This weekend, whether you want to be among the first to see new blockbusters like Annihilation, catch up on Oscar contenders like Call Me by Your Name, revisit classics like The Dark Crystal, or immerse yourself in culture like at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, we've got you covered. Find all of our film critics' picks, follow the links to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our complete movie times listings or our film events calendar.
Annihilation could squeeze into just about any label you give it: a horror film; a science-fiction flick that toys with the possibility of extraterrestrial life; a wilderness adventure; a romantically yearning character study; a chilling, painfully suspenseful mystery; a “message” film about either the environment or male toxicity, depending on where you feel like directing your anger; an abstract, allegorical art piece with long stretches of dialogue-free visuals. The most accurate label is probably just to call it an Alex Garland film. After his stunning 2015 debut as director, Ex Machina, and now the gorgeous, terrifying, and spellbinding Annihilation, we’re starting to get a sense of what that is. These are films that use the tools of genre—science fiction and horror, predominantly—to explore the liminal space between what is human and what isn’t. Annihilation is the best kind of cinematic experience, one that floods the senses without battering them into submission, and one that moves the mind and heart without manipulating them. It’s a staggering thing to witness. NED LANNAMANN
Because I do not want to spoil the experience of this movie, I will not describe the path of the film's plot to its core problem, which concerns the unification of black Africa with black America. Out of a comic book, director Ryan Coogler crafted an important concept about how, from the unification, a post-pan-Africanist global Africanism can emerge. It comes down to this: black Africans and black Americans have to admit their respective failings. (My feeling is that Coogler is much harder on black Americans than black Africans.) As a whole, Black Panther is lots of fun and will excite a lot of discussion and strong opinions. But the most revolutionary thing about Black Panther is its city. The capital of Wakanda has skyscrapers, a monorail, sidewalks of grass, green buildings, farmers markets, and no cars. The whole idea of private transportation is foreign to this fictional society. If this black African capital has anything to share with the world, it's its city planning. CHARLES MUDEDE
Call Me By Your Name
Recently, The Stranger published a review of this film by noted heterosexual Sean Nelson, who couldn’t seem to shake his impression that Armie Hammer had never been near another man’s penis in his life. That may be, but focusing on that fact is beside the point, because the film holds out the possibility that these two characters (whom we also see having sex with women) are simply, inexplicably attracted to each other, “identity” be damned. Maybe they’re even straight, and it was just a charge in the air, a tension that had to be resolved, a mystery. This movie is a masterpiece and you should see it before Timothée Chalamet wins his Oscar. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
Meridian 16 & Varsity Theatre
The Dark Crystal
In 1982, the men behind Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Jim Henson and Frank Oz, released a film that can best be described as a 90-minute nightmare. It takes place on a planet called Thra that is ruled by creatures that look like king vultures. They are called Skeksis. They have the ugliest hands, and they wear layers of richly colored cloth, thick capes, and fabrics that hang from their bird-like bodies like a curtain in a theater. In one scene, the Skeksis turn against one of their own. They surround him and strip him of all of his clothes and jewelry. He is reduced to a shivering and vulnerable animal. This scene has never stopped haunting my imagination because it so perfectly captures the state of the human body. It too is feeble but covered in layers and layers and layers of culture. CHARLES MUDEDE
Pacific Place & Admiral
A Fantastic Woman
A trans woman and an older man fall rapturously in love—but he dies suddenly during their torrid night together. The bereaved Marina struggles to maintain equilibrium and dignity in the face of her lover's intolerant family. This film by Sebastián Lelio is an Oscar nominee and has already won a jury prize, a Silver Berlin Bear, and a Teddy at the Berlinale, as well as numerous other awards and nominations. And—for once!—the film boasts an actual trans woman, Daniela Vega, in the role of a trans woman.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
In director Agnès Varda's documentary, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, she joins forces with photographer and muralist JR, making use of his portable darkroom. The two journey through rural France together, capturing the people they meet through large-scale photo projects (and forming an unlikely friendship).
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Remember to be grateful for the little things. But on the upside: Sharon Horgan has a small part in a halfway decent, big-budget Hollywood comedy! And so does Lamorne Morris! And hey, there’s Kylie Bunbury! They’re part of an overachieving supporting cast that makes the perfunctory Game Night a much better movie than it should have been. Outliers like Girls Trip and The Big Sick notwithstanding, the comedy-movie genre is probably in its worst shape ever, so when Game Night achieves the bare minimum—making you laugh—it’s downright refreshing. The plot, not that it matters, involves Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and a group of friends trying to solve a puzzle mystery that may or may not include Bulgarian gangsters, Fabergé eggs, and the kidnapping of Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler). Is it all a game? Is any of it real? I 100 percent guaran-fucking-tee you will not care. Look—Game Night isn’t worth a lot of deep thought, and it’s not going to provoke any type of cultural conversation. But it’s got some laughs, and that feels like a lot right now. NED LANNAMANN
Pacific Place & AMC Seattle 10
As the stories of real-life Hollywood Ogres continue to pile up, the perspectives of women who’ve navigated the trenches are especially welcome. Half Magic, Heather Graham’s feature debut as a writer/director, is a witty, agreeably low-key comedy about Finding Yourself that benefits from a keen sense of irony about Tinseltown. Breezy though it may be, there’s also no shortage of righteous rue being flung. Graham plays a script developer stuck in a degrading relationship with a galactically piggish action star (a very funny Chris D’Elia). After breaking it off, she and some similarly romantically snafued friends (Angela Kinsey, Stephanie Beatriz) bond over the mysterious potential of some wish-fulfilling candles. Those expecting full-on coven shenanigans may be disappointed (The Craft this ain’t), but the only faintly supernatural approach serves the material well, boasting an organic, casual wobbliness to the conversations that juices even the most mundane scenes. Half Magic’s final destination may ultimately feel a bit predictable, but the generosity displayed on both sides of the camera throughout makes it easy to look forward to whatever Graham does next. ANDREW WRIGHT
Ghost in the Shell
I must agree with Charles Mudede: Forget about the whitewashed, live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson. I say this not because the 2017 version is bad (it is), but because it shouldn’t exist at all. Some things are better left alone, left as they were originally intended, left animated—and 1995’s now-classic anime sci-fi flick based on Masamune Shirow’s manga of the same name is one of those things. Everything about it is hypnotic and poetic, from the animations that transpose graceful, fluid character drawings against gritty, graphic cityscapes of a futuristic Hong Kong, to the exotic evocative soundtrack, to the story’s existential themes of consciousness and identity, to what reproduction means in a post-human body. All of this is encased within a story about a cyborg hunting a being known as “The Puppet Master,” who’s been hacking into and altering the computerized minds of cyborg-human hybrids. This version is in Japanese with English subtitles, which—if you are distracted by the inexpressive tonal quality of Mimi Woods in the dubbed version—is a very good thing. LEILANI POLK
Few pleasures rival the sight of obsolete technology framed as innovation. Hackers, like a few other films that came out around the same time (The Net, Virtuosity), was an effort to convert the fact that in 1995 everyone seemed to be talking about the World Wide Web and cyberspace and hacking into a sexy teen exploitation event. Unfortunately, it seems the filmmakers understood even less about the new world of fancy computers than the rest of our AOL CD-ROM-using asses, which is saying something. Also, the hackers in this movie all get around on Rollerblades, sooooo. This failed attempt at 1990s market cool (“Hack the planet!”) says a lot about what movie producer types thought 1990s kids would fall for. When you consider how much garbage we did swallow, it’s kind of sobering. It’s also nice to see so many actors at such a tender age who went on to either huge or interesting careers, most notably pre-zero-body-fat Angelina Jolie and pre-Trainspotting Jonny Lee Miller (who got married and divorced shortly after completing the film), as well as pre-The Wire Wendell Pierce, pre-Sopranos Lorraine Bracco, pre-Sports Night Felicity Huffman, pre-Scream Matthew Lillard, pre-Swimfan Jesse Bradford, and post-Short Circuit Fisher Stevens. SEAN NELSON
Have a Nice Day
Liu Jian's grim, bloody animated thriller about a young man who loses his head and steals a bag of dirty money is a wittily despair-filled panorama of losers, crazies, and bastards, against the gray backdrop of a Southern Chinese town. It won the Fantasia Film Festival's Satoshi Kon Best Animated Feature award and was nominated for a Berlin Golden Bear.
I Am Cuba
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, and financed by the Soviet Union, I Am Cuba is an epic that contains neither hard individuals nor personal experiences, but only subjects of a world-historical movement, a mass advancement, a triumphant (and bloody) march from a state of raw economic exploitation by multinational corporations and the American tourist industry to a new state of socialized production, education, transportation, and health. The subjects in the movie are wired to the spirit of the times. The melancholy prostitute, the severe soul singer, the serious student, the mountain peasant, the sugarcane farmer, his beautiful children, even his horse—from within each the whole idea of freedom is emerging. And the greatness of the revolution is matched by the greatness of the film's form. CHARLES MUDEDE
Tonya Harding was considered a freak, even though she was arguably the most technically skilled skater of her time. In the wake of the infamous 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan (which she may or may not have had a hand in), Harding was further ostracized, transformed by the nascent 24-hour news cycle into a white-trash demoness—so it’s important that any fictional depiction of her life acknowledge that she was also a real person who suffered. I, Tonya, is a solid attempt, largely thanks to Margot Robbie’s portrayal of a very human, very sympathetic Tonya. Without sugarcoating Harding’s personality (which could be caustic) or her tragic life (which was full of abuse and abandonment), I, Tonya tells a familiar story of a woman whose life was ruined by hapless, cruel men and sexist gatekeeping. It has been criticized for its stylized, darkly comic depiction of abuse, but it’s also one of the only portrayals I’ve seen that presents Harding as a person, and that acknowledges she was abused. It’s hard not to root for her in the film—she's a talented weirdo surrounded by bad men, whose raw determination can’t be blunted by an equally abusive and narcissistic mother (an excellent, unnerving Allison Janney) who teaches her to conflate being loved with being hit. It’s impossible not to empathize with Harding, and to imagine what her career and life might have looked like had she been able to make a clean break from her abusive family. MEGAN BURBANK
Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult begins with an accident: a drainpipe leaks dirty water from the balcony of Tony Hanna (Adel Karam) and splashes Yasser Abdallah Salameh (Kamel El Basha), the foreman of a construction company. It’s the kind of feud that could be easily resolved, if these were different men living in a different city at a different time. But they’re not: Tony is a Lebanese Christian who owns his own garage and watches fiery rallies on TV while he works. Yasser is an older Palestinian immigrant who used to be a civil engineer, but now, as a refugee, can only get hired for construction jobs. The setting is modern-day Beirut, still feeling the reverberations of the Lebanese Civil War that ended almost 30 years earlier. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the conflict, it’s recognizable: Two people are conditioned to hate each other, which allows a misunderstanding to snowball out of control. Things get ugly real fast—soon, the whole country is watching their fight play out in a courtroom. The Insult works best when Doueiri spends time examining the root system of hate. His characters are presented with hard questions: Is truth ever objective? Is it possible to separate the personal from the political? CIARA DOLAN
Kiki's Delivery Service
In an unnamed European country, ambitious young witch Kiki hops on her broomstick and sets up a freelance delivery business in the city, but must grapple with the tribulations of finicky magical powers, working, and growing up. A sincere and gentle parable about overcoming self-doubt and depression with the help of your friends, featuring the cute talking kitty Jiji and one of the subtlest, most bittersweet endings you'll ever see in animation.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
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
Memories of Underdevelopment
Memories of Underdevelopment has a scene near its beginning that the Republican senator Marco Rubio might find moving. It dramatizes the values that have helped Rubio rise to the upper ranks of a political party that rewards the most heartless Americans, the GOP. The scene is set in 1961. It's two years after the Cuban Revolution put Fidel Castro into power. A youngish man named Sergio is standing in Havana's airport watching his parents and wife walk to an airplane that will transport them to Miami. Those characters, like the others boarding the plane, are rich and want nothing to do with Castro's socialist experiment that's committed to depriving them of their property and privileges. Here is the reason Rubio is a member of the party that hates poor people. Just look at what poor people did to Cuba's rich—made them leave all of that wealth on a doomed island. As for the rest of the film, Rubio would most likely find it dull. Why does Sergio, the son of parents who own a whole apartment tower with a view of the sea, not leave this future shithole? No film in the history of cinema better captures the curse of the intellectual than Memories of Underdevelopment. Sergio doesn't leave with everyone else because he hates the rich. An intellectual can never side with those who make "callous cash payment" the entire meaning of society. The intellectual strives for a mental freedom that's immeasurable and promises no returns. CHARLES MUDEDE
It does not matter that this film is based on a real story. Reality sucks if it is not fucked with, which will certainly be the case in this crime drama about a woman (Jessica Chastain) who was a world-class ice skater and also happened to run a world-class underground poker joint. The Russians were in on the action just like the 2016 election. The FBI bust her shit up. What did she do wrong? Girls just want to have fun. The over-acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin decided that this would be the first film he directed. Expect to enjoy parts this film that are devoted to crime, and expect to be bored by the parts devoted to redemption. CHARLES MUDEDE
Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action and 2018 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated
If you aren’t going to see both programs, don’t miss the live-action films, which are suspenseful and deeply tragic. Reed Van Dyk’s DeKalb Elementary—set in an elementary school office during a hostage crisis—is bone-shaking in its empathy and realism. The tension that emerges between a substitute receptionist (Tara Riggs) and a mentally unstable young man (Bo Mitchell) simultaneously asks relevant societal questions and showcases the talents of both actors. Another standout is My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson Jr.’s film about the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Told from the perspective of Till’s uncle, Mose Wright (L.B. Williams), My Nephew Emmett explores the weighty silence of a good man living in Mississippi under Jim Crow laws. Wilson spools the audience’s affection around Mose, then breaks him down before our eyes. In that heartbreak, the film offers an important lesson: We need to remember our past, and continue fighting for a better future. SUZETTE SMITH
AMC Seattle 10 & SIFF Cinema Uptown
The alleged news that this will be Daniel Day-Lewis’s final outing as an actor would only be reason enough to see this film if you actually believe he truly won’t ever act again once he’s finished cobbling or whatever he’s doing this time. But really, all you need to know is that he’s in it. Boom, it’s a don’t miss. But then you see the trailer, in which obsessive jealousy burns slowly, causing terrible damage as it mounts, and you see the makings of a Paul Thomas Anderson gem, and another brilliant performance by Day-Lewis, one of the finest actors who ever drew breath. SEAN NELSON
The Post is Spielberg’s clear and passionate ode to the adversarial press, and not only is it a refreshing departure from his past work, it also turns out to be a good fit for his slick storytelling style. Spielberg is, at his core, a populist—a guy who wants to make crowd-pleasers so badly that his name has become synonymous with them. With The Post, Spielberg’s skills are put to a purpose. Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, the chain-smoking, gray-suited editor of the Washington Post. Hanks is the perfect choice for a character who’s juuust enough of a salty old sumbitch to keep things from turning into mushy hagiography. In one of the first scenes, Bradlee tells Katharine “Kay” Graham—the owner of the newspaper, played by grand dame of cinema Meryl Streep—to “keep your finger out of my eye.” It’s 1971, and the drama of the day concerns the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret history of the United States’ disastrous involvement in Vietnam and the lies the government told the American people along the way. Daniel Ellsberg (The Americans’ Matthew Rhys, who has a great cloak-and-dagger face) has started leaking the report to the New York Times, which gets slapped with an injunction. With the New York Times silenced, The Post follows the Washington Post’s journey to (1) acquire the Pentagon Papers and (2) decide whether to publish, risking lawsuits and jail time. The story has obvious contemporary parallels, with the press risking it all to check the president’s power—and Spielberg, surprisingly, rises to the challenge. In a lot of ways, The Post is the movie Oliver Stone wanted Snowden to be. VINCE MANCINI
Seattle Asian American Film Festival
The SAAFF will screen fictional and documentary stories of Asian American journeys, families, artistic innovations, and more—plus music videos and shorts, some of which are free to see.
Northwest Film Forum & Wing Luke Museum
Saturday Secret Matinees
Grand Illusion and the Sprocket Society will continue their tradition of pairing an adventure serial with a different secret matinee movie every week. This year, the serial is Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, and the theme of the feature film will change every fortnight (maybe they stole the idea from the Stranger's new printing schedule. Though probably not). The remaining themes include "Very Bad Deals," "Twisted Intrigues (this week)" "Atomic Monsters," and "Widescreen Thrills." The coolest part, from a film buff point of view? Everything will be presented on 16mm.
Scarecrow Video Presents: Red Roses of Passion
"You'll meet the alluring, exotic brides of Pan!" brays the trailer for this 1966 film by underground filmmaker Joe Sarno. A woman vanquishes her boredom by joining a sexy cult of women who stroke each other with roses, entrap men with a "love drug," and worship the half-man, half-beast.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is strange, sweet, and wonderful, and easily the greatest film ever made about a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with an amphibious fish man. A fairy tale set in 1962, it finds Elisa (Sally Hawkins) working the graveyard shift at the Occam Aerospace Research Center—a cold institution that marks a time, del Toro says, “where America is looking forward. Everything [is] about the future... and here comes a creature from the most ancient past.” That creature—wide-eyed, gilled, and played with strength and inquisitiveness by Doug Jones—is imprisoned at Occam. Locked in a tank and chained in a pool, he’s prodded by a reverent scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg) and tortured by a dominating military man (Michael Shannon). When Elisa finds him, she recognizes a kindred spirit—and feels an attraction that’s met with varying degrees of enthusiasm from her dubious coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her artist neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). Whether they’re human or... whatever the hell the creature is, The Shape of Water’s characters are played by some of the best actors working today—all of whom give whole-hearted, nuanced performances, anchoring a story that can feel bigger (and weirder) than life. The characters’ depth is reinforced by del Toro: his stories are marked by an earnest affinity for outcasts—which, in the falsely idealized America of the 1960s, includes the mute Elisa, the closeted Giles, and the Black Zelda. ERIK HENRIKSEN
The Italian horror classic about a young ballerina whose dance studio ends up being a coven of witches.
Ark Lodge Cinemas
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