Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2013 DC Outdoor Film Festivals

Watching movies under the stars in the DC area is a summer tradition. We have several options of when/where to watch movies. When the weather agrees with us they can be a lot of fun, so grab your friends, some beverages and snacks to enjoy during the movie. This might be the only time that it is okay to Quack during the movie...

(click above to enlarge)

Crystal Screen: Blockbusters (Mondays at 9pm) located near the Crystal City metro at 18th and South Bell Street.

NoMa Summer Screen: Outlaw Heroes (Wednesdays at 7pm) shown in a lot on L St. NE, between 2nd and 3rd streets.

Capitol Riverfront Front: DC vs Marvel (Thursdays at 8:45pm) at Tingey Plaza located at 100 Tingey Street SE.

Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival: Summer School (Fridays at 8pm) two blocks from the Rosslyn Metro.

Mosaic Films in the Park (Saturdays at 7pm) featuring Can't Miss Nominations in May, Throwback Hits in June, Take Me Out to the Ballgame in July, and Best Men in August. 

Movies on the Potomac at the National Harbor (Sundays at sunset - check the link for times).  Themes include Animation Fascination in June; 80's classics in July; and Silver Screen sports in August. 

Still waiting to hear from Bethesda Outdoor Movies, DC Screen on the Green and the U Street Movie Series.  The image above is a schedule I put together for the major outdoor screenings in the DC area.  I will update it as the rest of list as they are announced.

It isn't a movie, but the new Mosaic District in Merrifield (the space between Falls Church and Fairfax)  on Saturdays at 7pm is replaying some of the more memorable concerts on their large outdoor screen.
4/20/2013The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
4/27/2013Simon and Garfunkel – Live from Central Park
5/4/2013Faith Hill – When the Lights Go Down
5/11/2013Dave Matthews Band – The Central Park Concert
5/18/2013Bon Jovi – Live at Madison Square Garden
5/25/2013Adele Live At The Royal Albert Hall
6/1/2013Kenny Chesney – Summer Live
6/8/2013Johnny Cash – Live in Denmark
6/15/2013Billy Joel – The Last Play at Shae
6/22/2013Coldplay – Live 2012
6/29/2013Madonna – The Girlie Show (Live Down Under)
7/6/2013Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
7/13/2013Jimmy Buffett – Live at Wrigley Field Double Header
7/20/2013Justin Timberlake – Futuresex/Lovesounds Live from Madison Square Garden
7/27/2013Eric Clapton – Live in Hyde Park
8/3/2013Fleetwood Mac – Live in Boston
8/10/2013Sheryl Crow – C'mon America
8/17/2013James Taylor – Live at the Beacon Theatre
8/24/2013Jonie Mitchell – Shadows and Light
8/31/2013Elton John – One Night Only: The Greatest Hits Live at Madison Square

Check the blog regularly for movie reviews to help plan your week ahead for indoor and outdoor films.  "LIKE" the blog on facebook.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Up to this point in his career Henry Alex Rubin is probably best known for the documentary "Murder Ball" (2005), which if you haven't seen it yet should be considered a must see film.  So I was intrigued to see what he would do with a feature. 

"Disconnect" is a drama centered on a group of people searching for human connections in today's wired world. The film has four parallel stories that in the end are interconnected in how they related or effect one another.  This style sometimes frustrates me as it typically involves individual stories that are great, but when combined lack the connection necessary to deliver a quality film.  People will want to compare the film to "Crash" (2004) or "The Air I Breathe" (2008), but beyond the story telling style it isn't really similar at all. 

The film starts with Kyle (Max Thieriot), who works at a live web cam chat room and meets Nina Dunham (Andrea Risborough) online who is an ambitious journalist working on a news story that could change her career.  The legal counsel for the news station is Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman) who can't find the time to communicate with his family.  His wife Lydia (Hope Davis) is the glue in the family of two teen children Abby (Haley Ramm) and Ben (Jonah Bobo) who hold different social statuses at school.  Also at school is Jason Dixon (Colin Ford) who likes to pull pranks on others as he rebels against his father Mike (Frank Grilo) who is a former cop in the computer crimes unit.  Mike is working for Derek Hull (Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd) and his wife Cindi (Paula Patton) who had their identity stolen by someone that Cindi met in a chat room support group for people who have lost a loved one and are not finding the emotional support they need. 

The acting in the film from top to bottom is absolutely on point.  Each brings a level of emotion that is truthful and challenging.  Even though each doesn't have a lot of time on the screen, there is just enough to convey how real the situations are to all of us.  My only complaint about the film is with the editing as it really plays with the audience during transitions betwen the stories. 

As a social commentary, the film points out that it is amazing how clueless people are, like when you see a person picking their nose in the car thinking that nobody sees them.  The lack of self awareness and security people have in social media is scary.  We have lived in this technological environment for a while now and it is shocking how little we have matured with the responsibilites that come with using the technology.  Everything we do, someone else can see.  We should consider the internet the front door to our house and if we invite others into our house they might just take something valuable to us.

The film deals with some important topics that almost all of us can relate to on some level.  Every family says they want to be closer, but what are we doing to make that happen.  We don't mean to, but we keep secrets from each other and that pushes us apart.  We need to remind ourselves that if we say we have nobody to talk to, you are ignoring the reality that you do have the perfect person to talk to; and that is the person you have a problem with.  Nothing ever gets resolved without open and honest communication, and when we forget this and resolve for the quick and easy social media available to us we are not being honest with ourselves or to those we love.  Every decision we make has a consequence that we ultimately control. 

In the last year there have been stories of Manti Te'o being "catfished" and teens being cyber bullied that lead them to committing suicide.  I really liked this film, and encourage those with teens to watch this film together and have a conversation of what it means to them.  "Disconnect" is a film that earns all 5 Quacks without any hesitation.  I think that the screenplay should be nominated as it is very provaocative and will leave the audience thinking about ways they should disconnect from social media. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

For the most part I had ignored the films being released the last couple months and found it most fitting that I decided to return to the screening of films in the wake of the great Roger Ebert's passing.  As the final film reviewed by Roger Ebert before his death, "The Place Beyond the Pines" comes to theaters in time to "shake up the cinematic doldrums of early spring".  How true that statement is. 

"The Place Beyond the Pines" reunites Derek Cianfance and Ryan Gosling, with whom he worked on "Blue Valentine" (2010).  The film is a very ambitious attempt of taking two of the top leading men and having them only in once critical scene together.  Without giving away too much of the plot, which trust me you don't want me to do, the film can most easily be described as three smaller films that is slowly and methodically told in a linear format.  It is a simplistic story about romance, masculinity, and above all else fatherhood.  If one moment defines your life, then one decision can become your legacy. 

In the opening sequence you get a long shot that shows the trust that director Derek Cianfrance has in Ryan Gosling and the art of using a camera.  As Ryan Gosling walks out of his trailer and puts on a leather jacket, I wanted it to be a white leather jacket with a scorpion on it, but instead this time he is wearing a red jacket.  With the long shot I was trying to figure out if it was actually Ryan Gosling on the motor cycle as a stunt driver.

Eva Mendez plays the old flame that is reintroduced into the life of Ryan Gosling.  The revelation that Eva Mendez has for Ryan Gosling gives him doubt as to if he wants to continue the life that he has or take on a greater responsibility that he may not be entirely prepared for, which leads him down a dark path.  Bradley Cooper gets intertwined into the story as a cop that is also forced to decide what is right in a corrupt police department.  Dane DeHaan, who immediately reminded me of his performance in "Lawless" is a troubled teen that is struggling with his place and identity. 

Rose Byrne gets lost in the film and I feel that a scene may have been cut out that would have better explained the relationship between her and Bradley Cooper.  However, someone who doesn't get lost in such a small role is Ray Liotta who as a dirty cop makes your skin crawl.  Ryan Gosling is clearly avoiding the Hollywood machine and taking on the more challenging roles and is just as easily met by the performance from Bradley Cooper who might even be a sleeper for an award later in the year.

I implore everyone to go see this film with their father as it is one of my early favorites for the year.  The film is a real human drama at the deepest level of human emotion.  It combines the beautiful cinematography of "Blue Valentine" and "Drive", but easily stands on its own.  While I feel the individual performances are greater than the film as a whole, it should still be considered a 4 Quack film. 


I have been absent from the theater recently, but I contribute that mostly to the lack of quality options available.  A film from Danny Boyle is enough to bring me back as I have been a fan ever since "Trainspotting" (1996) and his last two films "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "127 Hours" (2010) have helped with my appreciation of what cinema can be.  "Trance" operates on a neo-noir and almost a sci-fi level that is reminescent of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004).  The film brings Danny Boyle back to work with his friend John Hodge who adapated the script from the 2001 TV movie created by Joe Ahearne. 

The film starts with art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) having a conversation with the audience about the business side of an auction house, the risks that are involved, and how the proper training can prevent an incident from escalating.  He also reminds us that we should not be a hero as the value of a life is greater than any piece of art.  This is until Simon is confronted by Frank (Vincent Cassel), an art thief with an eye for a treasured 18th century Francisco Goya painting "Witches in the Air".  When Simon tries to be a hero he is struck in the head and suffers from memory loss of the events that followed.  Soon Frank realizes that he has been crossed he goes after Simon to recover the painting even though he has no recollection of what he did with the painting.  Franck reluctantly agrees to let hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) try and pinpoint its location, but the deeper Elizabeth probes into Simon's subconscious, the more complex the mystery seems to grow causing the audience to question what is real and what isn't. 

Danny Boyle employs all of the traditional elements of a noir film that all contribute to the kinetic thriller that pushes the audience further into the subconscious.  The darkness of the film is complemented by the amazing camera angles and soundtrack.  The performance from James McAvoy is brilliant as his character comes into itself with the layers of his memory unraveling around him.  Rosario Dawson is at her best and exposes herself fully to the story from an emotional level that only someone with her strength can accomplish.  Vincent Cassel is an amazing foil to James McAvoy and is used in so many ways that where he finds himself at the end of the film is a decision difficult for everyone to choose. 

The thinly written script has so much more than most of the films in the theater right now.  The story doesn't hide from itself and the stylish effects of the film lend to the suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out what is happening in the story while it unfolds.  I really hope that this film reecives the same level of appreciation as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" did as it is equally deserving of a screenplay nomination and is every bit the 5 Quack film that I wanted it to be.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cabin in the Woods

One of the movie regrets I had in 2012 was that I didn't see "Cabin in the Woods" in the theater.  The film is the directorial debut for Drew Goddard as he partners with Joss Whedon on the screenplay that hits on the thriller and horror elements perfectly.  Drew Goddard is best known for writing "Cloverfield" and being involved with the TV show "Lost", which both contribute to the mystery element of telling a story. 

Five teenagers head off for a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. They arrive to find they are quite isolated with no means of communicating with the outside world. When the cellar door flings itself open, they of course go down to investigate. They find an odd assortment of relics and curios but when one of the women, Dana, reads from a book she awakens a family of deadly zombie killers. There's far more going on however than meets the eye as the five campers are all under observation.

Ritual sacrifice of five young people who embody certain archetypes: the Whore (Jules), the Athlete (Curt), the Scholar (Holden), the Fool (Marty), and the Virgin (Dana). The order in which they die does not matter, as long as the whore is first and the virgin is last, and her death is optional, as long as she suffers. 

Halfway through the film I was starting to get the feeling that this was going to become a series of films, but so glad that Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon lead us away from the horror film cliche and instead continued to deliver a creative story.  The character twists were consistent with what I expected, but the real twist is the story itself.  The acting wasn't terrible, but with actors like Chris Hemsworth and Richard Jenkins, I have come to expect more.  There was one aspect of the story that I wanted to see develop differently, which was the treatment of Mordecai (Tim DeZarn) the Harbinger.  I wanted to see him get revenge against Sitterson and Hadley.

Overall, I can highly recommend this film to everyone and even though it gets categorized as a horror film there is very little that is going to gross you out or make you cringe.  Easily worthy of being a 4 Quack film that the experience of the theater and audience reactions would have made it even better. 


Admission is directed by Paul Weitz and is based on the novel of the same name by Jean Hanff Korelitz. The film is supposed to compare the college application process to a mid-life crisis while skirting around the process of choosing the best students for an elite university. 

Straitlaced Princeton University admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is caught off-guard when she makes a recruiting visit to an alternative high school overseen by the free-wheeling John Pressman (Paul Rudd).  John has surmised that Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), his gifted yet very unconventional student, might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption many years ago.  Soon, Portia finds herself bending the rules for Jeremiah, putting at risk the life she thought she always wanted with Mark (Michael Sheen) where they don't define themselves and hold onto their independence.  However, in the process finding her way to a surprising and exhilarating life and romance she never dreamed of having she has lost her true identity. 

For most of the film I wanted the Dean of Admissoins, Clarence, played by Wallace Shawn, to say that bringing Jeremiah to Princeton was "inconceivable" only to have Tina Fey respond with "I don't think that word means what you think it means".  Possible the best performance of the film was given by Lily Tomlin as Susannah, the distant mother of Portia, with uneven boobs that comes full circle in her relationship with her daughter by the end of the film.  I was hoping for more from Michael Sheen, but he could have just as easily been left out of the film providing little more than a push to Portia towards John, which is beyond improbable. 

The film was a fun and simple comedy, but doesn't deliver much beyond the fact that it was nice seeing Tina Fey and Paul Rudd together.  They both have a quirky humor that works well off each other.  Unfortunately, the plot is so contrived that you will find yourself shaking your head for most of the film.  Their relationship in the film is utterly unbelievable.  The conclussion of the film is rather predictable and left me wanting more.  It could have been better to explore who Portia's father was or to have the child she gave up hinted at even if wasn't revealed to her.  If it wasn't for Tina Fey and Paul Rudd this would be a lower rating, but I will give it 2 Quacks. 

Oz: The Great and Powerful

When I was a child I grew up watching "The Wizard of Oz" on VHS.  The first time I watched it however, my Dad was at work and my Mom was in the garden.  I was digging through the piles of VHS tapes and found it wondering what exactly it was.  I had seen clips of it, but had never seen the entire film.  So I climbed up on a chair and put the VHS tape into the machine and settled in on the couch to enjoy the movie.  With it starting in black and white I thought my parents were just really old, so I accepted it.  However, when Dorothy and the house land in Oz and everything is in color I honestly thought I broke the VHS machine.  I took a lot of joy watching that VHS recording over and over again through my youth.  Frequently whisteling the tune of the Scarecrow and of course the beautiful voice of Judy Garland. 

To my delight the visual elements of "Oz: The Great and Powerful" met every expectation I had with the exception of the make-up.  I found the land of Oz to be just as vibrant as ever with a playful element reminiscent of Wonderland.  Even the CGI used to create Finley the monkey (Zach Braff) and the China Doll (Joey King) was quite nice.  However, the make-up transformation of Theodora (Mila Kunis) into the Wicked Witch of the West was horrindous and reminded me more of Jim Carrey and "The Mask". 

The performances from everyone were absolutely on point I thought.  From Oscar "Oz" Diggs as a a womanizing con artist and magician who is part of a traveling circus isn't quite as bumbling as Frank Morgan was.  Mila Kunis so easily navigates between the cute and innocent girl from "That 70s Show" to the dark and mysterious dancer from "Black Swan".  Her transition from Theodora to the Wicked Witch of the West is done in much the same way.  By contrast Rachel Weisz as Evanora remains in the darkness the entire time while Michelle Williams is as luminescent as ever reminding me of her performance as Marilyn Monroe (without the drug use). 

One of the things that I always remember about "The Wizard of Oz" is how duality was used in telling the story and in the casting where almost every actor had a role in Kansas and in Oz.  I really wanted this to be part of the way the story unfolded for "Oz the Great and Powerful".  The only use of this duality was played out by Zach Braff being the assistant to Oscar.  It could have easily been done with the women Oscar talk to at the traveling circus becoming either the China Doll or one of the witches.  The strongman could have been one of the Emerald City henchman just as easily. 

I will admit that I wanted to like this film almost too much and while it doesn't dissapoint it also didn't deliver on all my hopes and expectations.  I am sure that by the end of the year it will unfortunately have forgotten about the film.  It didn't connect with my childhood as much as other films attempting to tell, or re-tell, a story have and falls as only a 3 Quack film for it visual brilliance and family film value. 

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