Here are snapshots of what our reviewers thought of the movies opening this week in the Seattle area. (Star ratings are granted on a scale of zero to four.)
★★★½ “Peterloo” (PG-13; 153 minutes): Mike Leigh’s fascinating epic is constructed around a real-life event: the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. You’re not likely to recognize any of the actors; the filmmaker has assembled a cast of weathered, lived-in faces who lend a documentary realness to this story of working-class Manchester. Full review. Meridian, Seattle 10. — Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times arts critic
★★★½ “Diane” (not rated, for mature audiences; 95 minutes): It’s harder than it should be to describe Kent Jones’ film in a way that makes it sound distinctive or special, which it is. It’s easier to say how lovely it is seeing Mary Kay Place as she eases into the leading role as a small-town rebel and mother who has paid for her younger risks and rewards, but not yet in full. Full review. SIFF Cinema Uptown. — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
★★★ “Wild Nights with Emily” (PG-13; 84 minutes): Madeleine Olnek’s comedy-drama, with a sardonic Molly Shannon as the legendary poet of Amherst, presents something quite different from the usual Dickinson narrative: This Emily is no gentle-voiced recluse, but a strong-minded woman happily carrying on a sexual affair with her lifelong friend and eventual sister-in-law (Susan Ziegler) and busily pitching her poems, with endless rapid-fire enthusiasm. Full review. Pacific Place. — Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times arts critic
★★½ “Penguins” (G; 76 minutes): Cute is king here. The latest entry in the Disneynature series of documentaries blends an environmental message — basically, behold the wonders of nature in the most remote and inhospitable corner of the planet — into a story about Steve, a sort of a Dagwood of the penguin world. Full review. — Soren Andersen, Special to The Seattle Times
“Breakthrough” (PG; 116 minutes): Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film tells the story of a teen’s miraculous survival — after falling through the frozen surface of a lake — with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization. Marcel Ruiz, Topher Grace and Chrissy Metz star. The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews. Full review. Multiple theaters. — Bilge Ebiri, The New York Times
★★ “The Curse of La Llorona” (R; 93 minutes): What we call The Conjuring Universe has become a sprawling franchise of big-budget, horror-lite spookfests that pull from every urban legend, folk tale and ghost story one can think of, usually involving vengeful feminine spirits. It includes “The Conjuring,” “Annabelle,” “The Nun” and, now, “The Curse of La Llorona.” The victims of our latest Frightening Female Phantom are a widowed social worker (Linda Cardellini) and her two kids (Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) in 1973 Los Angeles. When Anna checks on one of her troubled clients (Patricia Velasquez), she unknowingly invites the menacing spirit of La Llorona into her life. The weeping woman has roamed the earth since 1673, when she drowned her two sons in a jealous rage caused by her husband’s infidelity, then drowned herself. Now her demonic spirit stalks new children to replace hers. “The Curse of La Llorona” is middling B-movie schlock. Wail as she might, the silly, not scary “La Llorona” never reaches the operatic heights that the best of the franchise can offer. Multiple theaters. — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
★★★ “Teen Spirit” (PG-13; 92 minutes): Music is a lifeline for a Polish-born British teen (Elle Fanning), who secretly auditions for a singing competition show called “Teen Spirit.” This is a tale we know, the classic rise and fall and rise of a musician; it’s “A Star Is Born” rendered over the course of a few weeks. It doesn’t try to be epic, to explain or comment — it’s just a snapshot of a glimpse of stardom for a kid who finds her salvation in music. Multiple theaters. — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
“Ramen Shop” (not rated, for mature audiences; 89 minutes): Quirky, personal, political and, as its title indicates, culinary, it’s a meandering movie determined to take its own time. After his father dies, a young ramen chef (Takumi Saitoh) in Japan impulsively heads off to Singapore, determined to both connect with his mother’s culture and to learn some great new dishes. Sentimental and proud of it, “Ramen Shop” believes food is a way of keeping memories alive, and we see it happen before our eyes. The Los Angeles Times does not provide star ratings with reviews. Northwest Film Forum. — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“Drunk Parents” (R; 97 minutes): After one too many drinks, a couple (Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek) come up with an elaborate plan to hide their financial difficulties from their daughter and judgmental social circle. Galaxy Monroe.
“Penguin Highway” (not rated; 118 minutes): In director Hiroyasu Ishida’s animated feature, a fourth grader investigates the mysterious reason behind the sudden appearance of penguins in his village. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion.
Coming April 21
“Hail Satan?” (R; 95 minutes): Before watching this, you might be surprised to learn that a group of self-described Satanists adopted a stretch of highway and picked up litter with pitchforks. Or that others have collected socks for the needy. Is such affability part of a sinister plot? One point made in this wry and illuminating documentary is that the group that calls itself the Satanic Temple is not composed of devil worshippers. Director Penny Lane clearly sees its members as earnest advocates for tolerance, progress and individual freedoms — and the group as just an ordinary emerging organization with growing pains. The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews. SIFF Cinema Egyptian. (A Q&A with the Satanic Temple of Seattle will be held after the 7 p.m. show Sunday, April 21.) — Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times