The BYT Weekly Mini Movie Guide: Now Playing In DC
BYT at large | Aug 14, 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.

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


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


Best of EnemiesNow playing in D.C.

Best of Enemies is a modest documentary with a clear and compact subject matter. In 1968, ABC was trailing the other two big networks, CBS and NBC, in success and ratings. So when the Democratic and Republican parties held their conventions that year, ABC decided to do something unorthodox: Instead of simply broadcasting wall-to-wall coverage, it carved out time during the conventions for a series of ten political debates, for which it hired the conservative William F. Buckley and the liberal Gore Vidal. -Jeff Spross


Cop CarNow playing in D.C.

Cop Car is simple but effective, with few frills to distract from the basic thriller story at its core. -Ross Bonaime

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Dark PlacesNow playing in D.C.

Wait for it to be streaming and/or read the book instead. -Svetlana Legetic


The Diary of a Teenage GirlNow playing in D.C.

“I had sex today. Ho-ly shit.” So says Minnie, the hero of The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Director Marielle Heller’s adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner trailblazing novel is faithful, and not to a fault, either: Heller cuts from the source material where it meanders, and keeps Minnie’s unique, despairing point of view intact. -Alan Zilberman


The End of the TourNow playing in D.C.

The End of the Tour shows Wallace as a man who had a specific message he wanted to share with the world and somehow was able to impart that onto the world and gain admiration and love from millions of fans, yet it wasn’t enough to change the darkness that laid within him. -Ross Bonaime


Fantastic FourNow playing in D.C.

For a film that takes place mostly in science labs, Trank is able to create an interesting balance of characters. It’s when Trank tries to create a conventional superhero story that things go completely off the rails. -Ross Bonaime


The GiftNow playing in D.C.

The Gift shifts gears often – we think we are watching one film, only to discover another layer of intrigue – and while it tilts toward the absurd, the performances lift the material anyway. -Alan Zilberman


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


Jurassic WorldNow playing near 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


Listen to Me MarlonNow playing in D.C.

I do wish Listen To Me Marlon had the same power as Brando himself, but instead it is a slightly interesting proposal on the nature of the man behind the name. -Vesper Arnett


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


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


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


Magic Mike XXLNow playing near 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


The Man From U.N.C.L.E.Now playing in D.C.

Watching the movie once was enough. But I hope they make another. -Jeff Spross


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


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


Paper TownsNow playing near 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


PhoenixNow playing near D.C.

Most American films about World War 2 have a clear-cut divide between good and evil. Americans have the luxury of two massive aquatic barriers, which create and “us and them” dynamic between the soldiers and those they fought. Europeans and Japanese, particularly those Europeans in Axis countries, cannot rationalize their wartime behavior with such ease, and the films from those countries reflect that. Phoenix, a German postwar drama from director Christian Petzold, slowly enters a world of betrayal, love, and despair. Like last year’s terrific Ida and Petzold’s recent Barbara, here is a film that requires patience, yet concludes with quiet power, forcing us to reconsider the delicate mastery of what preceded it. -Alan Zilberman

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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


Ricki and the FlashNow playing in D.C.

Ricki and the Flash is one of those movies about the parents reconciling with their adult children. It just happens to do the genre proud. -Rachel Kurzius


SneakerheadzNow playing in D.C.

I’m getting tired of streetwear documentaries. No matter how slick they look, no matter how famous the interviewees are, they always follow the same exact format. Sneakerheadz is no different. It’s stylish as hell. The music is fantastic. Many of the interviewee’s (like Frank the Butcher, Rob Dyrdek, and our very own Wale) are brimming with fun stories and facts. That doesn’t stop it from feeling like one long Nike advertisement. There’s nothing new or interesting about a streetwear documentary that focuses on how crazy it is that grown men (and women, although that’s part of the problem too) have a thousand pair shoe collections. -Kaylee Dugan


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


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


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


Straight Outta ComptonNow playing in D.C.

Ironically, Straight Outta Compton would be a stronger film with a “warts and all” approach: the screenwriters are perfectly content to show the violent side of Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) and his entourage, yet completely gloss over Dr. Dre brutally beating Dee Barnes and a history of misogyny. In fact, the ugliest scene in Straight Outta Compton excuses NWA’s casual misogyny with an easy “boys will be boys” punchline, one that’s all the more disturbing since it involves automatic weapons. Gray could have gone for a laugh and played the scene with more sympathy toward women, yet that would get in the way of gangsta ethos. E’s promiscuity and relationship with Jerry gets more depth and screen time, and even that is marred by clichéd dialogue that quite literally repeats itself. All the actors, especially Hawkins, accomplish the tricky task of embodying the characters without impersonating them, and their hard work is thankless since Cube and Dre are too close to this project for its own good. -Alan Zilberman


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


Tom at the FarmNow playing in D.C.

There is a ton to like about Tom at the Farm. The performances are all terrific, especially Cardinal, whose work here should make him famous. The cinematography is inventive, blending styles, making canny use of lighting, and even hopping between aspect ratios. Gabriel Yared’s score is a master homage to Bernard Herrmann, not just in form but in its consistent evocation of physical, almost sweaty menace. At its best moments, Tom at the Farm crackles.

Yet Tom at the Farm is not the sum of its best moments. -Max Bentovim


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