Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (PG13)
126 minutes, opens May 4, 4 stars
Following the events of the series WandaVision (2021) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Wong (Benedict Wong), with new ally America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), handle dangers emanating from alternate universes.
Three reasons to watch this film:
It feels good to check in with familiar characters
The post-Endgame films, such as Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021) and Eternals (2021), worked as interesting standalones.
Like No Way Home, this movie feels like coming home - these are heroes who do not have to introduce themselves, so the story can kick off right away.
It dives into the two ideas that will drive that new phase of the current decade-long arc - magic and the Multiverse.
Director Sam Raimi's horror touches add zing
Raimi is the architect of the modern Marvel film. The three Spider-Man movies he directed (2002 to 2007), with their mix of light comedy and sincere family drama, helped make the superhero movie the cinema juggernaut it is today.
But the director of cult horror favourites The Evil Dead (1981) and Army Of Darkness (1992) also knows how to put in a scare. Thankfully, Disney has allowed him to add his touch of terror.
The Infinity Stones always felt like magic anyway
In the previous Marvel phase, the Infinity Stones drove the drama. This phase takes place in a realm where the Stones have receded in importance. In other words, the stories go straight to the source of supernatural powers - magic - without the need for a middle-man explanation. If something fantastical happens, it is because of magic - it feels economical and direct.
Reasons to stay away
Now that Disney has spread the Marvel stories across films and its Disney+ streaming service, you will pick up more references if you are familiar with WandaVision. Yes, the lore law applies - the more you know, the richer the film will be. For the WandaVision-unaware, skim a Wikipedia page or two beforehand.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (NC16)
119 minutes, opens May 5 exclusively at The Projector, 4 stars
Oscar-winning film-maker Morgan Neville (music documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, 2013) looks at the life and legacy of celebrity chef, writer and television host Anthony Bourdain.
Using clips from Bourdain's travel and food shows such as No Reservations (2005 to 2012) and Parts Unknown (2013 to 2018), as well as interviews with friends such as painter-musician John Lurie and chef David Chang, Neville presents a portrait of a man who appeared to have it all - a daughter, a new love, the adulation of fans and the love and respect of his peers in the arts - but who ended his life by suicide in 2018.
The film contains a controversial use of a computer-generated voice-over made to sound like Bourdain.
Three reasons to watch this film:
The recap that celebrates a tumultuous life
Neville presents a generous summary of the qualities that made Bourdain a beloved public intellectual. The director presents moving evidence of the author-host's biting humour, his acute awareness of his own flaws and his curiosity about the food of other cultures, especially in the areas of home cooking and street food. A highlight is the behind-the-scenes clips of an on-the-road Bourdain tossing insults at camera operators and producers who try his patience, showing his capacity to be both funny and terrifying.
The transition from bad-boy chef and author to confident host
It shows Bourdain's growing sense of confidence about who he was and how that influenced his content. While hosting, he famously ate a cobra heart in Vietnam on camera, but later dropped that shock-jock shtick in favour of a deep dive into the lives of the people who welcomed him into their homes.
Do not come to this film hoping to find out why he killed himself because the interviews with his television crew members and friends show them to be as baffled as anyone else.
Some have theories. One points to an e-mail sent by Bourdain, believing it holds a clue, while another friend assigns blame to a specific person in the late chef's circle. But the overarching emotion is anger over the selfishness of his act. For fans of Bourdain, hearing those who cared for him express their feelings is cathartic.