How many superheroes does it take to salvage a comic book universe?
Six. Five doing the heavy lifting and the Flash, who's the lowercase joker DC's too-serious superhero franchise needs.
Justice League assembles two overdone caped/cowled icons, a freshly minted feminist role model, Thor's water aerobics partner and two superheroes unlikely to carry their own movies. Safety in more numbers after just Batman v. Superman (upstaged by Wonder Woman) didn't turn out Marvelous.
In the heart-tugging tradition of Mask comes Wonder (PG) starring Jacob Tremblay (Room) as a facially deformed boy attending public school for the first time. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson co-star as his brave-faced parents while Hamilton's Daveed Diggs plays a supportive teacher.
Wonder is based on R.J. Palacio's bestselling novel and directed by Stephen Chbosky, who worked wonders with teen movie tropes in an adaptation of his book The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Sony Animation Studios hired a suitably starry stable of voices for The Star (PG), the Bible's nativity story told by the manger's menagerie. You can't throw a frankincense stick without hitting a celebrity.
For starters there's Oprah Winfrey as a camel, left, singers Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey and Kris Kristofferson, plus comedians Tracy Morgan, Keegan-Michael Key and Anthony Anderson.
However, the hottest cast member for this season is Christopher Plummer as King Herod. In addition to this movie, Plummer makes a delightful Scrooge in next week's The Man Who Invented Christmas and he's rushing to redo disgraced Kevin Spacey's scenes in All the Money in the World before its late December release.
FESTIVAL TIME: ET CULTURA
St. Petersburg's Et Cultura Film Festival opens Wednesday at Sundial 20, part of a five-day multimedia binge downtown.
Et Cultura passes ($50-$250) allow access to all film, music, art and interactive events through Saturday. Single event tickets are subject to availability. Visit etcultura.com for information.
The film festival begins Wednesday with an 8 p.m. screening of Jack C. Newell's 42 Grams, a documentary about a mercurial chef opening a restaurant. Newell and the doc's subject Jake Bickelhaupt lead a post-show Q&A session.
Thursday's 8 p.m. offering is Dare to Be Different, Ellen Goldfarb's documentary tracing the 1980's radio rise of new wave and punk music through New York's WLIR. That station's voice Scott "DJ Bird" Peacock joins Goldfarb for a post-show Q&A.
Friday's slate begins at 11 a.m. with the first of four short film sessions. The evening's 7 p.m. showcase documentary is The Key to Dali, in which Spanish scientist Tomeo L'Amo buys a painting believed to be an original Salvador Dali work of art. L'Amo leads a Q&A session afterward.
The day's lineup concludes at 9 p.m. with the sci-fi anthology Omni:Verse, 15 short films linked by the question "what if?"
The shorts parade continues Saturday at 11 a.m. with screening sessions every two hours categorized by genre including a Florida-produced collection at 11. Docs include Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (7 p.m.) and Brimstone & Glory (9:30).
Et Cultura add a grisly touch Saturday with a 9 p.m. screening of Video Massacre, an horror shorts anthology created by 20 of Brooklyn's most twisted filmmakers. A few of them will dissect the movie during a post-show Q&A.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 The Florida Project: Homeless children make their own magic in Disney World's shadow.
2 Thor: Ragnarok: We're not laughing with Chris Hemsworth, right; we're laughing at him.
3 Blade Runner 2049: Ryan Gosling stars in a cerebral sequel to a sci-fi classic.
4 Justice League: Not the Big Bang that DC's universe needs but fun.
5 Wonderstruck: Todd Haynes makes another great-looking movie.
(Dates subject to change)
Wednesday: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Coco; Lady Bird; Last Flag Flying; The Man Who Invented Christmas; Roman J. Israel Esq.; Chappaquiddick; Polaroid
Dec. 1: He's Out There
Dec. 8: The Shape of Water; The Disaster Artist
Dec. 15: Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Ferdinand
Dec. 22: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; Pitch Perfect 3; Downsizing
Dec. 29: The Greatest Showman; Molly's Game