Choose from a wealth of documentaries, international masterpieces, and fun new flicks this weekend, whatever your mood—socially active, artistically meditative, or just in search of a good time. We recommend everything from the new Richard Linklater veterans drama, Last Flag Flying, to the the violent comedy Three Buildings Outside Ebbing, Missouri to the new world cinema opuses of the Romanian Film Festival. All of our critics' picks from now until Sunday are below. Follow the links below for complete showtimes and trailers, or, if you're looking for even more options, check out our complete movie times listings, and our film events calendar.
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Battle of the Sexes
Battle of the Sexes is about the real-life tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell). It was the most-watched sporting event of its time, and revisiting it now is like two tall glasses of red wine for our abused and blackened souls. Battle of the Sexes is directed by the same husband-and-wife team behind the chirpy Little Miss Sunshine, and you can tell—it’s got the same heart and levity that make you want to cry, not from laughing too hard but because life is sad. It's fun and suspenseful, and rounded out by a delightful supporting cast, including Sarah Silverman and Alan Cummings. Basically, watching a hardworking woman beat an entitled sexist prick on an international stage is glorious, and something I want on instant replay inside my eyelids so I can close my eyes and watch it instead of whatever's actually happening in 2017. ELINOR JONES
AMC Seattle 10 & Majestic Bay
Set in 1990s Paris and focused on a French activist group modeled on ACT UP (Acte! Oope!), BPM is beautifully shot, with impressionistic and associative editing. Surreal scenes of demonstrations that incorporate fake blood and scattered pills dissolve into dialogue-less, strobing club scenes—which then bleed into shapes that slide into focus as infected immune cells, only to become flowers in the next shot. In the world of BPM, there are no good victims or virtuous doctors, no recuperation arcs or desexualized queer characters. Instead, we see complex scenes of intimacy, the whole messy group of activists arguing over whether to employ an incremental, diplomatic approach, or to just throw fake blood on political leaders who don’t take AIDS seriously. It’s not a spoiler to say that young people die of AIDS in BPM, and when they do, they aren’t romanticized or made into martyrs. Instead, their deaths are treated as the senseless, unjust fates they are. MEGAN BURBANK
AMC Seattle 10
Cinema Italian Style
There’s no neat way to sum up the range of style and talent at this year’s Cinema Italian Style Festival, except that it will draw from the richest veins of the country’s filmic life. It's your last chance to catch a movie this year—the closing night feature is Easy, a surreal tale of an ex go-kart champion hired to transport a coffin to Ukraine. If you’ve never been, make this your first rendezvous with Cinema Italian Style. It looks like a particularly good year, full of the humanist spirit and earnest fun that’s always abounded in the country’s art. It might be exactly what you need as the year grows dismal.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Here Comes the Night: 40th Film Noir Series
As Charles Mudede says, “If you love cinema, then you must love film noir”—a category he describes as full 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.” This Thursday, the SAM is screening the extravagantly gothic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Seattle Art Museum
Jayne Mansfield was famous during her short life for being lovely, huge-bosomed, and outrageous. This entertaining film by the creators of the documentary Room 237, about the conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, takes a similar approach to Mansfield's glitzy high-camp image, dishing rumors, speculation, and wild invention. You're invited to consider whether Mansfield was a practicing devil-worshipper, whether she really had a thing with the founder of the Church of Satan, and whether she died by accident or diabolical curse.
Time to Die
The NWFF offers a rare treat: a 1966 Western written by Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes and directed by Arturo Ripstein (Deep Crimson), who's held in high esteem in Mexico and Europe but underseen and underappreciated here. Ripstein's first feature critiques macho revenge culture in a story of an ex-con returning to the town where he killed a man after 18 years of prison. The victim's son is determined to kill him, no matter the cost. This is the first time that the movie will be screened in the US, and it's been newly restored for the occasion.
Northwest Film Forum
Adapting a book by Brian Selznick, the story starts off in the 1970s with a young Minnesotan boy (Oakes Fegley) struggling to cope with the loss of his mother. After a freak lightning strike leaves him deaf, he runs away to New York to find his mysterious father. As clues inexorably lead him toward the gargantuan American Museum of Natural History, the movie keeps flashing back 50 years, zooming in on a hearing-impaired girl (Millicent Simmonds) with a similar tie to the landmark. Unfortunately, the backdrops often tend to overshadow the actual goings-on: Charming as the young performers are, the lengthy sequences of them traipsing through various exhibits come off as maybe a bit less entrancing than intended. Once Wonderstruck’s stories finally sync up, however, it’s possible to forgive quite a bit. Set within the Queens Museum’s astounding model of New York, Wonderstruck’s finale finds Haynes in top form, depicting loss, memories, and hope in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Sheer movie magic should never be discounted, even when it takes a while to arrive. ANDREW WRIGHT
AMC Seattle 10
ARCS Romanian Film Festival
The fourth annual Romanian film festival will celebrate Romania's cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity. On the lineup are films by two of the most celebrated directors working in the country, Cristi Puiu (famous for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) and Radu Jude (director of Aferim!), as well as Iulia Rugină's award-winning Breaking News.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Bill Nye: Science Guy
It's a dark moment for science literacy when the consequences of ignorance have never been higher. If only we had a popular media figure who taught us the wonders of physics, marine biology, math, astronomy, paleontology without pulling our teeth! Bill Nye recalls studying with Carl Sagan, attacks bastions of ignorance, examines evidence of global warming, debates climate deniers, and advocates for solar sails with his trademark manic SCIENCE!!! enthusiasm—and some behind-the-scenes anxiety and fatigue.
SIFF Film Center
This festival, in association with the Portland German Film Festival, screens new and classic German-language cinema from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Films include a documentary on the great actor Udo Kier and another about climbing a remote rain forest mountain, the classic 1946 film Murderers Among Us, a historical drama about a Swiss police officer who broke the law to rescue foreign Jews, and more.
Northwest Film Forum
Last Flag Flying
What is the value of a comforting lie? That’s the question at the heart of Last Flag Flying, Richard Linklater’s sort-of sequel to 1973’s The Last Detail, in which three Vietnam vets reunite after decades apart to bury a casualty of the Iraq War. None of them can quite agree on how much truth can be humanely dispensed in the wake of a tragedy. Fuck if I know either, and fuck if Linklater knows, but he sure is willing to puzzle it out. Linklater’s three Vietnam vets are played by Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne. Cranston goes big with his performance, Carell goes small, and Fishburne does both. The end result is a stellar ensemble wrangling heavy emotional beats and novelistic dialogue; on their long, strange funerary journey, the three engage in a great deal of comradely bullshitting, some soul-searching, and one of the funniest exchanges in close proximity to a corpse I’ve ever seen. BEN COLEMAN
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Two men are stuck together during a protracted bout of holiday travel. One (Steve Martin) is well-off, irritable, and stuffy. The other (John Candy) is garrulous, simple, and annoying. The first man eventually learns to accept the second man, and in accepting him, acquires an emotional understanding of key Thanksgiving concepts.
The recent death of Harry Dean Stanton has provided an excellent excuse (as if you need one) to revisit what may be his finest hour (and 32 minutes): Alex Cox's immortal punk/sci-fi/crime/alienation comedy about a young car thief who gets recruited into the world of automotive repossession and learns a lot more than he ever expected about how the world really works. SEAN NELSON
A woman falling prey to psychotic romantic obsession is a story older than the Bible, so plotwise Nathan Silver’s Thirst Street about a grieving American flight attendant who moves to Paris to stalk her one-night fling, is nothing new. And truth be told, the opening minutes play like a marriage between Wes Anderson and 1970s giallo, with stylized montage, Anjelica Huston’s wry narration, and candy colors. What Thirst Street gets painfully right, though, is the desperate alienation of living in a beautiful country that doesn’t want you and that you don’t understand. Lindsay Burdge plays Gina, a shy woman whose boyfriend has recently committed suicide. In a stupor, she allows her well-meaning coworkers to drag her to what the outdated guidebook promises is a quaint Parisian cabaret. It’s actually a strip club, and Gina goes home with the sketchy bartender, Jérôme (Damien Bonnard). Whether by chance or because we’re trapped in her already unmoored perspective, he looks just like her dead partner. By morning, she’s in love. We’ve all heard enough boiled bunny references to last a lifetime. But Burdge plays Gina as a devastated, rootless woman rather than male paranoia given flesh. Somehow, her acting combines with cinematography straight from an artsy 1970s porno and a soundtrack of woozy love songs to create an expressionist portrait of overwhelming loneliness. JOULE ZELMAN
Northwest Film Forum
When a movie comes along that is good—legitimately, sincerely good, like flowers or soup or dogs—I find myself grasping at a way to describe it. Wonder is that good movie. It’s about a little boy, Auggie (Room's Jacob Tremblay), and his mom (Julia Roberts), his dad (Owen Wilson), and his older sister (Izabela Vidovic). Auggie was born with a condition that makes him look different, so that's what Wonder focuses on—but it’s not really what this movie is. This is a portrait of a group of humans—grown-ups and kids, but mostly kids—who are whole, complicated people, who have opportunities to be selfish and opportunities to be kind. Wonder defaults to kindness in a manner that feels both totally inspiring and completely organic. ELINOR JONES
The Problem with Apu
A Seattle comedian who made it big, Hari Kondabolu (who was called "punk as fuck" by musician Katherine Hanna) delivers very funny insights on being Indian in a culture where his parents' accent is still a punchline. In that spirit, he examines The Simpson's Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who exemplifies the lazy and trivial characterization of immigrants from the subcontinent so common in mainstream movies and TV.
Northwest Film Forum
A Bad Moms Christmas
When I got home from A Bad Moms Christmas, my boyfriend asked me what made the moms so bad. “THEY WERE FINE,” I said, in all caps, because I was mad. “THEY’RE JUST WOMEN TRYING TO LIVE. AND ANOTHER THING...” He nodded, because he gets it. He didn’t go with me to A Bad Moms Christmas because he was at home putting our daughter to bed while I was at a movie by myself on a Monday night, because most human parents enjoy time away from their children—even if that time is mostly spent being confused about why the Bad Moms movies are in any way subversive. Also! This movie was written by men (*spits on ground*) and you can tell. Funny women with dirty mouths are a beautiful thing, and I don’t know why none were asked to liven up this awkward script. We work twice as hard for our money and this movie is what we’re supposed to spend it on? PLEASE!*
* It is important to support films starring women, so I still encourage you to see this movie, even though we deserve a lot better. ELINOR JONES
Blade of the Immortal
Takashi Miike has pinballed from genre to genre during his singular career. Blade of the Immortal, Miike’s 100th film (nope, not a typo), finds the director in something approaching traditionalist mode, using his penchant for splattery weirdness to bolster the story, rather than careen entirely off the rails. While the swordplay here isn’t as crisp as in his previous Thirteen Assassins, it more than compensates with sheer riotous excess. Critically speaking, this thing’s a hoot. Compressing Hiroaki Samura’s long-running manga series, the story follows a grumpily honorable swordsman (Takuya Kimura) rendered unkillable after being infected with sacred bloodworms. After half a century of wandering, he finds himself entrusted with helping a young girl avenge her family. Heads soon roll, along with pretty much every other conceivable body part. Blade of the Immortal’s best element proves to be its main character, whose deadpan, long-suffering demeanor gives the film its final touch of welcome absurdity. Whether fighting a woman armed with a lethal musical instrument, or facing off against what may literally be a zillion goons during the hallucinatorily gooshy finale, for him it’s still somehow just one damned thing after another. ANDREW WRIGHT
Blade Runner 2049
Director Denis Villeneuve has his work cut out for him. 2049 not only has to stay true to Ridley Scott’s circa-1982 concept of the future, but also has to deliver a future that feels plausible in 2017. The result—in large part thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins’ jaw-dropping talent—doesn’t disappoint: 2049’s future feels safer and cleaner, lacking Blade Runner’s sensuous grime (there’s not a single cloud of cigarette smoke), but its imagery is no less striking, particularly when Villeneuve and Deakins go wide with hypnotic vistas of a decaying Earth. Even if this future is less believable and tactile than Scott’s, it gets the feel right. The worst parts of 2049 are those that lean hardest on Blade Runner, but thankfully, Villeneuve & Co. are mostly content to build and expand rather than revisit and rehash. There are moments of strange and genuine creepiness; there are jarring sights that, without a single word, evoke hundreds of years of history; there’s a desolate ache that makes the future seem both beautiful and horrible. At its best, 2049 finds LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling) moving through a dreamlike, half-familiar dystopia—asking a few old-school Blade Runner questions about the nature of identity, and adding many more of his own. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Brimstone & Glory
Tultepec, Mexico is one exciting town. More than 75% of its residents work in the pyrotechnics industry, preparing for the 10-day festival of San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks. This tribute to the death-defying artistry of an entire town offers your eyes and ears some literally awesome spectacles—multicolored explosions, life-size glowing papier-mâché bulls, and GoPro views from the heads of men climbing terrifying scaffolding.
Northwest Film Forum
No screening on Friday.
The Florida Project
The real reason The Florida Project is a breakout success, and the reason everyone should see the film, is the rowdy, previously unknown seven-year-old actor Brooklynn Prince. Moonee, played by Prince, is a mischievous tyrant who spends her days terrorizing the Orlando hotel she calls home. Like director Sean Baker’s Tangerine, the characters in The Florida Project don’t want anyone’s pity. Prostitution, drugs, arson, assault—it all goes down in the Magic Castle, the purple hotel (or project) where Moonee lives. Prince—with considerable help from her costars, Baker, and screenwriter Chris Bergoch—resonates beyond the twee and cute. At the film’s climax, Prince delivers a performance that would make even the surliest curmudgeon cry. CHASE BURNS
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & AMC Seattle 10
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos's morality play uses the myth of Iphigenia—who was sacrificed by her father to appease the gods—as a springboard, but it's the mythology of cinema that Lanthimos is intent on exploding as he uses sterile, slow, almost Kubrickian imagery to interrogate the story. What's happening onscreen isn't important. What's going on beneath the surface is. The lives of husband-and-wife doctors Steven (Colin Farrell) and Anna (Nicole Kidman) are all surfaces. Other than some doctor-patient sex play in the bedroom, the only thing that suggests anything other than tranquil domesticity is Steven’s unconventional relationship with a teenage boy, the nature of which is deliberately ambiguous at the film’s start but becomes painfully defined as it unfolds. Sacred Deer is, in the moment, an unpleasant experience. But as the director is careful to announce early on, this is not a film about what you see—it’s about what you realize hours, maybe days, after you’ve left the theater. Lanthimos gets under your skin and stays there. NED LANNAMANN
AMC Seattle 10 & SIFF Cinema Uptown
Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan, never better) is a teenage girl striving to find a self she can live in while stranded in moribund, lower-middle-class Sacramento, "the Midwest of California." Her efforts begin with that name, which she bestowed upon herself—Christine was too normal—and loudly demands that everyone call her at all times. The crusade also manifests in the form of hair dye, petty crime, habitual lying, sexual experimentation with unworthy boys, and musical theater. Though Lady Bird will perform for anyone, the only audience she truly wants is her exasperated, judgmental, sharp-tongued mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf, almost certainly the greatest living actress). It's an exquisitely observed portrait of a mother and daughter so intractably at war that they can't see how close they are until it's too late. SEAN NELSON
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & AMC Seattle 10
We’ve already had a few fine cinematic attempts to tell the story of the brilliant yet tortured Vincent van Gogh. The one element missing was the beautiful, slightly unsettling look of Van Gogh’s groundbreaking artwork. Loving Vincent, the latest from animators Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela, is the first of these biopics to get it right. That’s because the entire film is composed of actual paintings: The international production employed more than 100 artists to paint each frame of the film on canvas, copying the thick brushstrokes and brash colors of Van Gogh’s most celebrated works. The rest of Loving Vincent doesn’t hit the same heights. Kobiela and Welchman’s script is a leaden, Citizen Kane-style attempt to investigate Van Gogh’s final days in France through the efforts of Armand (Douglas Booth), a young postman’s son attempting to deliver the artist’s final letter. It’s a well-meaning way to let us cross paths with many of the villagers whom Van Gogh painted, but it’s hampered by conspiracy theories and a lumbering pace ROBERT HAM
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Meridian 16
Before he was the first black justice on the United States Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer who traveled the country as the NAACP's first attorney, defending innocent black people who had been accused of crimes they didn't commit. Marshall is about one of those early cases. In a courtroom plastered with murals of bound Native Americans, Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) defended a black man accused of raping a wealthy white woman (Kate Hudson). Marshall wasn’t allowed to speak in the courtroom; that honor fell to his white co-counsel, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad). If this case were tried today, we’d know the cards were stacked against them—but this took place in the 1940s, when schools were legally segregated and Black people were still at the back of the bus. There are a few weird things about Marshall. The first weird thing is that it’s... funny? Boseman and Gad are both great, and the smarmy DA (Dan Stevens) is deliciously hittable. The second weird thing about Marshall—which is notably less delightful than the first—is that a large part of the film focuses on proving that a woman lied about being raped. This is gross, no matter how much we're rooting for the defendant. ELINOR JONES
Social Justice Film Festival
Does the phrase “social justice” make you roll your eyes? The Social Justice Film Festival is not the movie equivalent of the “safe space” so dear to the right-wing imagination. As social justice provides the only throughline, many of the movies have little in common. But the selection skews toward limber, on-the-ground filmmaking in the midst of protests and conflicts. This is true of Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine, directed by the American Academy Award-winner Mark Jonathan Harris and the Ukrainian Oles Sanin; The Dogs of Democracy filmed by Mary Zournazi in the midst of anti-austerity protesters and their attendant adorable street dogs; and Whose Streets? by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, which takes a camera crew amidst a group of people, the black community of Ferguson, who have been pushed too far and lost their fear. From Native American memory (Honor Riders) to marine ecology (A Whale of a Tale) to “intactivism” (American Circumcision), the festival refuses to lift one cause over all others as it declares the value of humans and animals. Gaining SJW brownie points is the least important reason to go.
The Swedish director Ruben Östlund is a rising star in European cinema. And judging from the buzz about his latest film, The Square, it is only a matter of time before he conquers the United States. At the center of the film is Christian (Claes Bang), the head curator of X-Royal, a huge and powerful modern art museum in Stockholm. One day, three con artists on a city street lure Christian into a clever trap and mug him. He loses his wallet and slick smartphone. Back at the office, and still in a state of shock from what happened to him in broad daylight, he locates his smartphone on the web. It is in a place that we in the US would call the projects. Encouraged by a friend, he decides to take matters into his own hands and does something that changes his life.Before the act, the art was just about names, money, and academic concepts concerning the human condition in a world that has no alternative to neoliberal capitalism. After the act, the art is directly about his life, clothes, car, job, relationships, and city. The art asks: Why is there so much poverty in a rich city? Why is it so easy to ignore beggars? Why is wealth so unfairly distributed? And if it were fairly distributed, would crime vanish? What kind of animal is the human? CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Thor: Ragnarok is, finally, a legitimately great Thor movie—one that proves goofy comedy, goofier mythology, 1980s-tinged sci-fi and fantasy, and Led Zeppelin aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, all that stuff goes together like... whatever Norse gods eat instead of delicious sundaes! And the cherry on top is the Incredible Hulk! And a giant wolf! And Jeff Goldblum! Jeff Goldblum in space! Wow. This sundae analogy fell apart fast. I’m not great at sundae analogies, and to be fair, Ragnarok isn’t great at... ah... narrative cohesion. Some might quibble that Ragnarok is disjointed; I’d counter that its tone—exciting and quippy and sweet—is always dead on. For that, and for Ragnarok’s constant hilarity, we can thank Taika Waititi, the New Zealand director who, until now, has made slightly more low-key fare: Flight of the Conchords, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Like those projects, Ragnarok is as good-hearted as it is clever; as much as its characters might smash each other across garbage planets, and as godlike and monstrous as they might be, Waititi treats them like real people. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh's films In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths unite the visceral appeals of brutal violence and foul, witty dialogue. In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the indomitable Frances McDormand delivers both as a mother furious at the police's slow response to her daughter's unsolved murder. When she pays for three screaming-red billboards demanding action from Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), she escalates a feud that quickly turns bloody. McDormand is a perfect conduit for white working-class anger of the non-KKK variety.
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Meridian 16