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You blew it on Muggle Monday. By Elissa Miolene
Photo by Andy Castro via Flickr.

I grew up reading the Harry Potter books.

In a way, I learned how to read through the series. I was Hermione for Halloween at least three times in elementary school; I owned a potions-making kit when I was seven and used to listen to the books on tape to help me fall asleep.

I eventually started to develop a British accent, so those tapes were taken away from me.

Though my initial overt obsession with the series has faded, when I heard about Black Cat’s "Muggle Mondays," a series of weekly ventures that would involve butterbeer and Harry Potter movies, I couldn’t help but be extremely excited.

I headed to 14th Street last night, expecting the energy and dorky exuberance only real Harry Potter fans can bring. Butterbeer would be flowing from goblets. People would be dressed up in wizard robes and the staff would be wearing hats. Maybe, they had even hired someone who looked like Hagrid—the options were endless and I expected them all.

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Posted at 10:39 AM/ET, 07/14/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A new book explores the enduring imprint of the classic '90s film. By Harrison Smith
Former Washington Post columnist Jen Chaney published an oral history of Clueless last month. Photo by Joan Brady.

After writing an oral history of Clueless's famous "suck and blow" scene for Vulture, former Washington Post columnist Jen Chaney decided to write a book on the classic '90s teen movie. Released earlier this month in celebration of the film's 20th anniversary, As If! reveals how close Dave Chappelle came to being cast and "keepin' it real" as Murray and how much the movie owes to Jane Austen.

Chaney will be talking about the book this Saturday at Politics & Prose in Dupont Circle; you can also catch her at a screening of the film on July 16 at the AFI Silver Theatre and at the Newseum on July 25. Here's a sneak peek of what Chaney learned in her reporting.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 07/10/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

The West End Cinema, an independent movie theater that operated for four years until closing in March, will reopen July 17 as part of Landmark Theatres, the cinema chain announced Monday.

West End, which screened independent films and second-run studio releases, is a good programming fit for Landmark, which specializes in Oscar bait, foreign films, and documentaries. There will be some noticable changes to West End's subterranean complex, though. The three tiny screening rooms will be combined into two larger theaters, and the concession area will be expanded to include alcoholic beverage service.

Reopening West End Cinema will give Landmark an even bigger presence in DC's movie-theater arms race. Besides the longstanding E Street Cinema in Penn Quarter, it will operate a six-screen complex at JBG's Atlantic Plumbing development off U St., Northwest, and is planning a ten-screen theater at the planned Capitol Point development on New York Avenue, Northeast. Landmark also owns the eight-screen Bethesda Row Cinema.

Other movie theaters under development include a ten-screen Angelika Film Center location at Union Market and a 16-screen Showplace Icon multiplex near Washington Navy Yard.

Posted at 10:40 AM/ET, 07/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Just in time for the 30th anniversary of St. Elmo's Fire. By Benjamin Freed
Screenshot via YouTube.

In case the many previously announced outdoor movie-screening series around Washington didn't reach enough neighborhoods, the Georgetown Business Improvement District announced Friday that it, too, will offer a cycle. The "Georgetown Sunset Cinema" will take place Tuesday evenings in Georgetown Waterfront Park for five weeks beginning July 7, with films, a press release states, either "filmed in or inspired by Georgetown."

The lineup:

  • July 7: St. Elmo's Fire
  • July 14: State of Play
  • July 21: No Way Out
  • July 28: Burn After Reading
  • August 4: To be announced

The four films named so far have unique connections to the tony neighborhood: St. Elmo's Fire—which star Rob Lowe wants everyone to know marks its 30th anniversary today—follows a group of bored and horny Georgetown University grads; State of Play begins with the shooting of a thief and a pizza delivery man in the neighborhood; No Way Out, which was filmed mostly in Baltimore, features a non-existent Georgetown Metro station; and Burn After Reading features a Georgetown resident burying a hatchet in Richard Jenkins's face. All four titles were also contenders in our Most Washington Movie Ever bracket.

To get you refreshed, watch the music video for the second-greatest 1980s movie theme song, John Parr's "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)."

Posted at 04:04 PM/ET, 06/26/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
All-in-one theaters allow you to dine handsomely, have a drink, and take in a flick without leaving the building. But are you ready for a $100 movie night? By Ann Limpert
Our food editor rates the eats—and of course popcorn—at the new dine-in cinemas. Image via Shutterstock.

Angelika Film Center

2911 District Ave., Fairfax; 571-512-3301

Photograph of Angelika courtesy of Angelika Film Center; panini by Tom McGovern.

A gleaming-white, three-level spinoff of Manhattan’s cinephile mecca in Fairfax’s boutiquey Mosaic district.

Film fare: A movie geek’s dream mix of critics’ favorites, local films, vintage Oscar winners, and the occasional popcorn flick, on eight screens.

Food: All items from Angelika’s cafe can be taken into the theater—it even furnishes a recyclable tote bag. An upscale concession stand fills any yen for mid-show snacks, and you can discuss what you’ve seen in the third-floor bar/lounge.

Top dollar: $12.50 for the cheese plate.

Best eats: Mac and cheese with lemon olive oil; cheese plate; Jeni’s ice-cream cups.

Drinks: A beer nerd’s oasis, chock-full of esoteric craft brews.

Popcorn: Excellent, with toppings like beer-and-cheddar and an addictive tandoori yogurt.

Admission: $13.

What we spent for two: $84.

iPicTheaters

11830 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda; 301-231-2300

Photograph of iPic Theaters and bao bun courtesy of iPic Theaters.

Dinner and movie? It all happens at once at this clubby, eight-screen cinema with low-lit table service and food that surpasses anything we’ve eaten at a movie theater, but doesn’t live up to the trendy-bistro prices.

Film fare: Action hits, thrillers, comedies, and kids’ movies with no pre-movie ads, probably due to pricey admission (which also tends to eliminate chatty teens).

Food: An ambitious menu overseen by former Wolfgang Puck pastry chef Sherry Yard and delivered by black-clad “ninja” servers.

Top dollar: $25 potato boats with smoked salmon and caviar.

Best eats: Steamed bao buns with short rib; tempura-fried green beans with hoisin.

Drinks: The perfectly tangy Augustine Sour (cherry-infused bourbon, lemon, maple syrup) leads a top-quality cocktail menu.

Popcorn: Nicely buttery and extra-salty.

Admission: $22 for table-service seating, including free popcorn and a reclining seat with pillow and blanket; regular admission is $13.

What we spent for two: $133.

ArcLight Cinemas

7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda; 240-762-4000

Photograph of Arclight Cinemas and popcorn chicken courtesy of ArcLight Cinemas.

This soaring, 16-screen multiplex in Westfield Montgomery mall has a Hard Rock feel, thanks to walls studded with glass-encased artifacts like Natalie Portman’s tutu from Black Swan. Discerning cineastes will appreciate the top-of-the-line Dolby Atmos sound system. If you plan on arriving hungry, arrive early. Service at the bar was so slow we missed the start of our movie.

Film fare: A wide array of slow-paced indies, 3-D fantasy films, and box-office chart toppers.

Food: The small bar has a cafe menu—you can take drinks but not plates into the theater; there’s also a well-stocked concession stand.

Top dollar: $15 for the lobster roll, charcuterie board, or cheese plate.

Best eats: Popcorn chicken with Buffalo and ranch sauces.

Drinks: The supermarket wine selection had us reaching for a big, icy Coke.

Popcorn: Better than average, thanks to toppings such as real butter and olive oil.

Admission: $13.75.

What we spent for two: $113.50.

Posted at 04:25 PM/ET, 02/20/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The theater is offering three late-night screenings of “The Room.” By Tanya Pai
Meet Tommy Wiseau (in the sunglasses) at E Street Cinema this weekend. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

With this year’s Academy Awards nominations finally announced, perhaps you’re planning to devote your three-day weekend to all the prestige pics you didn't have a chance to watch in 2014. Or perhaps you’re so incensed by Selma’s snubs that you intend to stick it to Hollywood by only seeing horrible movies. If you fall into the latter camp, E Street Cinema is your destination: Friday through Sunday, the theater screens 2003’s The Room, the film Entertainment Weekly dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” The movie, a romantic drama dubiously reclassified as a black comedy, stars Tommy Wiseau—who also served as director and producer—as a San Francisco banker who gets royally screwed over by his fiancée, his best friend, and the concept of continuity in storylines.

Like the film itself, late-night screenings have become a cult favorite, and E Street is throwing in the bonus of a chance to meet Wiseau. The auteur will attend all three screenings to answer questions about his film as well as his new TV series, The Neighbors, which will also screen. But—fair warning—asking him too pointed of a question could result in him calling you a prick. Tickets for the screenings (Friday and Saturday at 12:15, Sunday at 10) are $21 each and include, according to the theater, a very special pair of The Room underwear. Sounds like a pretty good deal to us.

Posted at 11:54 AM/ET, 01/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here's how to catch a screening of the controversial comedy. By Benjamin Freed
Seth Rogen and James Franco in The Interview. Photograph courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn says it will screen the hacker-inspiring comedy The Interview starting Thursday after Sony Pictures decided to release the controversial film after all. The Interview, if you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as American television journalists who land an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and are then asked by the CIA to turn the scoop into an assassination mission.

The plot summary inspired a massive data breach at Sony, which federal officials believe to be the handiwork of real-life North Korean operatives. Sony had planned to give The Interview a wide release on Christmas, but shelved it after the hackers behind the Sony attack threatened to attack movie theaters that showed it. Most major cinema chains canceled their screenings of the film, even though there were never any credible threats against US movie theaters, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Interview—which, if Rogen and Franco's previous works are any guide, will probably just be two hours of weed and dick jokes—came off the shelf following an uproar from independent theater operators, including Tim League, the founder of the Austin, Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse brand. West End Cinema owner Josh Levin also spouted off on Facebook that he signed his name to a petition from independent theaters willing to show the film.

Screenings of The Interview begin 10:20 AM on Thursday. Tickets are available on the Alamo's website.

UPDATE, 6:32 PM: Good news, fans of global intrigue-stoking comedies. You no longer have to drive all the way to Loudoun County to see The Interview. West End Cinema's Josh Levin confirms in an e-mail that his theater will also start playing the film on Christmas.

Levin, who was one of scores of independent cinema operators to sign a petition to Sony, there's a "certain irony" that his 75-seat theater will be one of a handful of movie houses to debut a $44 million, major-studio picture that was supposed to be released on thousands of big-chain screens.

"An ultra-wide release is now getting ultra-limited release," Levin says.

West End Cinema will run The Interview at 2:30 and 8:20 PM for eight days through January 1, with the possibility of it being extended. Tickets will be available on West End Cinema's website.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 01:12 PM/ET, 12/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Look beyond the multiplex for your horror fix. By Tanya Pai
A better way to get your scary-movie fix this year. Image via Shutterstock.

So you want to see a scary movie on the big screen this Halloween. Great! Only problem is, your big-budget horror options range from the mediocre (Before I Go to Sleep, a Nicole Kidman/Colin Firth thriller currently rated 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) to the laughably bad (Ouija, clocking in at 10 percent—proving once again that Clue is the best and only board-game movie you need) to the pretty much inexcusable (Nicholas Sparks’s The Best of Me*).

Instead of shelling out for yet another bland studio slasher flick, head to one of Washington’s independent cinemas to catch ’60s classics, foreign films, and a daylong marathon, all on Halloween itself.

Psycho and Spike at the Angelika Pop-Up

Friday, October 31, 7 and 9:30 PM

The Union Market theater screens the classic slasher film—the original, not the best-forgotten Vince Vaughan version—two times Halloween night. Everyone who buys a ticket will get a Spike Mendelsohn-curated goodie bag stuffed with exotic-sounding things like chocolate bacon and sushi popcorn. Definitely a step up from the usual nervous-eating movie snacks.

People’s Choice at Union Market

Friday, October 31, 8 PM

The popular drive-in movie series concludes its fall series with a Halloween screening—and wants you to pick the movie. Visit Union Market’s Facebook page by Friday to vote on your choice of Ghostbusters, The Addams Family, or Edward Scissorhands, then follow the usual drill on Halloween evening.

AFI Silver Theatre’s Horror Marathon

Friday, October 31, multiple times

Skip your office's awkward costume contest and head to AFI for a day’s worth of scary flicks: At 3 PM is Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, followed by his animated short Frankenweenie at 5:10. The evening brings the ’80s cult hit Beetlejuice at 7, the “rom-zom-com” Shaun of the Dead at 9, and Roman Polanski’s iconic Rosemary’s Baby at 11.

Shaun of the Dead at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

Friday, October 31, 9:30 PM

Virginians get a separate chance to catch the adventures of pasty Brits/unlikely heroes Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with this screening. Bonus for folks with kids: Between 5 and 8:30, check out a family-friendly haunted house hosted in the main theater, done up to look like it’s been through a zombie outbreak. Admission is $2 and includes a tour, a treat, and a free pass for a future movie.

Night of the Living Dead at Angelika Mosaic

Friday, October 31, midnight

Schlock-horror king George A. Romero cut his teeth on this 1968 zombie flick that spawned several gruesome sequels. This one’s in black and white, so you can tell your parents you did something arty for All Hallows' Eve in addition to all those Jell-O shots.

The Monster Squad at E Street Cinema

Friday, October 31, 11:59 PM

Time to get meta: This 1987 horror comedy is about a group of adolescent scary-movie enthusiasts who find themselves battling Count Dracula, Wolfman, and other beasties for control over the balance of good and evil. I’m guessing the truly frightening part is leaving the fate of the world up to a group of teenagers (no disrespect to Buffy and the Scoobies).

Horns at West End Cinema and Angelika Pop-Up

Friday, October 31, multiple times

The supernatural thriller based on the book by Joe Hill (son of horror master Stephen King, responsible for the most terrifying clown of all time) stars Harry Potter as a guy who’s both suspected of killing his girlfriend and growing magical horns on his head. Reviews are a bit mixed, but Daniel Radcliffe’s performance has been getting good buzz.

Fear at the Freer

Friday, October 31, 5 PM

Maybe The Ring scared the pants off you when you first saw it, but it’s lost that initial punch. Frighten yourself anew at the Freer, which screens Ringu—the somehow-even-scarier Japanese film on which it was based. The movie starts at 7, but get there early to learn about spooky items from the museum’s collection, make your own Halloween mask, and try food from the Tokyo in the City truck.

Bonus: Saw 10th Anniversary Re-Release

Friday, October 31, multiple times

The film that begat an impressively long-running torture-porn franchise turns ten this year, and returns to select theaters—including AMC Loews Georgetown, Regal Gallery Place, and Regal Ballston Common—for a one-week run starting Friday. If you’re itching to relive Saw in all its dismembery glory, check theater websites or Fandango for showtimes.

*Yes, I realize it isn't a horror movie—what's scary is how Nicholas Sparks keeps making people shell out to see the same story over and over (and over) again.

Find more ways to celebrate in our Halloween Guide.

Posted at 10:50 AM/ET, 10/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Stick to the theme of screwed-up relationships with these films. By Tanya Pai
Already seen Gone Girl? Here are a few follow-up flicks to catch. Image via Shutterstock.

David Fincher’s Gone Girl finally hit theaters last weekend, after what felt like months (and months) of internet hype, and immediately rocketed to the top of the box office. If you’ve already re-read Gillian Flynn’s book and gotten your fill of full-frontal Ben Affleck—but are still looking to scratch your itch for stories about, ahem, unusual relationships—this weekend offers plenty of options at theaters around Washington.

Opening Friday at E Street Cinema is Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch’s vampire love story starring Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton. Before you cry Twilight foul, know that this flick involves zero werewolves, and the main characters’ lust runs more to exploring the vast realm of art and culture than each other’s undead bodies. An eternity to stay ahead of the cultural curve? It’s every hipster’s dream.

Also opening Friday at E Street is The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and Him, two separate films that explore a couple’s crumbling marriage from each party’s distinct perspective. Them, the third version of the story Ned Benson created, was the only one to get a wide release, but critics have reviewed both gender-divided versions more favorably. Decide for yourself which half of the couple is in the right.

October 10 through 16, the Goethe-Institut puts on the Film Neu festival, featuring new works from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The lineup this year includes Love Steaks, a partially improvised film about an unlikely friendship between a pair of hotel workers (the supporting cast members are all actual hotel employees rather than actors); and Age of Cannibals, a “German Wolf of Wall Street” about two ruthless business consultants at war with each other. See the full schedule of films online.

Showing through Thursday at West End Cinema is Fort Bliss, which stars Michelle Monaghan as a hyper-competent Army medic returning home and attempting to reconnect with her young son and ex-husband. Written and directed by Washington local Claudia Myers, it’s a film that translates the idea of work/life balance through the lens of modern war to heartbreaking effect.

On Friday, the Angelika Film Center in Fairfax offers a late-night screening of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s famous adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a family trying to survive the winter—and a serious case of cabin fever—in a terrifying Colorado hotel.

Sick of thinking about bad relationships? AFI Silver Theatre provides some even scarier subjects. Its annual Spooky Movie International Horror Film Fest, running October 9 through 18, includes titles such as the pulpy Call Girl of Cthulhu, the Iranian vampire flick A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and the Australian haunted-house film The Babadook.

Posted at 02:45 PM/ET, 10/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The new superhero movie filmed in DC for five days last July. By Benjamin Freed
Michael Fassbender plays the young, stadium-wrecking Magneto. Photograph by Alan Markfield via Twentieth Century Fox.

Summer movie season is starting up and, as it does most years, this year’s crop of blockbusters features plenty of wide-scale, special effects-driven destruction of Washington.

The latest spectacle, X-Men: Days of Future Past, will bring mayhem to Washington circa 1973 when it opens Friday. In a clip released this week, Magneto (Michael Fassbender), drops into RFK Stadium and uses his power of manipulating metals to rip the coliseum from its foundation and send it flying into the air to presumably nefarious ends.

The scene appears to have all the makings of an iconic Hollywood wrecking of a Washington landmark, and it’s long past time for the old football stadium to join the ranks of the White House, US Capitol, and Washington Monument as prominent locations to have fantastical destruction visited upon them. (Washington was also prominently featured in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but the most explosive scenes took place at a Height Act-violating office tower in the middle of the Potomac River.)

Like the Captain America sequel, the X-Men flick actually did shoot around the District without the promise of financial incentives. Besides RFK, the X-Men crew spent its time in Washington shooting along the Mall, outside the White House, and from a helicopter, which it secured after getting special flight permission from the Transportation Security Agency. In total, the production spent about $63,170 over five days, according to a film permit application filed with the city’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

There’s just one thing about the RFK scene, though: When Magneto drops in, the stadium is occupied by a groundskeeper painting foul lines on a baseball diamond. However, the Washington Senators vacated the stadium in 1971, and baseball did not return to RFK Stadium until 2005. The Washington Diplomats soccer club did not arrive until 1974, meaning the stadium’s only tenant in 1973 was an NFL team that happens to be fairly jealous about its trademark.

Posted at 12:13 PM/ET, 05/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()