CRADLE WILL ROCK This 1999 musical drama takes as its starting point a footnote in U.S. theatrical history: the 1937 guerrilla staging of Marc Blitzstein's pro-labor musical The Cradle Will Rock in New York. The government subsidized the Orson Welles-directed show via the Federal Theatre then shut it down, ostensibly due to budget cuts, but primarily because of its incendiary message. Locked out of their own theater, much of the cast, crew, and audience marched to another venue and the show went on, with the actors and musicians performing from the seats. Writer/director Tim Robbins expands this obscure episode into a lively comedic snapshot of America at a crossroads of art and politics, poised to determine how much freedom it can spare in the name of commerce and anti-communism. Subplots and characters are both fictional and factual, and Robbins juggles everything with remarkable dexterity. It's didactic, but the heart on Robbins' sleeve is a witty, inventive, madly entertaining one. (Andy Markowitz) At the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Wheeler Auditorium Oct. 17 at 10 a.m.
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Martin Landau earned a supporting-actor Oscar nomination for his turn in this 1989 Woody Allen comedy/drama as an ophthalmologist whose affair with a flight attendant (Anjelica Huston) causes him to turn to his mobbed-up brother (Jerry Orbach). This crime-flick storyline is offset by Allen's serio-comedic look at adultery and a disarmingly frank consideration of getting away with murder. Screens Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Towson University's Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium.
DISGRACE Director Steve Jacobs' adaptation of J.M. Coetzee's novel stars John Malkovich as a South African professor who loses, well, everything. Opens Oct. 16 at the Charles Theatre.
GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 Busby Berkeley choreography and the Depression-era backdrop highlight this Mervyn LeRoy picture about a Broadway production--the title refers to four chorus girls played by Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Aline MacMahon, and a then up-and-coming dancer named Ginger Rogers. At the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Wheeler Auditorium Oct. 17 at 2 p.m.
KNIFE IN THE WATER Bourgie Polish couple Andrzej and Krystyna (Leon Niemczyk and Jolanta Umecka) are speeding toward their sailboat for a Sunday lake outing when a hitchhiking student (Zygmunt Malanowicz) practically leaps out in front of their car. From that moment on, Knife in the Water is a big game of chicken all the way down the line, as middle-aging blow-hard Andrzej bullies and cajoles the studly young hitcher into coming along on the trip, then engages him in masculine oneupsmanship until even the passive Krystyna begins to lose her composure. Roman Polanski made his feature debut with this 1962 chamber piece, shot largely on-board a modest sailboat. The tone is as cool as Krzysztof Komeda's jazz score, but when the low-key comeuppance comes it's most satisfying. (Lee Gardner) At the Hexagon Space Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) directs this Kurt Wimmer (Street Kings) screenplay about the titular everyman (Gerard Butler, who has taken to B-movie actioners like Jason Statham) who goes all vigilante on the justice system that set his family's killer free, including DA Jamie Foxx. Opens Oct. 16.
LES DIABOLIQUES Teacher Nicole (Simone Signoret, in stone-faced disciplinarian knockout mode) helps Christina (Vera Clouzot) murder Michel (Paul Meurisse), Christina's abusive husband who runs the boys' boarding school where they all live. This still-lively 1955 French thriller from Henri-Georges Clouzot toys with the whodunit crime idea and becomes something else entirely, and its impeccable pacing holds you until its final seconds. At the Hexagon Space Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
MAGIC EYE: SURVEY OF THE LANDSCAPE Mary Helena Clark's avant-garde film series returns with this focus on landscape films. It includes Larry Gottheim's 1970 "Fog Line" and Deborah Stratman's 1997 "From Hetty to Nancy." At the LOF/t Oct. 18 at 8 p.m.
NINETEEN23 This installment of City Paper contributor Martin Johnson's film series is titled "AUTOMATIC/Withdrawal: Machines in the Garden, and Gardens of Machines," and features Donald Britain's "Small Is Beautiful: Impressions of E.F. Schumacher," Frederick Gutheim and Robert Cole's 1980 "A Fatal Beauty," Peter Hutton's 1969 "In Marin County," Herbert Matter's 1950 "Works of Calder," Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger's "Ballet mecanique," and Bob Rogers' 1983 "Ballet Robotique." At the 14-Karat Cabaret Oct. 16 at 9 p.m.
THE STEPFATHER Nip/Tuck's Dylan Walsh stars in this domestic horror/thriller--based on 1987 screenplay by American crime-fiction machine Donald E. Westlake--explores that great children-of-divorce fear that mother has remarried a total friggin' psychopathic nutjob. Inspired by real-life total friggin' psychopathic nutjob John Emil List. Opens Oct. 16.
TOUCH OF EVIL Charlton Heston plays a Mexican and Orson Welles directs/co-stars as a corrupt cop in this dizzying 1958 noir about the seedy criminal goings on in a Southern California border town, which was finally restored to Welles' original grandiose edit in 1998. At the Charles Theatre at noon Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. Oct. 19, and 9 p.m. Oct. 22.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Dave Eggers, Spike Jonze, a soundtrack by Karen O (featuring collaborations with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, Dead Weather's Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence, Liars' Aaron Hemphill, and the Bird and the Bee's Greg Kurstin), a trailer featuring the Arcade Fire, and a tagline about how inside all of us is hope/fear/adventure--all combine to make the end-all, be-all of twee in the goddamned fucking universe. Screening too late for alt-weekly week-of-release reviews, which seems kinda odd given that permanent-childhood-seeking grups who read alt-weeklies are pretty much this movie's target audience, but they probably already know the nearest opening-day screening. Surely there's an app for that. Opens Oct. 16.
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