$4.50-$8. 108 E. Butler Ave. 215.345.7855. www.amblertheater.org
The Dark Crystal
(1982) (Shown on DVD): At the top of his game and given carte blanche to do whatever, Jim Henson nurtured his dark side with this immersive all-puppet fantasy about the battle between cute, big-eared Gelflings and ugly, scary Skeksis. Featuring disembodied eyeballs and one character's sudden decay, it's the kind of kiddie fare no one would greenlight today--though they damn well should. B Sat., Jan. 12, 11am.
Andrew's Video Vault
Free. Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. 215.573.3234. www.armcinema25.com
Star Spangled to Death
(1956- '60, 2003-'04) (Shown on DVD): "Each viewer that makes it to the end of this seven-hour movie gets an autographed photo of Antonin Scalia burning a candle to Il Duce," reads an intertitle around the halfway mark of avant-gardist Ken Jacobs' found-footage epic. Don't expect such a prize at the end of this month's AVV (although you never know), but that line should give you an idea of the breadth and prankishness of Jacob's life's work. Begun in the '50s, reworked and reshaped for both the national bicentennial and the Reagan '80s, and then "finalized" (or so Jacobs claims) shortly after the Iraq invasion, Star Spangled to Death often seems like it will last forever. (That's a compliment, natch.) Divided into three lopsided parts, the film is an oversized ode to incompleteness or, more specifically, to the last century's cultural detritus. The bulk of the film consists of archaic clips ranging from racist ethnographic studies of 1950s Africa, a CBS doc on scientists experimenting on rhesus monkeys, musical-short subjects, B&W cartoons of questionable integrity and, finally, footage of life during the war on terror. Jacobs shows most of these in their entirety, but only sometimes without direct commentary. When time comes to show all of Nixon's "Checkers Speech," he smears it with snickering, chatter, clips of Eisenhower, a lengthy insert on one man's love for his cat and, when attention turns to silent mascot Pat, sounds of orgasmic moaning. He goes even further with a fluffy campaign doc on Nelson Rockefeller, though Jacobs knows no amount of graffiti is required when showing the jawdropping "Going to Heaven on a Mule" number from the 1933 musical Wonder Bar--wherein a blackfaced Al Jolson plays a dying slave who ascends to a gaudily overwrought heaven featuring other blackfaced whites. Throughout, Jacobs shows pop culture as being at the mercy of society, and society to be terminally sick, racist and cripplingly religious, particularly when ruled by the film's revolving door of national supervillains (Rockefeller, Reagan, Dubya). Individual segments of Star Spangled to Death aren't exactly subtle, particularly when it turns to textual inserts (which he sometimes uses subliminally). But Jacobs lets the audience make the connections, especially as the canvas gets bigger and bigger. Eventually it seems like there's no way to stop the damn thing, and perhaps there's not. So enjoy! At least until the next Great American Despot comes around. A Thurs., Jan. 10, 6pm.
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
$3.50-$9.25 (unless otherwise noted). 824 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr. 610.527.9898. www.brynmawrfilm.org
West Side Story
(1963) (Shown on film): Read Pauline Kael 's legendary smackdown of Leonard Bernstein's desecration of Romeo and Juliet--you know, the one where the latter lives--then see if you still think it's just fine. C Sat., Jan. 9, 7pm.
The Wild Thornberrys Movie
(2002) (Shown on DVD): Produced by the same group who wrought Rugrats, the Nickelodeon show about a globetrotting adventurer family graduated to the big screen, complete with songs by Paul Simon. (Not reviewed.) Sat., Jan. 12, 11am.
(2007) The BMFI once again plays host to a local feature, this time with John Charles Hunt 's revenge drama about a woman who watched her husband get gunned down in our city's streets. (Not reviewed.) Wed., Jan. 16, 11am.
$4-$7. 227 Bridge St., Phoenixville. 610.917.0223.
Fly Away Home
(1996) (Shown on film): Nearly a decade before playing lovers in The Squid and the Whale, Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin played father and daughter in this Carroll Ballard movie about bird fanciers. All together now: Ew! (Not reviewed.) Sat., Jan. 12, 2pm.
(1954) (Shown on film): Frank Sinatra withdrew The Manchurian Candidate from circulation for decades following the Kennedy assassination, and he did the same for this equally uncanny noir. Steely and brooding, Sinatra plays one of three assassins who swing by a small California town to gun down the visiting president. Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates play the townfolk they take hostage. At 75 minutes, it's a terse affair, though hampered by far too many back-story soliloquies for Sinatra's hurting-on-the-inside baddie. B- Sun., Jan. 13, 2pm.