Local & Repertory
Live by Night
The Big Combo, Joseph Lewis’ 1955 tale of mob scandal, stars Jean Wallace as a former femme fatale seeking redemption. With Cornel Wilde and Richard Conte. (NR)
Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, seattleartmuseum.org. $63–$68 series. $8 individual. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 18.
Night of the Comet Two Valley Girls are put to the zombie test in this unlikely apocalypse movie from 1984, starring Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney. Why hasn’t there been a remake? (PG-13) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $6-$8. 9:30 p.m. Fri.-Weds.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles The late John Candy memorably co-starred with Steve Martin in this fondly remembered holiday comedy from 1987, written and directed by that master of suburban sarcasm (and sentiment), John Hughes. (R)
Central Cinema, $6-$8. 7 p.m. Fri.-Weds. & 3 p.m. Sat.
Seattle Turkish Film Festival A dozen films are screened in this weekend mini-fest, beginning with the sister rivalry rock musical Whisper, if I Forget. (NR)
SIFF Film Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and Pacific Place. See stff.org for info. Thurs.-Sun.
Birdman A movie star in a career skid since he stopped playing a masked superhero named Birdman back in the ’90s, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is preparing his big comeback in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver stories, funded and directed by himself. Obstacles abound: Riggan’s co-star (Andrea Riseborough) announces she’s pregnant with his child; his grown daughter (Emma Stone) is his assistant, and not his biggest fan; a critic plans to destroy the play. And, in the movie’s funniest headache, Riggan must endure a popular but insufferable stage actor (Edward Norton, doing a wonderful self-parody) who’s involved with the play’s other actress (Naomi Watts). This is all going on while Riggan maintains a tenuous hold on his own sanity—he hears Birdman’s voice in his head, for one thing. To create Riggan’s world, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki present the film as a continuous unbroken shot (disguised with artful digital seams). Birdman serves so many heady moments it qualifies as a bona fide happening. It has a few stumbles, but the result is truly fun to watch. (R) ROBERT HORTON Guild 45th, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Kirkland, Lynwood (Bainbridge), Cinebarre, Thornton Place, others
Citizenfour Fugitive leaker Edward Snowden has invited documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (The Oath) and The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald into his Hong Kong hotel room. In this absorbing character study, they debate how and when to spill the information he took from his job at the National Security Agency. Clicking the SEND button carries as much weight as Bob Woodward meeting Deep Throat in All the President’s Men. This straightforward documentary may be smaller-scaled than a political thriller, but it has similar suspense: Everybody in the room realizes the stakes—and the dangers—of exposing a whistleblower to public scrutiny. One man’s whistleblower is another man’s traitor, a debate that Poitras doesn’t pause to consider, so confident is she of Snowden’s cause. Having this access to Snowden in the exact hours he went from being a nonentity with top-secret clearance to a hero/pariah is a rare chance to see a now-historical character in the moment of truth. (NR) R.H. SIFF Cinema Uptown
Dear White People Justin Simien’s smart new college satire forthrightly addresses race, and it feels like a follow-up—though not a rebuttal—to Spike Lee’s School Daze, made a generation ago. Like Lee, though with a lighter comic touch, Simien is interested in the stereotypes that black and mixed-race kids apply to themselves. The movie’s title comes from the provocative campus radio show hosted by Sam (Tessa Thompson), who calls out all races for their shallow assumptions. In her orbit are a seemingly perfect high achiever, a savvy, sexy social-media queen, and the nappy-haired freshman nerd Lionel (Tyler James Williams) who’s trying to navigate his way among cliques and not-so-coded expectations of What It Means to Be Black. Nobody is who they seem to be here. In his debut feature, Simien stuffs the plot with rather more stock elements than needed (a venal dean, racist frats, even a reality TV show come to mint/exploit new stars). But as with his characters, everything typical here gets comically upended. Dear White People reminds you how lazy most American comedies are. (R) BRIAN MILLER Sundance, Meridian, others
Gone Girl What’s exceptional about Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her 2012 novel, directed with acid fidelity by David Fincher, is that Gone Girl doesn’t like most of its characters. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) soon falls under suspicion of murdering his missing wife Amy (Rosamund Pike). The small-town Missouri police investigation (led by Kim Dickens) goes entirely against Nick for the first hour. He behaves like an oaf and does most everything to make himself the prime suspect, despite wise counsel from his sister (Carrie Coon) and lawyer (a surprisingly effective, enjoyable Tyler Perry). Second hour, still no body, but flashbacks turn us against the absent Amy. As we slowly investigate the Dunnes’ very flawed marriage, funny little kernels of bile begin to explode underfoot. How the hell did these two end up together? Flynn’s foundational joke answers that question with a satire of marriage. The movie poster and tabloid-TV plot suggest a standard I-didn’t-kill-my-wife tale, but matrimony is what’s being murdered here. Amid the media circus, Nick becomes the scorned sap because of his untruths; but what really damns him in the movie’s intricate plot is his credulity—he believed in Amy too much. Gone Girl is cynical, mean-spirited fun. (R) B.R.M. Sundance, Meridian, Thornton Place, Lincoln Square, others
Interstellar Reaching about 90 years forward from its start in a near-future dystopia, Christopher Nolan’s solemn space epic commits itself both to a father/daughter reunion and the salvation of mankind. Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper is sent on a mission to plunge into a wormhole near Saturn because Michael Caine tells him to. And no one in a Chris Nolan movie can say no to Michael Caine, here playing a professor named Brand who also sends along his scientist daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) with Cooper and two others. Before leaving, Cooper tells his daughter—played by three actresses at different ages—that maybe they’ll be the same age when he returns home, because of Einstein and other stuff we slept through in AP physics. The two ceremoniously synchronize their watches, sure to figure later—two hours for us, rather more for them—in the story. Cooper and company must investigate possible planets for colonization (scouted in advance by other astronauts). One is water, the other ice, and both prove quite lethal. There’s some action (though none so elegant as in the much superior Gravity), but what Nolan really wants Cooper’s team to do is discuss relativity, gravity, the fifth dimension, and quantum data (the latter requiring a visit to a black hole). There’s talk of ghosts and a cosmic “they” who chose Cooper for his long mission. But with the frequent recitations of Dylan Thomas poetry and the grown Murph (Jessica Chastain) stabbing chalky equations on a blackboard, the movie feels like an undergraduate seminar in space—one that’s three hours long. (PG-13) B.R.M. Pacific Science Center IMAX, SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Thornton Place, Majestic Bay, Ark Lodge, Varsity, Admiral, Pacific Place, others
Nightcrawler Titled and released as if it were a Halloween horror flick, Dan Gilroy’s dark media fable has more in common with Network than Nosferatu. Lou (the politely creepy Jake Gyllenhaal) is identified as an earnest, calculating criminal in the opening minutes; he’s never less than transparent about his motives, most of which appear to have been gleaned from self-help books and inspirational Internet sites. He’s an amoral American hustler, a type descended from Dale Carnegie and Sammy Glick. A career in stolen scrap metal soon gives way to freelance videography at L.A. car wrecks and crime scenes, and Lou’s basest impulses are naturally encouraged by a ratings-starved TV station. (Rene Russo is amusingly aroused as the station’s “vampire shift” manager—a venal Mrs. Robinson who mentors eager Lou.) Nightcrawler is more a parable of unfettered capitalism—there’s your horror—than realistic media satire. Lou’s swift progress in TMZ-land brings him a rival (Bill Paxton, cruising for a bruising) and a naive protegee (English actor Riz Ahmed), but no one here has—or needs—much depth. Lou has no history, no family, only his hollow aphorisms of success, apparently learned from the Internet. Nightcrawler never quite settles on a satisfactory tone between squeamish laughter and a smarter, Chayefskian disgust, but Lou you remember—a creature for these craven times, prospering from our insatiable need to see the worst. (R) B.R.M. Sundance, Thornton Place, Lincoln Square, Pacific Place, Cinebarre, others