If you get tired of turkey, football, and family, the long Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to take refuge at the cinema.
Five rather diverse films open this week in local theaters in one of the biggest release dates since Covid-19 shut down theaters in March 2020. Movie-going has rebounded since then, but the pipeline of films has been slower and attendance hasn’t fully recovered. However, this week seems more like old times.
If an excursion to a local theater is on your docket this week, there are quite a few solid choices. Recent releases “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Black Adam,” “She Said,” “Ticket to Paradise,” and “The Menu” are still playing.
Here’s a rundown of the new movies opening this week.
The Fabelmans – (PG-13) 2 hr. 31 min.
Malco Razorback, Malco Towne
Steven Spielberg’s latest film is fiction, but it’s basically based on his childhood with some artistic flourish and embellishment. The ensemble cast features Michelle Williams, Paul Dana, Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy, a Jewish 16-year-old who aspires to be a filmmaker. The movie has Oscar potential written all over it.
Strange World – (PG) 1 hr. 42 min.
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle, Skylight
Disney’s latest computer-animated offering looks gorgeous from the trailers, but is getting only mediocre reviews. The film features a story about the famous and daring Clade Family of explorers who are struggling with their differences on the verge of what could be the most treacherous yet critical exploratory mission.
Devotion – (PG-13) 2hr. 20 min.
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle, Skylight
Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country” and “Loki”) and Glen Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick” and “Hidden Figures”) co-star in this drama set during the Korean War about the U.S.’s most decorated wingmen Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner during that conflict. Brown plays a rare for the time African-American pilot. The film details the struggles he faced and the bond forged with his partner, Hudner.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – (PG-13) 2 hr. 19 min.
Malco Razorback, Netflix
Det. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is back on the case when a destination party to a tech billionaire’s private Greek Island goes awry and a guest ends up murdered. The ensemble cast includes Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, Leslie Odom Jr., and Madelyn Cline. This film is in theaters only for a week before debuting on Netflix Dec. 23.
Bones and All – (R) 2 hr. 11 min.
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle
You might be careful not to see this horrific romantic road film directly after gorging on Thanksgiving dinner or leftovers. The film is about young cannibals in love, and some other creepy old cannibals the encounter. How do they know each other are cannibals? Why they can smell it on each other. Yuck! The movie stars Timothy Chalamet and Taylor Russell as the young people-eating lovers, and Mark Rylance and Michael Stuhlbarg as fellow “feeders” they meet along the way.
Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most-successful motion picture franchise of all time. It spans 39 movies and streaming series and has raked in billions of dollars for its parent company Disney since it acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009.
Having grown up reading comics, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the bulk of the MCU’s output. Even the MCU’s worst efforts provide me with a bit of joy by seeing he characters I’ve known most of my life on the printed page brought to life on the big screen.
With the books closed on Phase Four of the MCU after the opening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” earlier this month, I thought this holiday weekend might be a fun time to rate the MCU’s product from least favorite to favorite.
By no means is this a definitive ranking. It’s just how I feel about these movies at this point in time. Favorites wax and wane over time. If your opinion varies from mine — and no doubt it will — vive la différence.
No. 39 – Moon Knight
In the comics, the character started out as basically a Batman clone in the mid-1970s, but over the years it took some rather large twists and turns into multiple personality disorders and insanity. The streaming series embraced the later, and while Oscar Isaacs is as talented an actor as Marvel has at its disposal, the series lost me along the way.
No. 38 – Thor: The Dark World
The movie is better for what it sets up down the road for “Avengers End Game” than as a compelling piece of entertainment. I actually fell asleep in the theater watching this one.
No. 37 – Loki
The MCU’s version of Loki is a compelling character, and Tom Hiddleston makes Thor’s double-crossing brother come to life, but this series which takes its cue from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a bit too trippy for my taste.
No. 36 – What If
This anthology series is very hit and miss. I was not a great fan of the animation style, and while I generally like alternate-universe material, none of the episodes truly knocked me out.
No. 35 – Iron-Man 2
Dull and overlong, the movie has some solid character moments between Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), his partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and sidekicks Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Happy (John Favreau), but the film’s basic plot was ponderous and tedious.
No. 34 – She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
All the MCU’s products contain a degree of comedy, but “She Hulk” was fashioned as a comedy. The problem was it just wasn’t all that funny. The first episode was quite good, and the various guest stars were fun. However the series missed the mark overall, and the final episode was a low point for the MCU.
No. 33 – Black Widow
David Harbour was fun as the Red Guardian and Florence Pugh is a good addition to the MCU as Yelena, but the movie is overlong with lame villains. Not the best way for Scarlet Johansson to say goodbye as the Black Widow.
No. 32 – Iron Man 3
This film deals with the fallout of the Avengers film and Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) glimpse of the threat of Thanos at the end of “Avengers.” Tony has super-hero PTSD. The film isn’t as off as “Iron Man 2,” but the Shane Black-directed movie is still a far cry from the originality and fun of first film in the trilogy.
No. 31 – Incredible Hulk
Sad that this might be the last Incredible Hulk solo movie. The MCU has the rights to use the character in its movies, but if a film has the character’s name in the title, Universal Studios has the distribution rights to the film. Marvel had rather use Hulk as a sidekick in other projects than share profits with Universal, particularly since the movie didn’t do particularly well at the box office. The movie isn’t horrible, but it is totally forgettable.
No. 30 – Thor: Love and Thunder
The movie is told like a comedic fairy tale/romantic comedy. Some of it works, but the tone is all over the place with a true darkness woven into the story. Supposedly the film was drastically cut to make a two-hour run time that was imposed after principal photography. The result is an uneven movie that a little too dark and way too goofy.
No. 29 – Hawkeye
Jeremy Renner remains appealing as the co-lead with Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, but this might have worked better as a movie or even a Marvel Special Presentation. Just too much fluff.
No. 28 – Eternals
Until the third act, the overlong film plays like a rip-off of a Justice League movie with a flimsy villain. The third-act twist is interesting, but by that point the movie leaves you worn out.
No. 27 – Spider-Man: Far From Home
The middle part of the MCU’s Spider-Man origin trilogy is the weakest of the three movies, but Mysterio’s posthumous reveal of Spidey’s secret identity is a great lead-in to the trilogy’s finale.
No. 26 – Ant-Man and the Wasp
The film expands Evangeline Lilly’s role as the Wasp, and who doesn’t like Paul Rudd, but the movie doesn’t quite have the oomph of the original. Even with the introduction of the Quantum Realm, which is expected to play a major role in Phase 5 of the MCU starting next year, the movie is just O.K..
No. 25 – Captain Marvel
Not only does the film introduce Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel but also the alien Skrull race to the MCU. Generally portrayed as a villainous breed in the comics, the Skulls date back to the beginnings of the Marvel Universe in 1961 in the comics, but there is some sympathy to be had for them as them as they flee the Kree Empire, whom Captain Marvel is affiliated with. The film is a bit convoluted, but still a solid fun.
No. 24 – Thor
There is much to like about the Kenneth Branagh-directed movie and its fish-out-of-water hero and his Asgardian cohorts. Although the movie gets off to a slow start, there is a good bit of fun to be had along the way.
No. 23 – Falcon and Winter Solider
Another Marvel streaming series that might have been more cohesive as a movie rather than a series. The show is at its best when Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) are dealing with their personal lives. Daniel Bruhl stands out in his second turn as Baron Zemo.
No. 22 – Ms. Marvel
The streaming show soars when dealing with Ms. Marvel’s family and friends, and loses its way with the more fantastic elements of the show. However, Iman Vallani, who grew up a fan of the character, is so charming in her role in the excellently cast series as Kamala/Ms. Marvel
No. 21 – Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
The movie is somewhat like a double feature crammed into a single movie as Doctor Strange’s journey dovetails with Wanda’s. The Scarlet Witch’s struggle with darkness is a more compelling storyline than Strange’s cameo-filled sojourn through an alternate universe.
No. 20 – Avengers Age of Ultron
The movie struggles a bit as it not only tells of Ultron’s threat to the Avengers and the world, but also lays bits of groundwork toward where the MCU is headed as Iron Man and Captain America clash and Thor investigates the Infinity Stones.
No. 19 – Shang-Chi
Many MCU fans rate this film much higher, but my familiarity with the comics left me confused with this cinematic revamp. The movie strays very far afield of the character’s comic origins. The movie is enjoyable, but it’s just not what I expected. The bus-fight scene, though, is one of the best action scenes in all of the MCU.
No. 18 – Ant-Man
This was a surprise for me as Ant-Man was never a particularly popular Marvel character. However, Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Kurt Douglas and Micheal Pena form a great cast for an imaginative super-hero heist film that works so much better than expected.
No. 17 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Star Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) meets his dad Kurt Russell (Ego the Living Planet), but circumstances are too good to be true for Guardians as they battle to save Quill from his all-consuming father. While not quite as cohesive as the first film, James Gunn’s style makes the Guardians one of the most fun corners of the MCU.
No. 16 – Spider-Man Homecoming
After his introduction in “Captain America Civil War,” the MCU and Sonny offered a revamped take on Spidey (Tom Holland). The film is energetic and fun, but layered with pathos that’s made the Web-slinger among the most popular super-heroes since his inception in 1961. Having Robert Downey Jr., as Iron-Man as a guest star didn’t hurt.
No. 15 – Werewolf by Night
An atmospheric and stylistic ode to Universal and Hammer horror movies, “Werewolf by Night” was a home run for me. I hope to see more of the character and his buddy Man-Thing in the future.
No. 14 – Spider-Man: No Way Home
The novelty of seeing three Spider-Men — Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield — working together is hard to top, but the soul-crushing finale where Peter Parker is isolated from his loved ones after making a selfless decision is so evocative of the character that so many comics fans grew to love on the printed page.
No. 13 – WandaVision
The first Marvel streaming series is still its best, detailing the lengths Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) goes to in trying to restore her world on her own terms after so much has been taken from her. Ultimately, she comes to her senses, but remains damaged, setting up her descent into evil that we see in “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness.”
No. 12 – Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) have been at odds since first meeting, but a registration act for super-powered being creates a rift that nearly tears the Avengers apart. The film introduces Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. A solid film, but it’s hard to watch mom and dad fight.
No. 11 – Guardians of the Galaxy
Perhaps the least-best known group of characters to ever head up a super-hero film, the Guardians instantly became fan favorites in James Gunn’s wild and imaginative film that lays the groundwork for the cosmic and comic side of the Marvel Universe. An entertaining romp that introduces the likes of Groot, Drax (Dave Bautista), and Rocket Raccoon as well as Star Lord (Chris Pratt). The film laid the groundwork for the MCU’s showdown with Thanos.
No. 10 – Doctor Strange
A top-notch origin story for a character that’s become more important in the films than he ever was in the comics. Benedict Cumberbatch is strong as the Master of Mystic Arts and Tilda Swinton is excellent as a gender-swapped Ancient One.
No. 9 – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Director Ryan Coogler outdid himself with this sequel without the virtue of its lead character. Fine performances across the board, a bit of an emotional twist at the climax, and the introduction of one of Marvel’s oldest characters, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) made this film much better than I expected.
No. 8 – Captain America: The First Avenger
Many thought Captain America was too old-fashioned to capture the imagination of a modern audience, but Chris Evan proved to be a perfect choice for the role and instantly began changing minds. The MCU hewed exceptionally close the comics with Cap’s origin and his friendship with Bucky (Stan), while continuing to flesh out the burgeoning MCU.
No. 7 – Black Panther
Chadwick Boseman infused T’Challa/Black Panther with a nobility, intensity and likability that made his character one of Marvel’s most popular super-heroes on film. Michael B. Jordan made for a riveting villain as Killmonger, who was as brutal as he was misguided.
No. 6 – Avengers
The movie isn’t perfect. Few if any are, but director Joss Whedon captured the fun and excitement of team-up comics and hammered out a foundation for what the MCU would grow to be.
No. 5 – Thor: Ragnarok
Director Taika Waitti delivered a film that was a living, breathing comic book with just the right mix of action, adventure, humor and whimsy. Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as Hulk truly brought the characters we knew them from the comics to life.
No. 4 and No. 3 (Tie) – Avengers Infinity War and Avengers End Game
The Armageddon and rebirth of super-hero movies on the grandest scale. Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo delivered all the bombast and emotion as the MCU’s greatest heroes first lost to and then took down evil Thanos and his alien warriors for good. Sacrifices were made, but ultimately our heroes came out on top, just like we want them to do.
No. 2 – Iron Man
The summer of 2008 might be the best on record for super-hero films with Christoper Nolan’s masterpiece “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” opening within a month of each other. Opinions vary, but “The Dark Knight” is the finest super-hero ever made in my estimation, but the success of Iron Man made the MCU possible. Robert Downey Jr., was the perfect choice to play Tony Stark and director John Favreau struck just the right tone of action, adventure and humor.
No. 1 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This espionage thriller, also directed by the Russo Brothers, is the finest hour for the MCU with Captain America (Evans), Black Widow (Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) working together to root out Hydra, who has infiltrated and compromised S.H.I.E.L.D. at its highest levels. It also pits Cap against his old buddy Bucky, whom Hydra brainwashed after his apparent death to become the organization’s most deadly assassin, The Winter Soldier. For my tastes, the movie remains the MCU’s highest achievement. The elevator scene and Cap’s subsequent escape is a phenomenal action scene and sequence. It’s perhaps the single best cinematic moment adapting a comic-book character to the big screen.