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DC Film Beat: Metro Area Cinema for 13 March – 20 March

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The E Street and Bethesda Row Landmarks are hosting a double feature of the slightly underwhelming.  People who make movies need to erase the phrase “slightly underwhelming” from their vocabularies.  For all the money and time and effort that goes into putting a story on screen, it seems misguided at best and irresponsible at worst to produce something that inspires a widespread “Meh” from collective audiences.  Go big or go home; I can deal with genius or incompetence, but mediocrity should have no place in world cinema.

Case in point: Friends with Kids and Being Flynn.  You can see both at the D.C. Landmarks, yet the consensus is one of, “Why not wait for video?”  It’s not that either film is a dog.  It’s that neither quite justifies its respective cinematic existence.  Being Flynn is the adaptation of Nick Flynn’s wonderful memoir Another Bulls**t Night in Suck City, and there’s your first warning sign.  One title is evocative and interesting and unexpected, while the other could just as well be a Tyler Perry melodrama for all its generic utilitarianism.  The film’s biggest sin?  Apparently it’s a safe and comfy family drama with the best performance Robert De Niro has given since Heat.  Talk about your terrible ironies: De Niro finally rouses himself from the Meet the Fockers wilds, and he chooses to grace a movie that’s still unworthy of his gifts.

Friends with Kids shouldn’t worry me as much as it does.  It’s got a wonderful supporting cast that includes Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, and Kristen Wiig (who gave a grounded and emotionally direct performance in Bridesmaids, even if my feelings towards that picture were less than generous).  Better still: the inspired casting choice of Adam Scott as the male lead.  Scott has been doing yeoman’s work in ensemble comedies over the last decade (highlights: Step Brothers, the late/great “Party Down,” “Parks and Recreation”) even though his talent and comedic timing scream “leading man.”

The X Factor?  Writer/director/star Jennifer Westfeldt.  I did not fall for her much-acclaimed rom-com Kissing Jessica Stein as much as the movierati (just made that up.  You’re welcome) did; she strikes me as a Woody Allen-wannabe without a 1/10 of his insight.  She’s the major architect behind Friends with Kids, and that fact gives me pause.

Still, for more on either title, click HERE.

The bad news about the AFI Silver this week: the theater’s “current” film selections are still The Artist and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Big fan of them both (Tinker Tailor is exceptionally strong), but it’s time to move on, don’t you think?  The good news: Bigger Than Life (which I reviewed HERE) is playing as part of the AFI’s Nicholas Ray retrospective, and the great B-movie chiller Attack the Block (again, my review is HERE) gooses the “Things to Come” series.  If you can’t go current, go to these.

Head HERE to learn more about either film.

Last but not least is The Turin Horse, which opens Friday at the West End Cinema.  Fans of experimental cinema should feel right at home; filmmaking iconoclast Béla Tarr tells the story of Friedrich Nietzsche, and of a horse that refuses to move, and of a family struggling to survive, and of the impending apocalypse.  The Turin Horse isn’t easy (Christ, when is anything Tarr makes “easy”?), but it’s beautiful and strange and singular, and at 146 minutes, it’s five hours shorter than Sátántangó.  That’s got to count for something.

Expand your consciousness HERE.

Quick question: what did everyone think of John Carter last weekend?

Anyone?  Anyone?

Well, that can’t be good for Disney.