30 Movies Worth Watching in Seattle This Weekend: March 21–24, 2019

Us, The Seattle Jewish Film Festival, What Is Democracy? and Other Critics' Picks
March 21, 2019
Say good-bye to your pants, because Us will scare them right off you.

Horror fans are positively ravening to get to Jordan Peele's follow-up to Get Out, the doppelganger chiller Us. For those with a desire for gentler fare, Gloria Bell offers some Julianne Moore-flavored charm, while Astra Taylor's documentary What Is Democracy? is essential viewing for the civic-minded. Plus, the Seattle Jewish Film Festival kicks off this weekend! Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics' picks, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.

Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted.

Alita: Battle Angel
I have never recommended seeing a movie in 3-D, let alone IMAX 3-D, because films should either succeed in 2-D or they aren’t worth seeing. But for Alita: Battle Angel, I will—for the first time—tell you to splurge on the IMAX. I can’t stop dreaming about the glimmering city in the clouds that hovers above the film’s sci-fi setting. The story (cyborg woman is found comatose in trash heap, makes heroic journey to rediscover her past and her martial arts skills) lovingly smooshes at least three story arcs’ worth of plot into a single 122-minute film. I have no idea how Alita could have been done better. I’ve read all the Battle Angel comics, which manga artist Yukito Kishiro started publishing in 1990, and I could rattle off all the differences and references in director Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation. But I’d rather talk about what this film is: a fun, exhilarating realization of a sci-fi story that, even now, audiences may not be ready for. Salazar’s sensitive portrayal—enhanced by Alita’s robotic limbs and oversized, anime eyes—only strengthens the focus on conflict and competition that makes Alita so exciting. From the very start, Kishiro’s Alita was a battle comic—a serialized story to entertain young people with artful fight scenes. SUZETTE SMITH
Various locations
3D listings here

Apollo 11
Todd Miller's superbly edited new documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, which put Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon (and sent Michael Collins around its dark side), adds no narration or talking heads, other than contemporaneous sources. Although you know how things turned out, you're plunged into the suspense of the moment, when even the slightest miscalculation could have doomed the astronauts to a lonely or fiery death. Listen to that amazing sound design!
Various locations

Army of Darkness
With Bruce Campbell’s smartassery, a goofy time-travel plot, and hordes of pissed-off Deadites, this is the best of Sam Raimi’s beloved Evil Dead trilogy. The heroic Ash winds up in the year 1300 somehow and, in his attempts to return to our times using the Necronomicon, he accidentally triggers an army of dead people to arise.
Central Cinema

Birds of Passage
Selected by Colombia as its entry for the Oscars’ best foreign language film category, Birds of Passage has received several excellent reviews for coupling stark images of rural life with an epic narrative. Directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (they’re also the pair behind the surreal and gorgeous Embrace of the Serpent), the film concerns the impact of the drug trade on a family. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott describes Birds of Passage as “an epic narco tale that will open your mind.” CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Grand Illusion

The Burial of Kojo
Sankofa Film Society will show Samuel “Blitz” Bazawule's Afrofuturist film, which is distributed by Array, Ava DuVernay's company. It's about Esi, a young girl who tries to rescue her father after she inadvertently reveals a terrible secret about him to his vengeful brother.
Ark Lodge Cinemas
Thursday only

Bohemian Rhapsody
Why is it a good movie? Because it depicts and embodies the complicatedness of artistic collaboration, because it shows the downsides and the virtues of a brilliant person's out-of-control ego, because it dramatizes the way repression warps people, because it suggests what the world lost with an entire generation of gay artists who were wiped out (this was only one person, and yet the loss here alone is huge), because the music's fantastic (duh) and it was written by the characters we're seeing depicted on-screen, and because it manages to depict an artist who died of AIDS without ending with him on his deathbed succumbing to AIDS. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

British Comedy Classics: The Smallest Show on Earth
The finest British comedies of the 1940s and ’50s have aged marvelously well, thanks to understated, funny scripts and endlessly watchable professionals like Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Audrey Hepburn, and Peter Sellers. Catch a vintage treasure every Thursday at the museum, like this week's The Smallest Show on Earth (otherwise known as Big Time Operators). This is a little-known comedy by the great Basil Dearden about a poor married couple who inherits a ratty cinema—an apparent windfall that gets complicated when they are drawn into a fight with a much more stylish theater next door. Peter Sellers appears as a drunken projectionist!
Seattle Art Museum
Thursday only

Captain Marvel
What you need to know is that Captain Marvel is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and MCU movies are generally good-to-excellent, and Captain Marvel is no different. It’s smart, funny, and deliriously self-aware, and there’s a bunch of cool explosions. There’s also a young Agent Coulson, an explanation of how Nick Fury lost his eye, and a goddamn kitty-cat named Goose. It is an all-around successful comic book movie, like the 5,000 MCU movies that came before it. “But wait,” you say. “It is different. Aren’t you going to mention… [points at boobs, from one to the other, back and forth, maintaining eye contact, making things weird]?” Ugh, FINE. I'll say it. Yes, Carol is a woman, and this is the first Marvel movie centered on a woman. I’ve really enjoyed my Bruce Bannerses and Steve Rogerses, but I liked my Carol Danvers even more. It was great to see someone who looked like me straight-up destroy alien bad guys. ELINOR JONES
Various locations
3D screenings here

City of Lost Children
A demonic creature created by a scientist, helped by clone servants, steals the children of a dystopian society and extracts their dreams in an attempt to rein in his own accelerated deterioration. When a strongman (played by Ron Perlman) sets out to find his own kidnapped brother, his rescue mission leads to a spectacular showdown. By Jean-Pierre Jeunet (most famous for Amélie).
Scarecrow Video
Friday only

With Climax, controversy-courting director Gaspar Noé—the enfant terrible behind Irreversible, Enter the Void, and Love—does everything within his power to fuck with viewers’ perceptions. But here, the jarring visuals and strange interruptions serve a greater narrative purpose, embedding viewers deep within the mindset of a modern dance troupe led by Selva (Sofia Boutella). Chaos ensues when the troupe is unwittingly dosed with high-octane LSD, with the psychedelics unleashing the dancers’ underlying tensions. But the biggest mindfuck in Climax is how Noé creates what's easily the most entertaining and palatable film, in spite of his usual predilections for both pretension and forcing his female characters to suffer constant violence and abuse. Free of the fantastical elements found in other trippy horror stories—Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, for example—Climax ends up being a lot harder to easily shake off or dismiss through an ironic remove. If you can stomach Noé’s worst tendencies, this one will stick with you. ROBERT HAM
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & AMC Seattle 10

Combat Obscura
Miles Lagoze, a very young Marine, took his camera to Afghanistan when he was deployed as his unit's official videographer for recruitment and documentation. After his discharge, he made his own documentary, described by David Schwartz of the Museum of the Moving Image as "Full Metal Jacket as directed by Private Joker." It's a rare glimpse into a war zone, and it certainly looks harrowing.
Grand Illusion
Thursday only

Constant Thought
A free screening of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen's documentary about Brandon Kuehn, an Iraq War vet who sets out to deal with PTSD by walking the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Kuehn, Morse, and Mikkelsen will be present for your questions during this evening brought to you by REI and Backpacker mag.
Northwest Film Forum
Sunday only

Everybody Knows
Asghar Farhadi first gained international notice with his intense drama of interrelational alienation, About Elly, which he followed up with the Oscar-winning A Separation. His follow-up, The Past, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and his next film, The Salesman, netted him a second Academy Award. But he did not come to the United States to receive the award, given that Donald Trump had just signed an executive order barring Iranians (among others) from entering the country. Our country's loss, but you can still see his latest film, Everybody Knows, starring Penelope Cruz as a woman returning from Buenos Aires to her Spanish hometown and reuniting with her lover (Javier Bardem). When Cruz's daughter goes missing, past secrets start overshadowing the present.
SIFF Cinema Uptown

The Favourite
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos knows how to get under the skin of emotions and situations in a way that’s surreal, but it makes his observations feel closer to actual truth. The Favourite is a historical period piece that pulls less heady tricks than his previous efforts, its focus on the relationship between two cousins (played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vying for the favor of Olivia Colman’s sickly Queen Anne in early 18th century England. The actresses churn out incredible performances, hysterically and humorously jockeying for control over each other, the palace, and themselves. Lanthimos still manages to throw in a few strange elements, like the use of a fisheye camera lens and silly dancing sequences, but in a way, it only heightens the characters’ believability. JASMYNE KEIMIG

The Fireflies Are Gone
The Canadian Consulate is sponsoring this free screening of a 2018 French-language film about the disaffected but likable daughter, Léo, of a washed-up union leader and Léo's romance with a much older wandering guitarist.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Sunday only

Gloria Bell
Anybody who’s seen Gloria—the 2013 Chilean film from A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio—will feel some major déjà-vu watching Gloria Bell, a remake set in Los Angeles and starring Julianne Moore, in which Lelio recreates the original almost shot-for-shot. As someone who’s seen both, I’m going to be honest: I didn’t like Gloria Bell as much as Gloria. But it’s still great! Gloria works at an insurance company by day, spends her nights dancing at a disco-themed singles bar, and struggles to cede control in her relationships with her adult children. But Moore’s portrayal of the divorcée reveals the nuances of her personality and the complexity of her seemingly unremarkable middle-aged existence, whether she’s doing laughter therapy, dunking her boyfriend’s phone in soup, or walking barefoot through Caesars Palace. (Throughout the film, Gloria’s mood can be gauged by whether she’s belting along to ’80s hits in her car or driving in silence, along with her willingness to coexist with a Sphynx cat that keeps mysteriously appearing in her apartment.) Though Gloria ostensibly centers on a new romance, the reality is far more interesting: Lelio’s film captures an internal tide change with unexpectedly transformative results, and is a joyful celebration of the world’s countless Glorias. CIARA DOLAN
Various locations

Green Book
Green Book tells the supposedly true story of a Black jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), and his white driver, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), as they go on a concert tour through the segregated South in 1962. Although they’re both from New York, they’re from entirely different worlds: Shirley moves through the rarified air of highbrow culture. Tony, on the other hand, is an Italian American stereotype made sentient, a “whattsamattayou” tough guy with a tenderly soft underbelly. Green Book’s biggest red flag is that it’s essentially another Driving Miss Daisy story about how to solve racism in three convenient acts. But the movie’s really nice, and it’s hard to get too mad at it. Ali and Mortensen are both awfully good, and the script, for all its familiarity, is kind of comforting in its shtick-y predictability. NED LANNAMANN
Various locations

Howl's Moving Castle
When it comes to animation gods, there's Hayao Miyazaki, and then there's everybody else. Although reportedly considering retirement after completing the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Miyazaki was apparently intrigued enough by the prospect of adapting a novel by children's author Diana Wynne Jones to return to the drawing board. ANDREW WRIGHT
Central Cinema

Heard of Ötzi the Iceman? He's a 5,000-plus-year-old mummy found in the Alps in 1991. This movie imagines his life before his entombment in the snow, fashioning a Copper Age revenge drama about a murdered family and an enraged father. Reviews have been mostly favorable thanks to the gorgeous scenery and archeological dramaturgy (the movie is in a dead language, Rhaetian), despite the clichéd plot.
Grand Illusion

Isn't It Romantic
In Isn’t It Romantic, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is unlucky in love... until she suffers a blow to the noggin that transforms her world! Natalie’s brain injury transforms the world around her to a glossy romcom version of New York City, complete with Adam DeVine as her platonic (?) male friend, Priyanka Chopra as her stunning competition, Brandon Scott Jones as her gay bestie, Betty Gilpin as her office nemesis, and Liam Hemsworth as Natalie’s impossibly handsome love interest who deserves some sort of trophy for his performance (or, at the very least, a kiss on the mouth from me). The film mocks every cliché of the romcom while simultaneously delivering a flawless execution of the genre, something that's both brilliant and entertaining. And it checks my "Is Liam Hemsworth Playing a Saxophone Bare-Chested?" box, which is just the icing on the cupcake. ELINOR JONES
Various locations

Mysterious Doctor Satan
Grand Illusion's pulpy Saturday programming, which aims to resurrect the tradition of the serial matinee, is starting up again. This time, it's going to be The Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940), shown, as always, on 16mm. The serial involves a mad genius, an army of robots, and a hero known as "the Copperhead." But that's not all! After the episode, there'll be a secret cult, adventure, sci-fi, or art house film.
Grand Illusion
Saturday only

Never Look Away
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made the Academy Award-winning The Lives of Others some years ago; then-Stranger writer Annie Wagner called it "the best German film I've seen in years." His new film may be even more ambitious: It's an emotional look at the upheaval German history seen through the eyes of an art student. As a child, he witnesses the rise of Nazism; as a young man, he falls in love with a fellow student in repressive East Germany—the daughter of a professor with a terrible secret. Incidentally, while critics have been appreciative, Gerhard Richter, on whose life this film is loosely based, is reportedly very unhappy with the film.
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Nocturnal Emissions: The People Under the Stairs
Local horror queen Isabella Price will host this series of classic slashers and supernatural chillers with a burlesque performance before every screening. This month's film is Wes Craven’s cannibal satire The People Under the Stairs,  which cast Everett McGill and Wendy Robie of Twin Peaks as some really grotesque villains. The pre-film performance will feature guest dancers Dorathy Daggers and Smokey Brown.
Northwest Film Forum
Thursday only

Painted Dreams, Seasons 1 & 2
To the outside observer, mainstream romance novels are a kind of softcore porn consumed by an extremely dedicated, mostly female audience. My mom read them in the layaway line at Walmart, and yours probably did, too. But for Patty Gone, a multimedia artist and poet living in New York City, the books are something else entirely. They're a massive cultural force. Given how well they sell, they basically underwrite the entire production of more "serious" contemporary literature. On March 21, the artist will screen their Painted Dreams video series on a big old projector at Mount Analogue. The series examines American soap operas through academic and personal lenses, combining the soft-focus, satin-pajamas aesthetic of the popular daytime shows with Gone's Bloomingdale window-display style. RICH SMITH
Mount Analogue
Thursday only

Scarecrow Academy 1959: Fires on the Plain
The video rental library's new series contends that 1959 was the best year in film history ever. It saw "a high point of Hollywood studio filmmaking, the rise of new independent cinema, the great flowering of international movies, and the beginning of the French New Wave." Film critic Robert Horton will delve into the highlights of this landmark year, like Fires on the Plain, Kon Ichikawa's devastating war drama about starving Japanese soldiers abandoned in the Philippines by their superiors after the Allies' victory.
Scarecrow Video
Saturday only

Seattle Jewish Film Festival
This annual film festival explores and celebrates global Jewish and Israeli life, history, complexity, culture, and filmmaking. It showcases international, independent, and award-winning Jewish-themed and Israeli cinema, and the audience votes on their favorites. This year's VIP guest is Jamie Bernstein, author and daughter of the famous composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story, Candide). This weekend, see Unorthodox at opening night (with a Tom Douglas dessert party), or watch the queer drama Red Cow, the baseball doc Heading Home (with Klezmer brunch), or several other options on Sunday.
Various locations

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Mashing up the bombast of Marvel with the glory days of Pixar, Spider-Verse feels decidedly different—funnier, weirder, more daring—than most American animated movies. This is almost a meta, post-modern take on Spider-Man: Instead of being all about Peter Parker, Spider-Verse stars Miles Morales (excellently voiced by Shameik Moore), a kid who also gets bit by a creepy spider and also gets creepy spider-powers. But Miles—a Afro-Latino teenager who, for all his cleverness and heart, feels out of place at his fancy Brooklyn school—not only has a different perspective on the whole "great power, great responsibility" thing, but has his own obstacles to becoming a hero. Luckily for Miles, a whole slew of other spider-people from alternate dimensions show up to help him out. This is a big, fun blockbuster, but it's also the rare big, fun blockbuster that dares to have a strong point of view and a fresh, exciting personality. As Spider-Verse dazzles and twists, thumping to a hip-hop soundtrack and glimmering with every color in the universe, it captures the thrill, smarts, and irreverence that mark Spider-Man's best stories. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Thornton Place & Crest

To Kill a Mockingbird
At its root, I can't stand this film. As a black person, it offends me. The story about a black man who is about to be executed for a crime he clearly did not commit ends up being all about his white lawyer. But why recommend it? Because it shows exactly how the US struggled and often failed to get to the core of its deep racist history by a path that proved to be empty: white empathy. For a black viewer, it really tells us what we are up against. Not just racism, but also hollow empathy. CHARLES MUDEDE
AMC Pacific Place & Thornton Place
Sunday only

We live in strange times. If we all went back to 2012 or 2013 and told those watching the Key & Peele show that Jordan Peele would end up, at the end of the decade, not only writing and directing a blockbuster horror film, Get Out, but also hosting a reboot of Twilight Zone, and, damn, also directing a second horror film called Us, they would have said: “You crazy.” CHARLES MUDEDE
Various locations
IMAX tickets here.

What Is Democracy?
At the heart of What Is Democracy?, a documentary from Canadian American filmmaker/philosopher Astra Taylor, is a black American barber who is also an ex-convict. Ellie Brett is young, but he has already served nearly a decade in prison for what he describes as a bad decision. He is interviewed while cutting, shaving, and sculpting the hair of this and that man. What makes his moment the heart of what this film is trying to express is a story he tells about being part of a hunger strike while he was in prison. He and others locked up with him did not eat for months because the authorities were going to close their library. What's amazing is that Brett thinks this act seems frivolous. But when you think about the protest in the context of Taylor's documentary, which impressively and tellingly examines the status of US democracy, predominantly from the perspective of black Americans, you realize the protest was all about democracy. Those prisoners were not criminals simply paying their debts—they were humans caught in a vicious feedback loop with politics as its source. CHARLES MUDEDE
Northwest Film Forum
No showings Friday.

Four teenage wrestlers in one of Alabama's failing schools vie for sports success—and opportunities otherwise closed to them—in Suzanne Herbert and Lauren Belfer's multi-award-winning documentary, pitched as Hoop Dreams on the mat.
Northwest Film Forum

Also Playing:
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.

A Breath Away

Captive State

Five Feet Apart

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

The Hummingbird Project

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

Wonder Park