This week’s big film news is the kickoff of the Seattle International Film Festival, and you should definitely check out our list of SIFF picks this weekend and our full guide. But there’s even more cinema happiness to be had in Seattle, like the release of the extravagant shoot-’em-up John Wick: Chap 3–Parabellum, the local trans rights activism documentary The Most Dangerous Year, and Miyazaki’s adorable Ponyo. Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics’ picks. 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
The double-platinum album Amazing Grace was recorded live, at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, in 1972. The singer was 29-year-old Aretha Franklin, returning to her gospel roots for two nights, and the shows she put on were electrifying. That album was the soundtrack to a documentary by Sidney Lumet that never got released for various reasons, some more understandable than others. After Ms. Franklin’s recent passing, Lumet’s film is finally available, and 2019 audiences can effectively pull up a pew and bear witness to how she put in work across those two days in the January of 1972. If you are not already familiar with the term “transcendent,” you should practice its usage—you’ll need it if you’re hoping to speak on what got captured in this film. BOBBY ROBERTS
Ark Lodge Cinemas & AMC Seattle 10
In Avengers: Endgame, what happens to the world after the destruction of 50 percent of all large-scale life on Earth and other planets? People live in huts, gather food, eat less meat, spend more time with their families, and billionaires must learn to compost. This is what the Green New Deal will apparently look like. The horror. It is the mission of the Avengers to restore the American way of life. What is deeply missed on an earth globalized by American consumerism is the background of abundance: farm houses with gas-guzzling pickups, hot dogs that come with condiment choices (mustard, ketchup, or what have you). Avengers want you to believe that they are more than just about fast food and overstocked supermarkets. They are about families that feel deeply connected when eating hot dogs and hamburgers at a picnic table set on a piece land carpeted by the US’s main crop, turf grass. CHARLES MUDEDE
British Comedy Classics: I’m All Right Jack
The finest British comedies of the 1940s and ’50s—Green for Danger, The Man in the White Suit—have aged marvelously well, thanks to understated, funny scripts and endlessly watchable professionals. In this week’s The Wrong Box, in which two brothers vie over an inheritance. Starring a young Michael Caine!
Seattle Art Museum
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
Carmine Street Guitars
Jim Jarmusch, Bill Frisell, Patti Smith’s guitarist, and other musicians rely on this Greenwich Village historic guitar shop to buy and repair their instruments, which owner Rick Kelly and his apprentice Cindy Hulej create from reclaimed wood. Critics have praised this documentary’s “gentle, homespun magic” (Owen Gleiberman, Variety), saying it is “mostly as sweet as it is informative” (Glenn Kenny, New York Times).
Northwest Film Forum
Death by Design
At the outset of the film, director Sue Williams takes viewers to a milk-colored Yangtze River, where metallic muck sticks to oars and old women beg for clean drinking water. This is very much our doing. There’s probably a small voice in every person’s head reminding us that the devices we chuck out every couple of years must have sordid production practices on the other side of an ocean, but that voice gets drowned out by a culture constantly hawking the new iPhone 6. Not here. Death by Design takes viewers from the Yangtze to Silicon Valley, where electronics production once poisoned factory workers, and back to China, where all that work—and all the waste—has been outsourced by major US companies looking to cut corners on labor and environmental practices. Everyone should see this film and learn what a “corporate mortality file” is. SYDNEY BROWNSTONE
The Feeling of Being Watched
Following up on uneasy rumors about long-term FBI surveillance in Chicago’s Muslim community, journalist Assia Boundaoui set out to investigate. What she found was a surveillance operation that dwarfed anything in the pre-9/11 era. In her documentary, she probes the experience of being scrutinized and otherized in one’s own home. On Saturday, Bendaoui will be a guest at the Forum, and there will be panels with CAIR-WA and the Forum all day.
Northwest Film Forum
In the new film from Alex Ross Perry (Queen of Earth, Golden Exits), the indefatigable Elisabeth Moss (whose four front teeth I could probably write a love letter to) plays Becky Something, leader of the riot grrrl band Something. Over the course of five acts, Becky slowly descends into complete self-destruction: using drugs, fighting with her bandmates, spurning her family, bringing in a hack shaman to cleanse her of her problems. The New York Times calls this flick “relentless,” while Consequence of Sound says Moss “throws her entire being into the role.” My bet is that this film is a portrait of rock and roll we haven’t quite seen before. JASMYNE KEIMIG
If the Dancer Dances
This documentary by former Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Lise Friedman and Maia Wechsler ponders how to prevent the loss of dance masterpieces—which, if they’re not performed, can’t be said to exist anymore. The film focuses on the resurrection of Cunningham’s RainForest (1968) by Stephen Petronio’s dance company.
Northwest Film Forum
Polaroids might seem like they should have gone the way of other analogue media, and indeed, Polaroid itself sold its last working factory. But this facility was scooped up by a group of Polaroid lovers, so the snaps live on. Dutch filmmaker Willem Baptist sets out to tell the story of the Polaroid and delve into its unkillable appeal.
John Wick: Chap 3–Parabellum
John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum opens this weekend, cementing the bizarre fact that the ultraviolent, relatively low-fi action flick that was 2014’s John Wick has grown into a massive, full-on, crowd-pleasing franchise. Hinted at in the first film, but expanded in the sequels, there’s now a strange, remarkably thorough (if remarkably confusing) mythology that accompanies all of John Wick’s righteous headshots, featuring secret societies of assassins, ancient and baroque codes of conduct, and really nice mansions (to shoot people in). Sure, the bread and butter of any John Wick movie is its skull-splitting, blood-splattering action scenes—filmed here, as inventively, exhilaratingly, and wince-inducingly as ever, by stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski—but nearly as interesting, it turns out, is the fantastical world John Wick skulks around in between his massacres. Plenty of action movies have shoot-outs; not many have Angelica Houston sneering, “Life is suffering, life is pain” as she rules over some very driven ballerinas. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Thankfully, Long Shot isn’t another addition to the mid-2000s family of comedies where dude-bros are nagged to death into loving beautiful women. It’s maybe… 10 percent that. The other 90 percent is a reverse Pretty Woman, including lots of making out, amazing outfits, and yes, Roxette. Rogen is fully competent as a funny schlub, and Theron destroys as a secretary of state and presidential hopeful, and the two of them together are—I know, this is weird—charming as hell, and their relationship totally works. While the film’s final act gets a bit schmaltzy (it’s way more rom than com), the overall experience is wonderful. I’ll never question a neckbeard’s value ever again. ELINOR JONES
The Most Dangerous Year
The year 2016 saw a barrage of bills aiming at curtailing trans people’s freedom to use the bathroom of their choice. Filmmaker Vlada Knowlton was among those parents of trans children who fought back in Washington State. She filmed their story, focusing both on the dynamics of trans-positive families and on the legal fight. On Friday, meet the cast and crew.
Northwest Film Forum
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Detective Pikachu wears multiple hats over the course of its 104-minute runtime. Sometimes the film is a wholesome, Spielbergian coming-of-age adventure. At other points, it’s a buddy comedy teeming with self-referential, mic drop-y in-jokes, many of which are bound to fly straight over the heads of its target demographic. Or maybe you want your Pokémon movie to be science fiction with vague sociopolitical subtext? Hey, it can do that, too! More than anything, Detective Pikachu feels like Turner & Hooch on a combination of mescaline and speed. MORGAN TROPER
You can pretty much guarantee that anything with Hayao Miyazaki’s name attached to it will be superbly wrought, fantastically animated, and delivered with a fine dose of poignant storytelling. He has left a fine legacy of films in his (no longer retired, for now) wake, including Ponyo. His anime fantasy is loosely based on The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen’s version, not Disney’s), about an austere, potentially malevolent warlock/sea king whose young amphibious daughter runs (swims) away from her home. Sosuke, the little boy who scoops her from the waves, believes she’s a goldfish, names her Ponyo, and introduces her to a small slice of his world before her father finds her and brings her back to their underwater kingdom. But Ponyo’s taste of food and friendship fuels her next escape, setting off a chain of events that will change her (and Sosuke) forever. This film gets me choked up every time. LEILANI POLK
Scott Walker: 30th Century Man
To honor the recent passing of Scott Walker, Northwest Film Forum will be screening Stephen Kijak’s 2006 documentary on the legendary singer/songwriter, 30th Century Man. From dreamy ’60s pop crooner with the huge-in-England Walker Brothers to cerebral troubadour to struggling master of unlikely cover songs to nightmarish avant-gardist who collaborated with doom-metal illuminati Sunn O))) to soundtracker of cult films, Walker engineered a distinctive career trajectory that has few rivals. This documentary does an exemplary job of explicating Walker’s art, examining his creative motives, and illuminating some facets of this reclusive genius. DAVE SEGAL
Northwest Film Forum
There’s still nothing like watching a big, boisterous epic in a movie theater. And if you need another reminder, here’s Shadow, director Zhang Yimou’s visually stunning return to the wuxia genre of martial arts epics set in ancient China. Having seen it both in a theater and on a reasonably decent television, all I can say is: Get to the theater for this one. There’s no comparison. The fantasy setting is basic—a massive gorge, a flowing river, and little else—and the story’s not much either, with warring kingdoms attempting to broker peace, while the commander of one army trains a doppelganger to take his place. But once you get through the table-setting of Shadow’s first hour, the action kicks in, and the movie becomes every bit the equal of Zhang’s past triumphs Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Shadow’s breathtaking centerpiece—a rain-soaked, one-on-one duel, coupled with a stealth attack on a city—is nothing short of extraordinary. NED LANNAMANN
Grand Illusion & AMC Pacific Place
Until, Until, Until
Broadway legend Ben Vereen’s televised performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration is the subject of this film, adapted from the play by Edgar Arceneaux (whose exhibition Library of Black Lies is currently on view at the Henry). In the final censored five minutes of the performance that honored black vaudevillian artist Bert Williams, Vereen spoke to the history of segregation and racist stereotypes in performance. See a screening and stay on for a panel discussion with Arceneaux himself.
Henry Art Gallery
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
If you are a spooky fiction fan who has never read Shirley Jackson’s midcentury masterpiece We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a true landmark of the gothic feminine, go buy it right now. This book, about two sisters and their uncle living a marginal existence after a mysterious arsenic poisoning killed everyone else in their family, has been crying out for a film adaptation for decades. Merricat, Constance, and Julian exist in relative equilibrium until Cousin Charlie shows up and starts bossing everyone around. Stacie Passon directs this well-regarded screen version, starring Taissa Farmiga as Merricat.
Our critics don’t recommend these films, but you might be interested in them anyway.