I’m a card-carrying member of the Slap Shot Fan Club; there are few things more sublime in this world than watching Paul Newman and the Hanson Brothers bashing skulls on the ice.  I think I’ve wanted every hockey movie I’ve seen since to recapture that magic.  Short version: they never do, but Goon, which opens Friday at the West End Cinema, comes awfully close.  It’s an unapologetically profane and bloody comedy about the world of hockey enforcers, those players whose sole job it is to f—k the other side up.

Goon might be even more brutal than Slap Shot, but what distinguishes it is a disarming sweetness.  Seann William Scott’s protagonist is a genuinely sweet and decent meatball who loves his job with all his heart; he knows that for a guy with his…skill sets (read: below-average intelligence and near-impenetrable bone structure), he’s not likely to find as perfect as vocational match as hockey enforcing, so he makes every moment count.  Highly recommended for both sports movie and raunchy comedy fans.

For more information on the film and the West End’s lineup, click HERE.

Just my luck: the AFI Silver is showcasing two more of my obsessions: Whit Stillman and Hayao Miyazaki.  Let’s start with the whitebread-sounding name.  Before Wes Anderson, you had Whit Stillman.  Both men specialize in detailing the troubles of the upper-class; both men fashion singularly witty and arch one-liners; but Stillman had an edge that Anderson lost after The Royal Tenenbaums—in his great blue-blood trilogy (Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco), he didn’t hide his characters’ flaws behind pervasive whimsy and pitch-perfect needle drops.

Another thing that distinguishes Stillman: while Anderson has worked steadily since his 1994 debut picture Bottle Rocket, Stillman’s last feature-length film was 1998’s Last Days of Disco.  That means for some of us, his newest – Damsels in Distress, a gently fantastical comedy about three college girls who mean to improve the world around them – has a Malickian allure.  It also has Greta Gerwig; if you saw Greenberg, you know that’s reason enough to buy a ticket.

Miyazaki has a far more prodigious output, and as a result, the AFI gets to host a massive career retrospective running from now through June 17th.  GKIDS is sponsoring this series; they premiered it in New York City earlier this year to thunderous acclaim (note: “thunderous” is the author’s baseless-yet-far-more-interesting description).  All the films get restored soundtracks (in English and in Japanese) with brand-new 35mm prints, and if I were to suggest just one this week, it’d be the master’s Castle in the Sky (which, if I felt like being pedantic, I’d tell you was supposed to be called Laputa: Castle in the Sky), a thrilling mix of sci-fi action and eco-friendly insight.

‘Course, my intel is limited.  Head on HERE for information straight from the AFI’s mouth.

We end at the Landmark Cinemas for two very different thrillers.  The Bethesda Row is showing The Hunter, which stars Willem Dafoe as an enigmatic…hunter (Jesus, I’m invoking the title already) tasked to kill a rare Tasmanian (Devil) tiger.  What distinguishes The Hunter is Dafoe’s muscular performance, which derives so much strength from its silence.  Much of the film is watching Dafoe wait for his prey, yet his visceral presence means we’re never bored (the less said about the film’s lonely-mother-and-son subplot, though, the better).  It’s a thriller built from anticipation.

However, I’ve always been partial to those who do, which is why I’m recommending The Raid: Redemption at the E Street Landmark.  The setup is video-game-banal; cops raid a crime lord’s apartment building but get a nasty surprise when they realize a) Said Crime Lord (SCL) has way more violent flunkies than they expected, and b) SCL is willing to pay top dollar for every dead cop.  The result is an incredibly violent, incredibly exciting action film that (and I swore I’d never say this) never lets up.  Every couple of minutes, it keeps topping itself, with regard to the varied and geographically steady fight choreography on display.  I haven’t felt this juiced about a pure actioner since 2006’s District B13.

Take the plunge at the Landmarks, but go HERE first.

Community DC Film Beat: Metro Area Cinema for 17 April – 24 April