Popcorn & Candy: Extreme Dashboard Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week. In the event of a federal government shutdown, screenings at the Freer and the Library of Congress will be affected; please confirm that they’re still happening before venturing out.

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(Oscilloscope)

THE ROAD MOVIE

The appropriately-named Dimitrii Kalashnikov directed this 67-minute collage assembled from footage taken by the dashboard-mounted cameras popular on Russian roads. While you may morbidly await and then grimace at the inevitable car crashes captured by these ubiquitous lenses, the movie is most intriguing in its look at the driving habits of ordinary Russians. Take the example of two cars forced to  navigate the single lane of a narrow snow-banked street from opposite sides. You could cordially allow the other car to pass; or you could hop out of the car, reach into the trunk for a sledgehammer and take charge of the situation. Also noted: Russian drivers curse like sailors! A little of this goes a long way, and the movie is most watchable when this casual  technology meets art, when rainy windshields briefly turn everything and everyone in sight into a warped highway dream.

Watch the trailer.
Opens tomorrow at Landmark West End Cinema.

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(WJFF)

HUMOR ME

Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement plays a struggling playwright forced to move back in with his father (Elliott Gould) in this 2016 comedy. the first feature from Sam Hoffman (“Old Jews Telling Jokes”). Variety writes that the movie is, “plenty endearing, and packed to the gills with wonderful AARP-aged actors who are clearly in tune with Hoffman’s old-school, Borscht Belt sensibilities,” but that it, “manages to earn its audience’s indulgence, if never its full affection.”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Edlavitch DCJCC, 1529 16th Street NW.

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(Abed Abest)

SIMULATION

Barring a government shutdown, the Freer’s 22nd annual Iranian Film Festival continues this weekend with the directorial debut of actor Abed Abest, who starred in the 2013 horror movie Fish & Cat. Simulation tells the story of what happens when three young men pay an unexpected visit to the home of an elder; what distinguishes the film is that it takes place in a black space with chroma-key green furniture, and like Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, it’s told in reverse chronology.

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 1 p.m. at the Freer. Free.

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(MoMa)

SO DARK THE NIGHT

Again, barring a federal government shutdown, the Mary Pickford Theatre at the Library of Congress will continue its bi-monthly repertory series with this 1946 crime drama from director Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy). Stephen Geray, whose prolific credits include the Hitchcock classic Spellbound and episodes of I Dream of Jeannie,  stars as a Paris detective who takes a vacation in the countryside, where he falls in love with a hotelier’s young daughter; yet on the night they are to be engaged, the girl and her father disappear. Preceded by the 1948 short “A Day at CBS,” an episode from Columbia’s celebrity magazine series “Screen Snapshots” featuring Gene Autry, Harry James, Dinah Shore, the Andrews Sisters, and Howard Duff.

Watch the trailer.
Thursday, January 25 at 7 p.m. at the Mary Pickford Theatre, third floor of the Madison Building, Library of Congress. Free. Seating is on a first-come first-serve basis. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

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The Best Movies of 2017

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This was the year I took deep dives into the work of Abbas Kiarostami…and Andy Milligan. While the respected Iranian auteur takes several spots on my list of Best Movies I Saw for the First Time in 2017, the much-maligned Ed Wood of Staten Island takes a few slots too, and Milligan’s ability to get consistently good performances and make very personal movies within his no-budget framework has been inspiring.  Which may explain why I was so forgiving to the Halle Berry actioner Kidnap, which nobody else liked. Here’s what I loved this year, with links to my reviews where applicable.

1. Personal Shopper. Assayas’ strongest in years, he makes the most of his affectless muse (I’d love to see her work with The New York City Players’ deadpan genius NYCP’s Richard Maxwell), and in a year in which at least three movies portrayed the dangers of social media, this is the only one that made a good ghost story out of texting.

2. November.. Gorgeous, inventive, and mysterious. Once again the AFI Silver’s European Union showcase makes a late-breaking entry into my top ten; last year it was Toni Erdmann,whose commercial run in D.C. barely lasted a week. Even though Oscilloscope is distributing, who knows if this Estonian horror movie will actually make it to local theaters again.

3. Dina. This documentary is the sweetest romance of the year.

4. Lady Bird. I have been indifferent to appaled by Greta Gerwig’s collaborations with Noah Baumbach, but her first feature behind the camera sheds hipster posturing for a truly a coming-of-age movie about a young woman putting away childish things.

5. Graduation. Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s drama is a mirror-image of Lady Bird, asking, in a much more subtle way than the atrocious The Dinner, how can we raise our children in a world where adults behave so badly?

6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Yorgos Lanthimos’s stilted schtick should drive me batty, but if it kept me at arm’s length from The Lobster, here it makes the movie feel like a two-hour anxiety dream–and the fantastically creepy Barry Keoghan almost resembles a human being.

7. Manifesto. In which Cate Blanchett gives 13 of her 14 best performances of the year; the other one was in Thor: Ragnarok, and if you could have transplanted her into a couple of the villanous roles in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it would have been good enough for this list.

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Martin McDonagh took a wrong turn with the hopelessly self-conscious A Behanding in Spokane, but here he returns to the characterization that gave heart to In Bruges. This continues the year of Woody Harrelson, who made the inconsistent Wilson so heartbreaking and steals the show from the sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Sam Rockwell. Some have complained that here, McDonagh redeems the irredeemable. That’s what forgiveness is about.

9. Long Strange Trip. I’m no Deadhead, but this four-hour journey through the counterculture and its commodification was a fascinating breeze. Now accepting bootleg recommendations.

10. Dunkirk. For Spectrum Culture’s year-end best list, I wrote, “With its brutal sound design and disorienting visuals (best experienced in 70mm IMAX), Nolan tightens his narrative belt and immerses you in the horrors of war like no other movie. Though produced on a huge scale, the film is often claustrophobic, from a crowded jetty to a Spitfire cockpit to a modest rescue boat. Spectacular and intimate, Nolan and his ensemble cast convey the human scale of world-shaking moments, the three-narrative structure unsettling you in a conflict from which there seems no escape…for all its visceral, cinematic action, this spectacle is in the service of a memorial to the valorous men who bravely served their nation in World War II; real heroes setting an example for a time in which we sorely need them.”

Runners up: The Unknown Girl, The Square, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049,  John Wick: Chapter 2, After the Storm, Let the Corpses Tan, In This Corner of the World, Saving Brinton, Rat Film, Behemoth, Brimstone & Glory.

Popcorn & Candy: Saving the World Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

THE THOUSAND FACES OF DUNJIA

Dao (Aarif Lee of Cold War) is a strong but naive constable whose superiors send him on a mission they know he can’t fulfill. Instead, he stumbles on the struggling Wuyin clan and is soon enlisted in the fight to save the world from unspeakable demons. Yuen Wo Ping is one of the great martial arts choreographers, and his career as a director goes back to the Jackie Chan classic Drunken Master (1973). With a script by the legendary Tsui Hark (Zu :Warriors from the Magic Mountain), the movie invests the wuxia genre with plenty of dazzling action and heartfelt characters. The special effects are heavy on the CGI, which may well make you long for the quaint special effects of vintage Shaw Brothers, but the three-eyed fish monster more than makes up for it, and the somewhat pixelated demons in this ancient world suggest the dangers of modern technology. The biggest problem with The Thousand Faces of Dunjia is that the title doesn’t let you in on its dirty secret: this is just part one!

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at AMC Loews Rio, Gaithersburg.

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Kirk Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck (Paramount)

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

Kirk Douglas recently celebrated his 101st birthday,  and the Mary Pickford Theatre at the Library of Congress honors the legend next week with a 35mm screening of his 1946 screen debut. Barbara Stanwyck stars as one of the great femme fatales in film noir, a woman who marries the only living witness to a shocking teenage transgression. Directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front).

Watch the trailer.
Thursday, December 21 at 7 p.m at the Mary Pickford Theatre, third floor of the Madison Building, Library of Congress. Free. Seating is on a first-come first-serve basis. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

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(Berlinale)

MELLOW MUD

In this Latvian coming-of-age drama, a 17-year old girl and her little brother move into their grandmother’s farmhouse after their father dies and their mother leaves them behind for a job in London. The debut feature from Renars Vimba is helps wrap up the AFI’s European Union showcase next week. Also on tap are a two films recently named by Film Comment as among the Best Undistributed Films of 2017: The Nothing Factory (December 17 at 7:30 p.m.), a look at the Portugese working class from director Pedro Pinho; and A Gentle Creature (December 17 at 4:20 p.m.) , a Kafkaesque drama from Latvia. Don’t expect to get another chance to see any of these films, even at your local arthouse chain, anytime soon.

Watch the trailer.
Mellow Mud screens Sunday, December 17 at 1:05 p.m. at the AFI Silver.

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(Photofest)

THE STUDENT PRINCE

Dashing prince Ramón Novarro falls for lower-class beauty Norma Shearer in this romance classic from 1927 directed by Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around the Corner) and John M. Stahl (Leave her to Heaven). The National Gallery of Art will screen a 35mm print of this silent film with live musical accompaniment by organist Dennis James.

Saturday, December 16 at 3:30 p.m. at The National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium. Free.

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(Zontar of Venus)

MESSAGE FROM SPACE

I’ll let the Washington Psychotronic Film Society describe this one: “From a captive planet two million light years away, came a desperate message from space… Help us! On the verge of annihilation, Kido, the leader of the persecuted Jillucians, sends his beautiful granddaughter, Emeralida, to find the eight legendary brave warriors who alone can stop the steel-skinned hordes of the Gavanas Empire! This disparate, rag-tag group (a drunken general, a deposed prince, space hot rodders, a hoodlum, a royal retainer, and a broken-down robot) must band together before it’s too late before the Gavanas can reach their next target: Earth!” With Vic Morrow and Sonny Chiba.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, December 18 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.

Popcorn & Candy: Killer Cookie Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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(FFF)

GORAN

The AFI’s European Union Showcase continues this week with Happy End (December 9 at 5:30 p.m.), but while that’s getting mixed buzz, you might want to check out some of the many films on the festival slate that are unlikely to get a commercial run in the D.C. area — like the Croatian crime drama Goran. This slow-burn follows a taxi driver whose blind wife announces that she’s pregnant; wait, why doesn’t Goran (Franjo Dijak) feel like celebrating this happy event? Why is he covered in blood? Why are there people like Frank? See the full EU schedule here.

Watch the trailer.
Friday, December 8 and Sunday, December 10 at the AFI Silver.

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(INA)

PETITION

In conjunction with the hilarious Trace, dissident artist Ai Weiwei programmed a series of Chinese documentaries for the Hirshhorn’s Ring Auditorium. Next week’s title is this 2009 film from director Zhao Liang, who followed Chinese citizens as they petitioned the government.  A. O. Scott wrote in the New York Times that, “Mr. Zhao’s camera is a stubborn, patient witness to some shocking scenes of bullying and intimidation, and he also offers a sympathetic ear to the ordinary people whose government hardly seems to care.”

Watch a brief interview with the director.
Sunday, December 10 at 2 p.m. at the Hirshhorn. Free.

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20TH CENTURY OZ

With a landscape that can pass for both paradise and hell, Australia provided a ripe setting for a particular kind of ’70s exploitation movie. Next week the Washington Psychotronic Film Society presents this Ozploitation rock ‘n’ roll movie that recasts Dorothy (Joy Dunstan) as a 16-year-old groupie who’s riding with her favorite band when its van crashes. She wakes up, it’z Oz, and she’s killed a wicked thug, but Good Fairy Glen will help set things right.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, December 11 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.

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(Suns Cinema)

THE GINGERDEAD MAN

With a career that has plunged from Buddy Holly to the voice of a reincarnated Pomeranian, it may seem that Gary Busey has been long doomed to a purgatory reserved for washed-up B-movie actors. Yet more than once, Busey has starred as a Bad Man whose soul is trapped in another form; in Quigley, it was a fluffy canine, and in this 2005 horror comedy, it’s a snack. For more festive holiday programming, tonight, Suns Cinema promises A Honky Tonk Christmas, a program of your favorite country music Christmas specials. “There might even be some boot scootin’.”

Watch the trailer.
Friday, December 8 at 8 p.m. at Suns Cinema.

Give Thanks For Silent Classics At the Movies This Week

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week. 

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(Photofest)

THE CROWD

If today the American Dream seems on the verge of becoming a nightmare, this 1928 drama from King Vidor (uncredited co-director of The Wizard of Oz) shows us that it was always ever that way. The movie charts the rise and fall of John Sims (James Murray), born on the Fourth of July, who starts out like many a young man with the confidence that he will stand out from the masses and succeed. As youthful promise succumbs to the hard realities of life, John follows a painful descent, but is all truly lost? The National Gallery of Art will screen a 35mm print of this silent classic with musical accompaniment from pianist Stephen Horne.

Friday, November 24 at 2:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium. Free

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Joyce COmpton and Clara Bow (Wikimedia Commons)

IT

Last weekend the AFI’s silent showcase highlighted perennial favorite Louise Brooks; this weekend’s ur-superstar is Clara Bow, whose flapper hairstyle and vivid personality is still charismatic nearly a century later. The Silver is screening a 35mm print of Bow’s signature romcom from 1927 about a shopgirl who falls in love with rich boss Antonio Moreno. Rudyard Kipling first developed the concept of “it,” but Cosmopolitan‘s Elinor Glynn popularized it in 1927, defining it as,  “That quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With ‘It’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. ‘It’ can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction. This 90th anniversary screening will feature live musical accompaniment by Makia Matsumura.

Sunday, November 26 at 3 p.m. at the AFI Silver.

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(IMDb)

LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL

The Mary Pickford Theatre at the Library of Congress celebrates Kirk Douglas, who turns 101 in December, with this rarely revived Western from director John Sturges (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral). Douglas stars as U.S. Marshall Matt Morgan, whose wife is the victim of a brutal attack.  When he finds out that one of the perpetrators is the son of an old friend (Anthony Quinn), there’s hell to pay! The Library will be screening a 35mm Technicolor print.

Thursday, November 30 at 7 p.m. at the Mary Pickford Theatre, third floor of the Madison Building, Library of Congress. Free. Seating is on a first-come first-serve basis. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

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VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN

Exploitation-movie legend Roger Corman took a 1962 Russian sci-fi film about space travel and, in order to make it palatable for American audiences in 1968, added what the Washington Psychotronic Film Society calls “dinosaur-worshiping Venusian women.”  Film critic Peter Bogdanovich shot the new footage and hired Mamie Van Doren “because I thought everyone should be blonde on Venus.” He went on to make The Last Picture Show and star in The Sopranos, but he refused directorial credit here; his first official feature, Targets, was made the same year.

Watch a clip.
Monday, November 27 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel

Korean Drama & Jeffrey Dahmer Top This Week’s Movie Picks

Popcorn & Candy used to be DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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(Courtesy of The Freer)

COME, TOGETHER

After being fired from a job he’s had for 18 years, a middle manager in South Korea grows increasingly violent, the loss affecting his whole family as his wife is pressued to pick up the slack and their daughter worries about college. This weekend the Korean Film Festival continues at the Freer with a drama that, according to the Gallery, “illustrates the toll Korea’s hyper-competitive society can take on an ordinary family.”  Variety’s Maggie Lee writes that, “writer-director Shin Dong-il (“Bandhobi”) observes the breakdown of a bourgeois family under financial pressures with characteristic mordant humor, while suggesting that hope and succor are not entirely out of reach.”

Watch the trailer.
Friday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at the Freer. Free.

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Kim Ok-bin (WellGo USA)

THE VILLAINESS

Meanwhile, for its share of the Korean Film Festival, the AFI Silver brings back this kinetic action thriller that had a brief commercial run in September. In my DCist review, I wrote, “This is a stylish but messy film, and not just due to the gallons of red corn syrup. The fractured timeline keeps the potentially heart-tugging plot point of Sook-hee’s endangered child from packing its full emotional punch. But all is forgiven by the film’s final sequence, an extended piece of meticulously choreographed and dazzling stunt work that tops the film’s impressive opening.”

Watch the trailer.
Friday, November 17, Saturday, November 18 and Wednesday, November 22 at the AFI Silver.

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(silentfilm.org)

PRIX DE BEAUTE

One of the greatest of Hollywood legends, Louise Brooks (1906-1985) stopped making movies in 1938. But remarkably, her classic look has never really gone out of style. This weekend the AFI Silver continues its Silent Cinema Showcase with this rarely revived drama from Italian director Augusto Genina. In what would be her last starring role, Brooks plays a Paris typist who wins a beauty pageant, and begins to lose her friends when opportunity knocks. Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne will complement this 1930 silent. Also screening at the AFI this weekend: a 35mm print of Jane Eyre (November 18 at 1:30 p.m.), starring Joan Fontaine as the Brontë heroine and Orson Welles as Edward Rochester.

Prix de Beauté screens Saturday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the AFI Silver.

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(Bistro Bohem)

THREE VETERANS

In conjunction with the Embassy of the Czech Republic, Shaw’s Bistro Bohem has hosted its Film and Beer series for six years, and this season’s focus is on Czech musicals and comedies. Next week the series offers director Oldřich Lipský’s 1983 fairy tale Three Veterans (Tři veteráni) , which tells the story of three men “visited by elves who bestow them with a magical hat, bag full of gold, and harp that just might make their wishes come true. ” The screening include a free beer, which may well start attendees on the way their own magical awakening.

Tuesday, November 21 7 pm at Bistro Bohem, 600 Florida Avenue, NW. Free, RSVP required: 202/735-5895 or bistrobohem@gmail.com Guests must arrive by 6:45 pm to keep their reservation.

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(WPFS)

BLOOD FREAK

As November winds down and thoughts turn to tryptophan hangovers and Record Store Black Friday, its nice to know that we can depend on certain holiday traditions–like the Washington Psychotronic Film Society’s annual screening of this 1972 horror movie about a Vietnam veteran who turns into homicidal poultry. In these times of increasing discord, let us come together to give thanks.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, November 20 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.

Also opening this week, My Friend Dahmer, a portrait of the serial killer as a young man. Read my Washington Post review.

The Mexican Fireworks of ‘Brimstone & Glory’ Top Your Movie Picks This Week

In the absence of DCist, I will continue to bring you my picks for the most interesting indie and repertory films playing around town in the coming week.

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(Oscilloscope)

BRIMSTONE & GLORY

For ten days in March, the city of Tultepec, Mexico celebrates the Feast of San Juan de Dios, in honor of a 16th century figure who is said to have rescued patients from a burning hospital and emerged unscathed. How to you give props to the patron saint of fireworks? With the most insane pyrotechnic display you have ever seen. The first feature from director Viktor Jakovlesk takes you from the dizzying heights of precariously high scaffolding to the sparkling inferno of Tultepec’s version of the running of the bulls, in which townspeople build massive bull-shaped frames on which to hang beautiful, dangerous bursts of fire. If it looks painful, that’s because it is; as you see pyrotechnicians assemble this year’s gunpowder cocktails, the camera briefly lingers on an elderly man  putting a bomb together with one hand. But its part and parcel of a culture in which first Communion cakes are lit with roman candles. From the producers of Beasts of the Southern Wild,  which you may recall featured a pretty sweet fireworks scene, Brimstone & Glory is a metal Catholic spectacle that should be seen on the big screen.

Watch the trailer.
Opens November 10 at Landmark West End Cinema.

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(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

THE PRICE

Seyl (Aml Ameen) is a young Nigerian-American who struggles to balance his job as a Wall Street financier with the demands of his family—particularly his father, who has disappointed his son in the past but is in need of extra care following a stroke. This is the first feature for Nigerian-born director Anthony Onah, and he coaxes Ameen into a performance that keeps you rooting for Seyl even as you chide him for dissing his dad to go out with a white girl. The Price follows a predictable rhythm, but what makes the movie is its attention to the details of a young man trying to shed his immigrant Catholic upbringing for a lucrative but perhaps unrewarding career.

Watch the trailer.
Opens November 10 at the AMC Apple Blossom 12 in Winchester, VA.

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(The Criterion Collection)

WISE BLOOD

Writer-producer Michael Fitzgerald, whose father was Flannery O’Connor’s literary executor, appears at the AFI Silver this weekend for a special 35mm screening of John Huston’s Wise Blood, adapted from O’Connor’s novel. Brad Dourif stars as Hazel Motes, a Georgia man who forms a Church Without Christ. Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times that the film, ” is so eccentric, so funny, so surprising, and so haunting that it is difficult to believe it is not the first film of some enfant terrible instead of the thirty-third feature by a man who is now in his seventies.”  Co-presented with the Crossroads Cultural Center.

Watch the trailer.
Saturday, November 11 at 7 p.m. at the AFI Silver.

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(Warner Bros.)

SUPERMAN

Thanks to Chris Kilmek for the tip that, as part of a double bill with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, the Warner Bros. Theatre at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum will be screening the last circulating 35mm print of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman. Christopher Reeve stars as the Man of Steel in a script penned by a team that included Godfather author Mario Puzo. The late Robert Ebert, revisiting the film in 2010, wrote that, “Donner pulls off a balancing act involving satire, action, rom-com clichés and of course a full serving of clichés from hard-boiled newspaper movies. What’s admirable is that Salkind and Donner realized they had to make a comedy.”

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, November 12 at 3 p.m. at the Smithonian’s American History Museum, Warner Bros. Theater. Buy tickets here.

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BAMSEOM PIRATES SOUL INFERNO

This weekend the Korean Film Festival returns to the Freer’s now refurbished Meyer Auditorium with a documentary about a satirical punk band whose “antics … include blasting through one hundred songs in ten minutes in their first gig and titling one of their songs ‘All Hail Kim Jong-il,’  [taking] aim at the absurdities, inequality, and corruption of South Korean society.” Festival screenings are also scheduled for the AFI Silver, which will offer a brief theatrical run of director Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (November 11-13 & 15-16 at the AFi Silver), originally  released directly to Netflix.

Watch the trailer.
Friday, November 10 at the Freer Gallery of Art. Free.