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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.

Abominable Now playing in D.C.

In what is either an example of parallel thinking or an attempt for DreamWorks to match their competitors, Abominable is the third animated film in less than a year about yetis, after Warner Bros.’ Smallfoot and Laika’s stop-motion Missing Link. Yet within this trend of animated abominable snowmen movies, Abominable is stale, even to those who avoided the other two-thirds of this unexpected yeti trilogy. While Abominable does offer frequently gorgeous imagery, the fairly generic story only reminds of much better, familiar stories. -Ross Bonaime

Ad Astra Now playing in D.C.

Space is an existential threat. There is so much of it – and so little of us – that trying to comprehend its enormity would probably destroy our brains. Leaving aside the Cold War, the Space Race was, at its core, humanity’s attempt to dominate space. The notion that we can dominate space is a cosmic joke, of course, and Ad Astra internalizes that idea. Writer and director James Gray understands the sense of wonder and adventure that comes with space films, and while there is some of that here, Gray treats that tradition with a sense of skepticism. It is rare to see a mainstream entertainment this life-affirming, and this subversive. -Alan Zilberman

The Addams Family Now playing in D.C.

The Addams Family has taken so many different forms over the years, from New Yorker cartoons to classic pinball machines. It’s almost surprising this creepy, kooky family hadn’t had an animated film, especially since their gruesome humor is a perfect fit for the medium, proven by the franchise’s two previous animated TV shows. With The Addams FamilySausage Party directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan brings the Addams back from the dead once more. Even if Vernon and Tiernan’s take on the family does fall into standard kid movie themes, The Addams Family makes these feel natural for this specific story, and make the Addams stand out in a sea of animated sameness. -Ross Bonaime

Apollo 11 Now playing in D.C.

Like President Kennedy’s famous proclamation “We choose to go the Moon,” the new documentary Apollo 11 sounds simple in its purpose. Using archival footage and audio, director Todd Douglas Miller and his team recreate the voyage undertaken by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Within that simplicity, however, is an audacious technical marvel of imagery, sound, and nonfiction storytelling. There simply has never been a documentary quite like this. As an assembly of archival footage, it is a massive undertaking. In terms of cinema, it is breathtaking real-life thriller. This film will help ensure that no generation ever forgets just what was accomplished that fateful July. -Alan Zilberman

Black and Blue Now playing in D.C.

Black and Blue certainly has a prescient idea and an exciting premise, but without the writing and directing to back it up, the entire film feels half baked. Even with Harris and Colter giving it all they’ve got, Black and Blue comes off more monochrome than it should. -Ross Bonaime

Countdown Now playing in D.C.

Almost any horror gimmick can make for a solid film, as long as it’s handled correctly. Hell, the horror genre is pretty much built off great gimmicks, whether its not allowing late admissions to Psycho or a killer video tape in The Ring. But maybe no horror film has had as boring of a gimmick as a group of people accepting a user agreement on a new app without reading it. That’s where Countdown comes in, a tedious retread of The Ring and Final Destination’s ideas that is as stupid as it is mundane. -Ross Bonaime

Creed II Now playing in D.C.

With Creed II, Stallone undoes the goodwill that Coogler brought to this new take on the franchise by once again making himself the center of the story, and losing the series’ exciting sense of personality. -Ross Bonaime

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Downton Abbey Now playing in D.C.

Premiering less than four years after the show aired its last episode, Downton Abbey the film is little more than fan service – an opportunity for the audience to watch what is essentially a two hour episode together in the theater. While Downton Abbey was always a decidedly slow burn, stretching out simple stories for an entire season, the film iteration has to cram as many plots and characters into the mix as it possibly can. The result makes Downton Abbey overly stuffed, and showcases the hollowness of most of the stories told at this estate, not only in the film, but in the TV show as well. -Ross Bonaime

Gemini Man Now playing in D.C.

It’s hard to believe that we’re only nineteen years into Will Smith’s self-proclaimed “Willennium.” Who knows what the next 981 years of Smith’s reign will bring us? In Gemini Man, director Ang Lee shows that even when Smith eventually dies, the Willennium can keep going strong. In the year 2894, there’s still the possibility of a Fresh Prince reboot, I Am Still Legend, or Bad Boys 47, with cyborg Martin Lawrence. But Gemini Man is little more than a tech showcase, a way for Lee to have Smith vs. Smith convincingly and show that even aging actors can live forever as the younger versions of themselves. The screenplay for Gemini Man has been passed around Hollywood since the 90s, but the finished product proves that maybe a better script should’ve gone along with this proof-of-concept. -Ross Bonaime

The Irishman Now playing in D.C.

Late in The Irishman, there is a scene where a character is flabbergasted. It is the late 1990s or the early aughts, maybe, and he cannot believe a young person does not recognize Jimmy Hoffa. Maybe folks recognize his name or remember that he disappeared, but you cannot overstate he was once one of the most important public figures in the country. Our sense of amnesia is important to The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s latest crime epic. It is similar to his best-known films, insofar that is about gangsters, corruption, sin, and politics. In crucial ways, however, Scorsese has made a different film than Goodfellas and Casino. This one has the wisdom that can only come with advanced age, and that wisdom coexists with heartache. -Alan Zilberman

Jojo Rabbit Now playing in D.C.

Ads for Jojo Rabbit describe the film as an “anti-hate satire.” Before I get to the film, a comedic drama set in Germany during World War 2, I want to parse this phrase. From Swift’s modest proposal onward through Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin, satirists have used humor and irony to ridicule the powerful. Satire is inherently anti-establishment, and hatred is ingrained in so much of what the establishment seeks to accomplish. Can there be such a thing as “pro-hate satire”? I don’t think so. Any attempt would not be satire, but propaganda. It is like Fox Searchlight and writer/director Taika Waititi want to assure audiences that they do NOT endorse Nazism, or Hitler. The thought behind this assurance encapsulates the issues with Jojo Rabbit rather elegantly. -Alan Zilberman

JokerNow playing in D.C.

What is left to say about Joker, Todd Phillips’s R-rated, grimy origin story for the endlessly rebooted Batman baddie that hasn’t already been said (or tweeted) in the six months before its release this weekend? Is it provocative? Is it haunting? Is it the most realistic comic-book story ever put to screen?

Citizens of Gotham: it is none of those things. Instead, Joker is a fairly predictable slog that wants to be taken seriously because it does away with caped crusaders and larger-than-life villains in favor of the bleak tale of young man who’s been done wrong and wants to get even. Oh, it’s plenty violent and nihilistic, but as badly as it demands we sympathize with Arthur Fleck — as the future Clown Prince of Crime is called here — neither Phillips, the director and cowriter, or Joaquin Phoenix ever earn it. -Benjamin Freed

Judy Now playing in D.C.

Her mannerisms and facial expressions (which are without prosthetics) feel so authentic alongside the fact that she fully becomes Judy: she sings all the songs herself, no lip syncing, and she’s good. Really good. The stage performances as riveting and don’t come off as mere imitation. All the lead actress awards seem destined for Renee in this performance and they are fully earned. It is truly a performance that hopefully will lead to a Reneeassaince because even with her years out of the limelight, she hasn’t lost her star power. -Diana Metzger

The Lighthouse Now playing in D.C.

The Lighthouse, the new historical horror film from Robert Eggers, works as both cinema and a theme park ride. Its vision is singular (i.e. only Eggers could have made a film like this), and yet it unfolds like a sensory experience, not something you ponder. Its descent into madness is dizzying in the best possible ways, plus it is a rare treat to watch great actors abandon the pretense of safety and good taste. -Alan Zilberman

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Now playing in D.C.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil becomes the first live-action Disney film in recent memory to go outside the source material, continuing after it seemed the “happily ever after” had occurred. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil plays with many of the same ideas of the original, without having the power of Maleficent’s origins, and reiterating the points that were already made. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil wants us to believe that maybe Maleficent could still deep down be evil, despite seeing in the previous film that she isn’t. Mistress of Evil wants us to understand that sometimes the real family is the one we choose, despite already making that point clearly in the first story. Yet even with retelling many of the key elements of the first film in this unexpected franchise, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil still finds a way to stand out among all the other live-action films Disney has recently released. -Ross Bonaime

Pain and Glory Now playing in D.C.

When I had lunch with my father earlier this week, he was complaining about his age. After talking about his limp due to a torn meniscus, he said, “In my mind, I still feel like I did when I was a young man. It’s only my body that has gotten older.” That wisdom and sense of betrayal are central to Pain and Glory, an autobiographical drama from Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. He is known for bawdy humor and high melodrama, although there is little of that here. Instead, his sense of understatement leads to plausible, complex characters in heartbreaking situations. This material might be tedious, even unbearable, but it is so carefully observed and acted that watching the film is like a luxury. -Alan Zilberman

Playing with Fire Now playing in D.C.

The worst movies for kids are screamed, not written. The idea seems to be that seeing insane things on screen and adults acting wacky constitutes a film. A perfect example of this is Playing with Fire, a movie that plays more like a series of loony ideas than an actual story. -Ross Bonaime

Terminator: Dark Fate Now playing in D.C.

Twenty-eight years have passed since James Cameron and Linda Hamilton have had any hand in the Terminator franchise. That period has brought around The Rise of the MachinesSalvation, and Genisys, with each installment further proving how inessential this franchise has become over the years. With its baffling timelines and frequent reboots, Terminator no longer is the future, but like the long-gone past. Which probably explains the return of Cameron – this time only as producer and receiving a story by credit – and Hamilton, star of the two best films in the franchise. Much like Sarah Conner has done several times, Cameron even changes the timeline, making Terminator: Dark Fate a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, completely ignoring the twenty-eight years he hasn’t been involved with this series. While Cameron might make the choice to forget the past, audiences haven’t, and at this point, Terminator: Dark Fate is too little too late. -Ross Bonaime

Unlikely Now playing in D.C.

As a former admissions officer for Columbia University, Unlikely’s co-writer/co-producer/co-director/narrator Jaye Fenderson knows how the college system is rigged. College is harder for students that aren’t wealthy, aren’t white, and students who don’t test well. But even if a student gets into the college of their choice, the dropout rate in the United States is remarkably high. This is all basic knowledge for anyone even remotely familiar with the difficulties of how college works in America, and yet in Unlikely, Jaye Fenderson, along with her co-writer/co-producer/co-director husband Adam Fenderson also decide to rig this film with one-sided viewpoints, dubious facts, and even questionable viewpoints of what the college experience is actually about. -Ross Bonaime

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