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CALLERI: Doctor Strange returns as the Marvel march continues | lifestyles

Back when hippies walked the Earth, a movie like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “El Topo,” which enjoyed months of midnight screenings around the United States, was greeted by audiences with mood-elevating cheerfulness. The higher your mental enhancement, the greater the extraction of visual pleasures.

In Manhattan, “El Topo” ran seven days a week at the witching hour at the Elgin Theater from December 18, 1970 through the end of June 1971. The theater was on Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood. Conviviality reigned supreme. Nobody would purposely harsh anyone’s mellow.

A disconnect from reality – from the physical plane, so to speak – resulted in a special appreciation of “El Topo” for many. Myriad essays have been written about the power and importance of the film from a cinematic and sociological angle. Director Jodorowsky followed up “El Topo” with “The Holy Mountain.”

Both are examples of what a movie can be if rules are tossed out the window. If the story told is so unusual, so unique, occasionally so bonkers that the experience of watching it becomes the overriding point of sitting in a theater.

Letting the film wash over you seem to be the message of “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness,” which if you wish, you can call “Doctor Strange 2.” This latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the proverbial canary in the cinematic coal mine. If you can sit through its convoluted story, wait until you see what’s coming down the pike.

Before you go to a theater to watch the movie, which is the only way you can see it, here’s a caveat. You absolutely must be keyed in to everything that’s current about the MCU. You’ve got to know the players. You really do need a scorecard.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon, who, from the specific Multiverse in which he exists (there are hundreds of them), discovers that warlike characters in another Multiverse are misbehaving. He seeks help in dealing with the problem from Wanda Maximoff / Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), but he soon discovers that she, well…, I’m purposely not revealing anything except to write that another female character, the teenager America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), is equally essential.

I will state what I firmly believe should be a common sense reaction to what is a meandering movie. There’s a double-sided desire, from a variety of “people,” to kill Chavez because she has a lot of power. However, she becomes more powerful when threatened. Therefore, isn’t it smarter to weaken her by not trying to kill her?

And what’s with the giant green minotaur? It’s almost an afterthought, and a strange one at that. Additionally, Kamar-Taj was a mystical place. Does it make sense to make it less mystical? Is the cameo from Bruce Campbell as Pizza Poppa supposed to be played for laughs?

Through it all, with a CGI load of sorcerers involved and a major battle to sit through, there’s an army of promotional appearances from other Marvel characters. Ultimately, a gore-filled story is told that it is relatively uninteresting and assuredly repetitive. It’s also excessively loud and remarkably bland visually.

Your joy, if you choose to be joyful, is expected to rise from your delight at watching a parade of the denizens of the Marvel universe. Material will be delivered to you courtesy of a seemingly endless supply of crossover productions, including but not limited to streaming television shows, the most recent Spider-Man, the previous two Avengers entries, and, of course, the first “Doctor Strange.”

“Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness,” which is the 28th film in the MCU, has one smart and imaginative sequence. Laden with demons, Zombie Strange gives a stirring motivational speech. It won’t deliver you from evil, but it will surely nudge you awake.

Director Sam Raimi and screenwriter Michael Waldron try some ghoulish things that work only in a limited way. The cleverness needed from a comic book movie drifts away from them. Their film needed to be diabolical and it isn’t.

THE MYSTERIOUS CHILD IN THE FOREST. Two young girls meet in the woods, and they become friends in a way that connects families and generations. “Petite Maman” is about 8-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz), who adores her grandmother. After she dies, Nelly and her parents de ella go to clean out the woman’s home near a forest. It’s an emotional time for them, and Nelly finds solace during an exploratory walk she takes that will change her life from her.

Another young girl named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) is seen in the woods and as the days pass, the two children grow closer to each other, as if they are slowly creating a new family. The girls literally build a hut in order to hold conversations. They talk about life and encouragement. The bonds forged by their emotions deepen. Is this turnabout mystical? Imaginative? Something more powerful? The stories they tell are endearing and also rife with hints of a fantastic spiritual connection.

“Petite Maman,” which is written and directed by France’s Celine Sciamma, is both a reflection on the power of grief and an intriguing mystery. The girls share secrets that, as Sciamma carefully reveals, link them in an unusual way. The director understands childlike curiosity and the importance of maintaining a child’s sweetly innocent nature. She also understands heartbreak.

Sciamma’s film, which is playing at the North Park Theater in metro Buffalo-Niagara, is a delicate cinematic poem that beautifully glides from nostalgia to something genuine and insightful. The acting by the Sanz sisters is magical.

Michael Calleri reviews films for the CNHI news network. Contact him at


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