One-Night Stands for the week of December 27, 2006-January 2, 2007 

In this week's rep picks: A magic flute, a pair of red slippers, and Nick and Nora hit SF.

Reviews by Michael Covino, Melissa Levine, Jim Ridley, and Kelly Vance

Thu., Dec. 28

Firefly — Three episodes from the cult TV series (total running time unknown). (PW, 9:00)

Fri., Dec. 29

Life on Earth — A filmmaker from Mali returns from living in Paris to rediscover his homeland and ends up wandering the landscape on New Year's Eve, 2000 — and falling in love with a local woman. Directed by Abderrahmane Sissoko (61 min., 1998). (Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, 7:30)

Sideways — Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a tortured writer suffering over the twin failures of his marriage and his novel; he finds comfort only in the arcane particulars of wine tasting and connoisseurship. As the film opens, Miles must rescue his friend Jack (the ruddy, amiable Thomas Haden Church) from the home of his soon-to-be in-laws and show him a week of bachelor joy before his wedding the following Saturday. Technically, these men should not be friends. Miles worries his life into a tight ball of angst; Jack rides a wave of wine, women, and '70s-era fun. The irony is that while Jack worries that Miles will spoil his joyride, it's Jack who threatens to ruin things for Miles. Director Alexander Payne, who has made two brilliant films (Election, About Schmidt) already, leaves the flattened vowels and dumpster-in-every-shot anomie of Omaha for the tawny, rolling hills of the central California coast. The result is a hilarious, moving tribute to an awkward friendship — and one of the most enjoyable films of 2004. — M.L. (Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 3:30)

The Wizard of Oz — Unforgettable children's classic with young Judy Garland skipping out on dull old Kansas for the fantasy world of Oz, which lies just "Over the Rainbow." With the rest of Yellow Brick Road crew: Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, Clara Blandick, Charley Grapewin, and the Singer Midgets (101 min., 1939). — M.C. (Paramount, 8:00)

Sat., Dec. 30

After the Thin Man — Two years after The Thin Man, Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) have moved to San Francisco, Asta in tow. The mystery elements amount to much less than Powell and Loy's effervescent interplay as the movies' most happily married couple (112 min., 1936). (Cerrito, 6:00)

The Magic Flute — The Metropolitan Opera's production of Mozart's opera, directed by Julie Taymor and conducted by James Levine, is broadcast theatrically in HD, live via satellite (running time unknown). (RH, 10:30 a.m.)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show — The original 1975 British rock music horror spoof, starring Tim Curry as the androgynous Dr. Frank N. Furter, with Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. Directed by Jim Sharman (95 min.). (PW, midnight)

Sun., Dec. 31

After the Thin Man — See Sat. (Cerrito, 5:00)

Wed., Jan. 3

Little Miss Sunshine — Like the shambling VW van its hapless characters steer from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, this antic extended sitcom from first-time feature makers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris is a rickety vehicle that travels mostly downhill. When his seven-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) gets a surprise slot in a beauty contest, a failed motivational speaker (Greg Kinnear) loads up his squabbling, despondent family to make the 700-mile road trip. The ensemble — including Steve Carell as a suicidal Proust scholar, Paul Dano as a mute Nietzsche freak and Alan Arkin in the thankless role of a foul-mouthed, heroin-snorting grandpa — works gamely, but this is the latest in a long line of Sundance clunkers that seems to have developed its impression of human behavior from incomplete space transmissions (2006). — J.R. (JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley, 7:00)

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