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The BYT Weekly Mini Movie Guide: Now Playing In DC
July 31, 2015 | 4:00PM

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.

AmyNow playing in D.C.

The best documentaries are illuminating. Most of the time they shed light on people or events about which we’re unfamiliar. The trickier, more rewarding documentaries disabuse us from our wrongheaded notions of things we already know (or think we do). Directed by Asif Kapadia, who also made the terrific Senna, the heartbreaking documentary Amy belongs in the latter category. His subject is Amy Winehouse, the late jazz singer whose rise to fame corresponded with addiction and tabloid attention. Using candid video footage and audio snippets from people who knew her best, Amy cinematically articulates why her death is a genuine tragedy. -Alan Zilberman

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Ant-ManNow playing in D.C.

Unsurprisingly, Rudd is incredibly charming as Lang. Given that he did rewrites with his Anchorman director Adam McKay, Rudd’s usual voice is intact and his semi-improvised style brings around some of the most enjoyable moments of Ant-Man. Due to the amount of writers in Ant-Man, the film can almost become a guessing game of who wrote what. Pena’s quick recaps of important plot information feel very much like remnants of Edgar Wright’s script, before he left the project, whereas much of Rudd’s banter with Douglas and Lilly seems like something straight from McKay. -Ross Bonaime

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The GallowsNow playing near D.C.

Do not go see The Gallows in a movie theater. Watch it in the comfort of your own home, with lots of booze and snacks. In fact, it’s totally fine if you don’t watch it at all. Unlike The Babadook, It Follows, The Conjuring, or even any of the Insidious films (I love all of them dearly so yes, watch the sequels too), you won’t be missing out on much. The Gallows is the same sophomoric shitty horror film you used to be able to catch on Fear Net. There is absolutely nothing original or creative about it. For a horror junkie like me, that’s okay. I just need something to fill my incredibly lame addiction to being scared, but this is not for people who enjoy doing things that are actually meaningful. Go watch As Above So Below instead. -Kaylee Dugan

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Inside OutNow playing in D.C.

Inside Out, the latest film from Pixar, takes a seemingly simple premise as an opportunity for creativity, wisdom, and wry humor. The animation is both cartoonish and ornate, so kids can laugh at the broad physical gags while adults will notice the dizzying attention to detail. That attention to younger and older audiences is the movie’s driving force: directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen add layers of depth here – sometimes literally – so that someone at ages ten, twenty, thirty will have completely different, yet genuine emotional responses to every joke and outlandish situation. Pixar is responsible for some of the best films of the last twenty years, not just in animation, and yet they have outdone themselves. This is their best film since Toy Story 3, and easily ranks among the studio’s best. -Alan Zilberman

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Jurassic WorldNow playing in D.C.

And that’s Jurassic World in a nutshell: lots of good ideas and definitely entertaining, and even a few moments where it hints at the potential for greatness. But it doesn’t quite stick the landing. -Jeff Spross

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A LEGO BrickumentaryNow playing in D.C.

This is unfortunately what we get from A LEGO Brickumentary, a doc that attempts to show the wonder of the building toy, but with the most conventional storytelling possible. -Ross Bonaime

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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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The Look of SilenceNow playing in D.C.

Silence’s strength is that it complicates the concepts Oppenheimer showcases in his first film, instead of repeating them. In that way, it’s almost like a breath of fresh air, but Silence lacks the complex absurdity of The Act of Killing. It doesn’t have to work anywhere near as hard to get the audience on its side, but it still has important (and surprising) things to say. -Kaylee Dugan

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Mad Max: Fury RoadNow playing near D.C.

Intentional or not, Mad Max Fury Road is a brutal rebuke of action and science fiction spectacle from the past few years. It does not waste time with exposition, yet finds time for character moments, anyway. There is no plot beyond the direction in which cars travel, and world-building strikes an impressive balance between intrigue and disgust. The action is spectacular, with our heroes confronting multiple sources of danger at once. But for all its explosions and mayhem, director George Miller has focused command over the material. All the car chases are frenzied, though they are filmed clearly, without any chaos or confusion. Fury Road is also a feminist film – idiots will claim that it is misandrist – and the heroine might even represent an improvement over Ripley in the Alien films. It’s that good. -Alan Zilberman

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Magic Mike XXLNow playing in D.C.

But let’s be honest: you may not have come to Magic Mike XXL for its thoughtful cinematography or stirring take on male friendship. If you came to watch the Kings of Tampa get down with exhilarating moves, you will not be disappointed. The choreography is on point and these are men (except for Tarzan), who can really move. -Rachel Kurzius

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue NationNow playing in D.C.

Tom Cruise has been on a hot streak lately, and for unusual reasons. Unlike most actors, even those on the A-list, Cruise enjoys unparalleled control over the movies he makes. He does not direct them, but as a producer, he can choose directors, screenwriters, and high-level creative decisions (the only other actor who had such power was Schwarzenegger at his peak). Cruise commits to entertainment through sheer spectacle – namely, his recent stunt work – so I can only imagine that the rest of his team must meet that standard. Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation features Cruise in peak form, both in terms of star power and as a physical specimen, and it also happens to be a terrific thriller. -Alan Zilberman

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Mr. HolmesNow playing in D.C.

It both delights and saddens me to report that the film (much like most other things that seem too perfect) is actually not perfect. At all. It does deliver heapingly in one aspect (the McKellen one) and under-delivers devastatingly in the other (the mystery). This is not to say that it is not enjoyable and lovely and even heartbreaking at times, but a Sherlock Holmes movie, even a “retired Sherlock Holmes movie” deserves a worthy mystery to hang its hat on. No matter how much clever, nudgeworthy, post-modern (yet so old-fashioned) smoke and mirrors you put on top. -Svetlana Legetic

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Paper TownsNow playing in D.C.

Paper Towns isn’t destined to fall in the category of The Breakfast Club, or even probably Ten Things I Hate About You. But it’s warm and funny without being saccharine, and the team behind it genuinely respects their audience. It’s by no means perfect, but the class of 2015 (and anyone else who’s a sucker for a midsummer romance/buddy/road trip flick) could do much worse. -Trisha Brown

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Pitch Perfect 2Now playing in D.C.

Get aca-ready, ladies and gents, because Pitch Perfect 2 is seizing on every element that garnered the first film a cool $113 million at the box office and ratcheting up the volume. Who cares about the National Championships of A Capella when our intrepid group of harmonizing misfits have to win Worlds to survive? -Rachel Kurzius

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Pixels Now playing in D.C.

Pixels has exactly four things going for it: director Chris Columbus, Michelle Monaghan, the special effects, and the central gimmick. Everything else is a mess. -Jeff Spross

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SouthpawNow playing in D.C.

Southpaw is not a great film. But it is a good one, and it touches on great ideas. And to the same degree I think it’s destructive to allow the “personal character” conversation to intrude on political discussions of economic policy, I think it is good and right that our society tell stories like this. -Jeff Spross

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SpyNow playing near D.C.

If you didn’t believe in Melissa McCarthy’s potential as an action star, it’s time to start believing. Not only does she nail the comedy in her new film Spy, as expected, she also proves her worth as an actress capable of much more. McCarthy takes every line and makes it her own, and deftly creates her own space in a field that many doubted someone like her could inhabit. She makes vulnerability look easy, and even though it’s probably not her doing the stunts, her gung-ho attitude makes us believe that she totally could if she wanted. -Vesper Arnett

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The Stanford Prison ExperimentNow playing in D.C.

In the confident hands of director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, The Stanford Prison Experiment is disturbing because any of those young men could have been us. -Alan Zilberman

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Ted 2Now playing in D.C.

The jokes are lazy, the script is lazier, and the disposal of Lori is lazier still. It gets a few gut-bust laughs and occasionally recaptures the spirit of the original Ted. But it only happens in short bursts.

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Terminator GenisysNow playing in D.C.

Time travel paradoxes are secondary in the Terminator films. While the central conceit is a warrior and/or killer robot who travels from to the past, James Cameron was shrewd to make them a “one way ticket.” The decision meant that Terminator was of the present, and chronologically simple. Terminator Genisys, the latest in the now-lumbering franchise, does away with this simplicity. It is set in three time periods, and like the 2009 Star Trek reboot, Genisys abandons what came before it. Director Alan Taylor has smart callbacks to the original films, yet he cannot capture what made them so important in the first place. -Alan Zilberman

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TrainwreckNow playing in D.C.

Trainwreck is a strange, intermittently delightful romantic comedy. On one hand, it indulges in the most predictable tropes of the genre: the affluent characters all live in Manhattan, the movie dutifully follows formula, and it ultimately upholds traditional values. Yet Trainwreck is also subversive, and that’s due to the screenplay by comedian Amy Schumer, who is also the star: like her stand-up and the characters on her television show, the Schumer character (also named Amy) veers between principled ignorance and moments of pluck. More importantly, she is sexually liberated in a way that would have made rom com heroes blush twenty years ago. But for all its subversion and laughs, Trainwreck cannot overcome the dearth of chemistry between its two leads. -Alan Zilberman

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