What’s Screening: December 24 – December 30

I’m using a different format for the newsletter this week. Instead of going by sections, I’m listing a few films worth watching in theaters this week. If I don’t list dates and times, check the theaters.

A+ Die Hard (1988), New Parkway, Saturday, 8:20pm; Sunday, 6:20pm, Wednesday, 8:35pm

The original Die Hard is easily one of the best action films ever made. On Christmas eve, very evil people who don’t care how many innocent bystanders die, take over a partly built skyscraper. Luckily, one man (Bruce Willis) is in the building but out of their control. Barefoot and initially armed with only a pistol, he must do what he can to stop them and save the hostages – which include his estranged wife. The movie’s power comes from its willingness to spend time on character development before the action starts, and by allowing the hero to be physically and emotionally vulnerable.

A West Side Story (2021), Alameda, Grand Lake, Rialto, Vogue

I’ve seen the 1961 version maybe seven times, but I never cried at the end. This time, I cried. Just about everything, even the dancing, is improved. As the star-crossed lovers, Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort run rings around Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Thanks to Tony Kushner’s screenplay, the characters are filled in and believable. The Puerto Rican characters don’t look like white people dipped in mud. Leonard Bernstein’s score is still fantastic. And, of course, there’s Rita Moreno – still magnetic.

A Frozen (2013), New Parkway, Saturday, 11:45am; Sunday, 12:30pm; Monday, 4:30pm; Tuesday, 4:30pm; Wednesday, 4:00pm

By the time this Disney animated feature came out, my kids could go to the movies by themselves, and therefore I missed a real treat. Yes, it follows the conventional formula for Disney animated features – with a fairyland princess, a handsome hunk, songs, and adorable animals. But this time, you’ve got two princesses, one becoming queen, both basically good but with a sibling rivalry that could destroy the kingdom. And you don’t know which handsome hunk will marry the ingenue we really care about. It’s also beautiful to look at.

A- Fiddler On the Roof (1971), New Parkway, Saturday, 3:00pm

As a teenager, I loved the musical stage play and hated the movie (I saw both when they were relatively new). I felt that the film’s production values were too big, and the comic timing was off. Now I can appreciate what director Norman Jewison (who isn’t Jewish) was trying to do. Rather than making a musical comedy with a period setting and a serious undertone, he turned it into a historical spectacle with songs. It’s funny, but only when appropriate. But its sympathetic story of older people uncomfortable with change is both sad and hopeful. Read my article.

B Being the Ricardos (2021), Rafael, Friday, 4:00pm

Writer/director Aaron Sorkin shows us the sweat in creating comedy – particularly in the making of I Love Lucy. Most of the film, inspired by television history, follows one problematic week in the life of making the popular series (I’m pretty sure that these problems didn’t really happen at the same time). Not everything is set in that week; flashbacks tell us how Ball and Arnaz fell in love and got the show on the ground. The big problem is that in a film about comedy, there’s very few laughs.

C+ Revolution of Our Times (2021), Roxie, Saturday & Sunday, 12:45pm

I so much wanted to give this documentary a better review. When you watch adolescent students march in the streets of Hong Kong, knowing that the Chinese government will inevitably crush them, you can’t just ignore it. But the film has so many problems. It has no real construction. You rarely get connected to any of the demonstrators. And most of all, it could have been 45 minutes less and still get the same message across.