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BYT Film Guide: Spring / Summer 2014
March 25, 2014 | 9:00AM

 written by: Alan Zilberman, Jeff Spross, Tristan Lejeune,  Brandon Wetherbee, Toni Tileva, Kaylee Dugan, Ross Bonaime, and Svetlana Legetic

Welcome back cinephiles and voyeurs! Yes indeedy, it’s the start of BYT SPRING/SUMMER GUIDE WEEK. After a cold and seemingly never-ending winter, brace yourself for a pleasant and then (inevitably) brutal spring and summer. And what better way to beat the weather than by letting the BYT film team guide your screening choices? Award bait season is on the horizon—we’ve got those covered, along with indies, documentaries, mindless action and comedies. On top of that, we’ve laid out a neat menu a Best Worst Movies list, home entertainment must sees and all of the best DC film events.

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ENJOY, and follow us on facebook and twitter (@BYT) for ongoing updates.(MORE SPRING/SUMMER GUIDES COMING RIGHT UP TOO.)

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  • Noah (March 28) – Movies drawn from the Bible are tough for Hollywood in this day and age. They’ve always had to be milquetoast, down-the-line regurgitations of the Biblical stories, as filtered and sanitized by the popular American civic religion that happens to bare some surface resemblance to the teachings of Christ. But 50 years ago you could at least count on a broad middle class audience eager to eat up such products. These days, with the rise of a more secular and pluralistic America, Hollywood can’t even count on that. So slick productions like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ – which do absolutely nothing creative or morally compelling with the material – turn into hugely successful cult films. Meanwhile, genuinely challenging and inventive works like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ get denounced by the traditionalism police and left with few defenders. It sounds like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is closer to the Scorsese mold than Gibson’s. Aronofsky actually got his take on the story turned into a graphic novel before he finally secured a deal to film it, so it’s more a fantastical re-imagining of the Biblical story than a straight retelling. And from what we’ve seen so far Aronofsky has enthusiastically embraced the visual possibilities. It also apparently inflects the story with environmental themes, and deals in a pretty forthright way with the tale’s brutally grim psychology. This is, after all, a story of genocide by the deity. So I guess it’s hardly a surprise the film has been dogged by controversy. But I’ll be rooting for it, because whatever flaws or concessions to modernistic fads it may have, it at least seems to be trying something interesting with the material. Conservative and traditionalist America got decades of its biblical epics. It’s high time doubting, unsure, post-modern, spiritually polyglot America got a few of its own. And Lord knows that trailer had some awesome music. -Jeff Spross

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  • Mistaken For Strangers (March 28) Everyone’s favorite indie dad rock band The National have two sets of brothers in their line-up, plus the baritone vocalist Matt Berninger. That is not to say, however, that Matt is an only child. He’s got a young brother, Tom, and when we meet him he’s a world-class fuck up. Still, he’s also a filmmaker, and his feature debut Mistaken for Strangers is a documentary about Tom’s adventures with the band during the tour for “High Violet.” At first, Tom does not seem like an accomplished filmmaker. He films the band when they sleep, ask dumb questions, and wanders through the tour in a drunken haze. But then it seems maybe there’s talent beneath his arrogant bluster. By the end of Mistaken for Strangers, the overall impression is that Tom is as crazy as the proverbial fox, with enough self-deprecating humor so that it’s not always awkward. This is music documentary about what it’s like to stand outside the spotlight of your sibling, and the weirdly emotional final sequence illustrates this mix of pride and jealous in a perfect way. -Alan Zilberman

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  • Breathe In (March 28) -  The story of a young, beautiful outsider usurping a family dynamic is one that has been told many times but the team behind Breathe In makes us want to see it all over again. Drake Doremus re-unites with his writing partner (Ben York Jones) and star (the always lovely Felicity Jones, who found herself on the other side of this equation in the equally lovely, underseen Albatros) of Like Crazy, and  if that movie taught us anything it is that these guys know their way around some deep, complex feelings. Add Guy Pierce and Amy Adams into the mix and this may be the thinking person’s tearjerker of the season. TISSUE BOX BONUS: Like Crazy is currently available on Instant Netflix, to get you in the mood (read our full review of it HERE). -Svetlana Legetic

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  • The Raid 2 (March 28) – Gareth Evans is easily our generation’s best action director. In The Raid: Redemption, his action maintained breathless energy and brutality, all while preserving coherence through deliberate editing. In our interview with Evans two years ago, the director talked about his plans for the sequel. He said, “There is one scene inside a car that’ll be our big set-piece. There is one person fighting against four people inside a moving car, while other cars are smashing it from the outside. We’re working on the logistics of how the hell we’re going to shoot it, and how we’re going to do the stunts without killing anyone.” The Raid 2 has all that – the car chase is indeed stunning – and is more ambitious on a story level, too. Instead of a mere skyscraper, Evans expands his world to an entire city. The cast of characters includes complex warlords, cartoonish villains, and a cop who cannot help but grow more cynical. The Raid: Redemption is one of the most intensely physical action films ever made, and with the sequel Evans somehow managed to top himself. -Alan Zilberman

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  • Dom Hemingway  (April 4) – I saw the trailer for Dom Hemingway the other and within the first 15 seconds I knew I needed to see this movie STAT. It had all the joy and pizzaz of early Guy Ritchie, but the added bonus of feeling. Jude Law plays the titular character who after 12 years in prison makes his way back to the streets of London to reconnect with his “friends” and “family” and collect on some debts. Richard E. Grant and Demian Bechir and Emilia Clarke (aka Daenarys Taergereyen!) play alongside Law and on the helm we find Richard Shephard who has the unique qualifications of helming both 2005′s very enjoyable Matador AND a whole bunch of GIRLS episodes. A perfect resume for a making the great emotional caper we’ve all been ready for for a while. - Svetlana Legetic

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  • Under the Skin (April 4) – In a word, Sexy Beast WAS/is unnerving. Director Jonathan Glazer is back after 10 years (he also directed the little-seen but underrated Birth), and now he’s dabbling in similarly unsettling matter with Under The Skin. It’s  ”a horror with a heart,” starring Scarlett Johansson as an impossibly mesmerizing and prepossessing alien with a British accent. “You don’t really want to wake up, do you?” I am sure most audience members would agree. -Toni Tileva

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  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4) – I was lukewarm on the first Captain America. I appreciated Chris Evans’ stoic and straight-forward performance as the titular hero, and the moral commission delivered to him by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci). But it was mostly wind-up with little payoff. As a result, it couldn’t really deliver on the character’s great promise: to show that the heaps of irony and cynicism we’ve piled on his worldview since the 1950s are the result of moral disappointment rather than moral nihilism. To revive Cap for the modern age is realize that, oh, right, earnest believers in God and apple pie and old-fashioned American ideals would oppose warmongering and torture and spying and empire! To love your country is to confront it when it slides into degradation, not cheer on and enable its addictions. We got a little of that in The Avengers, what with Cap’s outrage at SHIELD’s weapons program. But with an ensemble cast, the thread couldn’t be fleshed out. Now the trailers for Winter Soldier are dropping not-so-subtle hints that Cap will be taking on the film’s fictional equivalents of the fear-driven national security state. So it looks like that oversight may finally be rectified. Here’s to hoping we finally get see Cap slap some sense into the country that, in recent decades, has done such a piss poor job of deserving his devotion. -Jeff Spross

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  • Draft Day (April 11) – If there is one thing I love more than a good sports movie, it is a good sports movie starring Kevin Costner. After Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, he may as well be a patron saint of the genre. So it is great to see him being back in form with this NFL story about a Cleveland Browns manager and his, you guessed it, draft day struggles. Add Ivan Reitman in the director’s chair and Jennifer Garner, Terry Crews, and Sam Elliott on the cast roster and you have yourself a movie as American, and as comforting as (a goddamn delicious) apple pie. -  Svetlana Legetic

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  • Cuban Fury (April 11) -Speaking of things I love: DANCE MOVIES. Now, imagine a DANCE MOVIE produced by the people who brought us Scott Pilgrim, Hot Fuzz, Attack of The Block and The World’s End. NOW, imagine a DANCE MOVIE produced by those people and starring Nick Frost, Rashida Jones AND Chris O’Dowd as salsa champions? With 80s flashbacks?  Are you imagining all that? Does it sound like a feel good yet deadpan dream come true? IT DOES TO ME. – Svetlana Legetic

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  • St. Vincent De Van Nuys (April 11) -”A young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran who lives next door.” The fact that the war veteran in question is played by Bill Murray makes this “The Way Way Back of 2014″ that much more worthy of getting excited over. Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd and Terrence Howard also pop up, and I have basically already pre-purchased my ticket.- Svetlana Legetic

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  • Only Lovers Left Alive (April 11) – Jim Jarmusch makes a vampire love story and it stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. If there was ever a more perfect BYT audience movie sentence bait, I would like to know what it is. No further descriptions/feelings/anything necessary. I’M THERE. – Svetlana Legetic

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  • Oculus (April 11) - Starring Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff (STARRRRBUCK), and Brenton Thwaites, Oculus follows the story of a brother and sister team (Gillan and Thwaites) who are trying to solve their parents mysterious murder. Thwaites was convicted of the murder as a teenager, but Gillan is under the impression that her parents incredibly old and incredibly creepy mirror has something to do with it. Oculus has been making appearances at horror festivals throughout the year and everyone who has seen it so far has had nothing but excellent things to say about it. Personally, mirrors freak me out (I was scarred by Bloody Mary as a kid) so I am really excited to be terrified for weeks after I see this. Plus, Gillan’s characters name is pronounced exactly like mine. Cue the nightmares. -Kaylee Dugan

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  • Transcendence (April 17) – Wally Pfister is deeply skeptical of technology. He was the cinematographer for many of Christopher Nolan’s films, including The Dark Knight trilogy, and is famously on the record that celluloid is the superior film format over digital cameras. His strict preference over the older format caused a minor controversy in the film community – the documentary Side by Side goes into the matter in more detail – and this skepticism is part of Transscendence, Pfister’s directorial debut. It’s a sci-fi thriller where a group of AI scientists intentionally create the Singularity once their leader (Johnny Depp) is on death’s door. Rather than shuffle the mortal coil, his colleagues upload his consciousness onto a supercomputer. Freed from corporeal limits, the Depp character goes completely berserk, and threatens to unravel civilization as we know it. This is a heady concept, sort of like a mix of Her of Skynet, and I’m curious just how Pfister’s skepticism of technology translates into a story about the dominance of our psychotic AI overlords. -Alan Zilberman

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  • The Other Woman (April 25) – Lets face it: comedies about cheating men (or women for that matter) are never THAT FUNNY, but this one comes with some rock solid insurance policies. For one, Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann play the girlfriend and wife who discover that their primary and secondary love interest is three timing them with Kate Upton. The man in question is embodied by Nicolas Coster-Waldau (as opposed to, say, ahem Adam Sandler) making all this a way more plausible scenario. And Nicholas Cassavetes, who brought us BOTH The Notebook AND Face/Off is directing. Hope you’re all in the mood for a deliciously bumpy ride. -Svetlana Legetic

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  • Walk Of Shame (April 25) – Elizabeth Banks doesn’t get enough credit for being truly hilarious. But anyone who has seen Pitch Perfect or Our Idiot Brother knows the girl has chops. Now, she gets to show them off (while wearing a very tiny, very hot yellow dress) in a full-on comedy vehicle built around her. Don’t expect anything too ladylike from it though-title connotations aside, the director’s chair is occupied by Steven Brill (author of such high brow fare as Drillbit Taylor, Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds). Community’s Gillian Jacobs and BYT’s own comedy BFF Tig Notaro drop by to keep the funnies going too. – Svetlana Legetic

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  • For No Good Reason (April 25)- This documentary, 15 years in the making, takes us inside the world of Ralph Steadman, maverick illustrator and collaborator/friend of the great, late Hunter S. Thompson. One of the more fascinating art careers aside, the fact that Johnny Depp serves as an anchor to the interviews and Richard E. Grant and Terry Gilliam (among others) pop up as themselves makes this one tripped out, gorgeously weird, darkly hilarious dinner party we’d love to attend.- Svetlana Legetic

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  • Chef (May 9) – Jon Favreau reunites with his Iron Man stars Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson for a movie about a down-on-his luck chef who re-starts his life with a food truck business. The fact that Favreau is writing fills us with hope about banter on the level of Swingers of Made and the presence of Amy Sedaris, Bobby Canavale, John Leguizamo and Garry Shandling makes this a multi-course treat (all puns intended) – Svetlana Legetic

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  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2) – Sony is correct to clutch onto the Spider-Man franchise; no matter how good they are, the films are always profitable and all the New York city-scapes give endless opportunities for product placement (expect a lot of Vaio laptops, as well as a tie-in with the Postal Service). The first Amazing Spiderman rehashed the same boring origin story, yet there were glimmers that the reboot would not just be a copy of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Spider-Man moved more nimbly, for one thing, and Andrew Garfield has more pluck/snark than Tobey Maguire. This sequel continues in that tradition, with a host of additional villains played by Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 raises the stakes of the original film, and maybe this sequel will match ambition with quality.  -Alan Zilberman

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  • Godzilla (May 16) – There might not be a film that deserves more respect than it gets than the original Godzilla. After the incredibly dark and moving 1954 original, the film lost credibility in America with a slew of monster fight movies and of course the 1998 attempt at a reboot. Yet Godzilla might finally become a respected franchise once again with a refreshing take on Godzilla sixty years after the original, helmed by minimalist Monsters director Gareth Edwards. With a surprising cast for an action film that includes Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, and David Strathairn, this Godzilla could be the best of the franchise in six decades.-Ross Bonaime

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  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (May 23) - Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the rare prequel that works on its own terms, while paying the appropriate amount of respect to the original. We see the ethical lapses that lead to the first damn dirty ape; a scientist (James Franco) makes the mistake of giving the ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) an intelligence drug, who then has the self-awareness to understand man’s capacity for cruelty. Caesar is still in charge during Dawn, and know he’s on the side of a winning war against humanity (it does not help that an airborne disease mostly wipes us out). Dawn looks almost like a war film, and with character actors Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman on the human side, director Matt Reeves seems set on only increasing the franchise’s credibility. -Alan Zilberman

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  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23) – Comic book fans pretty much unanimously agree that Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand is a stain on Marvel’s cinematic oeuvre. It’s ninety minutes long, for one thing, with silly action sequences that betray the solemnity of the comics (unlike Avengers or Spider-Man, the attempt to place X-Men within major historical events adds exigency). Days of Future Past is an attempt to rectify that mistake: with Bryan Singer back at the helm, this film combines the modern X-Men films with First Class. Coupled with a time travel narrative, this might be most ambitious comic film to date (the cast is enormous). Sure, the Sentinels look silly and their version of Quiksilver is a joke, yet the stark difference in imagery between the past and future timelines is enough cause for excitement. Besides, I’m always a sucker Colossus action. -Alan Zilberman

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  • A Million Ways To Die In The West (May 30) – If there is one movie set I wish we were a fly on the wall of this year, this is probably it. Seth MacFarlane writes and directs this Western romp (“The American west in the 1880s is a HORRIBLE PLACE, everything that is NOT YOU wants to kill you”), which features EVERYONE you want to be best friends with (see below) and the trailer involved: multiple gruesome deaths (by ice, by photo camera, by Liam Neeson), some delightful sex banter (hi Sarah Silverman) and more. Pure MacFarlane, minus any stuffed animals – and that is a great thing. -Svetlana Legetic

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  • Maleficient (May 30) – Sleeping Beauty is the first movie I ever loved. My mom likes to embarrass me with stories about how I’d watch it day after day – this was around when I was four or five – and it got to the point that she made me a red cape and a sword so I could look just like Prince Philip, the film’s eventual hero. Revisiting Sleeping Beauty, I wonder why I wasn’t more disturbed by Maleficent, the film’s calculating villain. She’s more evil than typical Disney villains, the sort of woman who relishes the opportunity for psychological torture. The upcoming Disney film Maleficent looks like it’ll give the titular anti-hero the Wicked treatment, and I’m curious to see how sympathetic she seems. Angelina Jolie is perfect for this role, of course, and while the initial trailers are short on plot, there is the potential here to update our sympathy’s for Disney’s most malevolent character. Also, I cannot get that Lana Del Rey cover of “Once Upon a Dream” out of my head. -Alan Zilberman

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  • The Fault in Our Stars (June 6) – Summers are traditionally a place for for big, splashy sequels, awful high concept movies and the like, so we always welcome a good, old-fashioned tear-jerker with open arms. Almost as a palate cleanser. The fact that this one involves two ailing teenagers could mean that all this could go south pretty fast (Van Sant’s lovely Restless aside, this has not been a too subtly charted territory by Hollywood) but the signs all point in the right direction. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel, and is (inevitably) set to break out hearts in ways that The Spectacular Now let us know she could, the supporting cast includes Wille Dafoe, Laura Dern AND Mike Birbiglia and the “One Sick Love Story” tag line indicates that John Green (adapting his own novel here) hasn’t lost his sense of humor about anything, not even death. Still, bring those tissues. -Svetlana Legetic

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  • Edge of Tomorrow (June 6) - For certain fans of playful, philosophical storytelling, the “setup and variation cycle” template finds its seed not in the great Groundhog Day, but in David Ives’ 12-minute playVariations on the Death of Trotsky. In it, the exiled Russian revolutionary — with his assassin’s mountain-climber’s ax comically buried in his skull the entire time — dies, over and over, while narratively stumbling toward an awareness of his situation. In related news, Tom Cruise (51 years old and still looking 100 percent natural in combat gear) will, on June 6, die over and over while battling an alien invasion of Earth. Through the use of a time loop, Cruise repeatedly resurrects in Edge of Tomorrow, coming back each time more experienced and more ready to kick ass. Like the exhilarating German film Run Lola RunEdge of Tomorrow incorporates the video game “respawn” concept (“You are dead. Now: what did you learn?”) into its very structure, and there may be no director better-suited to mixing the reset button with assault-weapon violence than Doug Liman. Of all the ripoffs of Pulp Fiction, his rave party-punk Go was the most fun. True, since then his action flicks have been rather uninspiring (Mr. & Mrs. SmithJumper), but with a concept like this, not to mention a costar like Emily Blunt, Liman’s movie is more than worth a try. And try, and try, and try… -Tristan Lejeune

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  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13) – The How to Train Your Dragon books are  perfect for a big-screen adaptation. Set in the world of vikings and dragons, animators have plenty to work with, both in terms of world-building and character design. Released four years ago, the original film was a massive hit because it resonated with younger audiences without condescending to them. How to Train Your Dragon 2 continues in that tradition, with a stronger emphasis on action instead of a coming-of-age narrative. Rather than focus on the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, this film expands the universe and culminates with an all-out war among different viking factions. There probably won’t be much pillaging, yet there is enough charm and visual thrills do that it won’t matter. -Alan Zilberman

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  • 22 Jump Street (June 13) – No one really expected for 21 Jump Street to be as successful or hilarious as it was, but this sort of reboot was a great restart for this series and one of the funniest films in recent years. Smartly, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have become of the most exciting new filmmaking teams with The Lego Movie propelling them into insane success. However while they have had the ability to revitalize old properties, they’ve never done a sequel. With a flawless track record so far and a great trailer that seems to succeed in all the ways that the original did, 22 Jump Street is on track to be the biggest comedy of the summer. -Ross Bonaime

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  • Jersey Boys (June 20) -If you were to think of WHO the right person is to adapt the beloved Broadway musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Clint Eastwood may not be the most obvious of choices but that is EXACTLY what makes this such an interesting proposition. So, expect: a lot more insight into the all male dynamics of the band, and probably one of the least showy musicals you’ve seen in a while (something, after the awfulness of Mamma Mia and the like, we’re very ready for). Plus: Christopher Walken. -Svetlana Legetic

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  • Tammy (July 2) -At this point it is safe to say that we’d watch Melissa McCarthy IN ANYTHING. ANYTHING. But this passion project between her and husband Ben Falcone does have the premise and cast to prove to be truly worth of her abilities. She stars as the titular Tammy, a woman having a truly bad run of luck: her husband is cheating AND she just lost her job. So, she does what any desperate person would do: she goes on a road trip with her hard drinking Grandmother. In a genius “Thelma and Louise” homage moment, the drunk Grandma is played by Susan Sarandon (!!!) and the supporting cast reads like a “who’s who” of people we’d love to hang out with 24/7, let along for 2 hours in the dark of a movie theatre: Dan Akroyd, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Mark Duplass, Sandra Oh, and more. – Svetlana Legetic

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  • Earth to Echo (July 2) -  It’s one of the most flattering (if perhaps childish) ideas in science fiction: what if a being from a distant planet reached out and made contact with earthlings … because they need our assistance? Answer: why, we’d be delighted! So long as they aren’t coming for our fossil fuels or our delicious livestock, what could be more charming than a “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope” hologram meant for us? It’s the rare alien scenario that could be handled in a PG or Disney movie, and Earth to Echo is both. No doubt it’s full of the kind of enterprising youngsters we’ll need to save this world, let alone other ones. If you found Super 8 as disappointing as I did (name any two of the child characters right now — I dare you), perhaps this effort, largely from first-time feature filmmakers, will show signs of extraterrestrial life. The preview makes it look pretty squarely like an E.T. update, but hey, I love E.T. The thing wants to get home, there are meddling, government-y adults — ooh look! And they brought their tents! The found-footage, characters-with-cameras conceit isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and its powers can indeed be used for good. In Earth to Echo the visitor looks like a friendly, rugby ball-sized robot/animal combo, at least while it’s in its shell. Way more telekinetic and less furry than a Tribble, but just as cute and purring. Aww, we can’t let it go home because it’s stolen my heart!  -Tristan Lejeune

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  • Jupiter Ascending (July 18) - Directed by the Wachowskis, the sibling team who brought you The Matrix and Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending is a jampacked sci-fi thriller with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a janitor who is hunted down by Caine (Channing Tatum), a space assassin, because Jupiter is destined to be the Universe’s next leader, so obviously the Queen of the Universe wants her dead. While the plot doesn’t really seem super original, the movie does look like it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous. Plus Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum are both so good looking I’d be cool with watching them do anything for an hour or two. -Kaylee Dugan

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  • Wish I Was Here (July 25) – Say what you will (and you probably will) about Garden State, but that movie DID change some lives, (especially if you were (un)lucky enough to be hit by it at a certain early mid twenties point of it all). It certainly changed Zach Braff’s. Now, ten years later, in the other feel good kickstarter story of the year, he gets to address a different kind of life-and-identity-crisis malaise: that of his/our/your mid-30s. Kate Hudson’s presence is a little disturbing but we’re willing to risk it, at least in this case. – Svetlana Legetic

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  • Sex Tape (August 1) – Remember just how fun and delicious the banter chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel was in Bad Teacher? Didn’t it make you wish for more? Well, you’re in luck because you’re about to get A LOT more. Reuniting with their Bad Teacher director, the duo take on the classic quandry: you’ve been married for ten years, you are trying to spice things up, you make a three hour long sex tape featuring you two in every position from Joy of Sex, and then… what do you do when your sex tape dissappears?. The humor promises to be as broad and dirty as it gets and while Jason Segel looks a little too skinny for his own good, we do have Jack Black, Robb Cordry, and Ellie Kemper all on site to keep things extra funny and extra every(wo)man relatable – Svetlana Legetic

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  • Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1) – While Marvel does have a corral of interesting characters at their disposal, their slate of films has felt too similar, leaving me wanting something more, something different, something crazy. To do the honors, Marvel has enlisted director James Gunn, creator of the fucked up realistic superhero film Super, to make what look like an insane team up the likes Marvel has never seen before. Chris Pratt as a character named Star-Lord? Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper doing the voices for a walking tree man and a talking raccoon? I mean, this is easily Marvel’s craziest property so far and looks more fun and more unpredictable than any of Marvel’s films so far. -Ross Bonaime

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  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8) – Or is it just “Ninja Turtles” now? I’ll admit there’s a lot to be worried about with this one. Michael Bay – the man who brought us a transformer with a giant metallic ball sack – as producer, for one. That the director is the dude who gave us Wrath of the Titans doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. And while I like Megan Fox just fine (I’m straight and I’m male and I’m not dead) she doesn’t exactly scream “perfect choice to play April.” There was also that whole unfortunate “we’re gonna toss the origin story into the trash bin and make the turtles be from another planet instead” business. It sounds like fan reaction slapped that one down pretty decisively, and a good thing too: I can deal with creative re-imaginings of the Bible, but do not fuck with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The cartoon was the staple of my childhood media diet; I probably owned three different toy versions of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael; and the first movie in the 80s was (I think) the first film I ever saw in a theater. So whatever the ominous signs, I really want this sucker to be good. Since the backstory debacle, and what sounded like a retraction of that idea by Bay, turtle-co-creator Peter Laird has been pretty positive on the project. And I mean, they’re using the same technology to create the Turtles that James Cameron used to create the Na’vi in Avatar! Wrath of the Titans was a narrative mess, but it really did have some slam-bang visual effects. So maybe helmer Jonathan Liebesman is up to the task. Maybe we’re finally gonna full-on walking, talking, fighting non-rubber-suit encased teenage mutant ninja turtles on the big screen. There’s at least a chance it will be amazing. Don’t tell my inner eight year-old otherwise. Know hope, people – Jeff Spross

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  • The Giver (August 15) - A long long time ago, when I was in 7th grade, I had an English teacher who I absolutely hated. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I hated her was because our main book for the year was “The Giver.” Now, I love a good dystopia, but for some reason, I abhorred this book and haven’t touched it since. For those of you who weren’t forced to read it in school, the story follows a young boy named Jonas who lives in a dystopian society where people have very little choice. Every major decision, and even minor decisions, are made by the Elders. Jonas is ~*special*~ and is chosen to learn about the “real world” from a crazyish (at least I remember him being crazy) old man who is called the Giver. Despite my hatred, I am weirdly excited about this movie. Given the first trailer, it already seems like it could either be a trainwreck, or the best. I mean, look at that casting! There’s Meryl Streep playing the Chief Elder, Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes as Jonas’s parents, Taylor Swift as the Giver’s daughter, and Jeff Bridges as the Giver. I’m getting psyched just thinking about it. -Kaylee Dugan

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  • The Captive (August 22) -I am still trying to forgive Atom Egoyan for the disaster that was Chloe but this Canadian set thriller sounds like it could be this year’s Prisoners, focusing on a Father who believes that his kidnapped daughter is still alive 8 years after her abduction. Ryan Reynolds heads up the cast which also features the water-colored pain canvas that is Mireille Enos and Scott Speedman. Fingers crossed this feels more like the Sweet Hereafter than anything else Egoyan has made since. – Svetlana Legetic

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  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22) - L’oeuvre de Robert Rodriguez is messy. It could be said that his finest films, like El Mariachi or Planet Terror, are simply the ones where the blood hits the bull’s-eye. 2005′s Sin City definitely belongs on that list. Filmed largely in black and white, with splashes of color, and using digital backdrops, the anthology-style “translation” of Frank Miller’s graphic novels was all anyone could talk about for months. Is it a coincidence that that other Miller adaptation, 300, also got a 2014 sequel? Probably. But come Aug. 22, I’m guessing this is again the richer material. A Dame For Whom to Kill, as we’ll call it, reportedly features return performances from Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson and several others, many of whom died in the first outing, so that’s special, right? And that’s only the tip of the cast iceberg. Everyone in Hollywood apparently wants to act evil in those tri-tone palates with the sleazy saxophone playing in the background. Last time, Rourke’s performance drew accolades; who will be the standout this year? Sin City represents edge-of-society noir taken to the extreme, which, by the end of August, is probably exactly where cinemagoers would like to be. Bull’s-eye. -Tristan Lejeune

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  • Jane Got A Gun (August 29) – Jane Got A Gun has had some problems (most notably – the original director abandoning the project ON THE FIRST DAY OF SHOOTING). And the last time Natalie Portman held a weapon we ended up with whatever Your Highness was. But now with a end-of-summer release date and a True Grit style story populated by some very handsome, very capable men (including Joel Edgerton, Ewan MacGregor and Rodrigo Santoro) and a director who has both the testosterone AND emotion fueled The Warrior and the lovely female-driven Tumbleweeds roard movie under his belt, we’re ready to be optimistic. -Svetlana Legetic

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  • Big Eyes (Sometime in August) – If there is one person that was born to bring to life the story of Margaret Keane, whose 1950s paintings of wide-eyed waifs brought her massive acclaim, only to spend the better part of the 1960s fighting her husband Walter Keane who claimed credit to them, then that person IS Tim Burton. Just think of every movie of his you ever saw-Edward Scissorhands or The Corpse Bride may as well have jumped off the canvas and onto film. The cast includes all-time BYT favorites Amy Adams, Krysten Ritter and Christoph Waltz and this MAY JUST be the film to break Burton’s semi-lackluster live action streak he’s been toiling of late.- Svetlana Legetic

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  • This is Where I Leave You (September 12) – Johnathan Tropper’s funny/sad/special “This is Where I Leave You” was one of those novels that everyone loved talking about reading (see below for its Orange is The New Black cameo). So, it was inevitable Hollywood would fall in deep, desperate love with it and option it as soon as possible. And then have every single actor worth their thoughtful indie cred star in it. Not that we’re complaining. If we’re going to go through a full week of very dysfunctional sitting Shivah we’re pretty ok to spend it with the likes of Jason Bateman, Connie Britton, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, Kathryn Hahn, and Corey Stoll (and trust me, I COULD GO ON). – Svetlana Legetic

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  • Child 44 (September 15) – Based on the best seller novels of Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 offers the perfect transition from Hollywood summer fun to a more serious, award bait-y fall. Set in Stalin’s Russia, it follows a disgraced KGB agent as he tries to solve a series of child murders, which are, naturally connected to the VERY TOP of the Communist party. Hollywood is overdue for a great thriller and the fact that both Gary Oldman, The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman and the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace chose to be in this one is a good omen  – Svetlana Legetic

NOOMI RAPACE and TOM HARDY star in CHILD 44

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  • Blended (May 24) – It may look like an extension of 50 First Dates which was an extension of The Wedding Singer (that was the good one) but it’s so much more! These two are going to Africa! It’s gonna get racist! According to the trailer, there’s at least two dance sequences. That’s always a good sign of a not musical, multiple dance numbers in the trailer. At least Terry Crews is there. That guy can make anything watchable (see below). -Brandon Wetherbee

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  • Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27) – Sequels are horrible. Sequels of sequels about a toy franchise are the most horrible. Horrible with the budget of multiple small countries. So it’s going to look neat. Just look at this press still. Gas! It’s kinda funny! There’s destruction everywhere but it’s a gas! And the guy that makes money when Entourage is airing is in this thing. Between that and his Whalburgers, I don’t even know why he’s on the silver screen! Whatever. Like loud, dumb stuff? Awesome. Here’s your loudest, dumbest thing of the summer. -Brandon Wetherbee

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  • Lucy (August 8) – It’s a great sign when a movie with a summer release date has no trailer or even teaser trailer in the spring. The story is simple: a drug mule accidentally swallows her cargo and finds she now has superpowers. That sounds horrible but so does the premise of Up and that rules. This has the potential to be midnight movie level bad/cult but will most likely be run on TBS every other Saturday during the summer of 2016.

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  • The Expendables 3 (August 15) – You know how cocaine works and that’s why a lot of 80s movies look like a lot of 80s movies? Steroids is the new coke. It’s not nearly as much fun, but at least all of your favorite 80s stars look like the action figure versions of themselves. Except Terry Crews. Once again, this guy rules. He was on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and talked about how cool it was when Stallone complimented his arms! What a cool dude! Not Stallone. Him and everyone else in this poster is a nightmare of humanity. Bodies, regardless of age, aren’t supposed to look like that. Except Mr. Crews. He’s just a football player that stayed in shape. Everyone else? Nightmare people. Expendables 3: Nightmare “People” With Odd Facial Hair. I just realized I didn’t really mention the actual movie. Stuff blows up and puns are sorta used correctly. -Brandon Wetherbee

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  •  Blue is the Warmest Color. Here’s what we said in our original review: There was a minor controversy last week when The IFC Center in New York announced it would allow teenagers into screenings of Blue Is the Warmest Color. This is a terrific move on the theater’s part: angst-leaden kids with raging hormones will relate to the depth of feeling between Adèle and Emma. And besides, teenagers can have access to all manner of smut with just a few mouse clicks. Kechiche documents all the details of young love, the gritty and the sublime, and gives it the epic treatment with an intimidating three hour run time. His film is personal and political, sleazy and romantic, sophisticated and pornographic. The best and worst thing about Blue Is the Warmest Color is how its flaws are strangely lifelike.

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  • Tabu. Here’s what we said in our original review: Sometimes it’s tempting to describe a movie by listing off others similar to it. I know I can succumb to that kind of reductive summary (among friends my most common phrase is, “it’s like [Movie X] and [Movie Y] had an [adjective] baby”).  No matter how facile it may be, such a description would be a disservice to Tabu, the brilliant new Portuguese film by director Miguel Gomes. His influences are clear, yet he’s combined them into an unusual drama that’s lyrical and otherworldly. His style is as bold as his narrative choices, and he uses them to plunge the audience into a world of melancholy intrigue.

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  • The Attack. Here’s what we said in our original review: Director Ziad Doueiri – who also cowrote the script with Joelle Touma, based off the famous novel by Yasmina Khadra – wisely keeps his narrative tightly structured at less than two hours, and doesn’t press the material to hold up more thematics than it can bear. There are a few moments when the dialogue steps wrong and false. But for the most part, Doueiri is focused on the immediate human ramifications of Amin’s discoveries. The camera work and the cinematography are creatively vibrant and immediate, leaping ably from intimate and poetic shots to the grand sweep of Tel Aviv. The music by Eric Neveux resembles, of all things, the more elegiac moments of Friday Night Lights, and provides a welcome counterpoint to the grimness of the proceedings. The final revelation may be a tad too convenient in conforming to the call for narrative closure. But it’s a humble offering, and suggests that perhaps at least a few things are knowable after all. The Attack is a moving, well-crafted film.

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  • Deceptive Practices. Here’s what we said in our original review: Even though he’s been in movies for over twenty-five years, you may not recognize Ricky Jay. In 2001’s Heist, he had the memorable line, “[My friend] is so cool that when he sleeps, sheep count him.” In Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, Jay had a minor part as a minor magician, one whose trick accidentally causes a young woman to drown. He may have a career as a character actor, but magic is his true calling. Ever since he was a boy, Jay has perfected sleight of hand and card tricks. Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay is not exactly a biographic documentary. Instead, it shows a world of forgotten magicians, and how Jay fights to preserve their memory.

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  • The Hunt. Here’s what we said in our original review: Vinterberg uses Mikkelsen as the foundation for his movie, and the character is more dynamic than the typical weirdos that the Danish actor usually plays. Lucas begins The Hunt is a happy man, one who knows he’s a good person and also the subject of pity. After Klara lies to her principal – Wedderkopp gives an especially creepy performance – Lucas essentially runs through the five stages of grief, except on a larger scale. The performance is naturalistic and never too cloying: Mikkelsen does not go out of his way to have us identify with him, and we come to care for Lucas because it’s the townsfolk, not him, who are monsters. The Hunt settles once Theo looks past the accusation to see his old friend, but Vinterberg is unafraid to show that the damage is irreparable. This movie is the antithesis of Lars and the Real Girl. The town does not help their token oddball; they scorn him after a baseless accusation. By letting The Hunt unfold without mercy for its hero, Vinterberg unintentionally makes the case for urban life.

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  • Not Fade Away. Here’s what we said in our original review: David Chase is at his best when he’s capturing a specific moment, no matter how strange or seemingly unremarkable. In terms of his command of tone, his movie is similar to Moonrise Kingdom, where Wes Anderson finds a way to film the sixties without getting sentimental about it. We’re not shown how things used to be, but in all its meandering complications, we’re shown how it was for Doug and his family. The title may take its name from an early Rolling Stones tune, but Not Fade Away has more in common with their later album “Exile on Main Street”: brimming with ideas, hard to pin down, and the better for it.

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  • I Am Love. Here’s what we said in our original review: Last year I gushingly reviewed Julia, a thriller in which Tilda Swinton plays an alcoholic degenerate. The performance is honest and without remorse – her Julia is a despicable person, yet remains fiercely magnetic. Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by her gifts, Swinton comes out with I Am Love, a lush melodrama about a wealthy Milan family. Even if you ignore the feat of speaking pitch-perfect Italian and Russian, Swinton’s work is remarkable for the depth she’s able to project. Her understated approach is a stirring counterbalance writer/director Luca Guadagnino‘s style. His bold gestures and sumptuous cinematography dominate the screen, making this director/actor collaboration uncommonly moving.

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  • In the House. Here’s what we said in our original review: English teachers around the country will have their hearts burst with joy when they see In the House, François Ozon’s latest wry thriller. Through smart characters and an emphasis on literature, Ozon goes high-concept but never loses grasp of an emotional core. Small moments are suspenseful because it’s impossible to tell how or when the characters will have the proverbial rug pulled from under them, and Ozon’s restraint with the material is remarkable. Even when the fourth wall gets broken, In the House works because it has the confidence to go for the laugh, and not anything deeper.

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  • The American. Here’s what we said in our original review: George Clooney is an actor who is equally at home with over-the-top performances and quiet ones, and here he communicates a great deal with little dialogue/emotion. The performances harkens to Le Samourai, in which Alain Delon plays a similarly stoic killer. Unlike Delon, Clooney lets his eyes reveal Jack’s emotion, even when his interactions are strictly professional. The performance culminates with a scene of quiet frustration, one that transcends its thriller mold and becomes tragic. Here is a confident genre exercise that easily accomplishes its modest goals, but it’s even more successful as a well-acted character study. I just hope audiences aren’t turned off by misaligned expectations, and accept The American for what it is.

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  • 13 Assassins. Here’s what we said in our original review: The centerpiece of the movie isn’t the lord’s crimes or the samurai’s valor, it’s the climax where swords are drawn and blood is spilled. Miike does not overlook any detail – the sequence is a staggering forty-five minutes long – and there is room for all manner of stylized action. There are large-scale skirmishes in which dozens of warriors clash swords. Explosions shatter pagodas and leave buckets of blood behind. Miike handles the battle with energy careful planning; the scourge never devolves into chaos, and we’re able to discern the good guys from the bad. Still, the climax reaches its high point when it becomes the most intimate.  In a perfectly staged duel, Shinzaemon and Henbei, the lord’s protector, trade blows like two seasoned warriors. Both men are fatigued from the day’s battle, and each swing of the blade has a dire physical toll. It is thrilling action, rooted in character, with a satisfyingly sudden payoff.

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  • Point Blank. Here’s what we said in our original review: At  eighty-four minutes, Point Blank is relentlessly taut. What makes it so thrilling is not the chases or shoot-outs – though they are plentiful and well-shot – but how characters improvise and their motivations constantly shift. The mutual trust between Samuel and Hugo develops slowly; at first, they try and trick/murder each other, but an uneasy bond grows from their shared desperation. Director Fred Cavayé shrewdly defines the characters in a matter of seconds, which affords him more time to complicate the situation and rev up the deadly stakes. No one moment stands out. Instead, the tension and action develops inexorably, leading to a breathless climax that has a sense of inevitability (like introducing a gun in a play’s first act, a pregnant character must go into labor before the movie ends).

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  • Resolution. Here’s what we said in our original review: With creepy twists and plausible characters, Resolution is like what would happen if Michael Haneke directed a buddy comedy. Curran and Cilella have lived-in chemistry, and their easy rhythm suggests they have been friends for years. The addict story is where Benson and Moorhead find humor and pathos; Chris can be funny or desperate in his pleas with Mike, depending on what the scenes require. The mix of dramedy with horror also works on a meta-level, since Mike becomes convinced he and Chris are stuck in a narrative and the string-pullers require an ending. It’s heady stuff, yet Benson’s script veers from one tone to the other with ease. What helps preserve the movie’s grip are the effects, which are subtle and effective. Towards the end there is a creepy image that’s so well-timed that it literally sent a shiver down my spine. That sort of reaction is part of why I love going to the festivals like this. Amid predictable indie fare, something visceral comes along and movie fatigue becomes a distant memory. Resolution is the real deal.

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  • Bullhead. Here’s what we said in our original review: As Jacky, Matthias Schoenaerts’ captivating performance is the strongest reason to see Bullhead. While his physique is the first thing anyone will notice – apparently the actor gained seventy pounds for the role – fits of emotion are what make him a unique screen presence. He lacks the skills/requirements for a complete adulthood, so watching him struggle is heartbreaking, even if these deficiencies cause occasional bouts of violence. Without physical grace, Roskam films the action so the viewer can fully grasp Jacky’s clumsy power. The juxtaposition of strength and weakness, already the source considerable tension, comes to a head during its brutal final sequence.

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  • LoreHere’s what we said in our original review: Set in the immediate aftermath of Hitler’s suicide, Lore looks downright apocalyptic. Sure, the Black Forest’s lakes and trees are idyllic in a familiar way, yet the young Germans in this film are desperate, hardened. They debase themselves in order to survive, and their Nazi indoctrination complicates what they’re feeling. Aside from gnawing hunger, they are also capable of anger, self-doubt, and denial. This kind of material runs the risk of getting too dark, yet under the sure hand of director Cate Shortland, there is a complex redemptive story underneath the dirty muck.

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  • Any Day Now. Here’s what we said in our original reviewAny Day Now should not work this well. Whether it’s a heartfelt courtroom scene or a heart-warming montage, there is little deviation from its familiar formula. Seasoned movie-goers will be able to predict plot twists well in advance. But since director Travis Fine shoots his character with clarity and the performances uniformly strong, it is easy to forgive the predictability. There is an important message here, one that’s easily forgotten ever since Modern Family became the popular image of two loving fathers.

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  • The Silence. Here’s what we said in our original review: When it’s at its worst, grief does not come in waves. It’s more like a flood, or a torrent: relentless and inescapable. There are few solaces – a lover, maybe, or an obsession – but even then the grief pushes harder and harder until there’s no alternative beyond acceptance. All the characters in the German film The Silence are experiencing some degree of grief. Some yearn for a lost relative, whereas others cannot get over their failures or primal urges. For all its misery, director Baran bo Odar avoids manipulation at every turn, and instead constructs a melancholy thriller about two horrendous crimes.

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  • End of WatchHere’s what we said in our original review: Found footage films are usually meant to be terrifying. The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity begin with the conceit that we’re watching amateur video, adding an additional layer of terror. David Ayer’s End of Watch, the latest found footage film, breaks the trend since there are no supernatural creatures. In fact, his buddy cop movie is one of the most realistic depictions of law enforcement ever put on screen. His main characters are fully realized, and he puts them in plausibly dangerous situations. With a necessary streak of dialogue-driven comedy, End of Watch could become a sleeper hit.

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  • 2 Days in New York. Here’s what we said in our original review2 Days in New York moves at such a breakneck pace that it’s easy to forgive its semblance to dozens of other comedies. The American characters are bewildered, the French characters are outrageous, and at the center are a couple who cannot seem to have a moment alone. Director and co-author Julie Delpy has everyone speak with a manic combination of French and English; it’s a wonder that we can follow dinner conversation since the dialogue overlaps the subtitles. By plunging the audience into a world of European eccentrics, the heartfelt humor is nearly exasperating.

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  • Gerhard Richter Painting. Here’s what we said in our original review: Creation should be solitary. A collaborator may help, although their input does not stymie the process. What matters is most is the lack of observation, which is why a documentary like Gerhard Richter Painting is so rare. Director Corinna Belz has unparalleled access to the prolific painter, a prolific, abstract minimalist who still creates massive works at age 80. In one way, the documentary unfolds as a slow pace and seemingly little happens on the canvas or in Richter’s mind. But for those who cannot imagine how an artist transforms a blank canvas into a masterpiece, there are few documentaries so fascinating.

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  • AFI DOCS (June 18-22) – If you’re at all interested in documentaries than you have to check out AFI DOCS. Some of the films shown here go onto be picked up by HBO and other big studios and many go on to become the big documentaries of the year (last year they showed The Act of Killing, Blackfish, and Cutie and the Boxer, among others). The festival is spread all over over DC, this year you can check out the docs at the Newseum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of American History, and AFI Silver Theater. There are so many different interesting subjects and topics that even if you’re usually not interested in docs, you should check it out anyway.

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  • FilmFest DC (April 17-27) – From espionage flicks, to feel good food based films, to comedies set around the world, DC’s FilmFest is a hodgepodge of must see international films. While the entire film list wont be released until the end of March, I’m already interested in Mikkel Norgaad’s Nordic noir The Keeper of Lost Causes, Michael Ewins’ Paulette, and Gary Alazraki’s The Noble Family.

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  • Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema (April 13 – June 14) – Curated by the one and only Martin Scorsese, these screenings explore the golden age of Polish cinema. With movies from famous directors like Krzysztof Kieślowski and Andrzej Wajda, this is perfect for those of you who want a crash course on Polish film.

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  • Midnight Madness – All year long Landmark has excellent midnight movies. There are classics like The Room, Dune, and Xanadu, and much much more.

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  • GI Film Festival (May 19-25) – New on the film festival scene (this will be there third year), GI Film Festival is focused on showcasing different aspects of military. Past years winners included Min Sook Lee’s The Real Inglorious Bastards, Dan Hayes Honor Flight, and Sam Fischer’s Memorial Day.

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  • CineMatsuri (March 23-27) – Produced by the Japan-America Society of Washington DC, CineMatsuri is the first Japanese film festival in DC. Every night head to E Street Cinema to check out Japan’s most popular recent films, like Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, The Great Passage, and Leaving on the 15th Spring.

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