Movies Worth Watching

36 Movies Worth Watching in Seattle This Weekend: January 9–12, 2020

Just Mercy, My Twentieth Century, The Hottest August, and Other Critics' Picks
January 9, 2020
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx depict the lawyer Bryan Stevenson and the falsely condemned Walter McMillian in Just Mercy. (Warner Bros.)

Traditionally, January is not an auspicious month for film releases—but as you can see in this list, Seattle is still swimming in cinematic brilliance. Watch Michael B. Jordan in the based-on-a-true-story Just Mercy, see Audrey Hepburn's Oscar-winning turn in Roman Holiday, or witness the brilliance of the poaching documentary When Lambs Become Lions. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings. In the South Sound? Check out our guide to movies playing in Tacoma this weekend.

Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise mentioned.

Legendary screenwriter William Goldman once said of the film industry, “Nobody knows anything,” and this is still mostly true, with one exception: If cinematographer Roger Deakins shot the movie, that movie is worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. Even if 1917 were solely the most impressive work of Deakins’ remarkable career—which it is—I’d be recommending it. But the World War I movie is also one hell of a stunning storytelling experience from director Sam Mendes, co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, and editor Lee Smith. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t the whole point of this movie that there aren’t any cuts? Why did they need an editor at all?” 1917’s hook (or less generously, its gimmick) is that it’s meant to unfold in a single, unbroken take. It’s one of the rare instances of a film’s marketing actually benefiting the finished film, because of the way this knowledge is both paid off... and then subverted. BOBBY ROBERTS
Various locations

American Psycho
Based on the much-reviled book by Bret Easton Ellis, the movie is actually pretty good. Really. Set at the height of the Reagan '80s, American Psycho deftly satirizes the deadening effect of unchecked corporate wealth and power. ANDY SPLETZER
Central Cinema

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
It’s unusual to witness real cinematic magic these days, but the Fred Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood absolutely has it. Director Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) wisely avoids the visual slickness one might expect from a Tom Hanks-centric melodrama, instead employing a lived-in style and scene transitions that consist of miniature cities harkening back to the opening of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Hanks is totally committed to Rogers’ appearance and manner, but A Beautiful Day is more about Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) a fictional journalist profiling Rogers. (Vogel’s work is based on a 1998 Esquire profile by Tom Junod; as is the case with the film, Junrod’s piece sketches a beautiful yet enigmatic image of Rogers.) Where Heller’s film becomes transcendent is in its cinematic pressure points: The striking slowness of the narrative (it’s meant to emulate the pace of Rogers’ show, and you get used to it), the mirroring of Rogers and Vogel in their interview styles and drawn-out reaction shots, and a profound moment of silence that grips your heart like, “Did that really just happen? Why was that so intense?” SUZETTE SMITH
Varsity Theatre

When Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, and Margot Robbie all link up, what have you got? Well, a sizeable chunk of the Fox Newsroom, as it turns out. In this movie adapted from real-life events, Bombshell follows three women who accused late Fox founder and CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, and the fallout when their accusations are made public. Kidman portrays former Fox host Gretchen Carlson, Robbie plays a fictionalized producer, and Theron seemingly fully transforms into Megyn Kelly. Announced in the months following Ailes’s death, the film will explore the toxic environment brewing over at the president’s favorite news channel. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Various locations

Some people will never be able to enjoy a sung-through musical. Know going in that there is very little dialogue. Think of it as an opera that purrs. Many will also find humanoid cats with "digital fur technology" to be too freaky or sexy. I think this opinion is very suburban, even a tad snowflake-y, but also completely within reason. Andrew Lloyd Webber himself said Cats was a “suicidally stupid musical.” No one is under any illusion that this is Dunkirk. So, before you go and see Cats, which you should and will, I want you to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself: "What do I want from Cats?" Because I bet you will get exactly what you want. Or, perhaps, deserve. There continues to be a lot of pearl-clutching from critics and trailer-viewers around these kitties' bodies, and their lack of genitalia and buttholes, but I think these animated fur-bodies are respectfully similar to the stage musical's fur-bodies—except for one distinct, erect difference: their tails. Jason Derulo did not need to worry about his penis being erased in Cats' post-production, because his tail leaves little to the imagination. CHASE BURNS
Meridian 16 & AMC Pacific Place

Days of Heaven
Days of Heaven, which stars a young Richard Gere, is by far Terrence Malick’s best film. It’s also his second feature, was shot in the mid-1970s, and released in 1978. The film’s story is not worth mentioning, but its cinematography (Néstor Almendros Cuyás and Haskell Wexler) is just out of this world. After completing his masterpiece, which followed his first and second-best work, Badlands by five years, Malick did not make another film for two decades. His point of return was The Thin Red Line (1998), which is unwatchable. Malick has since made eight more films, none of which are any good. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Film Center

Duet for Cannibals
The great Susan Sontag, best known for her philosophical essays and fiction, also directed four films, the first of which was this Swedish-made dark comedy about partner-swapping intellectuals. When a German revolutionary instructs his young male student/secretary to keep his wife "company," it kicks off a round of dangerous romantic/sexual competition. It's screened here in a 2K restoration.
Northwest Film Forum

Fantastic Fungi
At its worst, Fantastic Fungi gets too woo-woo wacky for its own good (when the film’s discussion turns to magic mushrooms, the visuals turn into what is, as far as I can tell, just a psychedelic screensaver from Windows 95), but at its best, the doc pairs fantastic time-lapse imagery with a good dose of actual, mind-blowing science. Affable, passionate mushroom researcher Paul Stamets is joined by talking heads Michael Pollan, Andrew Weil, and narrator Brie Larson to examine everything from massive fungal networks that carry signals between disparate, distant plants to the psychological benefits of psilocybin. It’s an uneven trip, but a good one. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Varsity Theatre

Ford v Ferrari
If you’re a lover of car-racing movies, you should probably check out Ford v Ferrari—because this film is likely to be one of the last of its kind. A biopic about the late ’60s rivalry between failing racecar company Ferrari and the “wants to be sexy soooo bad” Ford Motor Company, F v F is about how corporations can’t help but crush the passion and innovation they so desperately need. In this case, the crushees are race car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driving phenom Ken Miles (Christian Bale), both of whom are forced to cajole, finagle, and manipulate the suits at Ford in an attempt to win the famed Le Mans road race. It’s impossible to ignore the two elephants in this room: The fetishization of white male toxicity and car culture, topics which society is trying to deal with and solve… not celebrate. This makes Ford v Ferrari a very good movie that, a decade ago, would’ve been considered great. Now it feels like a brand-new film that’s already an antique. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Meridian 16

Frozen II
It starts out with Young Elsa and Young Anna, and, I don’t know, this is just my opinion, but I didn’t think that part was very necessary, necessarily? I thought the story was good. I thought the parts were well thought out and they had some depth to them, if you know what I mean? Like some parts were really sad, and some parts could be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Also, you know how in the first Frozen, there’s like this main song that you know is the main song? In this one, there’s like three or four different songs that could be that main song. There were songs that like Elsa and Anna and Kristoff sang that could qualify for that position. I thought they were fine. SIMON HAM, AGE 12
Various locations

Fuselage Dance Film Festival: Winter Program
This program boasts short films of dancers in natural and interior settings around the world, from Seattle to South Korea to Ireland. They explore loneliness, isolation, memory, attachment, and other poignant emotions.
Northwest Film Forum
Friday only

The Good Liar
The Good Liar is likely the most bonkers film I will see this year. What begins as a cautionary tale about the dangers of grandma’s online dating unfolds into a baffling series of reveals, all of which support the twist that we already gleaned from the trailer: Roy (Ian McKellen) is trying to double cross Betty (Helen Mirren) and take her money... but she's not that easy to trick! How all that happens, though? I could never have predicted it. What a septuagenarian mine cart ride! SUZETTE SMITH

This was the directorial debut of Hideaki Anno, the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. A young girl enters the Okinawa Girls Space Pilot High School, hoping for revenge against the alien forces that killed her father.
The Beacon
Sunday only

Hecklevision: Tammy and the T-Rex
Denise Richards and Paul Walker star in this 1994 comedy, in which cheerleader Tammy (Richards) discovers that the brain of her boyfriend (Walker) has been transplanted into the body of a robotic tyrannosaur. You should see this movie because it's ridiculous and terrible and you need your brain flash-evaporated once in awhile. (Also, it's in "Hecklevision," which allows you to text snarky comments to the screen.) JOULE ZELMAN
Central Cinema
Thursday only

A Hidden Life
The first half of Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life stacks up with some of the best work the legendary filmmaker has ever done—right up there with Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and Tree of Life. The second half, though, feels a lot more like... uh, what's the term for Malick's more recent movies, like Knight of Cups, and that one about music, and that one with Ben Affleck? Nü-Malick? Let's go with nü-Malick. Nü-Malick movies aren't bad—even at their worst, they're generally better than many arthouse efforts, and there's never a shortage of the director's striking soundscapes and achingly beautiful visuals—but compared to Malick's best stuff, they rarely compare. (To be fair: Not many movies can.) Which is what makes A Hidden Life so frustrating: For a good chunk, it is that good, and then for another chunk, it's not. And it'd be a lot easier to justify the second half's nü-ness if A Hidden Life wasn't three hours long. ERIK HENRIKSEN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Thursday only

The Hottest August
It's August 2017 in New York City, and it feels like the end of the world. In this strikingly shot documentary, Brett Story explores the apocalyptic fears of the current zeitgeist, touching on everything from white nationalism to climate change-induced natural catastrophes. Sinister, beautiful, tense.
Northwest Film Forum
Sunday only

Ip Man 4
In the finale to the Ip Man saga, the Wing Chun genius and his son fly to San Francisco to settle a feud and mentor the young Bruce Lee. There, he discovers that homegrown American classic: brutal xenophobia. Watch those thrilling fight scenes as Ip Man battles disgruntled kung fu masters and bigoted policemen.
AMC Pacific Place & Regal Thornton Place

Jojo Rabbit
The latest from Taika Waititi starts off with a bright, Wes Andersonian whimsiness: Young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) joyously bounces about at summer camp, having the time of his life as he frolics and laughs with his second-best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) and his first-best friend, the imaginary Adolf (Waititi). Just one thing: Jojo is at Hitler Youth camp—their campfire activities include burning books—Adolf is Adolf Hitler, and World War II is winding down, with Germany not doing so great. Both because of and in spite of its inherent shock value, Jojo Rabbit—based on a book by Christine Leunens—is just as clever and hilarious as Waititi’s other movies, but as it progresses, the story taps into a rich vein of gut-twisting melancholy. There’s more to the complicated Jojo Rabbit than first appears, and only a director as committed, inventive, and life-affirmingly good-hearted as Waititi would even have a chance of pulling it off. He does. ERIK HENRIKSEN
AMC Pacific Place

Just Mercy
In this dramatization of a true, infuriating story, Michael B. Jordan plays the lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who, with the help of activist Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), fights racism and systemic legal injustice to save the life of an innocent condemned man, Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx).
Various locations

Knives Out
Knives Out [is] Rian Johnson's phenomenally enjoyable riff on a murder-mystery whodunit. The less you know going in, the better, but even those familiar with mysteries will likely be caught flat-footed. Things begin in the baroque mansion of famed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is very, very dead. Through flashbacks, monologues, and the genteel but razor-sharp questioning of investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), we meet the rest of the Thrombeys—played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, and more, with everyone clearly having a goddamn blast—and we hear about a billion motives and a billion alibis. Somebody killed Harlan, and while Benoit Blanc is on the case, Knives Out quickly spirals into unexpected territory. In a time when filmgoing is dominated by familiar franchises, seeing an original movie executed with as much care, glee, and skill as Knives Out feels like an experience that's entirely too rare. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Various locations

Literary Nerd Hour: Z-Sides Screening and Quiz Show Add to a List
Obsessed with local literature? Turn to this televised program run by Jekeva Phillips, a wildly talented and active figure in Seattle's theater and literature scenes. Watch a screening of the bibliophilic Z-Sides, featuring readings and conversations with PNW writers, and then compete in a quiz game (with prizes!).
Northwest Film Forum
Thursday only

Little Women
I loved Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird so much that I went into Little Women with trepidation. Making a follow-up to a movie everyone loved is tricky! And every hater on my block asked why we needed another Little Women movie when the 1995 version is “perfectly fine” and “has Winona Ryder in it.” The answer: You don’t know how good you can have it! You don’t know how good Little Women can be, you poor fools! Gerwig’s Little Women is Romance-era-oil-painting gorgeous, but it’s also realistic, thanks to the performances of the film’s star-studded cast of March sisters: Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. Directing her actors to talk over each other, Gerwig turns family scenes into rampaging rivers of voices, while also making sure nothing is lost in the chaos. We see the Marches as we see many families: A force bursting into a room. Laura Dern—for the first time in cinematic history—gives the girls’ mother a full personality. And when the girls’ father turned out to be universally beloved Bob Odenkirk (!) my friend straight-up punched me in the arm because she was already crying and couldn’t talk. SUZETTE SMITH
Various locations

Midnight Family
Both responding to a social need and out to make a buck, extralegal ambulance companies are essential in Mexico City, which only has 45 official ambulances. The Ochoa family strives to serve patients and stay afloat in the face of a corrupt police force.
Northwest Film Forum & AMC Pacific Place
Thursday only

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My Twentieth Century
This sensual, feminist Hungarian fable by the surrealist filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi follows two separated identical twins, Dóra and Lili, who wind up on wildly different paths: One becomes an honest anarchist, the other a glamorous jewel thief.
The Beacon

One Sings, the Other Doesn't
When you think of Serious French Cinema, as embodied by Major French Filmmaker Agnès Varda (Faces Places, The Gleaners and I), you might not think of a joyful hippie musical about abortion, marriage, and sisterhood. Yet this 1977 Belgian-Venezuelan-French co-production is exactly that.
SIFF Film Center
Saturday only
Part of The Restless Curiosity of Agnès Varda

Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It's a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies, though it's no less concerned with the state of society today. Set in Seoul, South Korea, the families and class issues at play reflect our global era, in which the disparity between the haves and have-nots seems to be widening. Parasite follows the Kim family, who secretly scam their way into the lives of the wealthy Park family. Slowly and methodically, the Kims begin to drive out the other domestic workers at the Park residence, each time referring another family member (who they pretend not to know) for the vacant position. And so the poorer family starts to settle comfortably into the grift—until a sudden realization turns their lives upside down. The resulting film offers an at turns hilarious and deeply unsettling look at class and survival, its essence echoed in the environments the characters inhabit. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Various locations

Pauline at the Beach
This, for me, is the core pleasure of French director Eric Rohmer's cinema: the movement of (usually two) actors during a long (and usually heady) discussion. For example: As a man says something philosophical about love to a woman, he walks to a huge nearby rock and puts a hand on it; as the woman responds by saying something about how his ideas about love are self-serving, she steps away from the man and looks at some trees in the distance. The flow of words is sequenced with the motion of bodies. Rohmer also manages to keep these movements as realistic as possible. They never overflow from the zone between natural and artificial, walking and dancing. The art of this great French director, who died in 2010, is the ballet of a conversation. SAM and Alliance Francaise de Seattle are celebrating his centennial during a nine-film series. CHARLES MUDEDE
Seattle Art Museum
Thursday only
Part of French Pleasures: The Films of Eric Rohmer

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Roman Holiday
A sprightly young Audrey Hepburn and a charming (if slightly wooden) scooter-riding Gregory Peck make an odd pairing in this classic rom-com from '53. Hepburn won a Best Actress Oscar for this performance, which was also her first starring role.
Central Cinema

Set It Off
In Set It Off, four black women are squeezed into crime. One loses a job and her only way out of the ghetto; another loses her child to the state because she cannot afford childcare while she works for low wages; another is battling to keep her brother off the streets and on the path to college; another wants to buy the freedom to express her love for a woman (the last is convincingly played by Queen Latifah). These are not bad people. Their transformation from law-abiding citizens to villains is not simple, but accumulative. The numerous steps leading to their crime spree are clear and understandable. Indeed, the best and most touching scene in the movie happens right after they rob a bank for the first time and are splitting the loot. One of them (Tisean—the woman who has lost her child to social services) is told by another (Frankie—the woman who recently lost her good job over bullshit) that she doesn't deserve a cut because she got cold feet before the heist and split. But pressure from the other two women makes Frankie submit and agree to give Tisean her undeserved cut. At the end of the day, she is one of them. If that scene does not make you feel all warm inside, you are a monster. CHARLES MUDEDE
The Beacon

Spies in Disguise
I thought Spies in Disguise was very excellent. The plot device of someone turning into a pigeon through genetic manipulation was unique, to say the least. I think it may have been a little too complicated for some younger kids who may have been the target audience. I think some of it may have gone completely over their heads. Although that might not be true in any way. I’m almost definitely sure there’s going to be a second one of these. SIMON HAM, AGE 12
AMC Pacific Place & Thornton Place

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I found The Rise of Skywalker, the last film in the Skywalker saga, boring. And it was not even a long movie, and I'm a fan of the director's (J.J. Abrams) work (particularly Mission: Impossible III—the best in that franchise), and many of the visual effects are impressive—particularly the haunting business of bringing the late Carrie Fisher back to life. But all together, the film is burdened by too much sentimental family stuff (you are my granddaughter, you are my son, you killed my parents, and so on), and its end did not know how to end for a very long time. CHARLES MUDEDE
Various locations

Feydeau in the neighborhood, this film has all the elements of classic farce, the prisoner just out of jail, the best friend, the faithless husband, the cheating boyfriend, the mother-in-law from hell - but played at an entirely different pace, and with characters who radiate truth and immediacy. BARLEY BLAIR
Scarecrow Video
Friday only

Tremors (Temblores)
Not to be confused with the 1990 film about giant tunneling worms. Jayro Bustamante, Guatemalan director of the critically acclaimed Ixcanul, returns with the story of Pablo, a beloved member of a rich Evangelical family who turns their lives upside down when he leaves his wife for another man. But the homophobic family is not about to give up their father/son/husband so easily—even if their efforts to keep him in their religious community ruin his life. Carlos Aguilar of writes that "the film isn’t kindly asking for tolerance but bluntly exposing the torment inflicted in the name of a prejudiced God."
Grand Illusion
Thursday only

Uncut Gems
As Howard Ratner, a professional jeweler and asshole in Manhattan’s Diamond District, a great Adam Sandler rarely leaves the screen in Uncut Gems, and the plot is basically Howard and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. That isn’t a shock, considering the film comes from brothers/writers/directors Josh and Benny Safdie, who party-crashed the arthouse scene with 2017’s Good Time (in which Robert Pattinson was the one playing an asshole having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day). Uncut Gems is larger in scope, but like Good Time, it has a moral vacuum at its center—it takes place in the no-man’s-land where society’s walls crumble, and where those who look out only for themselves can best navigate the rubble. The Safdies aren’t interested in morality tales but amorality tales, and their stories’ no-holds-barred recklessness, at first freeing, steadily grows exhausting. Thankfully, the Safdies also know how to shoot, cut, and score like nobody else. There’s a twitchy, addictive energy to Uncut Gems, and the Safdies’ choppy, rapid-fire cuts coalesce into a surreal, exhilarating landscape of prismatic hues, blaring fluorescents, and sharp LEDs, all while the analog synth score by Daniel Lopatin (AKA Oneohtrix Point Never) adds to the lurid beauty. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Various locations

Varda by Agnes
The important French director Agnès Varda, whose career spanned the 1950s to the 2010s, made one last film before her death in 2019 in which she traced the course of her life and career.
SIFF Film Center
Part of The Restless Curiosity of Agnès Varda

When Lambs Become Lions
Many of the reviews of the brilliant documentary When Lambs Become Lions—about elephant poaching in modern-day Kenya—will claim that the director, John Kasbe, does not take sides on the issue. The director hunts elephants with the poachers, and he patrols the park with the armed game rangers. The poachers don’t give a fuck about the elephants. They are poor, and they need the money. The rangers also need money, as they have not been paid in ages by the government. And it is here that the director takes a clear side, his film clearly denounces the extreme poverty that both the poachers and the rangers face. If the poachers stop killing elephants, then the rangers will lose their jobs. Therefore, we have the poachers exploiting the elephants, and the rangers exploiting the poachers. The problem then is not the poaching; it is, of course, capitalism. CHARLES MUDEDE
Grand Illusion

Also Playing:

The Grudge

Jumanji: The Next Level

Like a Boss

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil


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