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The BYT Weekly Mini Movie Guide: Now Playing In DC
July 2, 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.

About EllyNow playing near D.C.

Farhadi’s approach to drama is both exhausting and exhilarating: even with low-stakes settings, the film has the dense plotting of a thriller. -Alan Zilberman

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AlohaNow playing near D.C.

I can’t really tell if Aloha is the most awkward, weird, and uncomfortable romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, or if I just don’t understand the genre at all. -Kaylee Dugan

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Avengers: Age of UltronNow playing in D.C.

This is a film that indulges the gee-whiz joy of comic book action, even as it rises above those inherent shortcomings. -Alan Zilberman

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CinderellaNow playing near 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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DopeNow playing in D.C.

The latest from writer and director and Rick Famuyiwa also references classic films, even integrating iconic shots into his film’s plot, yet there is a tone and sense of space here that’s entirely unique. There are not many movies out there that could weave classic hip-hop and the advantages of bitcoin into its plot. Dope does exactly that, albeit with varying degrees of success. Still, it is hard to begrudge Famuyiwa since he never once condescends to his unique characters, or the audience by extension. -Alan Zilberman

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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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Fresh DressedNow playing in D.C.

While die hard Kanye fans probably already know about his fashion aspirations, Fresh Dressed has a lot more to offer than a cursory look into hip-hop’s connection with the fashion industry. While it takes a broader look than Just For Kicks (which I highly recommend if you’re interested in sneakers and hip-hop), it’s a great overview of how fashion and hip-hop have grown together. -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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Iris Now playing in D.C.

Watching Iris feels like visiting your grandparent’s house. -Kaylee Dugan

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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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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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Mad Max: Fury RoadNow playing in 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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Me and Earl and The Dying GirlNow playing in D.C.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a nasty gimmick, a coming of age comedy that bears little semblance to actual human behavior. Everything about it, including its style and characters, is an affectation. -Alan Zilberman

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Panther PanchaliNow playing in D.C.

The new 4K print of The Apu Trilogy is vivid and simple, yet the changes are unobtrusive so that we can fall into the spell of Apu and his family. -Alan Zilberman

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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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San AndreasNow playing in D.C.

Is it possible we’ve reached the pinnacle of disaster movies? Now that basically anything can be done in films, special-effects wise, it seems like the bigger and crazier these films get, the less distinctive they become. We’ve seen every major landmark get destroyed a dozen times, cities of millions laid to waste, and even seen the entire world destroyed. As far as disaster films go, maybe we’ve had too much disaster. -Ross Bonaime

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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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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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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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TomorrowlandNow playing in D.C.

The thing is, if Bird is influenced by Rand, he lacks her ideological fanaticism and cruelty, while fully embracing the swashbuckling verve she was sometimes able to conjure. Ratatouille and The Incredibles are both whirlwinds of cinematic mastery and joyful invention. And for its first two-thirds, Tomorrowland largely measures up to their example. -Jeff Spross

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Wild TalesNow playing near 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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The WolfpackNow playing in D.C.

Moselle’s approach is primarily about respecting them, and that allows for the viewer to understand them, even if their formative years trained them to fear us. -Vesper Arnett

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