From his 1985 debut on American television, Elmo has become arguably the most popular resident of Sesame Street, dispensing warm hugs to everyone he meets. Documentary filmmaker Constance Marks delves beneath the eye-catching red fur in Being Elmo to celebrate the talent of the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, who has been the falsetto voice and heart of the lovable monster since his inception. Unfolding largely in chronological order with warm narration from Whoopi Goldberg, Being Elmo is as charming as its unassuming subject, revelling in Clash’s passion for make-believe and his ability to connect with children of all ages, including one heartbreaking scene of a terminally ill girl choosing a visit from Elmo as her dying wish. Only the coldest hearts will be unmoved.
More is less, where superheroes are concerned, in Avengers Assemble, the special effects-laden amalgamation of four Marvel Comics franchises, which unites the inflated egos and rippling muscles of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to save mankind from power-hungry Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his extra-terrestrial cohorts. Writer-director, Joss Whedon gifts all of the best lines to Downey Jr’s playboy and he orchestrates the spectacular, overblown set pieces with brio. There’s a clear presumption that audiences will have seen the earlier films, accounting for a paucity of fresh character development, and the final battle is hilariously onesided in favour of the super-powered dream team. The forces of evil are doomed.
It has been 14 years since indie auteur Whit Stillman refracted his rose-tinted memories of Studio 54 through the lens of The Last Days Of Disco. His latest feature, the whimsical comedy, Damsels In Distress, has been worth the wait, earning a steady burble of giggles as three ill-prepared college students (Greta Gerwig, Carrie MacLemore, Megalyn Echikunwoke) and their welladjusted new recruit (Analeigh Tipton) do more harm than good with a counselling service for depressed fellow undergraduates. Stillman’s script glistens with arch oneliners – “Speaking of suicide prevention: Lily, do you have a boyfriend?” – which the ensemble cast relish. However, there’s a cool detachment from some of the characters that makes Damsels In Distress a film to greatly admire rather than unabashedly adore.