Safety Not Guaranteed
for: Pacific Northwesterners, mystery lovers, time travel enthusiasts
A dramedy shot entirely in Washington State, this film stars Aubry Plaza (of Parks and Rec eye-rolling fame) as magazine intern Darius Britt, who, along with one of the magazine’s writers, investigates a classified ad that states “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke.” Time travel hijinks ensue.
for: Activists, policy wonks, quirky film lovers
Shot in Seattle and based on the book Zioncheck for President, this comedy starring Jason Biggs of American Pie-fame revolves around the true story of filmmaker, poet and activist Grant Cogswell’s grassroots campaign for Seattle City Council in 2001 based on a passion for installing a monorail.
The Iron Lady
for: History buffs, poli-sci nerds, Meryl Streep fans
An intimate biopic about the formidable former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female to ever hold the position. Meryl Streep seamlessly transforms into one of history’s most powerful and dynamic women — and the critics took note; Streep received an Oscar for her performance.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
for: Indie movie connoisseurs, enviros, anyone with a heart
Winner of the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, this 2012 fantasy-drama stars newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis (she auditioned for the film when she was five) as the indomitable Hushpuppy, a young girl who lives in a community deemed the “Bathtub” in the Louisiana bayou. Hushpuppy, along with her fiery father, deal with a calamitous storm while exploring what survival and family really mean.
for: Sports fans, numbers people
This critically acclaimed adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, follows Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), who uses sabermetrics (a statistics-based analysis of baseball) to assemble a more competitive team. The brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman also stars, which is always a plus.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
for: Foodies, foreign film fans, documentary lovers
Forget everything you think you know — or your foodie friends or family members think they know — about sushi. Sushi is a documentary featuring Jiro Ono, an octogenarian sushi master, who owns the Michelin 3-star Sukiyabashi restaurant in a Japan subway station. Watch Ono, who pulls his two sons into his sushi dynasty, on his life-long pursuit of the perfect roll.
The Cabin in the Woods
for: Horror movie enthusiasts, Joss Whedon followers
Who knew a campy horror film could be so meta? And funny? And unpredictable? This gory flick deftly employs and comments on overused horror tropes (you know, cabins, in the woods, horny teenagers, ancient curses). Co-written by Joss Whedon (who also directed 2012’s The Avengers), it’s no wonder it received a 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Dark Knight Rises
for: Comic book collectors, action fiends, conspiracy theorists
The first 15 minutes of this film have got to be one of the most thrilling, “hold on to your butts,” explosively fun openers in a superhero film ever. Although the action flick could have easily shaved off 20 minutes, Rises offers up one of the most terrifying villains in comic book-to-film history, as well as on-point commentary about wealth disparities and corrupt government. And, of course, it’s always fun to watch Christian Bale brood and Michael Cain charm.
for: Sci-fi nerds, mystery lovers
This pseudo-prequel to the Alien franchise gets the nod for the most striking imagery — after all, director Ridley Scott spent well over $100 million on principal photography, shot across England, Iceland, Spain and Scotland. The story, although clumsy at times, is strange and eerie enough to pull the viewer along — think ancient cultures leaving clues about extraterrestrial life. Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds) and Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) give shining performances.
for: Foreign film fans, musical comedy lovers
Forget subtitles, one of the most successful films to ever hop the pond from Europe (France, specifically) is a silent film. The black-and-white romantic, musical dramedy sparkles as it follows an up-and-coming silent starlet (played by the magnetic Bérénice Bejo) in 1920s Hollywood as she adjusts to the rise of “talkies.” For a film that doesn’t “say” much, it racked up quite an award collection, including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.
The Hunger Games
for: Teens, young adult fiction readers, dystopia fans
Yes, the books by Suzanne Collins are better, but the film is still an exciting and visually beautiful romp. The fearless 16-year-old heroine Katniss Everdine acts as the viewer’s guide into the post-apocalyptic world of Panem, where the Capitol pits children against each other for bloodsport. It’s like Lord of the Flies, except the adults are the ones who have gone mad with power.
for: Kids, Pixar lovers
Pixar’s first feature film carried by a female protagonist is a sweet and plucky tale. In the Highlands of Scotland, the tradition-defying, raven-haired, crackerjack archer Princess Merida must save her family from a curse that befell them after she visited a witch. For Brave, Pixar revamped their entire system for the first time in 25 years to make the digital imagery really pop, and they succeeded. — Alex Notman