Some provocative foreign films are reaching Seattle this weekend, including Jia Zhangke's gangster drama Ash Is Purest White and Christian Petzold's drama of resistance and fascism Transit. But if you just want something fun to relax to, check out the lighthearted Shazam! or the beloved sci-fi The Fifth Element. 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.
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted.
Best of the 45th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival 2019
For one night only, catch touring films selected by the Northwest Film Center, including charming animations, an exciting wrestling documentary from Spokane, a narrative about four Arab teens in search of a pool in Vancouver, and more. Filmmakers Caryn Cline and Linda Fenstermaker will attend.
Northwest Film Forum
Todd Miller's superbly edited new documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, which put Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon (and sent Michael Collins around its dark side), adds no narration or talking heads, other than contemporaneous sources. Although you know how things turned out, you're plunged into the suspense of the moment, when even the slightest miscalculation could have doomed the astronauts to a lonely or fiery death. Listen to that amazing sound design!
Ash Is Purest White
Cinema is often at its best when it places characters in a social and cultural world that is rapidly changing. The grandeur of the latter infuses the little events of the former (drinking in a bar, dancing in a club, walking down a street) with the force of an epic. This is Ash Is Purest White, a crime drama by the highly regarded Chinese director Jia Zhangke. The background is China’s recent and still-occurring economic inflation; in the foreground are two lovers, one of whom is a small-time gangster in a town that’s becoming a huge city. Their love is tested and twisted by the world-historical experience. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Beach Bum
The Beach Bum is a movie that, for better or worse (mostly better? I think?) feels pieced together from ad-libbed sequences—it’s not hard to imagine Korine renting a mansion and a yacht and then just dumping all these people—along with a very high number of unnamed, topless women who are given neither personalities nor lines—in front of some cameras and just seeing what happens. Like Korine's equally insane Spring Breakers, The Beach Bum looks simultaneously gorgeous and garish—all radioactive sunsets, fluorescent clothes, and light shimmering along waves and guns and bongs—and also like Spring Breakers, big chunks of the movie are basically music videos. There are Snoop songs, and Jimmy Buffett songs, but there’s also the Cure, and Van Morrison, and Gordon Lightfoot. Matthew McConaughey as Moondog jams and slurs and mumbles poetry and relaxes in a bunch of boats, and he rounds up a slew of homeless buddies for an impromptu pool party, and at some point he may or may not win a Pulitzer. ERIK HENRIKSEN
The Bikes of Wrath
The Banff Film Festival's People's Choice Award winner The Bikes of Wrath follows five Australians who attempt to cycle from Oklahoma to California in the path of the westward migration undertaken by The Grapes of Wrath's Joad family. Stick around afterward for a Q&A with the filmmakers.
Cascade Bicycle Club
In Black Mother, New York–based filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah presents Jamaica in much the same way he presented Harlem in his first film, Field Niggas: as a stream of social consciousness. The black bodies he films on the streets—and in the alleys, churches, homes, woods, and fruit-rich markets of the island—have disembodied thoughts about colonial history, food, health, economics, religion, life, afterlife, globalized exploitation, and racism. Allah, however, emphasizes the bodies of black women, who generate not only black thoughts but also black bodies. In this way, Black Mother is like Beyoncé’s “visual album” Lemonade, a 65-minute exploration of pan-African female blackness that includes images shot by Allah. But the force of feeling in Black Mother is much deeper and even more dangerous than that which courses through Lemonade. CHARLES MUDEDE
Northwest Film Forum
British Comedy Classics: Green for Danger
The finest British comedies of the 1940s and ’50s—Green for Danger, The Man in the White Suit, The Lavender Hill Mob—have aged marvelously well, thanks to understated, funny scripts and endlessly watchable professionals like Stanley Holloway, Betty Warren, and Barbara Murray in this week's Passport to Pimlico, about a corner of London that declares independence from the UK. It's like a flipped (and funnier) version of Brexit.
Seattle Art Museum
Cadence Video Poetry Festival
Video poetry has been around since the late 1970s, but it's been enjoying a slight revival in a world where three-minute videos on the internet serve as our primary mode of media consumption. Local fiction writer Chelsea Werner-Jatzke is curating the second iteration of this festival, which will include video poems from Shaun Kardinal, Catherine Bresner, and Sierra Nelson. Bresner and professor-poet Amaranth Borsuk will lead workshops throughout the month for those who want to learn to create their own cinepoems. At the first evening, watch innovative hybrids of word and imagery curated by Poetry Northwest, Mount Analogue, Pongo Publishing, and Interbay Cinema Society. Highlights include, but are certainly not limited to, a commercial by cheeky local artists Mary Anne Carter and Melissa Kagerer (Destinations Wedding Chapel) and poetry by inmates in juvenile detention read by Nikkita Oliver and Georgia McDade. RICH SMITH
Northwest Film Forum
What you need to know is that Captain Marvel is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and MCU movies are generally good-to-excellent, and Captain Marvel is no different. It’s smart, funny, and deliriously self-aware, and there’s a bunch of cool explosions. There’s also a young Agent Coulson, an explanation of how Nick Fury lost his eye, and a goddamn kitty-cat named Goose. It is an all-around successful comic book movie, like the 5,000 MCU movies that came before it. “But wait,” you say. “It is different. Aren’t you going to mention… [points at boobs, from one to the other, back and forth, maintaining eye contact, making things weird]?” Ugh, FINE. I'll say it. Yes, Carol is a woman, and this is the first Marvel movie centered on a woman. I’ve really enjoyed my Bruce Bannerses and Steve Rogerses, but I liked my Carol Danvers even more. It was great to see someone who looked like me straight-up destroy alien bad guys. ELINOR JONES
DJ Nicfit & Substation Present: A Nightmare on Elm Street
DJ NicFit will remix a new soundtrack on two turntables to the horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Wes Craven original about a man named Freddy with a striped shirt and nasty claws who turns Johnny Depp into soup.
An Elephant Sitting Still
The tragically deceased Bo Hu's almost four-hour epic, a take on the myth of Jason and the Argonauts set in modern China, is being hailed as a masterpiece. After accidentally badly injuring a bully, a teenage boy encounters various characters beset by everyday pains and tribulations, while all are pulled toward the center of the city of Manzhouli and its mythical, stoic elephant. Richard Brody of the New Yorker calls the film an "act of resistance" that "conveys a mighty, universal human despair," while other critics have compared Bo to Béla Tarr, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Jia Zhangke.
Northwest Film Forum
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos knows how to get under the skin of emotions and situations in a way that’s surreal, but it makes his observations feel closer to actual truth. The Favourite is a historical period piece that pulls less heady tricks than his previous efforts, its focus on the relationship between two cousins (played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vying for the favor of Olivia Colman’s sickly Queen Anne in early 18th century England. The actresses churn out incredible performances, hysterically and humorously jockeying for control over each other, the palace, and themselves. Lanthimos still manages to throw in a few strange elements, like the use of a fisheye camera lens and silly dancing sequences, but in a way, it only heightens the characters’ believability. JASMYNE KEIMIG
The Fifth Element
Prince was the inspiration for Ruby Rhod, the most striking character in the 1997 film The Fifth Element. Indeed, the director wanted Prince to play the role. He could revisit the delicious extravagances of Christopher Tracy (the character Prince played in Under the Cherry Moon), and even wear a totally nutty and diaphanous costume designed by the film’s wardrobe supervisor, Jean Paul Gaultier. But Prince didn’t like Gaultier’s design for Ruby Rhod (he described it as too effeminate!), and he turned down the role that would immortalize Chris Tucker for millions. Tucker simply stole the movie, which, to be honest, was not hard to do because The Fifth Element is not great. Rhod’s funky walk, his ridiculous fast talk, his popping sexual energy, his blurring between straight and gay, his uppity entourage—all of this is just a remix of Prince-groomed band, Morris Day and the Time. In The Fifth Element, the standard Chris Tucker shtick vanishes in his portrayal of a galactic Prince on a spaceship to the stars. CHARLES MUDEDE
Anybody who’s seen Gloria—the 2013 Chilean film from A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio—will feel some major déjà-vu watching Gloria Bell, a remake set in Los Angeles and starring Julianne Moore, in which Lelio recreates the original almost shot-for-shot. As someone who’s seen both, I’m going to be honest: I didn’t like Gloria Bell as much as Gloria. But it’s still great! Gloria works at an insurance company by day, spends her nights dancing at a disco-themed singles bar, and struggles to cede control in her relationships with her adult children. But Moore’s portrayal of the divorcée reveals the nuances of her personality and the complexity of her seemingly unremarkable middle-aged existence, whether she’s doing laughter therapy, dunking her boyfriend’s phone in soup, or walking barefoot through Caesars Palace. (Throughout the film, Gloria’s mood can be gauged by whether she’s belting along to ’80s hits in her car or driving in silence, along with her willingness to coexist with a Sphynx cat that keeps mysteriously appearing in her apartment.) Though Gloria ostensibly centers on a new romance, the reality is far more interesting: Lelio’s film captures an internal tide change with unexpectedly transformative results, and is a joyful celebration of the world’s countless Glorias. CIARA DOLAN
There isn’t much I can say about The Godfather that hasn’t already been said, or that you probably don’t already know from seeing Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful crime film adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name (about the leaders of a fictional New York mob family), or watching any other mob-oriented films and shows that followed (Goodfellas, The Sopranos), or even being exposed to prevalent pop-culture references to it or one-liners drawn from it ( “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”), or impressions of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone (my favorite is still Dom DeLuise in Robin Hood: Men in Tights). What you need to know is that it’s such a big part of the fabric of cinema for a reason, and it’s one of the few movies that I’ll admit, despite its nearly three-hour run time, needs no editing. LEILANI POLK
In November 2008, members of the radical terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba laid siege on Mumbai, India, and killed 174 people. Many of those deaths happened inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, an immense luxury hotel where guests and staff were trapped for days. Hotel Mumbai dramatizes these events from the point of view of those stuck inside. In other words, it’s a fairly traumatic thing to sit through—a story of prolonged, extreme, senseless, and very real violence. The movie fulfills its duty by honoring the memories of those who were killed, and it’s well-made and acted (performers include Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, and Counterpart’s Nazanin Boniadi). And western audiences ignorant of this horrific event could maybe stand to be educated about it. Just know what you’re getting into. NED LANNAMANN
Howl's Moving Castle
When it comes to animation gods, there's Hayao Miyazaki, and then there's everybody else. Although reportedly considering retirement after completing the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Miyazaki was apparently intrigued enough by the prospect of adapting a novel by children's author Diana Wynne Jones to return to the drawing board. ANDREW WRIGHT
The Hours and Times
The Beatles are poised for astounding success, but for four days, John Lennon (Ian Hart) and manager Brian Epstein (David Angus) relax in Barcelona. Chris Munch's daring 1992 film about friendship and sexuality has enjoyed a 4K restoration.
Northwest Film Forum
Featuring international star Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone, Far from the Madding Crowd) and directed by Laure Clermont-Tonnerre (Time Regained, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), this film is about a convict in Nevada in a rehabilitation program where he comes face to face with a nearly untameable horse. Despite its reported predictability, The Mustang has moved critics with its heartfelt study of masculinity and redemption.
Seattle Jewish Film Festival
This annual film festival explores and celebrates global Jewish and Israeli life, history, complexity, culture, and filmmaking. It showcases international, independent, and award-winning Jewish-themed and Israeli cinema, and the audience votes on their favorites. This weekend, you'll have to head to the Eastside to see The Promise of Hope, The Light of Dawn, and more.
Regal Cinebarre Issaquah
A 14-year-old foster kid can turn himself into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) by shouting the title word. If you're sick of every superhero movie's intention to plumb the DARK SIDE, you may enjoy this relatively simple, light, and charmingly acted story.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Mashing up the bombast of Marvel with the glory days of Pixar, Spider-Verse feels decidedly different—funnier, weirder, more daring—than most American animated movies. This is almost a meta, post-modern take on Spider-Man: Instead of being all about Peter Parker, Spider-Verse stars Miles Morales (excellently voiced by Shameik Moore), a kid who also gets bit by a creepy spider and also gets creepy spider-powers. But Miles—a Afro-Latino teenager who, for all his cleverness and heart, feels out of place at his fancy Brooklyn school—not only has a different perspective on the whole "great power, great responsibility" thing, but has his own obstacles to becoming a hero. Luckily for Miles, a whole slew of other spider-people from alternate dimensions show up to help him out. This is a big, fun blockbuster, but it's also the rare big, fun blockbuster that dares to have a strong point of view and a fresh, exciting personality. As Spider-Verse dazzles and twists, thumping to a hip-hop soundtrack and glimmering with every color in the universe, it captures the thrill, smarts, and irreverence that mark Spider-Man's best stories. ERIK HENRIKSEN
A man is on the run from a fascist army that's occupying France. He jumps onto a train heading to Marseille and toward his very last chance to get away: a Mexico-bound cruise ship that's leaving the Mediterranean port city soon. The man is Georg (Franz Rogowski), a Jewish German radio technician. His bag contains the manuscript of a dead but famous Communist author. Also in the bag: the dead man's papers for Mexico. Georg is assuming the writer's identity. The film, by the great German director Christian Petzold, is based on a 1942 novel of the same name about a Communist rebel who escapes from a Nazi concentration camp in Paris, heads down to Marseille, and ends up waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a transit letter. Petzold, however, sets this World War II story in present-day Europe, though it is a strange intersection between the past, present, and future—the Jews who fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s meet and interact with Muslims fleeing a new fascist regime. The Jews in the movie are ghosts from the past, and the Muslims are ghosts from the future. These are the specters haunting Europe today. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Us is a movie about doppelgängers—our evil twins that, according to folklore, must be killed, lest they kill us and assume our identities. But Us is also about shadows emerging from their own darkness; the illusory depths of mirrors; the fear we project onto the “other” instead of examining our own brutality; and, more abstractly, the barbaric history of slavery and mass genocide that America has unsuccessfully tried to bury, how the country is actively destroying itself, and what it’ll look like when its chickens finally come home to roost. The unfortunate recipients of all this horror are the Wilsons—Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o, who deserves a billion awards), Gabe (Winston Duke), and kids Zora (Shahadi Wright) and the perpetually masked Jason (Evan Alex)—who are just trying to enjoy a nice summer vacation in the warm California sun. As a horror exercise peppered with moments of comic relief and images that prove surprisingly unnerving, Us is an exceedingly great slasher movie. But there's a lot going on here, and Us suffers for it. CIARA DOLAN
Olivia Wilde stars as a woman hunting down her abusive husband as she helps other women escape their partners. Tough, harsh, and featuring a role finally worthy of Wilde.
War and Peace
A towering film adaptation of one of the most epic novels ever written: Sergei Bondarchuk's 1967 four-part masterpiece—awarded Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and scads of other awards—is based on Tolstoy's saga of three Russian nobles caught up in the Napoleonic Wars.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Woman at War
A chorus teacher, Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), is also Iceland’s most notorious eco-terrorist, and we follow her skulking around the countryside and taking out the country’s power lines, in protest of the government’s alignment with the foreign interests that are plundering Iceland’s natural resources. It’s a fun, funny movie whose two extended sequences of Halla in action are suspenseful and terrific—Jóhann Sigurðarson as her accomplice (and possible cousin) steals every scene he’s in—but the rest of the movie sags in comparison. (A subplot about Halla’s identical twin sister also feels like a reach.) But there’s a lot to like here, including the musicians and singers who appear onscreen, providing a live soundtrack and wry visual commentary. NED LANNAMANN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.