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.
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
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
James “Whitey” Bulger already inspired some of the best crime fiction of the twenty-first century. There’s The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s remake of Infernal Affairs with Jack Nicholson in the Bulger role, and there’s the criminally underrated Showtime series Brotherhood with Jason Isaacs as a facsimile of the notorious gangster. What distinguishes The Departed and Brotherhood is curiosity about what drives its characters, as well as a sense of humor. The Bulger biopic Black Mass has neither. Serious to a fault and directed without any energy or imagination, Black Mass somehow still has decent performances and a handful of good scenes. Beyond that, it will be easy to forget. -Alan Zilberman
Vanguard contains stirring and vital history, documented in striking close-up footage the police treatment of black people before and during the rise of the Panthers. Despite covering the movement from birth to death into less than two hours, it still manages to touch on both underworked themes like the internal struggle of Panther women against the chauvinism common in the movement, and more familiar ones like the group’s particular mix of communist revolution, social service, and armed confrontation with abusive police. -Alan Pyke
Even with entertainment filled with autistic characters helping break stigmas about being on the spectrum, there’s still the danger of the stories being about the disorder rather than about the people with the disorder. Despite a cast of some of Britain’s finest actors, A Brilliant Young Mind can’t help but have a bland script, one-dimensional characters, and little development among of its conflict. -Ross Bonaime
Sadly, I cannot recommend seeing the 2015 movie Captive, a made-for-TV, based-on-a-true-story quality drama that is also a Christian propaganda commercial for a book written by a known anti-gay marriage, abstinence-instead-of-contraception, anti pro-choice evangelist. Said book, also, it should be noted, already sold 30 million copies, so I can see how there may have been a belief that there is a built-in audience for this, but that’s a whole other can of worms to open. -Svetlana Legetic
I cried a little. Then again, I do cry a little at those videos of soldiers coming home from war and seeing their dogs for the first time, too. Maybe the main characters needed to pet a dog or two. Coming Home was wonderful, in the refreshing way that only really good foreign films can be: you are truly drawn in by every element, despite the language barrier. Director Zhang Yimou also created one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in 2002’s Hero, plus the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. We already knew this from Raise the Red Latern, but he is still the real deal, guys. -Vesper Arnett
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
If Everest indicts anything, it’s the commercialization of the mountain itself, and the atmosphere it fueled between the outfits. -Jeff Spross
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 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
Good horror must strike a balance between entertainment and terror, and that tension tilts toward the latter in Goodnight Mommy. The Austrian writer/director team of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz have an economical story, one where dread builds until all that’s left is discomfort. Their filmmaking is excellent, with crisp cinematography and a trio of unnerving performances, yet I found myself depressed by the disturbing, relentless story. Fiala and Franz design their long, painful climax in order to make wince, and go so far that their deft sleight of hand is moot. There’s a difference between looking away, terrified at what might happen next, and simply losing interest. -Alan Zilberman
In terms of cinema, Grandma does a rare thing: it sneaks up on you. Written and directed by Paul Weitz, this is sort of comedy that is easy to summarize, yet that would betray its depth. The stakes are relatively low and have a tidy resolution, at least on one level, but Weitz and his cast drill down into the emotion that informs every character decision, no matter how big or small. The cumulative effect is powerful. We understand these character so well that a throwaway line or a glance can arrive with an intense, tragic force. But Grandma is also so entertaining, so seemingly effortless, that it also happens to be a lot of fun, too. -Alan Zilberman
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
The Intern, the latest in the Meyers cottage industry, is probably the least frustrating one of all. Maybe it is because there isn’t a coast in sight and the Brooklyn setting is surprisingly down-to-Earth for the Meyers world (though, to anyone who has attempted to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn, we all know that these homes are very (VERY) expensive). Maybe it is because there is no menopause (the mood swings can sometimes be so exhausting). Maybe it is because it has Robert De Niro. Maybe it is because 2/3 of Workaholics leads and Andrew Rannells are in it (even if they’re not given a ton to do). Maybe it is because Anne Hathaway does a perfect job of showing us the woman that Andy Sachs from Devil Wears Prada would have become a decade later, and we all did care about Andy Sachs, didn’t we?
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
Learning to Drive is not a celebration of pluralism, exactly, and asks gentle, albeit probing questions about the norms in which we choose to live. -Alan Zilberman
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
Watching the movie once was enough. But I hope they make another. -Jeff Spross
In the realm of YA action adaptations, last year’s The Maze Runner felt slightly better than the rest of the pack. By limiting the action to the eponymous maze, it kept the story relatively simple, without romantic love triangles or save-the-world plots, instead creating a moderately intriguing mystery. Now that the survivors of the maze have escaped, the Maze Runner crew is out into a world where their actions could decide the fate of the world and thereby The Scorch Trials turns The Maze Runner into the type mediocre YA franchise that its predecessor bucked so hard against. -Ross Bonaime
Watching Meru is like watching a very long episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive. No one in this documentary should seriously be alive. No one is this doc should even have all their limbs. It’s the kind of movie you watch with your mouth agape at both the luck and strength of the film’s subjects. Of course, no one is ever as strong as they seem, and while this film highlights the insane passion and focus one must have to be a professional big-wall climber, it definitely does not shy away from how seriously insane it is to even want to be a big-wall climber. -Kaylee Dugan
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
Noah Baumbach started making movies in 1995. Until 2010 when he met Greta Gerwig while making Greenberg, he authored 5 films over the course of 15 years, all funny but a lot bitter, bleak even too (Kicking & Screaming, Mr. Jealousy (an oft overlooked gem), Highball, Squid & The Whale and Margot at the Wedding). Since meeting, falling in love, and starting to collaborate with Gerwig he has entered a kind of happiness renaissance: in the 5 year span from 2010 to 2015, he has made four movies, almost tripling his output frequency. And to boot: all those movies were substantially lighter and hopeful the previous five, including his TWO this year, the funny, self-aware, twisty While We’re Young and now, this week’s lovely, screwball, energizer bunny Mistress America.
Whether it is Gerwig’s influence or not, Baumbach, making movies in the 2010s has become downright prolific and cheerful. And that’s something to be truly excited about. -Svetlana Legetic
If you remember Swimming Pool, Francois Ozon’s stylish and thorny and leisurely 2003 thriller, you may ask yourself: How has it taken it so long for him to do an adaptation of a Ruth Rendall piece? Now, with The New Girlfriend, stylish and thorny and leisurely 2015 thriller, a cinematic take of one of Rendall’s short stories, they have finally found each other. -Svetlana Legetic
“There is no good or bad here, just alive…or dead,” says Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), or some bullshit like that, just after going on a deeply asinine rant about the global political economy to apparent terminal naif Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson). Dwyer, despite being some sort of inventor (“a valve,” a Chekhov’s gun never fired, a metaphor never closed) apparently didn’t go to college, because he seems blown away by Shit Sophomores Say After Reading Chomsky. -Max Bentovim
The filmmaking of Pawn Sacrifice leans subtly into the parallels between the east/west geopolitical chess game and the ones that drove Fischer to madness, homelessness, and eventual death. After an opening coda showing an adult Bobby tearing his room apart in search of listening devices in Iceland, Zwick transitions into his childhood by way of a surveillance photographer’s shutter snapping away at the Fischer home while communists party inside. It’s just one of many ways the movie draws you into a strange sympathy for Bobby, not just as an American genius, but as a man constantly convinced those closest to him were saboteurs. -Alan Pyke
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
With a series as diverse as The Prophet that deals with all matters of life and what makes it so compelling, by trying to connect all of these ideas into a movie, a sole narrative that spans less that 75 minutes, it’s a losing battle in bringing the power that is obviously in the words to film.- Ross Bonaime
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
One of my favorite new TV comedies this year is Another Period, an absurd farce that somehow combines the stuffiness of Downton Abbey with the bad behavior of trashy reality television. The show is all about the upstairs/downstairs dynamics of a Newport home at the turn of the 20th century, and the absurd lengths the characters will go to maintain an unspoken degree of decorum. The new Brazilian drama The Second Mother has the same tension of Another Period, except it replaces absurd comedy with empathy and a simmering sense of drama. Sometimes the tension is a lot too bear, yet writer/director Anna Muylaert wades through the awkwardness with a gentle sense of humor and sympathy for her characters. -Alan Zilberman
Sicario – Now playing in D.C.
Before director Denis Villeneuve gets into his latest thriller, a grim title card informs us the word “Sicario” is a common term for a hit-man in Mexico. We have no idea of knowing whether this accurate, of course, although I like to think the title-card has the same authority as the one that prefaces Ronin. Both Ronin and Sicario are about hardened, violent men who ignore the typical rules of engagement and diplomacy. While Ronin is an excuse for a protracted chase, Villeneuve and his screenwriter Taylor Sheridan are more ambitious. Their examine the amoral consequences of a lengthy drug war, although the plot does not always match the Villeneuve’s powerful, oppressive filmmaking. – Alan Zilberman
What’s most refreshing about Sleeping With Other People is that writer/director Leslye Headland doesn’t treat Jake and Laney as stock characters ignorant of their killer chemistry. When they have issues they will actually say, “Wanna talk about it?” Like many people, they are well aware of their emotional issues even if they have no idea how to solve them. One unfortunately timed fast-forward skips over some of that interesting work. – Rachel Kurzius
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
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
The Visit – Now Playing in D.C.
The first thing you do when you start watching The Visit is laugh. You laugh for a while, maybe a little nervous at first, because isn’t this a scary movie? But then you settle in, you laugh some more. Then the laughter becomes more nervous. You don’t remember when you stopped laughing, but all of a sudden you are definitely not laughing anymore. -Kaylee Dugan
The really striking aspect of A Walk In The Woods is its modesty. Which isn’t necessarily bad. But it also left me thinking, “Huh, so that’s all they were aiming for…” -Jeff Spross