Remember when superheroes were bursting with so much charisma, their spandex suits could hardly contain it? Well, don't expect that from the latest Marvel movie. When The Avengers assembled, it was magic. When The Eternals assemble, it's... meh.
Here's the gist: The Eternals have been around for 7,000 years. Up until now, they let humankind learn from their mistakes, but they reunite because evil Deviants are posing too big of a threat. I was so looking forward to Best Director Oscar winner Chloe Zhao ("Nomadland") getting her chance on the big MCU stage. (She's also one of five credited screenwriters.) Her indie films are brilliant, so surely her character development here would follow.
Nope. If any of the cast could be considered leads in the film, it's Gemma Chan and Richard Madden. Both are dull. Angelina Jolie and Selma Hayek, dull and dull. As expected, Kumail Nanjiani provides comic relief as one of the Eternals, along with Brian Tyree Henry, the first gay Marvel hero, but neither gets enough screen time because the ensemble cast is so big. The timeline skips back and forth over centuries, adding to the disconnect. Even "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harrington can't save this, as a modern-day human boyfriend of Chan's.
The real reason to see "Eternals" is for the mid-credits teaser. A new character pops in on the boring band, and I almost shrieked when he appeared. We can only hope he elevates what, for now, is a lackluster start to a new beginning.
(Disney/Marvel. Rated PG-13. Running Time 2 hrs. 37 mins. In Theaters Only)
To be a fly on the royal wall! We've seen depictions of Princess Diana before, most recently Emma Corrin on "The Crown." But you ain't seen nothin' until Pablo Larrain's "Spencer." Billed as "a fable from a true tragedy," it takes place over three days of a Christmas holiday when her marriage to Prince Charles is falling apart. Kristen Stewart plays Diana and does a fabulous job, though her breathy manner of speech gets monotonous.
Here's my problem with the film: Diana is portrayed as crazy from start to finish! I was a huge fan of Diana's. I saw her as a caged bird, her issues with bulimia and other forms of self-harm as the only means she saw to gain control. Larrain also directed Natalie Portman in "Jackie" about Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after JFK's assassination. Though he wrote neither screenplay, it's like he's bent on catching famous women at their most vulnerable then knocking them down even further. Diana is also portrayed as someone who can barely take care of herself, not to mention her adoring sons. She even starts hallucinating about a former member of the royal family. I won't tell you which one so you can appreciate the absurdity.
Stewart is likely to be Oscar-nominated, and the always perfect Sally Hawkins might be, too, as Diana's private dresser and sole touchstone to humanity. At least the movie has a happy ending, something Diana's life story did not. She deserves better on both.
(NEON. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 51 mins. In Theaters Only)
THE HARDER THEY FALL
This one was a fun surprise! Jay-Z produces a neo-Western called "The Harder They Fall." It portrays the West authentically. Many cowboys were Black. So, we have an all-Black cast, except when one of their gangs robs an all-white town. The sight gag used is priceless!
The cast is first-rate, starting with Idris Elba whose character, Rufus Buck, has been in prison. We meet him as he's being freed. But quickly on his tracks is the equally terrific Jonathan Majors ("The Last Black Man in San Francisco," "Lovecraft Country") as Nate Love, and boy, does he have a score to settle! When some money is stolen and gets in the wrong hands (depending on whose side you're on), the vengeful heat is on! The great cast doesn't stop there. You've got LaKeith Stanfield and Delroy Lindo. How about Oscar winner Regina King? You don't want to mess around with her, for sure! And the chemistry between Nate and Stagecoach Mary, played by Zazie Beetz, is palpable.
The film is directed by Jeymes Samuel, brother of the singer Seal. This is an example of an ensemble that comes together, with reggae and hip-hop music to punctuate the action. Not since "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" has it been this cool to be a bandit.
(Netflix. Rated R. Running Time 2 hrs. 17 mins. In Theaters and Streaming)