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The BYT Weekly Mini Movie Guide: Now Playing In DC
April 17, 2015 | 3:30PM

We review films. You see films. You need to know where to see those films. You may want to know what we thought of those films. Here’s where you can read what we thought of the film you’re about the see. Click on the film links to read THE FULL BYT REVIEWS.

American SniperNow playing in D.C.

Individual sequences are well-executed, and the two lead performances are strong. It’s just the whole movie feels like moral doublespeak. -Jeff Spross

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CinderellaNow playing in D.C.

We all know how Cinderella ends, though in live action it becomes clear what a squandering of resources the hunt for the owner of the glass slipper is. Most worrying is that the film ends without telling us they lived happily ever after. Still, I somehow doubt Disney’s next announcement is Cinderella 2: The Red Wedding. -Rachel Kurzius

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Clouds of Sils MariaNow playing near D.C.

Clouds of Sils Maria is a fascinating, multilayered, introspective look into the difficulties of Hollywood and of growing older in general that might rank among Assayas’ best. -Ross Bonaime

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Ex MachinaNow playing in D.C.

There’s a lot of talk about thought experiments in Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s hyphenate debut, and it’s clear that the film fancies itself a thought experiment. Thought experiments, though, are not all created equal; according to Daniel Dennett, perhaps our greatest living philosopher, many well-known thought experiments are actually “boom crutches,” psychological traps that trigger intuitions which cloud good thinking rather than catalyze it. Among those boom crutches, in fact, is one of the thought experiments that is not only discussed in Ex Machina, but is lavishly woven into the film’s visual signatures, making me wonder if Ex Machina itself is nothing but a stylish, entertaining, 108-minute boom crutch. -Max Bentovim

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Fifty Shades of GreyNow playing near D.C.

OK, you’re thinking, so Dornan disappoints. So the script is trash. You’re thinking, “WHAT ABOUT THE SEX? WE CAME FOR THE SEX.”

Calm down, please, since the sex is also disappointing. -Alan Pyke

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FocusNow playing near D.C.

At its outset, Focus threatens to be a leaden affair. When veteran con-man Nicky (Will Smith) schools amateur grifter Jess (Margot Robbie) in the scene that serves as set-up for the rest of the movie, their dialogue is a bit too stilted, their chemistry too synthetic and fizzy to stand in for the volatile, organic version of attraction real humans expect from their big-screen betters. -Alan Pyke

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Furious 7Now playing in D.C.

Vin Diesel recently said Furious 7 should win the Best Picture Oscar at the next Academy Awards. Of course he was laughed off, but when a film is this much fun, exciting and ridiculous and reveling in its insanity – and successful on nearly every front – I say why not? -Ross Bonaime

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Get HardNow playing in D.C.

There is nothing funny about sexual assault. Why are we still doing this? -Vesper Arnett

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InsurgentNow playing in D.C.

What happens over the next two hours is simply a prelude to the big reveal which is, naturally, supposed to make you want to EAGERLY await to spend more money on the third film, but then, you knew that going in. The second film is usually the weakest link in the chain – the one without major climaxes or closure, simply there as a middle child in between the overachieving older sibling and the spotlight hogging baby in the family. And Insurgent is no different. -Svetlana Legetic

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It FollowsNow playing in D.C.

It Follows is the best pure horror film in years, maybe even a decade. It does not deconstruct genre conventions like Cabin in the Woods or Resolution, and it does not use genre as an opportunity for allegory like The Babadook. There is some angst over teenage sexual hysteria, yet that’s a red herring in comparison to writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s greater purpose. Through the sheer power of his premise and his strength as a filmmaker, It Follows aspires to do no more than thoroughly creep out its audience. -Alan Zilberman

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Kingsman: The Secret ServiceNow playing in D.C.

The release of Kingsman: The Secret Service is counter-programming for Fifty Shades of Grey, but it also could have been timed to correspond with Father’s Day. This is exactly the type of movie I’d see with my dad: violent, funny, and irreverent. Within the framework of a standard hero’s journey, director Matthew Vaughn and his co-screenwriter Jane Goldman skewer big targets with glee, and in between the well-choreographed mayhem, there’s a scathing pitch-black satire. No stone is left unturned: the film implicates large swaths of our culture, including the sort of audience who pays for mindless action, and there are jokes so daring that I’m surprised they made the final cut. -Alan Zilberman

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Living in the Age of AirplanesNow playing in D.C.

Brian J. Terwilliger’s Living in the Age Of Airplanes takes the guests of the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum on an educational journey through history, exploring how we got to a point where flight is even possible, and how it connects people worldwide. Harrison Ford, who is an avid pilot, narrates the film. Though his recent accident puts him more to the forefront of the audience’s minds entering the film, it only briefly casts a shadow over the actual film experience. As a whole, this film is beautiful, but does not address the problems of technological and societal growth. -Vesper Arnett

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McFarland, USANow playing near D.C.

I did not expect to like McFarland, USA. It’s a Disney movie about race in America. It’s a white savior narrative. It’s a sports movie. It has Kevin Costner, whose other recent film on race in America was in shambles at best. It’s being released in February, one of the softest seasons for movies, usually where expected failures go to recoup some costs and whither away in the polar vortex between Oscar eligibility and summer blockbuster season. So when Thomas (Carlos Pratts) busts apart hill-running practice to lecture his coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) about where his food comes from, and what that means for the invisible people who put it on his plate, color me surprised. And when the audience was cheering and clapping as Thomas bursts past yet another tall blonde jock in a fancy uni as he closes in on the finish line, I found myself doing the thing I least expect – clapping and cheering along with them. -Max Bentovim

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelNow playing in D.C.

Nothing makes much sense in 2 Best 2 Marigold, and nothing really happens that anyone should care about. The only thing really worth noting about the whole affair is that, fundamentally, the success of the first film and the failure of this is an interesting reflection of two broader trends. -Max Bentovim

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Seymour: An IntroductionNow playing near D.C.

There’s choreography in classical piano that can seem a little childish. When a player starts and stops a note, the way they move their arm/torso around the finger has a small, perceptible impact on the note’s quality and timbre. I played piano for years – I stopped when I was eighteen – and I always thought sighing into the keyboard (or whatever) was silly. Not only was I dead wrong, but immature about it, too. Part of the joy of Seymour: An Introduction, the new documentary directed by Ethan Hawke, is that goes deep into the virtue of practice, and how it intertwines with talent. Many documentaries are about creative people; this is one of the few that is also about creativity. -Alan Zilberman

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The Theory of EverythingNow playing near D.C.

The Theory of Everything is perfectly nice, a well-intentioned biopic that never dares to challenge its audience. Director James Marsh, who previously worked on fascinating documentaries like Man on Wire and Project Nim, knows how to frame a shot and film human eccentricity in a sensitive way. The two lead actors rise to the occasion, particularly since a debilitating disease is what defines their characters. The movie’s weakness is with the screenplay by Anthony McCarten, who writes with so much care for his subject that he’s almost timid about it. If Stephen Hawking can come to grips with motor neuron disease, he can handle an on-screen portrayal with more complexity than this. -Alan Zilberman

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True StoryNow playing in D.C.

The push-and-pull relationship between Finkel and Longo is incredibly compelling. If one goes in with the anticipation of watching a character study rather than a crime thriller, True Story rings true and engrossing. -Toni Tileva

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UnfriendedNow playing in D.C.

Watching a film via a computer via a large screen is a bit confusing. I hate to sound meta but Unfriended is probably best watched on an actual laptop. The characters are, in a nutshell, boring teens whose deaths you don’t really mourn but since it’s a horror film I’m not really here to make friends. -Jenn Tisdale

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What We Do in the ShadowsNow playing in D.C.

The mockumentary style of comedy usually has an undeserved target: after the bite of This is Spinal Tap, filmmaker Christopher Guest turned his attention to dog shows and the folk scene, two facets of American culture that are relatively harmless. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the writing/directing duo behind What We Do in the Shadows, are more ambitious simply because they skewer an entire genre of fiction. Their dark, wry horror mockumentary is a critique of the self-seriousness and sexiness that defines most vampire fiction, yet their approach finds a way to find depth, even humanity, in characters who literally have lost theirs. -Alan Zilberman

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Wild TalesNow playing in D.C.

The most important thing to know about Wild Tales is its structure. Instead of one feature-length narrative, the film is an anthology of six short vignettes. Aside from some thematic overlap, there is no connection between them. Instead of summarizing them all, I’ll just focus on one of them so you get an idea of the overarching tone. A man drives his Audi through Patagonia, and the car ahead of him will not let him pass. He finally gets through, calling the second driver a “motherfucking hick,” and this exchange ends to a slow-moving chase sequence. The payoff of the chase includes an explosion, unhinged brutality, and even on-screen defecation (yes, really). The vignettes vary in terms of ambition and the number of characters, so what unites them is cynicism about justice, both in the legal and karmic sense. -Alan Zilberman

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