It's been a shocking week for Seattle's cultural spaces. Movie theaters are reacting in different ways. The Grand Illusion will be closing starting March 16; Central Cinema and other theaters are staying open, but halving their seating capacity so audience members can stay distant from one another. If you choose to go out (and remember, stay home if you don't feel well), check out the delightful supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary, the 1930s antiwar masterpiece Grand Illusion, or celebrate an early Saint Patrick's Day with The Secret of Kells. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
Legendary screenwriter William Goldman once said of the film industry, “Nobody knows anything,” and this is still mostly true, with one exception: If cinematographer Roger Deakins shot the movie, that movie is worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. Even if 1917 were solely the most impressive work of Deakins’ remarkable career—which it is—I’d be recommending it. But the World War I movie is also one hell of a stunning storytelling experience from director Sam Mendes, co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, and editor Lee Smith. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t the whole point of this movie that there aren’t any cuts? Why did they need an editor at all?” 1917’s hook (or less generously, its gimmick) is that it’s meant to unfold in a single, unbroken take. It’s one of the rare instances of a film’s marketing actually benefiting the finished film, because of the way this knowledge is both paid off... and then subverted. BOBBY ROBERTS
Bad Boys for Life
Michael Bay's absence behind the camera (although he briefly appears in a cameo that I reflexively booed) is immediately apparent. The action—still glistening, swooping, and forever circling, as directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah do some damn good Bay-raoke in their debut—is slower and mostly coherent. But even more remarkable: For the first time that I can remember, this is a Bad Boys movie primarily fueled by emotion as opposed to disdainfully rejecting it. And get this: That emotion? HUMILITY! I know. What the fuck, right? But fucks are abundant in Bad Boys for Life, and given often, flying just as freely as the one-liners, bullets, and grenades going off frequently and everywhere. BOBBY ROBERTS
Regal Meridian 16
The great director Jules Dassin made this tough prison drama starring Burt Lancaster as a weary inmate and Hume Cronyn as a sadistic prison guard. The AV Club has called this noirish film "one of the greatest prison films of all time."
Some plucky chickens take their fates into their own hands when they discover they're destined to become pot pie. It's a production by Nick Park and Peter Lord (Wallace and Gromit), so you know it's going to be the funniest and most charming stop-motion around.
From the moment Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) bounded down the steps of his staircase in full scowl, I wanted to see Emma. again. I went in pretty hyped up because Anya Taylor-Joy was making full use of her signature penetrating stare to play the character closer to the book—little did I expect that she would be matched frown for frown by Nighy, playing her father, whose background sighing and perpetual phobia of drafts lit up every scene with an endearing ridiculousness. SUZETTE SMITH
A new and eminently worthy entry into the annals of Fantastic Supernatural Comedies, Extra Ordinary follows Rose (Maeve Higgins), a sweet, awkward driving instructor in rural Ireland with a not-so-secret talent (the ability to exorcise ghosts from the everyday objects—and animals—they inhabit). Of course, the townsfolk are always bugging her about their nuisance hauntings, even though she quit the biz for a good many years ago after accidentally getting her dad killed mid-exorcism. Everything about this movie is subtly right: the vague retro atmosphere, the quasi-horror soundtrack, the unexpected plot, the hilariously gross comedy, and, most importantly, the excellent casting, which includes a perfect Will Forte as creepy, washed-up one-hit wonder Christian Winter. LEILANI POLK
Five Shaolin Masters
It's another terrific wuxia thrill ride by the great Chang Cheh, in which five students train in different martial arts styles to fight against the Manchu government.
The Beacon Saturday only
Ford v Ferrari
F v F is about how corporations can’t help but crush the passion and innovation they so desperately need. In this case, the crushees are race car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driving phenom Ken Miles (Christian Bale), both of whom are forced to cajole, finagle, and manipulate the suits at Ford in an attempt to win the famed Le Mans road race. Director James Mangold (Logan) smartly avoids the emotionally manipulative tricks found in other sports biographies, and Damon and Bale are, unsurprisingly, excellent and affecting. The problem? It’s impossible to ignore the two elephants in this room: The fetishization of white male toxicity and car culture, topics which society is trying to deal with and solve… not celebrate. This makes Ford v Ferrari a very good movie that, a decade ago, would’ve been considered great. Now it feels like a brand-new film that’s already an antique. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
There’s an odd (and fun) sense of formality to The Gentlemen, director Guy Ritchie’s newest crime flick that trades the downtrodden, violent British grit of his former films (like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) for a classier vibe that’s still violently gritty. Matthew McConaughey is, as usual, McConaughey (that’s a good thing), Colin Farrell is a case study in unflappable hilarity, Hugh Grant is England’s greatest treasure, and The Gentlemen is a fun, twisty-turny joyride through Britain’s well-heeled drug trade. Its moments of shocking, often comical violence should pair nicely with a snifter of good cognac. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Regal Meridian 16 & Crest
Grand Illusion was made in 1937, two years before Europe plunged the whole world into a state of madness. And why do you feel a sense of urgency after seeing this movie? Because it is about something: It’s an anti-war film; it’s a film about how human truths (our universality, our capacity for love, our dependency on one another) have been distorted by those in power. This is the grand illusion—war and exploitation is not our natural state. Now this is something you can think about! CHARLES MUDEDE
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey is Harley Quinn/Margot Robbie’s show, and just like in the not-so-great Suicide Squad, it’s a show she clearly steals—and a show with a distinctly feminist take on the glut of male-oriented superhero cinema. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Regal Meridian 16
While other movies are seeing their releases postponed thanks to coronavirus, the controversial horror-comedy The Hunt—which was already postponed from its September release date—is still opening tonight. Whether or not you venture out to a theater to see it, it's worth seeing: Pulpy and bloody, it's a B-movie with smarts. In a riff on the 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game," rich, urban "elites" round up a dozen rural "deplorables," set them loose on the grounds of a woodsy, sprawling estate, and hunt them down for sport. But a clever twist or two later, The Hunt, written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof—the latter coming off his success with HBO's extraordinary Watchmen—ends up offering a bit more than dark humor and skull-crunching violence. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Hyper Combat Unit Dangaioh
The Beacon will screen three episodes of this anime serial about four teenagers who use their robot pilot training to fight evil. The theaters calls it "one of the best mecha animes of the golden '80s."
In the Mouth of Madness
The third installment in John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy is a Lovecraftian psychological horror exploration of the line between truth and fiction—in this film, a powerful book destroys the minds of its readers and unleashes real monsters. Sam Neill's insane laughter alone is worth the price of admission.
The Invisible Man
Film students and theorists are going to be studying the career of writer/director Leigh Whannell for decades, trying to suss out how this young Australian has mined piles of gold from high-concept but low-budget popcorn fare. Whannell's been responsible for bringing two hugely successful horror franchises into the world—the sagas of Saw and Insidious—and, in 2018, turned the fairly ridiculous B-movie plot of Upgrade into a hit thanks to his stylized direction and pulpy action sequences. Whannell is about to have another hit on his hands with Blumhouse Productions’ The Invisible Man, starring an excellent Elisabeth Moss. Made on a slender budget that was likely eaten up by CGI effects, this riff on H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic is a slow, steady squeeze from a vise that doesn’t release its grip until its final shot. ROBERT HAM
The latest from Taika Waititi starts off with a bright, Wes Andersonian whimsiness: Young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) joyously bounces about at summer camp, having the time of his life as he frolics and laughs with his second-best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) and his first-best friend, the imaginary Adolf (Waititi). Just one thing: Jojo is at Hitler Youth camp—their campfire activities include burning books—Adolf is Adolf Hitler, and World War II is winding down, with Germany not doing so great. Both because of and in spite of its inherent shock value, Jojo Rabbit—based on a book by Christine Leunens—is just as clever and hilarious as Waititi’s other movies, but as it progresses, the story taps into a rich vein of gut-twisting melancholy. There’s more to the complicated Jojo Rabbit than first appears, and only a director as committed, inventive, and life-affirmingly good-hearted as Waititi would even have a chance of pulling it off. He does. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Knives Out [is] Rian Johnson's phenomenally enjoyable riff on a murder-mystery whodunit. The less you know going in, the better, but even those familiar with mysteries will likely be caught flat-footed. Things begin in the baroque mansion of famed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is very, very dead. Through flashbacks, monologues, and the genteel but razor-sharp questioning of investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), we meet the rest of the Thrombeys—played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, and more, with everyone clearly having a goddamn blast—and we hear about a billion motives and a billion alibis. Somebody killed Harlan, and while Benoit Blanc is on the case, Knives Out quickly spirals into unexpected territory. In a time when filmgoing is dominated by familiar franchises, seeing an original movie executed with as much care, glee, and skill as Knives Out feels like an experience that's entirely too rare. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Regal Meridian 16 & AMC Seattle 10
I say this with my whole heart: Greta Gerwig's Little Women is wonderful. Full of wonder, inspiring wonder, embodying wonder. Which is hard to do as the eighth adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved 1868 novel of the same name. Gerwig's adaptation—which she both wrote and directed—feels neither redundant nor stale. Rather, it's a fresh, modern-feeling take on a well-trodden story, stuffed with excellent performances, witty dialogue, and gorgeous costumes. The film jumps between Jo's "present" life in a post-Civil War America and her childhood, living at home with her three other sisters and mother, awaiting the family patriarch to return home from the war as they struggle to make ends meet. The direction and sense of characters are particularly strong in this adaptation. It fleshes each sister out so that she feels real and worthy of empathy, not purely serving as a star vehicle for Ronan in the same way the Winona Ryder version arguably did. JASMYNE KEIMIG
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Dubbed and Subtitled)
The latest installment of the anime franchise, in which Deku and his fellow heroes take on an evil villain on an island, should please fans.
Regal Meridian 16
Especially when compared to Pixar's best, there's definitely stuff to nitpick in the studio's latest, Onward. Fair? Maybe, but then again, even Pixar movies can have a hard time living up to Pixar movies. But to focus on Onward's benign, minor missteps—none of which detract from the story's surprisingly emotional arc—is to miss the bigger picture. Funny and wholly original, it's a fantasy adventure that digs into something nearly all of us know but rarely talk about: How the memory of an absent family member can hang over the lives of the living. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
In this odd, beguiling romance, urbane James Mason plays a sea captain cursed to wander the ocean forever until a woman sacrifices herself for love, and the elegant Ava Gardner plays a magnificent femme fatale.
Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It's a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies, though it's no less concerned with the state of society today. Set in Seoul, South Korea, the families and class issues at play reflect our global era, in which the disparity between the haves and have-nots seems to be widening. Parasite follows the Kim family, who secretly scam their way into the lives of the wealthy Park family. Slowly and methodically, the Kims begin to drive out the other domestic workers at the Park residence, each time referring another family member (who they pretend not to know) for the vacant position. And so the poorer family starts to settle comfortably into the grift—until a sudden realization turns their lives upside down. The resulting film offers an at turns hilarious and deeply unsettling look at class and survival, its essence echoed in the environments the characters inhabit. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
From Céline Sciamma (Girlhood), Portrait of a Lady on Fire is set in 18th century France, where young artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) for potential suitors to fall in love with. One thing: Héloïse does not want her portrait done, as she does not want to get married. So Marianne poses as her maid to get close to the lady, completing the painting in secret. But of course this closeness and secretiveness make them all hot for each other. Portrait was the first woman-directed film to take home the Queer Palm award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. JASMYNE KEIMIG
The Secret of Kells
Kells begins in the Irish Abbey of Kells—an abbey that, thanks to Abbot Cellach, is walled in, blocked off from the verdant forest outside. The wall was built to keep out pillaging Vikings; afraid for his safety, the Abbot forbids his nephew, Brendan, to venture beyond the gates. Instead, young Brendan's left to assist with creating illuminated manuscripts. But when the revered Brother Aidan arrives at Kells, he brings with him the most beautiful illuminated manuscript of all: the legendary Book of Kells. Aidan needs Brendan's help to finish the manuscript, which requires Brendan to leave the abbey. With graceful, emotional animation, brilliant character designs, and a watercolor-dappled visual style that lands somewhere between Saul Bass and Genndy Tartakovsky, every frame of Kells is amazing to look at—but it's the film's humor, heart, and melancholy that makes it really work. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Five years after Horse Money, which Charles Mudede called "a film you will remember more for its images and episodes than its story," the nonprofessional actor Vitalina Varela reprises her role as a character who shares her name, a widow who travels to Lisbon to try to piece together her estranged husband's last days. Richard Brody of the New Yorker writes, "From the start, Costa endows the tale with a pictorial majesty, rooted in a hands-on transformation of film-noir, Expressionist-rooted cinematography. His images (realized by the director of photography Leonardo Simões) feature piercing bursts of light and sepulchral shadows, striated and fragmentary illumination that blends with largely static frames to fuse space and mood, action and emotion."
Northwest Film Forum
The Way Back
Ben Affleck plays an alcoholic coach who returns to the town where he was a teen basketball star in this redemption drama by Gavin O'Connor.
Benh Zeitlin’s new film Wendy—which reimagines the popular J. M. Barrie play/children’s story Peter Pan in New Orleans instead of London—feels like a two-hour M83 music video. And not everyone will love that. But I did! As with Beasts of Southern Wild, Zeitlin works here with nonprofessional actors. And while casting Mack as Peter employs the trope of the magical Black character, Mack is also, hands down, the best Peter Pan in cinema up to this point. Where previous cinematic Peter Pans have interpreted the character as jockish and bullying, Mack's Peter feels like someone from outside our society who is barely interested in us. That feels far more accurate to author J.M. Barrie's vision. SUZETTE
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.