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 “Joker” (R; 122 minutes): A comic-book movie without wit or action, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” is an origin story told as grim character study. And it works, to a certain degree: “Joker” is an exploration of what causes a lonely, unhinged man to explode, and it has moments that are riveting. These are almost entirely due to Joaquin Phoenix’s vivid work as the title character. Full review. Multiple theaters. — Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times arts critic
★★½ “First Love” (not rated, for mature audiences; 108 minutes): There isn’t much of the titular emotion on display in Takashi Miike’s almost uproariously violent crime thriller about a prostitute (played by Sakurako Konishi) on the run from the yakuza and the gravely ill boxer (Masataka Kubota) who becomes her white knight. But there’s enough to like in this “John Wick”-ian live-action cartoon to soften the repeated impact of the mayhem. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Full review. SIFF Cinema Egyptian. — Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
“Ms. Purple” (not rated, for mature audiences; 87 minutes): Set in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, Justin Chon’s moody, downbeat drama — soaked in color and saturated with sadness — follows two deeply damaged siblings (Tiffany Chu and Teddy Lee), each lacking a place in the world. Chu’s slender fragility and marvelously expressive face drive the story, but Lee has some lovely, impetuous moments. Glimmers of hope lighten the tone and add substance to this movie. (The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.) Full review. SIFF Cinema Uptown. — Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times
“Hidden Pacific” (not rated, for general audiences; 40 minutes): Director Ian Shive showcases some of the Pacific Ocean’s most beautiful islands and marine national monuments. Boeing IMAX Theater, Pacific Science Center.
“Wrinkles the Clown” (not rated, for mature audiences; 75 minutes): Pennywise of “It” may not be real, but Wrinkles is. Director Michael Beach Nichols’ documentary explores the story of the infamous clown from Naples, Florida, who makes a living being hired by parents to scare their misbehaving kids. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
“Desolation Center” (not rated, for mature audiences; 94 minutes): This documentary tells the story of a group of 1980s punk artists who started organizing and playing desert shows that later inspired Burning Man, Coachella and Lollapalooza. It features interviews and performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen and others. Northwest Film Forum.