This weekend, TWIST Queer Film Festival begins, so all your gay, lesbian, bi, trans, pan, nonbinary, agender etc. film cravings can be satisfied! There's also Damien Chazelle's moon movie First Man, full of cool space stuff and less-cool relationship stuff, Robert Redford's allegedly final film, The Old Man and the Gun, the dizzying climbing documentary Free Solo, and lots more. Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics' picks, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
The Atomic Cafe
US military and civilian authorities long belittled reasonable fears about radiation, particularly in the two decades after World War II, where such concerns would have interfered with the rush to test ever more powerful nuclear weapons. Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, and Pierce Rafferty’s cine-essay splices newsreels, US army training films, and educational clips that show the government’s efforts to give the public an illusion of control over the most terrifying force ever developed. By implication, it’s a narrative of a nation moving from jingoistic dominant-country pride to Cold War dread; a collective psyche whose only defense, like a picnic blanket thrown over the head of a duck-and-coverer, is a weave of patriotic-religious bluster and morbid humor. The Atomic Cafe provokes a surprising number of laughs, from a soundtrack of awe-inspiringly tasteless ‘50s pop songs to its extracts of horribly acted army films warning of Commies on the home front. A culture warps under the pressures of state-mandated calm, turning its possible doom into a fetish or a joke. JOULE ZELMAN
Bad Times at the El Royale
If a computer algorithm were to generate a movie about the late 1960s and early ’70s, using information solely gleaned from the films of Quentin Tarantino, the result might look something like Bad Times at the El Royale. A femme fatale with a dark secret? A scary-sexy cult leader? Muscle cars? Writer/director Drew Goddard attempts to cram all the terror and confusion of that era—from Watergate to Vietnam to the Manson murders—into a kitschy roadside motel that straddles the California-Nevada border. Unfortunately, by the end, I was just glad Bad Times was over. It seems like Goddard’s priority was creating an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, with five strangers who are lying about their identities stuck in this eerie alpine waypost in the middle of a storm. That said, some people will love Bad Times; it’s an odd hybrid of noir and horror, with smoky tension and violent jump scares. CIARA DOLAN
About 100 years ago, an Arizona town mass-deported 1,200 striking immigrant miners to the middle of the desert. On the exact anniversary of this act of cruelty, influential filmmaker Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine) recorded current citizens of Bisbee as they performed reenactments of their history.
SIFF Film Center
Based on retired police detective Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman, director Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman stars John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) as the first Black cop on the Colorado Springs police department in the early 1970s. Answering a recruitment ad in the local newspaper—and a knack for talking on the phone using his best “white guy” voice—Stallworth gets in good with the local Klan in Colorado Springs. But his attempt to infiltrate the organization hits an obvious stumbling block when it comes time to meet in person. Enter fellow police officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a nonpracticing Jew who agrees to pretend to be Stallworth in person. It’s difficult to know what to make of Lee’s latest joint. As with many of his other films, BlacKkKlansman constantly feels like Lee’s not sure what tone he wants to hit, so he hits them all, often with the subtlety of a brick to the face. It’s a solid work, albeit one that’s flawed in the same ways that nearly all of Spike’s best films are flawed. DAVID F. WALKER
Ethan Hawke's Blaze does what good biopics should do: spur enough interest in the movie's subject as to make viewers explore them in greater depth. Before watching Hawke's fourth feature film, I didn't know ill-fated country-music troubadour Blaze Foley from Just Blaze. After seeing it, I went on a YouTube and Wikipedia bender to make up for lost time. On that criterion alone, Blaze is a success. Hawke made a non-fan deeply care about an obscure figure who makes cult Americana artist (and Foley buddy) Townes Van Zandt seem like Bob Dylan in terms of name recognition. Although luminaries like Lucinda Williams, Merle Haggard, and John Prine have covered Foley's songs, he has remained a mysterious character—but perhaps not for much longer. Blaze Foley—poignantly inhabited by burly, bearded musician Ben Dickey—was a combination of holy fool, drunken poet, and soulful troubadour. Afflicted with polio and bedeviled by a troubled childhood, Foley poured his sadness into forlorn songs that made being downtrodden seem noble. His lugubrious voice—think a cowboy-hatted Leonard Cohen—perfectly embodied the Texas-based songwriter's heart-shattering lyrics. DAVE SEGAL
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Keira Knightley embodies the 19th- and 20th-century French novelist Colette as a country girl who blossoms sexually and artistically after marrying a witty small publisher in Belle-Epoque Paris. Critics love the biopic's wit and convincing depiction of a truly well-matched and adventurous couple.
AMC Pacific Place & AMC Seattle 10
Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians is romantic-comedy gold that should be celebrated not only for its cast but also for its perfect execution of light, breezy escapism. It centers on the relationship between NYU economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding). Only when Nick takes Rachel to a buddy’s wedding in Singapore does she discover his family is richer than God. From its stunningly attractive cast to its setting of gold-plated opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is pure eye candy. And with its modern take on boy-meets-girl that shows us a film can still be funny without anyone pooping their pants, Crazy Rich Asians is heart candy, too. This will become a touchstone romantic comedy, and it better not be another 25 years before there’s another movie like it. ELINOR JONES
The space stuff is great. When La La Land director Damien Chazelle’s biopic about Neil Armstrong focuses on NASA’s insanely ambitious and dangerous plan to put a man on the moon, it thrums with thrill and threat—from the astonishing scope of space to the claustrophobic confines of the command module, the best parts of First Man are worth experiencing on the biggest screen possible. Ryan Gosling offers an excellent turn as Armstrong, but even Gosling can’t liven up the story’s more pedestrian elements, which largely involve Armstrong’s relationship with his wife (Claire Foy) and his stoic mourning of his daughter. First Man bears the familiar curse of the biopic—it somehow feels both overlong and unsatisfying—and never quite escapes the shadow of The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s remarkable 1983 film that told a similar story with more grace and smarts. Still: the space stuff is great. ERIK HENRIKSEN
This highly praised, dizzying documentary reveals the heart-stopping journey of Alex Honnold as he conquered Yosemite's El Capitan wall without ropes or safety gear. You don't need to be a climber to be thrilled at this glimpse into human accomplishment.
This is a film that can only be described with an exploding-head emoji, because the climax, the big reveal, where all the shit hits the fan, is shockingly horrifying. Both because it seems so far-fetched (SPOILER ALERT: using hypnotherapy to mentally enslave black people in their own bodies so that white people might inhabit them and live in them instead of shriveling up and dying) and because it doesn’t (the lack of attention on the missing black people in the film, the festering white liberal ignorance and arrogance and general elitism, both reflections of the reality we live in now). This is one of my favorite films to come out of 2017. It also had a huge cultural impact. How many times have you seen the sunken place satirized in something else? LEILANI POLK
The Hate U Give
A black teen in a mostly white prep school witnesses the death of her childhood friend at the hands of police. In her drive to do what’s right, she can no longer separate her two worlds—the white school and the black community. Based on the young adult novel, George Tillman Jr.’s film looks honest, tense, and complex.
AMC Pacific Place
Kids take on climate change at the world's biggest high school science competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Is this feeling...hope?
SIFF Cinema Uptown
In 2017, it was hard to escape the mania around Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors, which exhibited at SAM and other major art institutions all over the US. Everyone wanted a selfie in front of Kusama's famous dots, but did anyone want to know about the woman herself? Kusama, a giant in contemporary art who had her work copied by an embarrassingly large number of male pop artists, including Andy Warhol, now gets a major documentary on her life, and it's just as fascinating as those peculiar, infectious, maddening dots. CHASE BURNS
Northwest Film Forum
I vividly remember watching Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s. The rubber-limbed Detroit native was the most gifted physical performer. She also created some of the most memorable characters, from news commentator Emily Litella, a discombobulated version of her beloved nanny, to slovenly rock singer Candy Slice, her unhinged take on Patti Smith. During her relatively brief lifetime, Radner kept journals in which she recorded her thoughts, which leaned more towards the sober than the goofy. Debut director Lisa D'Apolito uses passages from those journals in combination with home movies, audiotapes, and material from Radner's 1989 memoir, It's Always Something, to shape her affectionate portrait of the comedian. For most of the film, D'Apolito focuses on Radner's career. The documentary takes a darker turn as her movie career fails to take flight, she experiences a miscarriage, and then she finds out she has ovarian cancer. Radner made the most of the time she had left, but you can feel the walls closing in. The result is an unavoidably slight, if touching portrait of a talented woman who deserved more time to find a creatively fulfilling second act. KATHY FENNESSY
The basic plot of Mandy is nothing you haven’t seen before: Contented middle-aged man (Nicholas Cage) witnesses a hideous act of violence against his beloved; very discontented man employs an overabundance of esoteric weapons to wreak awful revenge. The bad dudes (and ladies) in this film are way more entertaining than usual: a drugged-out, dysfunctional hippie cult headed by a failed psych-rock star and the Cenobite-like bikers he summons from darkness. But what really distinguishes Mandy is its art-film slowness as it gently builds a world around Andrea Riseborough and Cage. The whole movie mimics a series of vintage metal album covers, and heavy filters, slo-mo, motion blur, trippy superimpositions, and animated sequences abound. Mandy herself is half oneiric goddess, half vulnerable loner, and Riseborough possesses a fascinating spookiness that makes you forget she’s a cliche. But don’t worry, lovers of Cage: Once the vengeance plot revs up, you get all the eye-bugging lunacy you’ve come for. There’s a chainsaw duel, a creature with a knife-penis, some spectacular beheadings and cranium-splittings, and a bouquet of nonsensical one-liners. JOULE ZELMAN
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Matangi /Maya / MIA
As the daughter of one of the founding members of the Sri Lankan guerrilla group the Tamil Tigers, M.I.A., born Matangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, and her family fled Sri Lanka in the mid-80s, going to the United Kingdom as political refugees while her father remained behind. The film's title tries to tie together all parts of Arulpragasam's identity: Matangi, the potential soldier in Sri Lanka; Maya, the talented art student in London; M.I.A., the world-famous rapper that’s not afraid to flip off Middle America. The film makes a compelling case for the existence of all three women, pushing against the idea M.I.A. embodies only one experience, one identity. Relying on a mixture of media footage and extensive home videos that she shot herself over the past 20 years, it’s clear that the rapper struggles to reconcile her expansive and contradictory history. If the documentary is unsatisfying, it’s because it gives us no definite answers about identity, about a reconciliation of self, about how to live in this world as many contradictions, belonging everywhere and nowhere. JASMYNE KEIMIG
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Night Eats the World
A young man parties too hard and sleeps through the zombie apocalypse in Paris. He barricades himself in his apartment building...but he's not alone. According to critics, this zombie movie focuses more on the isolation and terror of the survivor, distinguishing it from the usual shambling crowd.
Night Heat: The 41st Film Noir Series
They proliferated in anxious postwar America and still occasionally return to brood and smolder onscreen: films noirs, born of the chiaroscuro influence of immigrant German directors and the pressure of unique American fears. Once again, the museum will screen nine hard-boiled, moody crime classics. This week's film is Force of Evil, Abraham Polonsky's somewhat grandiloquent but tense drama about an ambitious lawyer working for the mob who becomes involved in a racketeering scheme. Fun (?) fact: Polonsky was blacklisted in Hollywood after he refused to testify before McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee. So was star John Garfield, who, legend has it, died young in part because of the stress.
Seattle Art Museum
The Old Man and the Gun
I have not seen this movie, which Robert Redford says will be his farewell to the silver screen. The man has been in the business forever. He is a Hollywood icon. He exits as a friendly bank robber. Redford is also the first human to see my daughter walk. This happened in 2001 during a party at the Sundance Institute. “She can walk,” he announced. And I did not realize who he was talking about until I saw that he was looking at my baby. I had never seen her walk before, nor had my wife. It was Robert Redford who had that first chance. Fare forward, Sundance Kid. CHARLES MUDEDE
Post Alley Film Festival
Strike a small but meaningful blow at the male domination of the film industry by attending this one-day festival, full of premieres and shorts by and about women—a total of 30 for 16 countries. Show up on time for mini quiches and drinks, and participate in a silent auction all day.
SIFF Film Center
If you want to get a sense of how brutal and violent the westward expansion of American civilization was, then watch this film, which was made in 1999 and is set in the middle of the 19th century. It’s about frontiersmen and their mad dreams and desires. The film, directed by the late Antonia Bird, is a journey to the barbaric heart of white American “progress.” When you get there (the heart of it) and see what it is, all you can say is: “the horror, the horror.” CHARLES MUDEDE
A voyeur in a wheelchair gets his comeuppance when he witnesses a murder and tries to do something about it. A claustrophobic delight full of "that Hitchcock touch" and boasting one of the best opening shots of any film ever.
Scarecrow's Secret Weirdo Triple Feature
We have full faith that Scarecrow Video staffer Matt Lynch will live up to his promise to choose for you the "weirdest, cheapest, unbelievable trash cinema ever to get mercilessly poured into your brainhole" for this triple feature. The titles are a surprise, but apparently "marooned astronauts, claymation monsters, samurai ghosts, and post-apocalyptic delirium" are all key ingredients. Bring a weird friend.
Seattle Latino Film Festival
This year's Seattle festival of Hispanic and Latinx cinema will highlight Spanish filmmakers and feature eight days of independent movies, filmmaker panels, workshops, and more.
Every year, selections from Iceland's Shortfish film festival—an offshoot of the Stockfish film festival—come to Seattle for a one-day mini-extravaganza with six shorts and appearances from featured filmmakers.
A Simple Favor
When beguiling, stylish Emily (Blake Lively) disappears mysteriously, her mommy vlogger friend Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) investigates. Paul Feig directed this well-received crime caper, which has been praised for its brains and the draw of its skillful and appealing stars.
The Sisters Brothers
A darkly funny, satisfyingly violent adaptation of Patrick DeWitt’s novel, The Sisters Brothers follows four men whose bumbling paths cross in Oregon and California in 1851. The titular brothers are assassins, and are played with predictable excellence by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix; when they aren't drinking or bickering, they're chasing two other men, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed (also excellent, also predictably). There are intense shoot-outs and there are goofy pratfalls, and there's dread and sadness and mishaps involving everything from an angry bear to a well-loved shawl. Somehow, the ungainly contraption holds together beautifully. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Social Justice Film Festival: #HopeDemocracy
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. The organizers write: "This year's screenings will fill in the national and local picture on immigration, Native American rights, Black Lives Matter, prisoner justice, and more. The festival will host several screenings with community groups and activists." This weekend, see the Indigenous Futures showcase, the disability rights doc Go Penguins!, and the sex trafficking resistance documentary The Turn Out.
Sorry To Bother You
When hiphop collective the Coup released their sixth album, Sorry to Bother You, front man Boots Riley, a former telemarketer and Occupy Oakland activist, described it as "a dark comedy with magical realism." That description applies equally well to his razor-sharp directorial debut. The title phrase, of course, is how telemarketers, like Cassius Green (Atlanta's and Get Out's Lakeith Stanfied), launch cold calls to potential customers. He's just a young dude trying to earn enough to graduate from his uncle's garage where he lives with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist. Every time Cash makes a call, marks (people on the other end of the line) hang up on him, so he tries on a Putney Swope-like white voice. Marks love their unctuous new pal and buy crap they don't need, and Cash finally gets to ride the Mishima-inspired gold elevator to RegalView's top floor where the Power Sellers, a shallow gaggle of strivers, congregate. Riley's ability to transfer his leftist politics intact from turntable to screen is truly miraculous. His film has a distinct look that ranges from pop-art bright to demonically dark, and Stanfield's lightly absurdist performance holds it all together. KATHY FENNESSY
AMC Seattle 10
Despite growing up in the straitened circumstances of a refugee camp in Lebanon, Mariam Shaar had the entrepreneurial spirit to found Soufra, a catering company. This documentary celebrates the cooperation and determination of Shaar and her collaborators.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
A Star Is Born
If you’re entering the theatre simply desiring a couple solid musical numbers, then your $15 will not have been spent in vain. Unfortunately, the movie falls flat as only a two-dimensional vignette of common misogyny can. Ally, the lead character played by Lady Gaga, is a woman who knows she has talent but needs to hear that she is sufficiently pretty to be an appropriate vehicle for said talent. Like any woman vying for a piece of the proverbial pie, she is just one man away from success. One man to lead her, to mold her, to push her through to the finish line. This man-shaped void is filled by her father, her husband, her manager, her producer, her choreographer, and her photographer, all of whom take credit or receive credit from other men for her creative output and appearance. A Star Is Born is a classic tale, meant to be mutable, fluid, to adapt within each age it is reimagined. But the flaws of the inherent narrative are too real, too every-day damaging to continue being told in the form of a cinematic fantasy. KIM SELLING
TWIST Queer Film Festival
Local shorts, indie features, and national or international releases will stoke and satisfy your appetite for gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and otherwise queer-focused films, from hot romances to incisive documentaries to perverse suspense flicks. The opening film will be The Happy Prince, a portrait of the outrageous playwright and bon vivant Oscar Wilde that's directed by and stars Rupert Everett. Other highlights this weekend will include QTPOC-POV shorts and the Dutch romance Just Friends. If you love queer movies and moviemakers, this festival is indispensable.
Based on a novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, the wife is Joan Castleman—played by a brilliant Glenn Close, in perhaps the most captivating role in her career. Joan is married to Joe Castleman, a much lauded novelist who has just found out he's won the Nobel Prize. When Joe receives the good news, Joan celebrates and quietly simmers at once. The undercurrent of Joan's anger plays throughout the film, and the viewer doesn't know why, exactly, she can't fully indulge in her husband's big win. He's been selected to replace Bill Clinton on the cover of TIME (this, along with ample smoking indoors, is one of the few reminders that the film is set in the early '90s). Why can't she just be happy for her man? The Wife sticks with you. Watch it with a friend—or, even better, your spouse—so you'll have someone with whom to discuss this Oscar-worthy work of art. KATIE HERZOG
AMC Seattle 10
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.