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Around Town: Holiday films, classic toons and Truffaut thrillers

December 22, 2011 |  5:02 am

Die hard
Cartoon classics and a double dose of “Die Hard” are among this week’s film highlights.

The American Cinematheque’s holiday screening series at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood continues with a Thursday presentation of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart as a man contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve until his guardian angel makes a timely intervention. The film, which also stars Donna Reed and Gloria Grahame, will be digitally projected.

Friday at the Egyptian brings holiday fun of a different sort with a double feature of “Die Hard” (1988) and “Die Hard 2” (1990). Fans of wisecracking cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) might recall that both films — about bad guys taking over an office building in the former and an airport in the latter — take place at Christmastime. 

The Egyptian’s crosstown sister theater, the Aero in Santa Monica, will also show “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Friday and on 35mm film. The day before, the Aero presents a holiday double bill of Jon Favreau’s 2003 comedy charmer “Elf,” in which Will Ferrell plays a human who has been raised as an elf andhas a tough time adjusting to New York City, and the 1967 Delbert Mann caper “Fitzwilly,” starring Dick Van Dyke as a butler who moonlights as a thieving mastermind to keep his kindhearted employer afloat.

On Wednesday, the Aero kicks off a series of screwball comedy classics with a pair of films by Ernst Lubitsch: 1939’s “Ninotchka,” with Greta Garbo, and  1933’s “Design for Living,” with Fredric March and Gary Cooper. The director’s daughter, Nicola Lubitsch, will be on hand to introduce the films. www.americancinematheque.com

The New Beverly Cinema offers an opportunity to catch up on two gritty films from earlier in the year. First up is Nicolas Winding Refn’s neo-noir thriller “Drive,” starring Ryan Gosling as an icy wheelman, followed by Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior, in which Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play estranged brothers who face off in a mixed martial arts tournament.

On Wednesday, the New Beverly showcases Francois Truffaut's Hitchcockian side, screening a new 35mm print of his 1968 revenge tale “The Bride Wore Black,” starring Jeanne Moreau as a vengeful widow, alongside the suspense thriller “Mississippi Mermaid,” featuring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve. www.newbevcinema.com

The Alex Theatre presents its second annual Cartoon Hall of Fame on Monday. The program of classic toons features Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Superman and some less familiar faces. It will screen in the afternoon and again in the evening. www.alextheatre.org

The Cinefamily concludes its Kaneto Shindo retrospective this week with double features of the Japanese director’s films Thursday and Friday. Thursday begins with a new 35mm print of “The Naked Island” (1960), followed by “Lucky Dragon No. 5” (1959). Friday pairs “Onibaba” (1964) with “Tree Without Leaves” (1986).

The Cinefamily also will be showing the controversial Japanese film “Battle Royale,” directed by Kinji Fukasaku. The 2000 film about schoolchildren forced to fight to the death on a remote island  will run from Christmas Eve to Jan. 2. www.cinefamily.org

Tuesday the Downtown Independent hosts the Los Angeles premiere of “Non Compos Mentis: Or Jerry Powell and the Delusions of Grandeur,” a crime comedy by guerrilla filmmaker Mike Cuenca. www.downtownindependent.com


'Battle Royale': Making a killing in Japan

Classic Hollywood: 'Design for Living' on Blu-ray

'Drive' offers road thrills but loses some critics with gore

-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Bruce Willis hunting bad guys in "Die Hard." Credit: Peter Sorel