This is why they call it Marvel! First-time directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson helm the immersive animated comic book “canon” ball, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (A), showcasing kinetic storytelling and sheer audacity at the service of a creative and emotional spectacular. The co-directors’ vibrant, kaleidoscopic and sometimes psychedelic visual palette upstages the Oscar-winning original film with more than a half dozen animation styles, countless incarnations of the iconic title character and a pristine web of heart and humor. Grounded teen Miles/Spider-Man (Shameick Moore, pitch perfect) and Gwen/Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld, emotive and brilliant) embark on a mind-trip fighting villain The Spot (a wry Jason Schwartzman) and traversing the multiverse where they meet a new team of Spider-People, known as the Spider-Society, led by Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (an imposing Oscar Isaac). A series of adventurous encounters significantly raise the stakes before the inevitable cliffhanger to the trilogy’s next installment. From the get-go of its cold open prologue, the film commands immediate attention and is surprisingly shape-shifting in nearly every frame, jolting viewers with enough artistic fluidity, wily spirit and imagination to fill infinite worlds. The ensemble’s excellent voice cast includes Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez as the central teen’s concerned parents who elevate the family story and emotional stakes of the characters with finesse. Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni and Issa Rae are whimsical standouts in a robust voice cast with the returning talent of fan favorite Jake Johnson, whose Peter Parker sports a surprise sidekick. The attention to detail in various alternating cityscapes is staggeringly impressive and keeps an already propulsive plot hopping. Also, kudos to music writer Daniel Pemberton dropping a considerable beat to accompany this rollercoaster ride. Indeed this middle chapter in this inventive trilogy is a feast for comic book and animation lovers and proves that even IP can have an IQ.
Writer/director James Gunn completes his trilogy of space-age strays, agile action, wily wisecracks and nifty needle drops with a wondrous and emotionally resonant finale in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (A-). Chris Pratt plumbs deeper emotions fighting the loss of his great romance in this go-round as the ensemble endeavors to save their injured and intubated collaborator Rocket Raccoon by infiltrating a series of treacherous lairs. This leaves a game Dave Bautista, Karen Gillian and Pom Klementieff to carry much of the franchise’s incredible comedy, and they get some wonderful zingers. The film is grimmer and more violent than past outings as it tells Rocket’s onerous origin story and terror at the hands of a truly diabolical villain memorably played by Chukwudi Iwuji. The world building and creature effects are first-rate, and the movie builds to a resonant final act. This epic rescues Marvel from its doldrums, but given its auteur has left to shepherd the DC universe, more greatness lies in store for the latter.
Life’s rich pageant unfurls in Afrofuturistic splendor as gifted director/co-writer Ryan Coogler showcases a mythological superhero swashbuckler that towers over recent installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (A-) accomplishes three simultaneous goals: honoring the legacy of the late Chadwick Boseman and his character as the denizens of the fictional Wakanda grieve the loss of a hero and protector, setting up an absorbing new conflict between nations and sharpening some critical characters on the precipice of critical leadership. Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o lend grace and gravitas as the women delivering emotional and intellectual superpowers to hold their kingdom together. The introduction of a new threat in the form of an underwater world called Talokan led by charismatic mer-man Namor, played brilliantly by Tenoch Huerta, advances the plotting and political intrigue. Although a little bloated in run time, Coogler’s sequel properly nourishes its characters and dazzles with wondrous world building. The below-the-line crafts are flawless, with Ruth Carter’s gorgeously ornate costumes again a standout. In many ways the film is an improvement on its predecessor with motivated action and stunts and weighty consequences. It is an epic worthy of the Marvel monicker.
Director Taika Waititi’s building blocks for his latest Marvel entry include three parts Airplane! style quips and playful pratfalls, three parts romantic comedy and four parts solemn action. It’s a wonder Thor: Love and Thunder (B-) works as well as it does in spurts even though it doesn’t really hang together in a cohesive way. Chris Hemsworth is amusing and swashbuckling as the central hero, although there’s never any real action stakes as he and colleagues march through perfunctory episodes. This installment is largely about the god of thunder regaining his emotional mojo. Natalie Portman returns as a love interest with new powers and an occasionally resonant backstory; she’s good enough to warrant a bit more. As new villain Gorr The God Butcher, Christian Bale is acting in a whole different universe, menacing and maniacal under macabre prosthetics. There’s also an amusing series of sequences involving a convention of deities. The film is often a clever lark, largely inconsequential and a missed opportunity for even more fearless and frolicking fun. This one doesn’t throw down the gauntlet with quite the precision or focus necessary.
For its inaugural summer season, the “Big Screen” at Central Plaza in the Town at Trilith south of Atlanta will showcase the REEL Tuesday at Trilith Summer Movie Series on select weeknights in June and July. Family-friendly films will be the featured attraction on the 25-foot permanent screen with a powerful sound and projection system. Bring a chair or blanket, kick back, and relax to watch these fun, upbeat movies:
Tuesday, June 14: Sing 2
Tuesday, June 28: Captain America: The First Avenger
Tuesday, July 12: Luca
Tuesday, July 26: Jungle Cruise
Movies will start at 7:00 p.m., weather permitting. Admission is complimentary and open to the general public. Participants may park for free in the retail parking lot on Trilith Parkway and at Piedmont Wellness Center.
Before and after the movie, attendees can enjoy the evening strolling the Town at Trilith, shopping at charming boutiques, enjoying dinner at one of the variety of restaurants and topping off dinner with a delicious dessert. Honeysuckle Gelato’s ice cream cart will be on site, and additional activities will be available.
The Town at Trilith is located at 305 Trilith Parkway, Fayetteville, Ga. To stay informed of activities throughout the year at Trilith, follow @TownatTrilith on social media.
Along with the ever-expanding retail and restaurant district, Trilith’s 235-acre master-planned residential and mixed-use development is known for balancing small town community charm with big city creativity and storytelling for its residents, many with ties to the film industry. The award-winning new urbanist community includes nearly 1,400 residential homes, ranging from micro homes and treehouses to gated custom estates and Provencal cottages, all within walking distance of retail, restaurants and parks.
The Town at Trilith is located in south metro Atlanta, Georgia, adjacent to Trilith Studios. Envisioned as a gathering place for creatives, artists, storytellers and makers, this European-inspired community will include 750 single family homes, 600 multi-family lofts, 300 hotel rooms and 270,000 square feet of remarkable restaurants, retail, office, and commercial space. The residential neighborhoods at Trilith comprise one of the largest geothermal communities in the United States, with 51% of the development dedicated to green space that is currently home to more than 1,000 trees. Upon completion, residents will have access to 15 miles of nature trails, 54 acres of forest, 19 superbly landscaped parks and one of the most sophisticated and welcoming dog parks in the world.
The logline for Marvel’s latest film probably wasn’t “Watch vast numbers of various versions of an underwritten sorcerer character move through time and space to stop a fellow spell caster from doing infinitely uninteresting things,” but if that were the pitch, the filmmakers nailed it. Alas Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (D+) feels like a contractual dirge in every way, from Benedict Cumberbatch’s lifeless lead performance to uninspired sidekicks to a convoluted plot and antagonist. The moribund blend of studio superhero franchise and bursts of horror elements is uneasy and does neither genre much service. The visual effects are pedestrian; in fact it may be one of the least aesthetically pleasing films in the film series. Little is done with some minor cameos which could have spiced up the mix. The lead character simply goes through the motions, ties up some loose ends from the WandaVision TV series and embarks on a few chases with jump scares. Even with all the possibilities of sly magic and universe hopping, it’s a creative low point for a series generally more inspired than this.
For a superhero series marked by continuous reboots, it’s only appropriate the latest entry is all about second chances. Spider-Man: No Way Home (B+) is the third in the arch directed by Jon Watts, and if Sam Raimi’s first trilogy sputtered in its third incarnation and Marc Webb’s trilogy two didn’t even eek out a third film, this installment manages to soar more than ever the third time around. Tom Holland is exceedingly charming and relatable in the titular role and joined again by a wry Zendaya and an amusing Jacob Batalon as his high school classmates. After his secret identity is revealed, Holland’s Peter Parker seeks out the multiverse magic of Dr. Strange (a droll Benedict Cumberbatch), and a cabinet of curiosities is flung open including some past villains. The film has a fresh and frenetic quality with a winning brand of humor and elaborate action sequences to please the Marvel Universe faithful. There’s a Back to the Future meets Inception quality to this entry, with insider humor and twisty timelines lacing this magnificent movie mixtape. More sentimental and more epic in scope than any of the live action Spider-Man films before it, this one rewards both casual and fanatic viewers with blissful bombast and heart.
After a Marvel villain famously destroyed half the world population, director Chloé Zhao actually raises the stakes in her cerebral and engrossing entry into the MCU, the epic action ensemble Eternals (A-). The “let’s get the gang together” type story centers on a group of ten superpower-wielding immortals who must come out of hiding to join forces and stop an eminent attack on earth. Although long in running time, Zhao leverages her ensemble and set pieces for some spectacular world building; and the action, while more sporadic than some fans may wish, is also consistently delightful. A-listers Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek are very good but not the center of gravity here. Lots of up-and-comers make the movie. Richard Madden is dashing, and Lia McHugh effective as mythic characters. Gemma Chan is wonderfully winning as the professorial heroine, and Kumail Nanjiani is wryly funny as a hero in hiding in the Bollywood film industry (his character continues to knowingly chronicle his quest documentary-style). This is a thinking person’s superhero movie with real characters and respectable tension; it’s quite a bit more talky than most in this franchise. Picturesque and powerful, this film and its auteur are forces with which to be reckoned.
This movie crouches with creativity until it starts draggin’. For its first two acts, Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (B) grabs the brash brass with a swagger worthy of a first-ever Marvel movie; but by the end of the final reel, the labored adventure limps like the 25th Marvel film installment that it is. The film successfully grounds its characters in intriguing emotional arcs, even if some veteran actors are better suited at the drama than the newcomers. Acclaimed Hong Kong movie star Tony Leung skillfully portrays the patriarch of a dysfunctional family and is the catalyst for a story that transports viewers from San Francisco to Macau in a quest for generational redemption and supernatural accessories. Simu Liu is a stunner of a physical actor in the title role, but his emoting in dramatic sequences is hit or miss, as is that of Meng’er Zhang who plays his stoic sister. Faring much better are Awkwafina in true command of her comic relief love interest sidekick role (leading man Liu is far more natural in moments of levity opposite her) and Michelle Yeoh who ups her “aunty” with dramatic and martial arts choreography skills. The film is an origin story in reverse, and the opening U.S. sequences with casual comedy and an outstanding extended fight aboard a runaway bus eclipse some otherwise deft world building to come in the Asian environment of underground fight clubs, shape-shifting bamboo mazes and enchanted villages with a menagerie of CGI beasts. Other than a glorious battle aboard skyscraper scaffolding, the events abroad do not measure up to the story and tone captured stateside. The film is chock full of interesting ideas but ultimately overstuffed in its endless parade of finales. It’s mostly highly entertaining even if the front is more of a kick than the remaining thrust.
Here’s a heroic hot take: It took 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe films for the creators to accomplish the hat trick of making it all not look so damn hard. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s easy, breezy entertainment Captain Marvel (B+) places its plum protagonist in a hybrid mystery/prequel set in the ‘90s, and it reveals its plot and characters with leisurely delight and a stunning lack of urgency. The easygoing ensemble includes Brie Larsen being cool and collected in the title role, a special effects de-aged Samuel L. Jackson as ultra-chill Young Nick Fury, Ben Mendelsohn as a funny and super casual alien menace and a fetching feline stowaway low-key stealing its sequences. Aerial dogfighting, mind bending, light speeding and urban outrunning its way into the beloved comic book franchise, the movie builds atmosphere and drama without Thor sledgehammering or strange doctoring into too much needless complexity. The unfussy story: find yourself, find a secret charged object and set the stage for saving the universe. Plus it’s fairly woke in the casting and character departments. Mawkish supporting performances by Jude Law and Annette Bening are thankfully eclipsed by the nifty grunge-era songbook, splendid visuals and generous helpings of heart (Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar are wonderfully warm as the captain’s surrogate family). The cast and crew clearly worked hard on this one, and it’s nice they put on a show without being so showy.
The new trailer has arrived!
I suppose you can’t make too much of a Marvel-ous mountain out of an ant hill. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp (C) is an exercise in low-stakes water treading, with a few clever miniaturization sight gags and funny throwaway jokes from Paul Rudd and Michael Peña to punctuate the perfunctory proceedings. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are a bore as the father-daughter scientist team in what becomes a primary subplot. Reed aims for casual cool with a protagonist who’s not particularly smart or engaged, and the director’s resultant product is a pretty disposable entry into this universe of superheroes. Average effects, villains and action sequences seal the fate of a film that peaks after the fanfare opening with some nifty ways the hero is filling time during house arrest. Any of them would have made more interesting activities than sitting through this ho-hum film.