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DC Film Beat: Metro Area Cinema for 21 February – 28 February

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Full disclosure: my intended movie plan this week was to catch a screening of My Week with Marilyn or maybe that gritty cop thriller Rampart with Woody Harrelson.  You know, something pleasantly under-the-radar (but not too underground) so I could maintain my indie movie cred.

Instead, I decided—along with $24 million worth of other American viewers, it seems—to catch the new Denzel Washington thriller Safe House, and…it wasn’t that bad.  Most of the reviews have been fairly unkind (my favorite critics at the Onion AV Club gave it a C+, remarking that the picture “devolves into slick mediocrity,” which is a great description, if a touch harsh), but other than an ending that reeks of studio interference and a useless love interest subplot, I found Safe House a thoroughly diverting timewaster.  Washington remains as charismatic as ever; co-star Ryan Reynolds doesn’t embarrass himself; and director Daniel Espinosa showcases a flair for propulsive and visually interesting B-moviemaking.  Safe House is preposterous, but enjoyably so, and anyone yearning for the Jerry Bruckheimer action epics of old (before Pirates of the Caribbean turned him kid-friendly) should find a lot to love.

Regarding regaining (apologies for the alliteration.  Dammit, just did it again) my indie cred, priority #1 for fellow D.C.-ians is catching Metropolis at the AFI Silver on Friday.  Director Fritz Lang’s visionary silent epic remains the most influential science-fiction film ever made, and the AFI is screening the new 148-minute restoration, which transforms a stunning-if-narratively-incoherent delight into an unqualified masterpiece.  Required viewing.

For more details, click HERE.

While the E Street Landmark can’t compete with Metropolis—seriously, that movie is like the Holy Grail of modern-day Geek Culture—it’s offering the very worthwhile Khodorkovsky, a documentary about the Russian oligarch whose crusade against political corruption disintegrated under the weight of massive embezzlement charges.  Russia has always been a mystery wrapped inside an enigma (nestled in a hot pocket of uncertainty, which was first microwaved in the rays of subterfuge); maybe this film will help make sense of it all.

Find out more on Khodorkovsky HERE.

Finally, the West End Cinema has two shining examples of neo-noir indie adventures.  First up is Bullhead, a crime drama that takes place—I kid you not—in the seamy underworld of illegal meat trading.  That’s not a euphemism for sex or violence-related by-products; I’m talking about cow sold and bought illegally.  Our hero is a steroid-addicted cattle farmer who finds himself in over his head when a federal agent is killed, and things gets very bad, very fast.  Wins points for sheer plot originality.

Better still is the aforementioned Rampart.  Oren Moverman (who co-wrote I’m Not There and directed 2009’s brilliant The Messenger) directs a script from crime novel extraordinaire James Ellroy (of America Tabloid and L.A. Confidential fame); like many of Ellroy’s best works, the story focuses on an exceptionally dirty LAPD officer (Woody Harrelson) whose past sins confront him with a vengeance.  No less an authority on film than Roger Ebert praised the film, writing that Harrelson “reminds [him] of one of the most evil characters in American fiction, Judge Holden in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, a man who likes to torture and kill for no other reason than simply to cause pain.”  Anyone familiar with that novel should be excited—and more than a little terrified—to see what menace Harrelson, Ellroy, and Moverman have wrought.

Check out the West End Cinema HERE.

I realize the correct expression is, “That’s the whole kit and caboodle,” but it sounds better if you say, “That’s the whole kitten caboodle.”  Just a thought.