The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Raleigh Little Theatre—I admit to watching the 1969 film of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on AMC a few times when I was a teenager, and not completely understanding whether Miss Brodie was supposed to be a good teacher or a bad one. This early exposure to moral ambiguity had a troubling effect on my psyche, which only served to freak me out when star Maggie Smith showed up as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films. Yes, I'm a geek on that level.
The film celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and Spark's original story remains a mainstay of literature, stage and screen. The stage version, by Jay Presson Allen (who also adapted the screenplay), will be produced at Raleigh Little Theatre with Haskell Fitz-Simons directing the story of the private school teacher in the business of "putting old heads on young shoulders." For more information, visit www.raleighlittletheatre.org. —Zack Smith
Great 8 Showcase
Local 506—If you passed on last weekend's excellent Double Barrel Benefit as your '09 primer for local music, The News & Observer's second-annual showcase for its sixth-annual selection of its eight upcoming Triangle favorites, known as the Great 8, offers a substantive alternative: Lonnie Walker—a hybridized Greenville/ Raleigh crew that doses angular indie with old alt.country and older collegiate jangle—opened last weekend's stand in Raleigh, and it opens tonight, too. Violet Vector & the Lovely Lovelies, who also played last weekend in Raleigh, follows, offering its psychedelic charms with heavy doses of sugar and self-mythology. The easy amble ceases abruptly, though, when Raleigh's lethal hardcore warriors—the shocking but completely deserving surprise in this year's Great 8, Double Negative—takes the stage. Holy shit, News & Observer staffers: Double Negative's feedback-born hardcore blitz shows no mercy, hammering your ossicles like McClatchy clear-cutting a newsroom. Few bands in the Triangle are fit to watch such devastation and climb on the stage in the headlining spot, but Hammer No More the Fingers has a good shot of surviving. Its debut LP, Looking for Bruce, is an equal digestion of modern rock radio and university rock love, offered back to you with an enthusiasm and energy that turn great hooks into a perfect closing set. Pay $6 at 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
Carolina Theatre—In 1986, I was hit with my first exposure to the reality of death. It wasn't a close relative, nor was it a beloved pet; no, it was Optimus Prime, the colorful robot/ big rig who entertained me every afternoon on the popular cartoon The Transformers. Obviously, Prime got better (he was a robot), but Transformers: The Movie remains a traumatic touchstone for many children of the 1980s, and a camp classic for its bizarre visuals, characters (Eric Idle as a biker-bot who speaks in commercials! Orson Welles as a ravenous planet!) and such overwrought songs as Stan Bush's "The Touch," later covered by Mark Walhberg in Boogie Nights. It's just one film in a power-packed triple-feature-fundraiser for the Nevermore Film Festival.
If your heart can survive the hardcore robots-in-disguise action (Michael Bay's got nothing on this), then stick around for 1981's indisputable classic An American Werewolf in London, featuring killer Rick Baker wolf effects, an increasingly decomposed Griffin Dunne and a lot of songs with "moon" in the title. And if you want to go all the way, there's the bizarro 1983 Blackboard Jungle remake Class of 1984, with Perry King vs. an army of angel-dust-doing delinquents. A pow'ful lot of entertainment for a mere movie ticket, Retrofantasma is proof that Friday the 13th is unlucky for some, but awesome for others. Unless, of course, my TiVo doesn't get Battlestar and Dollhouse ... For more information, visit festivals.carolinatheatre.org/retrofantasma.
Valentine's footnote: If you have a date willing to attend this triple-feature, marry him or her. Seriously, lock that down. —Zack Smith
The Awful Truth
N.C. Museum of Art—These days, romantic comedies are merely awful. Suffice to say, I'm just not into He's Just Not That Into You. But once upon a time, romantic comedies were ... dare I say, funny. In fact, you might even call them "screwball." Case in point: 1937's The Awful Truth, one of many films that made an icon out of Cary Grant. He and onscreen wife Irene Dunne decide to divorce and of course they still love each other and of course there are all sorts of wacky misunderstandings and oh yeah, there's a great performance by a dog who gets the worst of it. The thing is, it's about being funny. It's about funny jokes that serve funny characters. It's not about forced emotions or sentiment or playing dated pop songs over the trailer, it's about making people feel good by making them laugh. And 70 years later, people are still watching and enjoying it. What a novel concept! The screening is part of the Museum of Art's Winter Film Series; for more information, visit www.ncartmuseum.org/events/films.shtml. —Zack Smith
Alarm Will Sound
Reynolds Theater, Duke University—For the second consecutive season, Duke Performances presents an important world premiere by one of the ensembles sitting at the edge of new music. In 2007, Kronos Quartet presented Mavericks, an homage to Thelonious Monk, Einstürzende Neubauten and Terry Riley. Heir apparent-plus to the Kronos tradition, the 20-member, New York-based group Alarm Will Sound has interpreted the works of Steve Reich, Conlon Nancarrow, Aphex Twin, Edgar Varése and countless others. As a testament to the group's versatility and dexterity, it offered amazing renditions of Nancarrow, who actually wrote his work so as not to be performed by humans but by player piano machines. Tonight, it'll unveil 1969, a piece that explores the music of that year, with a special focus on The Beatles' "Revolution 9." "The evolving conceit centers on the intersection of popular music and the avant-garde, in a literal meeting between McCartney and the Italian composer Luciano Berio," wrote New York magazine's Justin Davidson after witnessing the nebulous stages of the piece at New York's The Kitchen—as well as "an aborted one when the cosmic modernist Karlheinz Stockhausen sat out a blizzard in a New York apartment waiting for the Beatles to show up." The must-see of the week. Tickets are $5-$38 for the 8 p.m. show. —Grayson Currin