Greetings, all. Hopefully everyone in the greater Savannah area made it safely and soundly through the very lucky miss that was Hurricane Dorian. While it caused virtually no significant damage to these parts, its approach resulted in a handful of recently scheduled alternative cinema events being cancelled due to evacuation notices. Some of them have been rescheduled, and that will be noted in this and future Film Scene columns.
So, don’t let your heads swim. Yes, you may have recently read about some of these films playing in our area. They still are, but just a week or two later than had been planned.
Now, on to the next seven days’ worth of cinematic programming that falls outside the boundaries of standard corporate multiplex fare.
Dora goes live action
Starting on Sept. 12, the restored, historic Mars Theatre in nearby Springfield, Ga. will screen the recently-released kid-friendly action-comedy “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” for four days. Budgeted at almost $50 million, this live-action adaptation of the beloved children's book series and cable TV show about a plucky female jungle adventurer has already excavated nearly $80 million at the box-office. Critics have been kind to this tale of a teenage girl who is kidnapped along with her friends and taken deep into the Peruvian wilderness by bandits hoping to use the kids as leverage to locate a fabled Incan City.
Everyone says the young actress in the lead role does a tremendous job and that the film is unusually inclusive and diverse in its casting choices – which is always a good sign, especially with motion pictures geared toward impressionable young minds. 7 p.m. showtimes on Sept. 12 through 14, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sept. 15.
For the religious
A few nights later on Sept. 19, the Mars begins another four-day engagement of a new feature film. This time, it’s “Overcomer,” the latest low-budget Christian-themed message movie from the filmmaking team of brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick – the folks behind 2015’s surprise box-office hit “War Room,” which was able to parlay a heavy-handed religious message into a massive pay-day The film generated almost $75 million in ticket sales on a meager $3 million budget.
“Overcomer” was made for $5 million, and marks the first time in the brothers’ careers that they’ve been able to afford to build indoor sets on a soundstage and to use state-of-the-art equipment. Shot mostly in Columbus, Ga., the film is ostensibly about the financial, medical and spiritual difficulties which plague the residents of a smallish rural town, but according to its creators, the movie’s theme is “finding one’s identity through Christ.”
The filmmakers are open about their desire to not only provide entertainment options for those who are already followers of that faith, but also to appeal to viewers of other persuasions who may wind up drawn to investigate Christianity on their own afterwards. Showtimes at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19 through 21, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Sept. 22.
Last Hollywood musical
Heading downtown, the beautiful, balconied Lucas Theatre has two very different special presentations taking place in the upcoming week. First, on Sept. 15, is the latest entry in its Musical Matinee series: the 1969 rom-com “Hello, Dolly!” starring Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Tommy Tune, and Louis Armstrong, among others. Based on the Broadway play of the same name, this Oscar-winner is set in the late 1800s. It’s the tale of a headstrong matchmaker (Babs) who is ostensibly trying to find a wife for a somewhat wealthy feed and seed store owner (Matthau), but in reality is interested in wedding him herself.
When first released, the picture came out of the gate very strongly, but although critics generally liked the film, ticket sales quickly ground to a halt and it wound up being a major financial flop which put 20th Century Fox around $10 million in the hole. Time has not been particularly kind to the movie either, as it is staged in a rather stilted manner that does not take great advantage of the numerous framing options afforded by its widescreen format.
This was the final musical motion picture directed by the late, great dancer, director, singer and actor Gene Kelly—not counting a later, pastiche-based documentary on Hollywood musicals. While it is regarded as something of an American cinema classic, that seems to have more to do with its popular culture status and the country’s collective memory of its multiple screenings on network TV in the 1970s, where the squared-off TV format was a good match for Kelly’s less-than-inspired framing.
Still, it’s one of the last of the old-fashioned Hollywood musicals, and well worth a big-screen viewing, which doesn’t happen that much anymore. 3 p.m. showtime.
Swinton and progeny
Two nights later, on Sept. 17, the Lucas’ Arthouse Cinema series of critically acclaimed, first-run independent and/or foreign titles continues with a single screening of “The Souvenir,” a BBC Films production that was released here in the states a few months back by niche theatrical distributor A24. Written and directed by British filmmaker Joanna Hogg and stars both Tilda Swinton and her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne. It also features the phenomenally talented Richard Ayoade (Dean Learner himself!) in a supporting role.
A fictionalized look at the writer-director’s own time in film school, it concerns a young and ambitious female film student who is drawn into personal drama with a wealthy, mysterious older man. Extremely well-received at the Sundance Film Fest where it made its U.S. debut, it’s been heralded by critics and audience members alike as a finely made, emotionally charged coming of age drama that’s filled with strong performances all around. This will likely be its only public showing in our area. 7 p.m. showtime.
PFS: Murder mysteries on Forsyth
The next night, Sept. 18, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running Wednesday night showcase of underappreciated or downright obscure feature films from around the globe continues at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, as it has for the past 15 years.
This week, the PFS will screen the program it had initially planned for Sept. 4, which was cancelled due to Hurricane Dorian: a double-feature of “Forgotten Murder Mysteries,” including the criminally unknown 1962 British B-movie “Dilemma,” which fell through the cracks almost immediately after it left theaters, and was completely unavailable for decades.
This memorable, low-budget, 65-minute movie about a respected schoolteacher who returns home to find a complete stranger near death in his home stars Peter Halliday, a member of the extremely influential Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company alongside more well-known dramatic icons as Richard Burton, Michael Redgrave and Ralph Richardson. That organization later became the Royal Shakespeare Company. “Dilemma” was only seen twice on late-night British TV and then vanished without a trace. It has never been broadcast or released in the USA.
Immediately preceding “Dilemma,” the PFS will screen “Night of the Execution,” an unjustly overlooked 30-minute B&W American-made crime drama from 1957, featuring a tremendous performance from a young Pat Hingle, the craggy-faced character actor best known for his work decades later as Commissioner Gordon in the original “Batman” films franchise begin by director Tim Burton. The double-feature begins at 8 p.m.
And finally, on Sept. 19, the intimate Tybee Post Theater on Tybee Island continues its Girls Night Out series of classic cinematic romance stories with fabled director David (“Lawrence of Arabia”) Lean’s 1965 sweeping romantic wartime drama “Doctor Zhivago,” which is set in Russia around the time of WWI, and based on the Boris Pasternak novel of the same name.
At three hours and twenty minutes, and boasting a cast which includes Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Sir Alec Guinness and Sir Ralph Richardson, it’s an epic tale of a Russian poet and scientist who finds himself embroiled in a love affair with the wife of a political extremist.
Filled with grandiose wartime sequences and created with great care and precision, it’s an acknowledged classic, despite a good number of critics and viewers finding the romantic aspects of the film bordering on saccharine. Yet, the movie—which won five Oscars and five Golden Globes—is almost universally regarded as being one of the most beautiful and breathtaking cinematic experiences of its time, and one that has held up remarkably well over the decades.
Most folks (myself included) have never had the opportunity to see it as its creators intended, on the silver screen. If you fall into that category as well, perhaps you should run, not walk to the beach for this rare opportunity. 7 p.m. showtime.
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: “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 12, 13, 14; 3 p.m. Sept. 15
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield, Ga.
What: “Hello Dolly!”
When: 3 p.m. September 15
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: “The Souvenir”
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 17
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: “Forgotten Murder Mysteries Double-Feature”
When: 8 p.m. Sept.18
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 19, 20, 21; 3 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield, Ga.
What: “Doctor Zhivago”
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 19
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave. Tybee Island