What’s Screening: January 23-29

Now that Berlin & Beyond is over, Noir City moves into the Castro, starting Friday and running through February 1. The theme this year is “Newspaper Noir,” with hard-boiled reporters rather than detectives. Among the titles you might recognize are Billy Wilder’s Ace In the Hole, and a Burt Lancaster double-bill of The Killers and Sweet Smell of Success.

Fellini’s Amarcord, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:50. I’ve never seen Fellini’s highly-regarded story of life under fascism. Perhaps a new 35mm print at the PFA can tempt me.

Frost/Nixon, Lark, Shattuck, opens Friday. I didn’t know Richard Nixon composed a piano concerto. That’s not the only thing writer Peter Morgan teaches us in the other Oscar bate movie set in the 1970s. Michael Sheen plays David Frost as insufferably upbeat, which is probably accurate, and Frank Langella creates a complex Nixon who’s almost charming in his willingness to admit his lack of charm. Of course, he admits a lot more before Frost is through with him. Has anyone else noticed that as he ages, Kevin Bacon is starting to look like Clint Eastwood?

Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. Kevin Smith doesn’t make a porno, but he makes a very funny and very dirty comedy. And when all is said and done, I’d rather watch that. Following the Judd Apatow formula of raunchy-but-sweet (to be fair, the Farrelly brothers invented the formula in Something About Mary), and casting Apatow regular Seth Rogen, Smith made a decidedly silly and hilarious movie with a plot that wouldn’t hold water if you thought about it. It’s worth noting that Smith successfully appealed the MPAA’s original NC-17 rating; I would love to know the arguments he used.

Casino Royale, Red Vic, Thursday. The best James Bond flick since From Russia With Love, in large part because it doesn’t feel like a James Bond flick. (In fact, to a large degree, it feels like a James Bond book. And the book it feels like is, amazingly enough, Casino Royale.) Instead of gadgets, countless babes, wit, and incredible cool, you get a well-made and gritty thriller with several great action sequences (and a couple of babes). It just so happens that the protagonist, a newly-promoted, borderline psychotic government agent with a huge chip on his shoulder, is named Bond–James Bond.

Donnie Darko, Red Vic, Friday through Sunday. How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers have to deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun.

Letters from Iwo Jima with Clint Eastwood in person, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 5:00. This member-only event is sold out. I didn’t think Clint Eastwood could top Flags of Our Fathers, but he did–just barely. By concentrating on the Japanese experience and turning Americans into the briefly-glimpsed “other,” he forces us to consider not only the dehumanizing aspects of war itself, but also the distortions in conventional war movies. Leaving such high-minded talk aside, he tells a very sad tale of ordinary people selected for death by an exceptionally cruel government.