It's a good weekend for a movie date with your friends and lovers. Whether you want to eschew Valentine's Day traditions with Noir City films like The Black Vampire and Branded to Kill or you'd like a dose of nostalgia from the Miyazaki classic Princess Mononoke, your options are plentiful. 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.
Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise mentioned.* = Won a 2020 Oscar
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
Received Oscars for: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects
In this love story/monster movie mashup, a man begins to unravel after getting dumped by his girlfriend.
SIFF Film Center
And Then We Danced
Director Levan Akin (who is Georgian but grew up in Sweden) was inspired to make this film after witnessing a violent clash between LGBT demonstrators and far-right protesters in Tbilisi, the capital, in 2013. Akin, who is gay, felt ashamed of his country and resolved to make a queer coming-of-age film that takes place there. And Then We Danced is situated in the world of Georgian dance. Merab comes from a lineage of (failed) traditional dancers, training for years with his partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili) in hopes of graduating to the main ensemble. The men in traditional Georgian dance are supposed to project a type of stiff masculinity in their movements, and the surly dance coach criticizes Merab for his softness. Tension in the troupe escalates when Irakli, hot and charming, joins the group just as a spot for a man in the main ensemble opens up, pitting Merab and Irakli against each other. It's a tenderly told story that doesn't skimp on explicit sex scenes, centering physical desire as much as emotional connection. JASMYNE KEIMIG
SIFF Cinema Uptown
A young aspiring film producer lands a job as an assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul, and it's not long before she decides to take a stand against the normalized abusive behaviors in her workplace.
AMC Pacific Place
Bad Boys for Life
Michael Bay's absence behind the camera (although he briefly appears in a cameo that I reflexively booed) is immediately apparent. The action—still glistening, swooping, and forever circling, as directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah do some damn good Bay-raoke in their debut—is slower and mostly coherent. But even more remarkable: For the first time that I can remember, this is a Bad Boys movie primarily fueled by emotion as opposed to disdainfully rejecting it. And get this: That emotion? HUMILITY! I know. What the fuck, right? But fucks are abundant in Bad Boys for Life, and given often, flying just as freely as the one-liners, bullets, and grenades going off frequently and everywhere. BOBBY ROBERTS
Two women in Leningrad try to rebuild their lives after the wreckage of World War II in this film from 27-year-old Russian director and co-writer Kantemir Balagov. "This is a story of people for whom the horror of war has not ended, for whom peace is the horror of war by other means," writes The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), no more the Joker's abused handmaiden, teams up with some superheroes to protect a little girl.
Oscar-winning documentarist Alex Gibney turns his considerable filmmaking prowess to a portrait of the former oligarch and current political exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who, after his imprisonment and seizure of assets, was forced by Putin to leave Russia.
Color Out of Space
I didn’t go into Color Out of Space thinking it would be great, or even very good. Starring Nicolas Cage and based on a story by HP Lovecraft about a weird alien presence/virus/organism/wtf that comes crashing in from space via meteorite, I figured it’d be entertaining at the very least. And that it was, but it was also tremendously, spectacularly bad, with some classic bad-acting Cage on tap. You’re not here for the plot. You’re here for campy-as-fuck sci-fi horror and Nicolas Cage, of which Color Out of Space has both in spades. It has the potential to be the next great (terrible) cult classic, and will definitely find a sympathetic audience in both die-hard Cage fans and D-level horror film enthusiasts. Also, the colors are pretty. LEILANI POLK
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Merce Cunningham (who, as you Northwest dance aficionados may already know, attended Cornish College in the '30s) had a seven-decade career in dance and choreography, founding the world-famous Merce Cunningham Dance Company. This documentary juxtaposes archival footage, interviews, and new dance footage.
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Crest
Dinosaurs of Antarctica
Paleoecologists study the lives of the massive bird-like creatures that traipsed around Antarctic forests and swamps hundreds of millions of years ago—and they try to understand how the southern continent transformed from a warm and bio-diverse Mesozoic to the modern-day frozen landscape we know today.
Pacific Science Center
This underknown gem by the filmmaker Mani Kaul, who was heavily influenced by European arthouse directors like Andrei Tarkovsky and Robert Bresson as well as his Bengali mentor Ritwik Ghatak, is about a young bride in Rajasthan. Neglected by her husband, the bride is seduced by a ghost who impersonates the man.
Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Homo Sapiens) offers a visually compelling meditation on heavy industry's devastation of the natural landscape as mining and construction companies literally move mountains to make money.
Northwest Film Forum
Eros + Massacre
Prolific Japanese filmmaker Kiju Yoshida directs this challenging work that intersects the stories of early 20th-century anarchist and free love advocate Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists.
Northwest Film Forum
*Ford v Ferrari
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. Director James Mangold (Logan) smartly avoids the emotionally manipulative tricks found in other sports biographies, and Damon and Bale are, unsurprisingly, excellent and affecting. The problem? 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
Regal Meridian 16
Received Oscars for: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing
This iconic horror film follows the obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) as he attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased. Aided by his loyal misshapen assistant, Fritz (Dwight Frye), Frankenstein succeeds in animating his monster (Boris Karloff), but, confused and traumatized, it escapes into the countryside and begins to wreak havoc. Frankenstein searches for the elusive being, and eventually must confront his tormented creation.
Part of The Art in Horror
There’s an odd (and fun) sense of formality to The Gentlemen, director Guy Ritchie’s newest crime flick that trades the downtrodden, violent British grit of his former films (like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) for a classier vibe that’s still violently gritty. Matthew McConaughey is, as usual, McConaughey (that’s a good thing), Colin Farrell is a case study in unflappable hilarity, Hugh Grant is England’s greatest treasure, and The Gentlemen is a fun, twisty-turny joyride through Britain’s well-heeled drug trade. Its moments of shocking, often comical violence should pair nicely with a snifter of good cognac. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Gretel and Hansel
Osgood Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame) and director of the well-reviewed artsy-horrors The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, takes the classic woodsy fairy tale to folk-grotesque extremes.
The Green Ray
Another wonderful and offbeat romantic comedy by Eric Rohmer, The Green Ray (sometimes known as Summer) is about a depressed Parisian secretary who goes on various vacations where she fails to make friends or enjoy herself—until she meets a man in the train station on her way back to her home city.
Seattle Art Museum
Part of French Pleasures: The Films of Eric Rohmer
Aside from the assistance that the formerly enslaved Harriet Tubman got from the Underground Railroad, it’s hard to imagine exactly how she pulled off all her heroics. With Harriet, audiences are given a live-action reimagining of Harriet Tubman’s journey to self-liberation: changing her name, hiding in bales of hay, being chased by dogs, and getting cornered by armed men on a bridge before jumping into the river. Harriet shows how Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) got help from a secret network of safe houses and trusted free Blacks (Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe) who stuck their necks out to help her cause. Throughout the film, the only music you’ll hear, gladly, are negro spirituals—songs that enslaved Blacks used to express their sorrow and joy, and to secretly communicate. Harriet doesn’t subject the sensitive viewer to excessive gore or violence (though there is one particularly unsettling scene), because for once, this is a story in the “slave movie” genre about tremendous triumph, leadership, and Tubman’s unwavering faith, both in God and herself. JENNI MOORE
It's a Kiju Yoshida extravaganza at the Northwest Film Forum this weekend. This film, produced under Japan’s legendary Art Theater Guild, uses a dream-like approach to explore the political landscape of early-1970s Japan.
Northwest Film Forum
Hatidze is living in a way that has all but disappeared. She subsists in the Macedonian mountains in much the same world as her ancestors hundreds of years ago: hut made of stones, no electricity, no running water, living off the land. She lives with her very old mother, surviving by harvesting honey and selling it in the town market. Much of documentary follows Hatidze as she takes care of her mother, does her beekeeping, and moves around the land. She exists in harmony with her environment, taking only what she needs. When a nomadic Turkish family with seven wild kids and a RV arrive and set up nearby with their herd of cows, they change the atmosphere drastically. The father is under heavy pressure to support the family, and he has little regard for the environment or engaging in sustainable practices. The doc is an interesting glimpse into a quiet, old way of life. Macedonia is a beautiful and ancient land with lots of rocks and few trees. The pace of the doc, however, is slow and there is little story, and the film can sag a bit while the people just hang out and go about their daily business. GILLIAN ANDERSON
Ark Lodge Cinemas & Grand Illusion
Two sisters in Rio de Janeiro are unaware of one another's presence in the same city, kept apart by a long-ago lie, in Brazilian cineaste Karim Aïnouz's exquisitely filmed, midcentury-set drama.
AMC Seattle 10
Joe Versus the Volcano
When a young (and, frankly, dishy) Tom Hanks is diagnosed with a terminal illness (a "brain cloud"), a mysterious millionaire offers him the chance to perish in a much tighter way: in the eye of a volcano. It's a romantic comedy, so Meg Ryan (also dishy) naturally co-stars.
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
Received Oscars for: Best Adapted Screenplay (Taika Waititi)
The liveliest sequence in Jupiter Ascending comes near the middle of the film. We’ve already met Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Chicago cleaning lady who everyone is convinced is some kind of intergalactic royalty. She’s being protected by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a man-wolf hybrid who used to have wings but who now gets around on a pair of boots that allow him to rollerblade through the air. They’ve arrived on an alien planet, and Jupiter—who informs us in a voice-over at the beginning of the film that she is an undocumented Russian immigrant—has to become documented as space royalty. So she and Caine wait in line to receive her official papers. The bored bureaucrat at the end of the line sends her somewhere else because she doesn’t have the proper tax forms. It goes on like this for a while, with Jupiter and Caine being ferried from one line to another by a chipper android that slowly becomes disillusioned with the paperwork process. (Terry Gilliam makes a cameo as an office clerk, in case you didn’t already recognize the Brazil references.) Yes, in a movie packed with spaceship chases, intergalactic battles, a royal space wedding, and an exploding alien city, the part of Jupiter Ascending that feels the most fun and organic is a five-minute scene about the familiar aggravation of dealing with bureaucracy. PAUL CONSTANT
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).
Regal Meridian 16 & AMC Pacific Place
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
I say this with my whole heart: Greta Gerwig's Little Women is wonderful. Full of wonder, inspiring wonder, embodying wonder. Which is hard to do as the eighth adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved 1868 novel of the same name. Gerwig's adaptation—which she both wrote and directed—feels neither redundant nor stale. Rather, it's a fresh, modern-feeling take on a well-trodden story, stuffed with excellent performances, witty dialogue, and gorgeous costumes. The film jumps between Jo's "present" life in a post-Civil War America and her childhood, living at home with her three other sisters and mother, awaiting the family patriarch to return home from the war as they struggle to make ends meet. The direction and sense of characters are particularly strong in this adaptation. It fleshes each sister out so that she feels real and worthy of empathy, not purely serving as a star vehicle for Ronan in the same way the Winona Ryder version arguably did. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Received Oscars for: Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran)
National Theatre Live: Fleabag
This stage show by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, about a mad and sexually hungry young woman trying to make sense of life, inspired the Emmy-nominated TV show of the same name. See it broadcast live from London.
SIFF Film Center
National Theatre Live: Present Laughter
Matthew Warchus directs Andrew Scott (BBC’s Sherlock, Fleabag) in Noël Coward’s comedy about a star actor whose life spirals out of control as he gets ready to leave on an overseas tour. See it broadcast live from London.
SIFF Film Center
Charles Mudede has written, "If you love film noir, then you must love the Noir City festival, which will feature a number of known and less known movies in this genre that has lots of spiderlike women, lots of long knives, lots of rooms with dark curtains, lots of faces of the fallen, and lots of existential twists and turns." All of these will be delivered at the 2020 edition, which will focus on dark crime cinema from outside the US: The Beast Must Die and The Black Vampire (an adaptation of Fritz Lang's M) from Argentina, Panic from France, A Colt Is My Passport and Branded to Kill from Japan, and many more.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
*Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
We spend the bulk of our time with three people: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an earnest, anxious, B-list actor whose career is right about to curdle; Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick's toughed-up, chilled-out former stuntman and current BFF; and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), a bubbly, captivating actress who's just starting to enjoy her first taste of success in show business. Two of these people—the ones who're beginning to realize the world is no longer all that interested in what they have to offer—are fictional. The third is not, and how much you know about the real-life events that occurred in and around Los Angeles in 1969 will profoundly color your experience watching the film. How Tarantino plays with history in Once Upon a Time is one of the more intense and surprising elements of the film—and, thankfully, it's also one of the best. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Received Oscars for: Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Production Design (Barbara Ling, Nancy Haigh)
*Oscar Nominated Shorts 2020: Animated Program and Live Action Program
Sure, the Oscars’ depressing obsession with Joker (11 nominations! lol) has done even more damage to the crumbling reputation of an obsolete institution that barely even pretends to be anything other than an artistically meaningless, months-long bullshit marketing campaign. But once you look past a certain movie about how hard it is to be a white clown in America, there is some stuff getting recognized that’s actually good—and you’ve got a decent chance of catching some of it in the programs that collect this year’s nominated live-action, animated, and documentary shorts. If you’re only catching one of the programs, the animated one’s generally the way to go. ERIK HENRIKSEN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Oscar winners: Hair Love (animated) and The Neighbor's Window (live)
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
Shown in black-and-white at SIFF
Received Oscars for: Best Picture, Best Director (Bong Joon-ho), Best International Feature, Best Original Screenplay
Stella Meghie's romance stars Issa Rae as a woman investigating her deceased mother's life and LaKeith Stanfield as the hot journalist she falls for.
A prince becomes involved in the struggle between a forest princess and the encroachment of mechanization.
Museum of Pop Culture
Pr0n 4 Freakz
Saira Barbaric and Alistair Fyrn, founders of the porn production company ScumTrust, will kick off their second annual series of genderqueer/trans erotic films on Valentine's Day, making the Forum an inviting and inclusive hangout for LGBTQ+ smut enthusiasts. The aim of ScumTrust—apart from making their audiences feel hot and bothered through depictions of the "gritty parts of sex, life and pleasure"—is to celebrate all bodies and destigmatize sex work and sensual performance. Before the screening, shop a witchy market and socialize, and stay on after the show for a Q&A with the creators.
Northwest Film Forum
Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones
Danny Garcia’s documentary Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones surfaced around the 50th anniversary of Jones’s premature and controversial passing. It spends nearly half of its 96-minute running time diving deeply into the sordid details of this hugely talented musician’s demise. Jones’s story is familiar to hardcore Stones fans, but Garcia does a great job finding and questioning surviving members of the man’s inner circle and people in the Stones’ orbit during Jones’s seven years in the band. Jones was the most experimentally inclined Stone with regard to narcotics and music. The trouble was, he couldn’t compete with Jagger and Richards in the songwriting department (not many could), so he became increasingly marginalized when the Stones would enter the studio. The real meat of Rolling Stone is the forensic examination of Jones’s death, which occurred less than a month after his departure from the Rolling Stones due to his increasing unreliability. However, some observers viewed Jones’s exit as Jagger and Richards executing a power move without concern for their mate’s substance-abuse problems. DAVE SEGAL
Ark Lodge Cinemas
Sleepless in Seattle
Tom Hanks is a widowed architect who moves to a cool-looking houseboat in Seattle with his little son. Meg Ryan is a plucky Chicago journalist who prefers Tom's sexy voice to that of her boring (but ultimately very understanding) boyfriend, Howard. It's a classic and you love it.
Song to the Siren: The Beacon Guide to 4AD
In the wake of the December 2019 death of Vaughan Oliver, head of the English indie label 4AD's in-house design company 23 Envelope, Seattle indie movie theater the Beacon is hosting "Song to the Siren: The Beacon Guide to 4AD." Oliver was crucial in creating 4AD's mystique, his imagery on its record covers an ideal analogue to the music's often gothic, enigmatic, and emotionally fraught qualities. The Beacon plans to celebrate 4AD's audio/visual splendor with a profound plunge into the label's fascinating history via music videos, television appearances, rare live footage and interviews, segments from the 1985 film 23 Envelope Documentary, and more.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Let us first thank the laundry list of producers and studios behind Sonic the Hedgehog for acceding to the demands of the moviegoing public, replacing their nightmarish vision of the title character (WHY DID IT HAVE HUMAN TEETH?!?!) with a CGI creature that is far less nauseating to stare at for 90 minutes. Then let us regret that the last spurts of their budget were used up on that digital redux, leaving nothing to rescue the rest of the film from its oppressive mediocrity and copious fart jokes. As fun as it is to see Jim Carrey once again making use of his rubbery screen presence as Sonic’s nemesis Dr. Robotnik, no one else—especially our most milquetoast-y of movie thespians, James Marsden—dared to tap into a similar vein of campy insanity. ROBERT HAM
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
Regal Meridian 16 & Regal Thornton Place
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
Weathering With You
Audiences seem to love director Makoto Shinkai (Your Name) and his approach of pairing an original plot with standard anime emotional blocking: boy meets girl, girl has weather powers, boy and girl reach for each another’s arms in climactic moments, a character runs until they are exhausted and then they keep running, and also someone must die. Even when Shinkai introduces some interesting ideas about an impending climate apocalypse (oh, like us!), it all feels familiar: The world isn’t saved, but the world doesn’t end. The world continues, changed. SUZETTE SMITH
Regal Meridian 16 & Varsity Theatre
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.