There's "The Avengers" and then there's everything else. That applies for this weekend, and possibly for the summer.
"The Avengers" is the real deal, a rousing superhero action movie that's brimming with good humor and sharp wit. Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon makes the story accessible to newcomers while keeping the fanboys happy. The performances - especially Robert Downey Jr. as the sarcastic Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans as the stalwart Capt. Steve Rogers/Captain America and Mark Ruffalo as the brooding Dr. Bruce Banner (who becomes The Hulk) - are outstanding. The bar for the summer has been set, and set high.
The only other studio movie this week is "LOL," a teen romance starring Miley Cyrus. It was not screened for critics.
The art-house list is strong, with good movies all around.
"Damsels in Distress" is writer-director Whit Stillman's return to form, a cleverly chatty comedy about privileged people - specifically, a group of young women seeking to civilize their until-recently all-male college. The leader of the group, Violet (played by Greta Gerwig), is quite outspoken in her belief in the healing power of tap-dancing and Gershwin music, until her personal life goes into a "tailspin" when her dimbulb boyfriend leaves her. Gerwig ("Greenberg," "Arthur") is charmingly goofy and appealing, as is the movie.
Two documentaries explore the work of artists in quite different fields. "Marley" is an exhaustive biography of the reggae legend Bob Marley, focusing on his life, religion and music. "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a gorgeously minimalist look at one of the world's greatest sushi chefs, whose philosophy of life and work comes through in every bite.
The Turkish drama "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" starts out like a police procedural, as law officers search the Turkish steppes looking for the body of a murder victim. But director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's slow, deliberate pace reveals something else, as each person on the search - the police commisar, the prosecutor, the suspect and the coroner - each see the search for a body as a quest for a deeper truth. The movie's overlong, but interesting.