 p.m. July 2

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

Cost: $2

Info: marstheatre.com

 

What: “Mr. Freedom”

When: 8 p.m. July 3

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

Cost: $8

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

 

What: “Spider-Man: Far from Home”

When: 7 p.m. July 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18; 3 p.m. July 7, 14

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

Cost: $7

Info: marstheatre.com