Writer-editor Stan Lee wasn’t solely responsible for making Marvel Comics a cultural phenomenon, but his flair for publicity – expressed in a punchy prose style that treated readers like familiars – undeniably helped enhance the brilliant works of artists like Jack Kirby for sale. Steve Ditko and John Romita. Of course, Lee was also a master at selling himself by spreading evocative myths about his role in creating enduring superheroes like the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Avengers, and Spider-Man. There was some truth to almost all of his anecdotes, but it was mixed with amusing babble and exaggeration.
David Gelb’s film “Stan Lee” is a “Print the Legend” documentary film. The dominant voice in the image is that of Lee, who can be heard in extensive audio and video interviews from different eras, including towards the end of his life. Yellow illustrates Lee’s memories with colorful panels from old Marvel comics; and he stages sophisticated re-enactments of daily life in the Marvel offices, using plastic figures as substitutes for Lee, Ditko, Kirby and co. For those who only know Stan Lee from his guest appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his general presence in pop culture, this film offers a solid introduction to the origins of an entire generation of superheroes.
But what viewers don’t really learn here is that many of these origin stories are controversial. If “Stan Lee” weren’t a product of the Marvel-affiliated Disney+ streaming service, the film could do more than briefly address the struggles of some of Lee’s artistic staff with his habit of hoarding credit. The biggest conflict in this film instead involves Lee’s own hurt feelings when he admits he felt marginalized by Marvel after retiring – until that brought him back to the MCU era, which is said to be the happy ending of this documentary.
The more superficial approach to Lee’s life and work may have been the price Yellow and his team paid for access to the Marvel archives; If so, it’s hard to argue about how good the results look. The story told lacks depth and insight; But it has snap closure and polish, and it features a lot of amazing art. In a way, it’s a real Stan Lee experience.
‘Stan Lee.’ TV-PG, for moderate violence. 1 hour, 26 minutes. Available on Disney+
“Take care of Maya”
Despite all the good that hospitals and social services do, there are times when well-meaning citizens fall into the clutches of bureaucracy. Henry Roosevelt’s documentary Take Care of Maya focuses on the legal and health nightmare of the Kowalskis, a Florida family whose daughter Maya was diagnosed with a rare, debilitating disease by her own doctor, only to be separated from her parents A local hospital questioned this diagnosis, suspecting the parents of child abuse. Roosevelt also shows how often over-caution in the medical establishment leads to families being torn apart.
Take Care of Maya is often difficult to watch because the Kowalskis documented many of their most difficult experiences – including Maya’s extreme pain and loneliness, and the court’s seeming indifference to her suffering. The film drags on at times, reflecting the slow pace of the Kowalskis’ experiences. And it lacks any substantive refutation from the people who made life miserable for the family. Still, this is an engaging and challenging film that captures the frustration of being held in limbo by a system that seems to prioritize punishment over appeal.
“Take care of Maya.” TV-14, for allegations of child abuse, language, suicide. 1 hour, 43 minutes. Available on Netflix
It’s difficult for two longtime friends to make the transition from “simple pal” to romantic life. It gets even harder when those friends are teenagers — and none of them are sure they’re gay. In writer-director Mariano Biasin’s Sublime, Manuel (Martín Miller) and Felipe (Teo Inama Chiabrando) are 16-year-old Argentinians who play together in a remarkably talented pop-punk group. Manuel and Felipe inspire each other in the rehearsal room and they bond on stage. But when Manuel realizes that he is more attracted to Felipe than his own girlfriend, he begins to withdraw emotionally from his loved ones, causing tension in the band.
Biasin doesn’t process this situation through a complicated, constructed plot. Focusing primarily on the mundane details of these boys’ lives, “Sublime” documents the surging hormones and general fog of confusion that can make teenage zeal so challenging. This is a light but insightful film that feels very real. It’s also melodic, joining songs like “We Are the Best!” and “Sing Street” on the list of catchiest movies about teen rockers.
‘Sublimate.’ In Spanish with subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour 40 minutes. Available on VOD
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an American soldier who embarks on a dangerous, secret rescue mission in Afghanistan to save the life of the interpreter (Dar Salim) who helped him survive a war zone. Though the film slams political leaders who desert loyal allies, the film isn’t so much a movie as it is a tight, detailed action film – equal parts factual and gripping. Warner Bros.
Also on VOD
“ParaGold” is an insightful and heartwarming documentary about equestrians working to qualify for the United States Paralympic Dressage Team. Director Ron Davis spends time with four hopefuls for a film that largely eschews sentimentality in favor of a down-to-earth explanation of what it takes for the disabled and prosthetics to compete at international championship level. Available on VOD