The big opening this week is The Disaster Artist with James Franco, but there are also international classics, '80s favorites, and indie newbies to discover—don't miss the body-positive doc Bruk Out! A Dancehall Queen Documentary or an experimental backward-and-forward screening of The Shining with a live soundtrack. 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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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
It’s hard not to flash on “Boys Keep Swinging” when one boy-disguised character in Nora Twomey’s animated feature says to the other, “When you’re a boy…” As David Bowie’s song would have it, “nothing stands in your way.” When you’re a girl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 2001, however, everything is an obstacle. Eleven-year-old Parvana (Saara Chaudry), the heroine of Twomey’s feature, is a headstrong girl who helps her father, Nurullah, sell used goods at the market. A former teacher who lost his leg in the war, Nurullah shares his knowledge of history with her. When the Taliban gets wind of this subversion, they haul him off to jail and beat Parvana’s mother when she tries to bring him his walking stick, so Parvana makes like Mulan and cuts her hair to pass as a boy. Since Nurullah used to tell her stories, she does the same to comfort her little brother. In the process of providing for her family, she befriends another girl disguised as a boy who helps her come up with a plan to free Nurullah. KATHY FENNESSY
SIFF Cinema Uptown
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 Uptown & AMC Seattle 10
The Illinois Parables
Deborah Stratman's experimental documentary on Illinois-set stories of "settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism and resistance" will be screened on 16mm film. Structured like a religious service, this collection of vignettes contemplates technology, religion, and tolerance.
Northwest Film Forum
Here Comes the Night
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.” The penultimate film is Pretty Poison, a black comedy starring Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld as a deluded arsonist and his all-American girlfriend who become convinced that the local chemical plant is part of an alien plot.
Seattle Art Museum
The Light of the Moon
The Light of the Moon, a movie written and directed by Jessica M. Thompson, is set in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is now thoroughly gentrified. It concerns a young Hispanic woman, Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz), and her young white boyfriend, Matt (Michael Stahl-David). Something really bad strikes their perfect millennial world with the force and suddenness of a thunderbolt. It happens not long after a tipsy Bonnie bids farewell to friends and coworkers at a Brooklyn bar. One moment, she is walking down an empty street; the next, a stranger is threatening to kill her if she screams for help. He rapes her. Later that evening, Bonnie's boyfriend takes her to a hospital, where she gets a morning-after pill and a shot of a drug that will hopefully protect her from HIV. Eventually the cops call her about a suspect, but Bonnie is reluctant to go to the police station. It's very clear that what she wants is not justice but her life back. But this is wishful thinking on her part. The film, which is expertly paced and patiently scripted, presents Bonnie with only one direction—forward—but she resists it again and again. CHARLES MUDEDE
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Let's begin by recalling Jake Gyllenhaal’s bulging eyes in Dan Gilroy’s excellent thriller Nightcrawler. They are the eyes of a man who almost entirely lives in his head. With those eyes in mind, let's turn to the star of a new film that's also directed Gilroy, Roman J. Israel, Esq. Denzel Washington—a black American actor who has handled his Hollywood career far more prudently and effectively than, say, Will Smith—plays Mr. Israel, a man who, like Gyllenhaal's character in Nightcrawler, lives deep inside of his head. But we see his extreme inwardness not in his eyes but manner of walk. Roman J. Israel is a lawyer who has a monstrous memory. He can recall with no effort all of the details of dead and forgotten cases; he also lives in his vivid dreams of a better and more just American society. He walks like his mind has no idea that it has a body. Each step Israel takes is as stupid and graceless as the one before it and the one to come. The film is not Washington’s best, but it, and that mindless/lumbering walk, will not disappoint Washington’s fans.
AMC Seattle 10
Alternate Endings, Radical Beginnings
For World AIDS Day this year, the Frye Art Museum is partnering with Visual AIDS to present ALTERNATIVE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS, a collaborative video project featuring seven short videos on the HIV/AIDS crisis. The videos, created by a notable group of contemporary luminaries including rapper Mykki Blanco, focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS within Black communities. Blanco's involvement is enough to recommend this project, but the inclusion of voguer Kia Labeija and filmmaker Cheryl Dunye makes this a don't-miss event. CHASE BURNS
Frye Art Museum
Puget Soundtrack: Corey J. Brewer Presents The Shining Forward & Backward
If you love horror or movies or both, no doubt you've already seen Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, in which an evil hotel slowly awakens the psychotic murderousness in the soul of Jack Nicholson. Chances are, though, you haven't seen it screened backwards and forwards and superimposed over itself—an experiment apparently first conducted by John Fell Ryan. It's mesmerizing, a glimpse into the symmetry and synchronicity of the film. The Northwest Film Forum will repeat the experience for a Seattle audience, with Corey J. Brewer providing a live score that will "lean into [...] premonitions of a dreadful fate, illuminate subtext and amplify the nightmares echoing backward down the long halls of the Overlook Hotel."
Northwest Film Forum
Better Off Dead
John Cusack had his first starring role as Lane, a sad-sack high school student who, despite numerous attempts, can't manage to kill himself after his girlfriend dumps him for a dude with the superb name of Roy Stalin. He impulsively challenges the new man to a ski contest, but is it really worth winning his girl back when there's a cute French exchange student next door? This meandering, silly comedy painted the broad outlines of Cusack's sweet-loser persona and will appeal to anyone with a penchant for '80s nostalgia and a desire not to think about anything too hard.
Free Lunch Society
Even the most pointed documentaries occasionally need to show exactly what they’re jabbing at. The intriguingly wonky Free Lunch Society takes a distinctly favorable look at the concept of an Universal Basic Income, drawing copiously from the past—as well as a few ominous glimpses down the road—to make its case. The lack of any real opposing viewpoints, though, make it tough to dispel the aura of propaganda. Framed as a report from the distant future (complete with a vaguely Siri-sounding narrator), director Christian Tod’s film explores the idea of citizens receiving a living wage from the government, referencing examples such as the ongoing oil payments to Alaskan residents, economic experiments conducted in Namibia and Switzerland, and the White House’s scuttled attempt at redefining welfare in the 70’s. Fascinating as all the number-crunching is, however, it becomes apparent as Free Lunch Society progresses at how just firmly it stacks its chosen deck, with the voices against limited to a couple of quickly dismissed sound bites. That said, when viewed against the current backdrop of growing economic inequality and ever-more-apocalyptic tax plans, the information compiled here still makes for a pretty compelling argument, no matter how one-sided the delivery may be. ANDREW WRIGHT
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
The Nightmare (Der Nachtmahr)
German visual artist Akiz's The Nightmare (Der Nachtmahr) is a psychological horror film in the guise of a techno party (Atari Teenage Riot's Alec Empire composed the score). Opening inter-titles warn of extreme strobing, isochronic tones, and binaural frequencies before concluding, "Anyway...this film should be played loudly." All the better to lose yourself in the jackhammer beats blasting from clubs and cars as 17-year-old Tina (Caroline Genzkow, very good) turns to face the strange. It starts when a party pal makes a video in which she appears to morph into a freaky fetus from a science lab. Soon, Tina is hearing odd sounds and imagining disturbing scenarios. Then, the Tinabeast from the video materializes as a house guest that only she can see. Her parents call in a home security team, but they don't find anything. Her therapist recommends she talk to it, and she does, but it won't leave her alone. As the tiny monster becomes more visible, though, it also becomes more sympathetic. KATHY FENNESSY
It's Kurt Russell and Keith David's manly survival skills versus one of the grossest body-snatching aliens on film in John Carpenter's landmark horror film set in a remote arctic research station.
SIFF Film Center
Bruk Out! A Dancehall Queen Documentary
Bruk Out! is a documentary tribute to the wild energy and sweet moves of women in the global street dance scene, as six women congregate in Jamaica to compete in the "world's biggest Dancehall Queen competition." Cori McKenna's film valorizes this brash style as an expression of confidence and sexuality for women who haven't had the easiest lives.
Northwest Film Forum
A group of revolution-minded students hole up in a shabby Parisian apartment to devour the works of Mao and plot future acts of terrorism. Why, yes, this is a movie by Jean-Luc Godard. Although Godard’s work can sometimes seem dauntingly opaque, this newly restored 1967 film (loosely based on Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed) may be one of the best gateways into his distinct world, featuring some devastatingly acerbic satire, ingenious smash cuts to a vast array of mixed media, and deadpan one-liners that somehow hang around and accumulate mass. Time and copycats may have taken some of the novelty out of Godard’s style, but it’s still easy to be wowed by La Chinoise’s mastery of ideological back-and-forth (the conversation on a train between a student and an initially sympathetic older activist is a small rhetorical marvel), as well as the pinwheeling sense of invention that constantly threatens to burst the constraints of the frame. ANDREW WRIGHT
Northest Film Forum
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
AMC Seattle 10 & Meridian 16
The “Coco” in question is the oldest living relative of the film’s young protagonist, Miguel, but the story is driven by Miguel’s passion for becoming a musician—and the conflicted relationship he has with his family, who label music as “bad” for reasons he has yet to learn. But Miguel is tenacious when it comes to performing and after his abuelita smashes his guitar, Miguel steals the guitar of a famous ancestor. Since taking from the dead is a big no-no, Miguel crosses over into the Land of the Dead. Coco ends up being an exceedingly tender kids’ film with deep themes about mortality, ancestry, and memories—and any adult with a soul will be moved, too. JENNI MOORE
The Disaster Artist
Even if you have never seen The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s infamous masterpiece of shocking artistic poverty, there’s plenty to recommend James Franco’s re-creation of its conception and creation. Much like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, this film makes the case that a complete lack of talent and vision are not necessarily bars to entry for a life in show business, as long as you have an unlikely friend, and the strangest accent since Martin Short in Father of the Bride. Littered with hilarious cameos from the likes of Seth Rogen, Megan Mullally, and Bryan Cranston, The Disaster Artist is funny, sweet, and strange, with a central performance by Franco that rises to the level of either high camp or high art. SEAN NELSON
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
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
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
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
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 & Varsity Theatre
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
One way you know a film is written by a playwright is when everything everyone says in it is clever and wise and perfect. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, never fails on this score. The dialogue, particularly when given life by actors Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, is hilarious and provocative. But the biggest indicator that you're watching the work of a playwright is the sense that there's no way the story is what the film is really about. The three billboards in Three Billboards are signifiers and catalysts, but they're also red herrings (literally red, in fact). The billboards are taken out by Mildred (McDormand) as a way to publicly shame Ebbing's police chief (Woody Harrelson) for having failed to catch the man who raped and murdered her daughter. They also keep her grief alive and present tense. McDonagh depicts graphic violence and hateful language flippantly, in a style people like to call Tarantinoesque. But McDonagh is not a shock artist, not satisfied milking the disjunction of liking the bad cop or the mean lady. He's making the case that humans are complex, that "sympathetic" is relative, and that whatever horrible things people are capable of doing to each other (and they are indeed horrible), we still have to live together when we're done. SEAN NELSON