The Avengers saga lumbers to a satisfying finish in home video’s “Avenger: Endgame” and a talking dog brings life lessons and tears in “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
It’s Viewing the Videos.
“Avengers: Endgame” is a high quality conclusion to the 22-film story of the Avengers in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Viewers with knowledge of the MCU will appreciate a movie that’s packed with characters and references to all 22 of the previous movies.
So for fans, it’s a great big package of fun. For the rest of the audience, it’s an excellent, if slightly overlong, superhero spectacle.
In “Endgame,” characters return from all of the films (some coming back from the dead) to try to restore order in the universe.
But regardless of the massive amounts of exposition and numerous characters, there’s breath-stopping excitement, humor and a surprising amount of character development in a movie that could have been just a collection of special effects segments.
The cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Brie Larsen and roughly two dozen more actors capable of fronting their own movie.
Recommend. Enjoyable especially if you’re a fan.
The Art of Racing in the Rain
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a predictable package of emotional moments and predictable plot developments.
But it’s so well done and has such a good attitude about itself, that audiences depart satisfied.
Denny Swift (good name for a an aspiring race driver) meets up with a dog. We can hear the dog, named Enzo after Enzo Ferrari, founder of the luxury automobile company that bears his name. And his voice is supplied by Kevin Costner, who as a voice-over actor belongs in the rarified company of James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman.
We hear what Enzo thinks. He knows that after his death, he will come back and he wants his life lessons impressed on his soul so he’ll remember them.
The movie has larger lessons about life: what to focus on, when to take chances and what the art of racing in the rain can teach us about life.
And it also helps that the movie is based on a book that was on the New York Times best seller list for three years (and was a “Long Beach Reads One Book” selection). That’s a story that has audience appeal.
Denny adopts a puppy, falls in love, and the rest of the plot is as predictable as a Lifetime movie. There’s happiness, obstacles to overcome, great sadness and deep emotional impact.
Milo Ventimiglia from NBC’s “This Is Us,” is Denny. He combines the perfect aw-shucks demeanor with a drive to succeed but also does the right thing in his relationship with his wife, Eve (Amanda Seyfried).
This is a tearjerker, but you’ll be glad you went.
Four Palm Trees.
“The Kitchen” might have been better as a comedy, since it’s not a very good drama.
The story had potential either way. Three mob wives find the going tough after their husbands are sent to prison. The remaining members of the crew have promised to financially support the women while their husbands are in prison, but don’t supply enough money.
The three women, a wrecking crew of talent, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss, take over their husbands’ protection racket in the Hell’s Kitchen section of 1978 Brooklyn.
It’s still a macho environment the ’70s, in a very macho business, organized (although just barely) crime. While each of the characters has some strength, it’s hard to believe that anybody, male or female, could so easily take over the shakedown business when their husbands are sent to prison.
Their characters are interesting.
McCarthy is Kathy, whose husband expects her to know her place. McCarthy has shown she’s capable of good work in a drama (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), but this role is not well written.
Haddish is Ruby, a black woman who married into the mob. It’s a difficult situation, made even worse by her mother-in-law, played by the awesome Margo Martindale (“Justified” and “The Handmaiden’s Tale”), who has little use for a black daughter-in-law.
Haddish is a great talent, with a large personality and besides her stand up has done good work in “Girls Trip” and in the TBS series “The Last O.G.” with Tracy Morgan.
She was calmed down in “Uncle Drew” and “Night School” opposite Kevin Hart, so she clearly has the dramatic chops. So maybe this just wasn’t a good role for her. Her character just goes through the motions.
Moss’s Claire escapes a physically abusive relationship and slips easily into the actual life of crime. She learns to dismember a body after she kills someone and how to make the parts disappear in the East River.
So, interesting characters in richly textured setting, and it’s still a bad movie.
One Palm Tree.
FROM THE VAULT
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
While she’s best known for her comedy, Melissa McCarthy (“The Kitchen”) deserved an Oscar nomination for her downbeat role in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” It’s a true story of a struggling writer who forges letters from famous authors to survive. She’s great. And Richard E. Grant is no slouch as her partner in crime, a low-life hustler.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.