Hollywood is making it easy to choose a date-night movie this Valentine's Day weekend, as the only new flick in Tacoma with a hint of romance is The Photograph, starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield. Your other choice is Sonic the Hedgehog, which, if that gets your romantic juices juicing, then more power to you. There's also still time to catch Oscar winners 1917, Little Women, and Ford v Ferrari in theaters around the area. Or you may want to settle on a late-night screening of Attack the Block, which is part of the Grand Cinema's Black History Month offerings. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our complete movie times listings.
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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
Attack the Block
Attack the Block ranks right up there with District 9 as one of the best alien invasion films in years (I personally prefer it to District 9, but you could make an intellectual case for either), and it’s right on time because 2011—the year of Super 8 and Battle: Los Angeles—has been the worst year for alien invasion films in recent memory. It easily could’ve been a schlocky B movie with a somewhat interesting gimmick (aliens invade the projects of London and inner-city youth have to fight them off), but Joe Cornish’s sharp script and deft direction make it a genuine thriller, with real stakes and a seemingly limitless supply of energy. Attack the Block is packed from beginning to end with ridiculous, glorious mayhem. There are enough samurai swords, car chases, gun battles, and shock-jumps to fill three less-ambitious invasion movies. The aliens are suitably, startlingly alien—and they’re vicious buggers, too, keeping the stakes high all the way through. It’s probably the best blockbuster you’ll see this year, and you’ll never even notice that it wasn’t produced on a blockbuster budget. PAUL CONSTANT
The Grand Cinema
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
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.
A psychologically tortured death row warden played by Alfre Woodard finds herself growing close to the man she's supposed to help kill in this Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning drama by Chionye Chukwu.
The Grand Cinema
*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
Received Oscars for: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing
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 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
The Grand Cinema
Received Oscars for: Best Adapted Screenplay (Taika Waititi)
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).
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)
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
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.
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
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
This 1971 classic, directed by Mel Stuart and adapted from the novel by Roald Dahl, has all of the creepy, whimsical, musical elements you love and is 100% Johnny Depp-free.
The Grand Cinema (Free Family Flick)
Our critics don't recommend these films, but you might want to know about them anyway.