SCREEN TIME: Can A24 Save Cinema?

The company began modestly in 2013

#1 Marcell The Shell
Photo credit: A24
SHELL GAME: Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) searches the Internet in 'Marcel the Shell With Shoes On' directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp.

Some movie studios have iconic logos, like the Disney castle or the Universal view of planet Earth. The ’70s-style design logo of production and distribution company A24 may not be as iconic, but it’s becoming an instantly-recognizable stamp of quality. At a time when movie theaters seem fated to show only the latest chapters of big franchises, A24 upholds the standard for artful, mature cinema.

An American company named for Italy’s A24 motorway, the company began modestly in 2013 but moved quickly, initially just distributing films but now also producing them (as well as such television series as “Euphoria”). A24 has such a keen eye for talent that it has earned 25 Oscar nominations to date, including major wins for such films as Moonlight and Minari. If anything connects A24 fare, which can range from coming of age stories like Lady Bird to confrontational character studies like Uncut Gems, it’s that they seem deeply personal to their creators.

A minority of A24 features are horror films like Hereditary, but they can prove so grim, intense and critically successful, the brand can be erroneously equated with them. Many are thematically rich or aesthetically unusual, but even the crowd-pleasers cater to a cinematically literate audience. Earlier in 2022, Ti West’s X depicted a small team filming a porno on a remote Texas homestead. X played like a hook up between the smutty humor of Boogie Nights and the slasher-film extremities of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and while it doesn’t perfectly balance its tonal shifts, it’s better to have a film with too many ideas than too few.

That more-is-better ethos is fervently embraced by A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, it’s most successful film to date. Michelle Yeoh plays a struggling middle-aged wife and mother surprised to learn she’s a hero chosen to prevent the collapse of the multiverse, and can draw on the skills of her alternate selves, from movie stars to chefs to martial artists.

The filmmaking duo called The Daniels riff specifically on films like The Matrix, but more broadly on the Hollywoodized hero’s journey that command the multiplex. The action scenes and sci-fi concepts enhance the themes of family relationships and self-actualization. Everything Everywhere All at Once, as the title indicates, can be hyperactive and exhausting, but is also a sheer delight and a deserved love letter to Yeoh.

The latest A24 release, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (opening July 8 in Atlanta), is similarly quirky but operates on a smaller scale. And I mean small: the titular character is about an inch high. It’s not a snail or other type of mollusk, but just a talking, one-eyed shell with a pair of shoes and an animated mouth. Voiced by Jenny Slate, Marcel lives in an Airbnb and is remarkably resourceful among oversized human furnishings, like one of The Borrowers.

Marcel is based on Dean Fleischer-Camp’s Youtube series of the same name, with the director playing himself as a lonely filmmaker who begins making a documentary on Marcel and putting the clips online. Marcel decides to use his viral fame to find his lost family members, soon learning both the excitement and limitations of Internet popularity.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is accessible to younger viewers than usual for A24’s releases, and is a terrific film for kids (as long as they’re old enough to deal with candid but bittersweet themes of mortality). With a much quieter, gentler tone than most children’s fare, it’s a terrific, tear-jerking film about dealing with loss, friendship and the beauty of life. And it may even introduce A24 to a whole new generation.
Opens July 8 at area theaters.  

Wed., Jun. 1

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story — John C. Reilly gives a hilarious performance as dimwitted rock ’n’ roll pioneer Dewey Cox. Director Jake Kasdan and the filmmakers present such a dead-on spoof of musician biopics like Walk the Line, it’s kind of surprising Hollywood didn’t retire the genre outright. It seems like a perfect pairing with Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. — Curt Holman 
$13. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com 

Fri., July 8


GOD SQUAD: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) reunites with her ex-boyfriend Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, the 29th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Thor: Love & Thunder — Expect plenty of space-faring silliness in director Taika Waititi’s follow-up to the acclaimed Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth’s thunder god reunites with his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who’s now also a hammer-throwing superhero. Christian Bale plays a character called “The God Butcher,” who’s sure to be a totally chill dude. — Curt Holman 
Opens July 8 at area theaters.  

Sun., Jul. 17 and Wed., Jul. 20

Cabaret— The singers and other regulars at a Berlin cabaret perform musical numbers and have relationship dramas as the Nazism of the early 1930s rises around them. Winner of eight Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Liza Minelli and Best Director for Bob Fosse, this is one of the greatest musicals of all time, with themes that now, unfortunately, seem more relevant than ever. TCM’s monthly “Big Screen Classics” events, screened monthly in cinemas around the city (and the nation) celebrates the film’s 50th anniversary.'' — Curt Holman
Sun., Jul. 17, 1 p.m. and Wed., Jul. 20, 7 p.m. Atlanta area theaters. fathomevents.com/series/tcm-big-screen-classics 


Fri., Jul. 15

Where the Crawdads Sing— Daisy Edgar Jones plays a young woman suspected of murder in 1950s North Carolina in this mystery directed by Olivia Newman. — Curt Holman 
Opens Fri., July 15. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta, 30308. landmarktheatres.com/atlanta/midtown-art-cinema 

Fri., July 22


DON’T LOOK UP: In Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’, unearthly events take place in a Western ranch. Starring Daniel Kaluuya (from left), Keke Palmer and Brandon Perrea. Photo Credit: Universal

Nope— With the one-two punch of Get Out and Us, Jordan Peele has become a hugely successful creator of commercially and critically successful horror films with sharp social insights. Mystery surrounds his latest release, which involves spooky phenomenon surrounding a Black-owned horse ranch. The cast includes Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya as well as Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun. — Curt Holman 
Opens July 22 at area theaters.

Memoria — Acclaimed Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul directs this Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner that stars Tilda Swinton as a woman uncovering a mystery in Columbia. Screening in 35 mm. — Curt Holman 
$13. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com 

Akira — This stylish, futuristic cyberthriller, released in the United States in 1989, was many American viewers’ gateway to the Japanese anime. Expect this 4K remaster to be even more impressive on the big screen. — Curt Holman 
$13. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com 

Fri., July 29

The King of Comedy — Martin Scorsese’s scorching satire of celebrity and the hunger for fame was ahead of its time when it was released 40 years ago, and it’s lost none of its punch. Robert De Niro plays deluded would-be comedian Rupert Pupkin, whose obsession with a late-night talk show host (Jerry Lewis) takes increasingly dark turns. This film, along with Taxi Driver, was hugely influential on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. — Curt Holman 
$13. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com

Thu., Aug. 4-Sun. Aug. 7

Cobb International Film Festival — This four-day festival held at Marietta’s historic Strand Theatre screens features, shorts and documentaries from around the world and includes an awards program. — Curt Holman
''$15-$50 passes. Thu., Aug. 4-Sun. Aug. 7. Strand Theatre, 117 N. Park Square, Marietta, 30060. cobbfilmfestival.com

Fri., Aug. 5

Bullet Train — Brad Pitt plays a hitman who takes a mission on Japan’s high-speed bullet train, only to find that it’s rife with other hired killers. David Leitch, uncredited co-director of John Wick, leans heavily into the comedy of this shoot-’em-up that co-stars Sandra Bullock, Joey King and “Atlanta’s” Brian Tyree Henry and Zazie Beetz. — Curt Holman
Opens Aug. 5 at area theaters.

Sharp Stick — Five years after the end of her acclaimed, divisive and zeitgeist-defining HBO show “Girls,” Lena Dunham returns to the big screen for a sure-to-be-uncontroversial comedy starring Kristine Froseth, John Bernthal, Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Zola’s” Taylour Page and the filmmaker herself. — Curt Holman
Opens Aug. 5 at area theaters.

Sat., Aug. 6

Silver Scream Spook Show: Jason and the Argonauts — This 1963 fantasy adventure film sends the heroic Jason and the crew of the Argo fight on the quest for the Golden Fleece. The film serves as a showcase for special effects artist Ray Harryhausen, whose classic stop-motion animation includes several classic set pieces, including the heroes dueling multiple re-animated skeletons. Hosted by Atlanta’s live, burlesque tribute to classic TV horror hosts and featuring a kid-friendly matinee. — Curt Holman
$10-$15. Sat., Aug. 6, 1:30 and 10 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com

Wed., Aug. 10

But I’m a Cheerleader — This satirical comedy from 1999 stars “Russian Doll’s” Natasha Lyonne as a teenage lesbian forced to undergo conversion therapy. A mixed success in its initial release, the film has found a cult audience over the years. Featuring Clea DuVall, Mink Stole, Bud Cort, Melanie Lynskey and Ru Paul. — Curt Holman
$13. Wed., Aug. 10. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com

Sun., Aug. 14 and Wed., Aug. 17

The Return of Swamp Thing — Prolific shlock auteur Jim Wynorski directed this low-budget 1989 sequel to Wes Craven’s originalSwamp Thing feature film. This live simulcast event presents the comedic commentary from RiffTrax over the swampy superhero shenanigans. — Curt Holman''

Sun., Aug. 14 and Wed., Aug. 17. Atlanta area theaters. fathomevents.com/events

Tue., Aug. 16

Nashville —A masterpiece of 1970s American cinema, this sprawling ensemble piece crosscuts between multiple characters at the intersections of fame, politics and country music. Director Robert Altman oversees a stellar cast that includes Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin and Ronee Blakely in a heartbreaking role as a fragile country music star. Not to be missed. — Curt Holman

$12. 7 p.m., Tue. Aug. 16. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta, 30308. landmarktheatres.com/atlanta/midtown-art-cinema

Thu., Aug. 19-Sun. Aug. 21

Atlanta Underground Film Festival — The 19th annual festival for independent cinema showcases work on film and video from outside the mainstream. — Curt Holman

Thu., Aug. 19-Sun. Aug. 21. RoleCall Theater, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE Atlanta, 30308. auff.org

Tue., Aug. 23

Magnolia — Robert Altman’s work was a major influence on Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic-length ensemble film, featuring one of Tom Cruise’s best performances as well as terrific turns from Julianne Moore, Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the recently-deceased Philip Baker Hall. Aimee Mann provides a running musical accompaniment. — Curt Holman
$12. 7 p.m., Tue. Aug. 23. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta, 30308. landmarktheatres.com/atlanta/midtown-art-cinema

Tue., Aug. 23-Sun. Aug. 28

BronzeLens Film Festival —The 13th annual festival of cinema by, for or about African-Americans and the African diaspora screens shorts and feature films while also hosting panels and workshops — Curt Holman
$75-$300 passes. Tue., Aug. 23-Sun. Aug. 28. bronzelens.com

Wed., Aug. 31

Three Thousand Years of Longing — Director George Miller follows his action masterpiece Mad Max Fury Road with this wild-looking fantasy about a repressed Englishwoman (Tilda Swinton) who releases an ancient djinn (Idris Elba). — Curt Holman

Opens Aug. 31 at area theaters.