Welcome to L.A. Weekly's Movie Guide, your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week, from indie art house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz. Check here every week before you make your bigscreen plans.
Friday, Dec. 28
Stan & Ollie refers, of course, to the greatest comedy pairing of the late silent and early sound era, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, whose perfectly complementary comic personae have delighted movie audiences for decades. Laurel, the British-born artistic engine of the team, directed many of their films. Hardy, the portly, tie-twiddling half of the duo, suffered poor health in his later years and died a decade before his partner. Jon S. Baird's bittersweet film examines their late-career U.K. tour, in which the duo played various music halls while hustling to get another movie off the ground. Steve Coogan plays Stan in what looks to be a cracking imitation, but it's John C. Reilly as Ollie who could most efficiently milk the tear ducts. Jeff Pope, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Philomena with Coogan several years ago, penned the original script. ArcLight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Thu. Dec. 6, various showtimes; $16-$18; (323) 615-2550, arclightcinemas.com.
The American Cinematheque continues its annual tradition of capping off the year with a run of classic screwball comedies. The screwball genre, an artistic response to the restrictions placed on onscreen obscenity and vulgarity by the Motion Picture Production Code in the early 1930s, carved a frenzied path through the social and sexual tensions between men and women without being too explicit. Characterized by a melding of fast, sharp dialogue and slapstick humor, the best screwballs were a welcome celebration of quirky Americanism during the lows of the Great Depression. Friday evening puts a couple of W.C. Fields vehicles on the big screen: It's a Gift (one of the acerbic comedian's finest outings) and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Fri., Dec. 28, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
Saturday, Dec. 29
Saturday evening brings It Happened One Night, Frank Capra's sparkling Champagne bubble of a romantic comedy, starring Claudette Colbert as a runaway socialite and Clark Cable as the cynical reporter tasked with trailing her. This one features the famous “Walls of Jericho” sequence, which tested touchy censors and caused a panic in the men's undershirt industry. (The legend goes that when Gable stripped to reveal his bare chest, interest in male undergarments plummeted.) Midnight, directed by Mitchell Leisen from a script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, features Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore enmeshed in a love triangle that could only transpire in a Hollywood movie. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Sat., Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
Sunday, Dec. 30
Sunday's double feature belongs to the great Preston Sturges, the dynamic writer-director whose madcap wit blazed brightly throughout the 1940s. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek practically thumbed its nose at the Production Code with its randy comic premise involving a small-town girl who finds herself in the family way via a soldier she married on a bender. Having no recollection of the father's identity, she is aided by a local hayseed who proceeds to make matters worse. Equally delightful — and uncommonly poignant — is Hail the Conquering Hero, about a discharged WWII vet mistakenly received as a hero upon his return home. Both films, while taking satirical jabs at Norman Rockwellian Americana, reflect the energy and resilience of a country during the most crucial conflict of the 20th century. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Sun., Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
The New Beverly has decided to ring in the New Year with machine-gun fire. Starting on Sunday and playing for two consecutive nights are The Godfather and The Valachi Papers, gangster films of the early 1970s. Francis Ford Coppola's magisterial family saga needs no introduction, but Terence Young's tough melodrama, made the same year with a peak Charles Bronson, may be the bigger draw for its rareness. The recently reopened theater will feature an IB Tech print, which features more vibrant Technicolor hues thanks to its dye-transfer process. New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax; Sun., Dec. 30, 6 p.m.; $10. (323) 938-4038, thenewbev.com.
Tuesday, Jan. 1
Closing out the screwball series — and ringing in the New Year — is a family matinee of Duck Soup, the immortal Marx Brothers comedy that finds Groucho as the leader of Fredonia, a fictional kingdom populated by wackos and incompetents. This is the movie that features the famous mirror interlude, as well as many other comic bits regularly seen in “best of” anthologies. Andy Marx will appear to say a few words about his grandfather's comic legacy. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Tue., Jan. 1, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
L.A. Weekly also recommends (still in theaters): Spiderman: Into the SpiderVerse; Mary Queen of Scots; Ben Is Back; If Beale Street Could Talk; Vox Lux; Bohemian Rhapsody; Ralph Breaks the Internet; The Favourite; Creed II; Widows; A Star Is Born; Aquaman; Once Upon a Deadpool; American Renegades