For those headed to theaters in Tacoma this weekend, your choices include Pixar's magical road-trip comedy, Onward, featuring the voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland. There's also Ben Affleck's sort of meta-comeback movie, The Way Back. as well as the critically acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire in case you're looking for more adult-oriented fare. 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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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
Kitty Green's The Assistant works quietly in its condemnation of abusive men in power. There's no passionate monologue about how a system enables a predator like Harvey Weinstein to comfortably exploit women, nor any cathartic scenes of abusers getting their comeuppance. Rather, the film focuses on the minutiae of office operations and existence, centering the person least in power—a female assistant—as a means of exploring exactly how abusers are enabled by everyone around them. While The Assistant is pretty self-contained, it’s perhaps one of the first films in this #MeToo-era to grapple with the people (men and women alike) and corporate structures that allow for abusers to flourish. They didn't arrive into their respective scenes that way, rather, a misogynistic culture that mandated we "look the other way" helped to normalize their behavior. Green did well to focus on the small actions of an assistant like Jane—the devil is in the details, after all. JASMYNE KEIMIG
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
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
From the moment Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) bounded down the steps of his staircase in full scowl, I wanted to see Emma. again. I went in pretty hyped up because Anya Taylor-Joy was making full use of her signature penetrating stare to play the character closer to the book—little did I expect that she would be matched frown for frown by Nighy, playing her father, whose background sighing and perpetual phobia of drafts lit up every scene with an endearing ridiculousness. SUZETTE SMITH
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
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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
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey is Harley Quinn/Margot Robbie’s show, and just like in the not-so-great Suicide Squad, it’s a show she clearly steals—and a show with a distinctly feminist take on the glut of male-oriented superhero cinema. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
The Invisible Man
Film students and theorists are going to be studying the career of writer/director Leigh Whannell for decades, trying to suss out how this young Australian has mined piles of gold from high-concept but low-budget popcorn fare. Whannell's been responsible for bringing two hugely successful horror franchises into the world—the sagas of Saw and Insidious—and, in 2018, turned the fairly ridiculous B-movie plot of Upgrade into a hit thanks to his stylized direction and pulpy action sequences. Whannell is about to have another hit on his hands with Blumhouse Productions’ The Invisible Man, starring an excellent Elisabeth Moss. Made on a slender budget that was likely eaten up by CGI effects, this riff on H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic is a slow, steady squeeze from a vise that doesn’t release its grip until its final shot. ROBERT HAM
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
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
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My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Dubbed and Subtitled)
The latest installment of the anime franchise, in which Deku and his fellow heroes take on an evil villain on an island, should please fans.
Especially when compared to Pixar's best, there's definitely stuff to nitpick in the studio's latest, Onward. Fair? Maybe, but then again, even Pixar movies can have a hard time living up to Pixar movies. But to focus on Onward's benign, minor missteps—none of which detract from the story's surprisingly emotional arc—is to miss the bigger picture. Funny and wholly original, it's a fantasy adventure that digs into something nearly all of us know but rarely talk about: How the memory of an absent family member can hang over the lives of the living. ERIK HENRIKSEN
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
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Portrait of a Lady on Fire
From Céline Sciamma (Girlhood), Portrait of a Lady on Fire is set in 18th century France, where young artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) for potential suitors to fall in love with. One thing: Héloïse does not want her portrait done, as she does not want to get married. So Marianne poses as her maid to get close to the lady, completing the painting in secret. But of course this closeness and secretiveness make them all hot for each other. Portrait was the first woman-directed film to take home the Queer Palm award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. JASMYNE KEIMIG
The Way Back
Ben Affleck plays an alcoholic coach who returns to the town where he was a teen basketball star in this redemption drama by Gavin O'Connor.
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.