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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Jeanine Marie.

If you’re stuck inside from the snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast this morning — or are just looking for an excuse to stay in bed — these are the films you should be watching, especially if you can use your parent’s cable package.

“The Way, Way Back”

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This “Little Miss Sunshine”-esque film focuses on the plight of 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) who is forced to spend the summer in a New York beach town with his mother (Toni Collette) and her odious boyfriend (Steve Carell).

But the true stars of the film are the hodgepodge family Duncan finds himself part of at Water Wizz water park: Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), Roddy (Nat Faxon) and Lewis (Jim Rash) work for the moderately irresponsible, but kind Own (Sam Rockwell). Watch “The Way, Way Back” not just for Rockwell’s laugh-out-loud bits, but Duncan’s quirky neighbors (AnnaSophia Robb, River Alexander, and the hilarious Allison Janney). The film shines as it establishes characters quickly — don’t you know these people? — without trying to do or be too much.
Available on iO On Demand.

“Something in the Air” (Après mai)
The French “Something in the Air” has the cool aesthetic of the 70s and the foreign appeal of the European rebellion. The film begins in 1968 and draws the curtain on civil unrest and youth movements in places beside Kent State.

Director and writer Olivier Assayas delivers a work full of hitchhikers, record stores and candle-lit evenings, fueled by art and the inherent fear of adults — and worse, adulthood — with translations as on point as, “I’m afraid to miss out on everything. I’m afraid to miss out on my youth,” by protagonist Gilles (Clément Métayer).
Available on Netflix Instant.

“Gimme the Loot”

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Director Adam Leon takes the classic Yankees vs. Mets rivalry (albeit only a real rivalry once in a Subway Series) for a spin in this sweet, gang-and-drug-infused film about Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sophia (Tashiana Washington), teenage graffiti-schemers and fast-talkers.
Available on Netflix Instant.

“Safety Not Guaranteed”
You may know journalists Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) and Darius (Aubrey Plaza) from “New Girl” and “Parks and Recreation” respectively, but do not be fooled by their small screen recognizability. Self-declared time traveler Kenneth (Mark Duplass) becomes the likable subject of a story for a Seattle magazine, despite his intense paranoia. The blurred lines of journalism and friendship make this indie rom-com somewhat corny, but its poignant comedy and soundtrack make “Safety Not Guaranteed” a solid film any day.
Available on Netflix Instant.

“Frances Ha”

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The humanities-driven “Frances Ha” comes at a time when English majors are scarce, Brooklyn is a hub of lazy dreamers, and Lena Dunham’s “Girls” has shocked audiences into submission. “Frances Ha” feeds into these facts in black and white, and is often so relatable that it’s uncomfortable. The film is a bit too intent on being artfully crafted, but overall, director Noah Baumbach creates a world 20-somethings could see themselves crawl into, and perhaps stop to give socially awkward Frances a hug.
Available on Netflix Instant.

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Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 1:52 p.m.

Getting in the Halloween movie spirit

Promotional poster for Hocus Pocus. Photo used under the Creative Common's License.

Promotional poster for “Hocus Pocus.” Photo used under the Creative Common’s License.

October can be a stressful month. Midterms are looming and extra curriculars are in full swing. Capitalize on the month of ghouls and goblins with ABC Family’s “13 Nights of Halloween” beginning Oct. 19.

To celebrate the movie marathon we’ve taken a moment to highlight five of October’s most exciting throwback Halloween movies.

1. “Hocus Pocus”

Air dates: Saturday Oct. 26, 10 p.m.; Sunday Oct. 27, 8 p.m.

Why you should watch: While you’ve probably watched it dozens of times (I know I have) there’s nothing better to get you in the Halloween spirit than watching Bette Midler summon her creepy-eyeball-book and Sarah Jessica Parker, flying on her broom, hypnotizing children-looking for souls to consume.

2. Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Air dates: Saturday Oct. 19, 6:25 p.m; Sunday Oct. 20, 3:55 p.m.

Why you should watch: If you like Tim Burton creepiness, musicals and/or Halloween, this is the movie for you. Forget about that stressful chem exam and journey along with Jack Skellington as he attempts to understand Christmas.

3. “I Know What You Did Last Summer”

Air dates: Monday, Oct. 21, midnight; Tuesday, Oct. 29, 9 p.m.; Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m.

Why you should watch: Want to watch a scary movie that will make you grip your pillow and scream? “I Know What You Did Last Summer” will do the job. Forget the singing and dancing, this real Halloween movie involves murder.

4. Men In Black

Air dates: Thursday, Oct. 24, 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.

Why you should watch: While this movie is not specifically geared towards Halloween, it does involve aliens, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (making it awesome.) If you don’t like scary movies or don’t want to be bothered with Halloween, you can watch Men In Black without the holiday ever entering your mind.

5. “Toy Story of Terror”

Air dates: Saturday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.

Why you should watch: Watch your favorite childhood toys take on Halloween in Pixar’s first television special. While you may be a college student, you’re never to old to enjoy the adventures of Buzz and Woody.

Other movies include: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” “Teen Witch,” “Polterguist II: The Other Side,” “Monsters Inc.” and many more! So when you’re freaking out about all the work you have, take a moment to enjoy the changing leaves of fall and remember that these spooktacular movies will be playing in just a few weeks.

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Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 9:23 a.m.

What We’re Watching

Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Hatchet reporter Arich Morales shares his latest movie experience.

Branded” (2012)

“Branded,” directed by Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn, is a mystery film which attracts its audience with a compelling and highly pervasive concept: the manipulative power of advertising.

The way this concept is presented, though, is so spliced, non-linear and rife with subplots that it will leave audiences bewildered and scratching their heads.

The film revolves around Misha Galkin (Ed Stoppard), an advertising mastermind in a dystopian future Russia.  He later falls in love with his boss’ (Jeffrey Tambor) niece (Leelee Sobieski), even helping her produce a reality show. But after the show goes bankrupt and his girlfriend is deported back to the United States, Misha exiles himself from society.

Not one of the above subplots appears in the movie’s trailer. In fact, what we see in the official trailer is one of several other story lines that branch off after this portion of the film. The primary plot? Disfigured balloon monsters, connected to their respected corporations, “feed” off consumers. And since Misha – being the only person who can see them – cannot destroy them with his own bare hands, he decides to fight the beasts using the same methods from which they were created.

But knowing the main story line is not sufficient to understand the film. The other branches of the narrative attempt to answer so many of the film’s questions: How can Misha see these creatures? What happened to Misha, Misha’s girlfriend or Russia itself during an unexplained six-year time gap? And perhaps most importantly, why does Misha take it upon himself to resolve this ordeal?

Despite “Branded” being a jumbled mess, the movie successfully appeals to the audience’s sense of curiosity from start to finish. Just don’t be misled by the trailer, which fails to highlight the deeper – and more complicated – story paths of the movie.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery
Directors: Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn
Cast: Ed Stoppard, Jeffrey Tambor, Leelee Sobieski
Release Date: Sept. 7

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Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 4:04 p.m.

What We’re Watching

Hatchet reporter Arich Morales shares his latest movie experience.

“The Possession” (2012)

“The Possession,” directed by Ole Bornedal, met all the criteria of a summer horror film. It scared, creeped and freaked out all while making use of a supernatural narrative twist. But despite the qualifications, the movie ultimately fails to truly captivate the audience.

The film follows the story of Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a recently divorced father of two daughters, Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). On a weekend trip to pick up his daughters from his ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick), the family comes across a yard sale where Em finds something that catches her eye: an antique box which, unbeknownst to Em, possesses a dark and dangerous spirit.

While “The Possession” includes the hallmarks of horror – creepy whispers, eerie, tense music and the progressively dangerous nature of a malevolent spirit - certain elements are overused, misused or suddenly introduced, and the audience becomes distracted from reveling in the creepy mood. A good horror film should leave the viewer in a state of fear, not confusion.

In addition to a cheesy, all-too-familiar soundtrack, the film features noticeably poor acting. In a scene where Clyde approaches a professor with expertise in demons in order to gain information about the mystifying box, the professor delivers a grave omen with a light-hearted, nearly joking tone. The disparity between the severity of the professor’s message and the levity of his tone is laughable and unrealistic.

Overall, “The Possession” is not worth seeing. While the movie has its fair share of scares, there are too many distractions that inhibit the audience from enjoying an authentic thrill of perpetual suspense and fear.

Genre: Horror, Thriller
Director: Ole Bornedal
Cast: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick
Release Date: Aug. 31

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011 3:46 p.m.

Silverdocs sparks debate with new films

Crowds of cinemaphiles celebrate during the opening night party for Silverdocs. Photo courtesy of Silverdocs.

Described by Variety magazine as “non-fiction nirvana,” Silverdocs is a seven-day international film festival open to documentary buffs this week in Silver Spring, Md.

The ninth-annual festival opened Monday and highlights a mix of conferences, networking and film screenings. The festival aims to build support for independent filmmakers and fuel audience discourse on hot-button issues, from 9/11 and immigration, to sex-change and interracial marriage.

Some of the week’s highlights will include “Better This World,” a film about childhood friends who made Molotov cocktails at the 2008 Republican Convention and the repercussions of domestic terrorism; “Position Among the Stars,” an intimate look at an impoverished Indonesian family battling the effects of globalization and religious instability; and “Life in a Day,” a film composed of people’s own footage of their normal day, edited down from 4,500 hours of submitted video from 192 countries.

The festival continues throughout the week, with an awards ceremony on Sunday.  Screenings will also continue at the AFI Silver Theatre and nearby locations for the next two weeks.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011 11:39 a.m.

Summer film series to kick off

Outdoor film festivals like Movie Nights in the Heights are popular throughout the summer. The Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival, above, continues through August 26. File Photo

Movie Nights in the Heights, an event series sponsored by the Columbia Heights Day Initiative, kicks off this Wednesday with the classic movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

For the first screening of the season, a DJ will begin entertaining the crowd at 8:30 p.m. until the film begins at sundown.

The next three weeks will feature the films “Dirty Dancing,” “Are We There Yet?” and will conclude with “Little Big League,” all a part of the event’s broader theme of “School’s Out for the Summer.”

The Columbia Heights Day Initiative was created five years ago with the main goal of developing a neighborhood daylong celebration similar to the Adams Morgan Day Festival. The second-annual event will take place on Aug. 27 and will include live music, family activities, local artists and food.

Movie Nights in the Heights will be held at the Tubman Elementary Field located at 13th and Kenyon streets, and will continue every Wednesday throughout June.

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This fall, a classic movie theater with a luxury screening room, outfitted with plush leather seats and new bathrooms and drapes, is scheduled to open in the West End, just outside Foggy Bottom.

Located at 2301 M Street NW and currently known as the Inner Circle, the theater has three auditoriums and the capacity to seat almost 230 people in total. Josh Levin, leaser of the kitchen-less property, plans to serve sandwiches, salads and traditional movie snacks to customers, as well as wine and beer if approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.

Once open, the refurbished theater will showcase “first-run independent films, art house, documentary, and classic films,” Levin told The West End Flyer.

A name has not yet been chosen for the new theater.

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"Just Wright," staring Common and Queen Latifah opens in theaters everywhere Friday. Photo from Creative Commons

Rap artist Common has been tiptoeing his way into the film industry for a few years now, but upon landing the lead role opposite Queen Latifah in the new film “Just Wright,” opening in theaters today, it looks like he’ll be setting up camp on Hollywood Blvd.

In an interview last Monday, Common sat down to talk about his new film and how it’s helped him grow as a man and as an actor.

Common said he was looking for roles that would allow him to demonstrate his versatility as an actor, to break away from the “Smokin’ Aces” and “American Gangster” genre in which he was previously cast.

“I don’t want to get pigeon-holed and boxed into, like, ‘well, he’s only the tough guy,’” Common said.  Common said “Just Wright” was not only the perfect opportunity to soften his image, but also the perfect opportunity to send a valuable message to viewers.

“It’s like a feel-good movie, but I can actually see people walking away feeling better about themselves, feeling like, man, I can find love or I am beautiful.”  Common said he has struggled with self-esteem himself and that it was important for him to convey a hopeful and inspiring message to others about loving oneself.  As Common  said he enjoyed guiding his character Scott McKnight through a discovery.

“This is one of the first roles where my character had an arc, you know.  He went from being, like ‘alright, I’m into these type of girls’ to ‘you know what, love is a different thing than that,’” Common explained.

Common enjoyed communicating the importance of self esteem and working with Latifah, but he also loved playing a basketball player.

“I love basketball.  My dream was to be in the NBA,” Common said, laughing.  Common said he and his father, a former American Basketball Association player, would shoot around whenever Common came to visit.  This love of basketball continued into high school where an injury dampened his NBA dreams.  But what happened next was a fair alternative.

“Me getting injured in high school basketball is what drove me to making demo tapes in rap,” he said.  Eight albums and two Grammy nominations later, the injury looks like it might have been a blessing in disguise.

“It’s kind of full circle how basketball took me to rap and rap took me to acting and acting took me back to basketball,” Common said.

Common trained with the assistant coach from the New Jersey Nets and NBA stars like Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard.  Common said he had a lot of fun learning, playing, and acting with such talented athletes.  He jokingly said that, by the end of the movie, he had started to feel like he could play in the NBA.  He was getting a little competitive.

“There was a shot I was supposed to score on Dwight Howard and, you know, I kept driving and I was doing it and at one point he just decided to throw my shot into the stands,” he said.

Apart from reinvigorating his love of basketball, the actor said the film furthered his passion for acting.  Though he will continue rapping, Common wants to keep working his way into the film industry.

“My journey throughout the music industry actually I think prepared me for what I’m doing as an actor,” he said, “It actually prepared me to do things in life as a man.”

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:03 p.m.

Movie review: “Oceans”

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Kathryn Beard.

In Disneynature’s newest fable, ocean creatures swim far under the sea and their only human contact is the omnipresent voice of James Bond, who bellows grandiose statements like, “You have to feel the ocean’s power.”

“Oceans” is guided by the narration of actor Pierce Brosnan, explores Earth’s seven oceans and the creatures that call them home. There is no discernible plot to follow and no consistent characters to introduce; instead, the film floats slowly from ocean to ocean, satisfying human curiosity of what truly lies beneath the waves.

The filmmakers do not hurry to introduce new sequences; they are happy, for instance, to follow two humpback whales dancing a synchronized ballet for seemingly forever. Yet, the steady stream of images and blue water becomes hypnotizing, rather than monotonous; the audience is lulled into a dream-like state filled with jellyfish, otters and codfish.

Just like in typical Disney fairy tales, this blissful oceanic world is punctuated by danger and death. Frolicking sea lions meet their fate in the open-toothed jaws of a great white shark, and sea turtles find themselves trapped in the nets of awaiting fishermen. These moments of turmoil, however, are minor compared to the creatures’ otherwise sublime existence.

The film’s only failure is its attempt to give greater significance to the family friendly documentary. Regarding the environmental crisis, Brosnan declares, “Human indifference is surely the ocean’s greatest threat,” and then recounts the dangers of pollution. The images themselves, however, make more of an impact than the warnings of any celebrity, as they do what words can’t: depict the stunning fragility of the inhabitants under the sea.

“Oceans” will not change the environmental movement, but the film is a lighthearted, entertaining and ultimately worthwhile adventure. According to “Oceans,” humans are destroying the once untouched and pristine waters, but humans can also fix it and restore the ocean to its former glory. But as Brosnan succinctly states, “The oceans will fight on.”

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Filming will take place in Georgetown Wednesday, according to an e-mail from the Metropolitan Police Department’s second district Listserv. Shooting will occur between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. at Georgetown Waterfront Park and at 33rd Street between Water and Grace streets.

No streets or sidewalks will be closed, but parking may be affected, according to the e-mail.

The message doesn’t say exactly what is being filmed, but the new flick starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson is the best guess. The folks over at Vox Populi seem to have confirmation on that one, plus a bit more.

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