George (Ray Milland) is a desperate, hard-working exec suffering under the meaty thumb of his tyrannical boss, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). Janoth is an obese, hyper-meticulous schemer who could give C. Montgomery Burns lessons in wicked drollery; he actually docks the pay of one poor wretch who dares to leave a light on in a broom closet. Predictably enough, this perfect specimen of anal retention is a man of decadent private appetites, and when those appetites get him in trouble, Janoth is all too happy to let handy underling George take the fall. Laughton was never a subtle actor, attacking every role with lovably hammy gusto. It's difficult to imagine anybody but Laughton playing Janoth, but that's also true of every role Laughton ever played. He was a true chameleon (or as chameleon-like as a guy shaped like a refrigerator could be), a master thespian of the wigs-and-funny-teeth school who absolutely commanded every scene he appeared in. Laughton's acting is always compelling, but when he's given room to roam, as he is in The Big Clock, the results are black magic. The Big Clock is a well-made machine, with all its complex parts working together in wondrous harmony. Short subjects, cartoons and other goodies are also on the bill. Long Beach School for Adults Auditorium, 3701 E. Willow St., Long Beach, (562) 997-8000, ext. 7198. Fri., 7 p.m. $1 materials fee.
It's a Wonderful Life. A surprisingly dark holiday classic, with James Stewart's sometimes frantic performance given extra urgency by the real despair the actor felt following his return from active duty in World War II. There are those who say the film's happy ending is a lie, but even if doesn't feel entirely plausible, it's both dramatically right and necessary; without it, the film would be a descent into hell with no way back. Be sure to notice the homely teenager who opens up the gym floor during the dance, sending everybody plummeting into the pool; that would be Alfalfa from the Our Gang shorts. Bay Theatre, 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988. Sun., 6 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m. $5-$8.
The President's Last Bang. Sang-soo Im's 2005, darkly comic drama about the 1979 assassination of South Korea's President Park Chun-hee by the disgruntled director of the KCIA, was "meticulously well-made" and "disarmingly funny," according to LA Weekly's Scott Foundas. Chun-hee's son disagreed, attempting to block the film from distribution. UCI Humanities Instruction Building, Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-7418; www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc. Thurs., Nov. 30, 7 p.m. $3-$5.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We've blurbed this thing enough now that we've plumb run out of "Let's Do the Time Warp Again" jokes. So, we'll just tell you that this Saturday you have another chance to squeeze your butt into a pair of fishnets and get on down to the Queen Mary, as Midnight Insanity presents Richard O'Brien's cult classic, preceded by live bands. This week: Lindsay Sinay. For safety reasons, guests are searched at the door, so don't be a dork and bring anything obviously illegal. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 694-4411 or (562) 235-8053; www.midnightinsanity.com. Sat. Band, 11:30 p.m.; screening, midnight. $8 tickets go on sale at 10:30 p.m.
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