The Film Fix: Review of Avengers Endgame, plus selects from Netflix, Prime, HBO

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By Jonathan W. Hickman, The Film Fix

Below are reviews of both big-screen and streaming options fans will have this month.

IN THEATERS

Avengers: Endgame – Fix Rating 7/10
“Endgame” is a power-packed present for devoted fans who endorsed and supported the brand since 2008’s “Iron Man” kicked off the new comic book movie era.  There’s more high drama at work in this team-up feature than anything in the series. But the soft and tender moments work best.

The manipulative, almost to the extreme, adventure finds the survivors from 2018’s “Infinity War” grappling with the consequences of Thanos’ crippling decision.  What took but a snap of the finger, could, conceivably, be reset with another snap.

So, led by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Avengers search the stars and the heavens for Thanos in hopes of capturing the powerful Infinity stones and reversing his murderous deeds.  But if they do get the stones, can they bring everyone back? Should they even try? These and other weighty questions hang over “Avengers: Endgame” as the heroes debate the right path to take.  Oh, and there’s more than a few references to “Back to the Future.”

No character is left without a role in “Endgame.” This understandably makes for an overstuffed and busy movie that, at times, feels like a laundry list being checked off.  Regardless, fans will cheer with each character’s appearance, no matter how brief. And at right over three hours in length, co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo still manage to inject a measure of humor and pathos into a ridiculous story that will have some viewers in puddles.

Epic in its sweep and intent on covering all the bases, “Avengers: Endgame” is fan service on steroids.  And that’s not such a bad thing.

STREAMING SELECTS

Netflix

What to binge: Santa Clarita Diet Season 3 (streaming now) – An easy binge, “Santa Clarita Diet” just keeps getting weirder, funnier, and, yes, somehow sweeter with each season.  The story is about real estate agent Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore), who one day eats some strange clams and dies, only to wake up craving human flesh.  Yes, she’s a suburban zombie, but one who retains her good looks and only kills bad people. The surprising thing is how well the gruesome material plays within a conventional family drama.  Critical is the relationship Sheila has with her husband Joel (a dryly comical Timothy Olyphant) and their teen daughter Abby (Liv Hewson). Here’s hoping that season 4 happens.

What movie to watch: The Perfection (May 24) – This one is directed and co-written by Richard Shepard (see the great film “The Matador,” and the fun “Dom Hemingway”).  While I’ve not seen this movie, the trailers look very creepy. The story is about a musical prodigy named Charlotte (“Get Out’s” Allison Williams), who becomes involved with Lizzie (Logan Browning), the new star pupil at Charlotte’s former school.  When the two women encounter one another strange things start happening. In the trailer, Lizzie is shown with what appears to be bugs crawling around inside her, and Charlotte offers to cut them out with a meat cleaver.

What to avoid: Taking Lives (May 1) – While Netflix is doing its level best to root out bad films to commingle with their sometimes lacking original offerings, it had to be hard to resist “Taking Lives.”  Led by Angelina Jolie as an FBI profiler, this one also features Ethan Hawke and Kiefer Sutherland. The story has Jolie’s agent traveling to Canada to find a serial killer, who takes on the identity of each of his victims.

Amazon Prime

What to binge: Fleabag Season 2 (May 17) – I’ve suggested this rough, comedic series before, and fans are very excited about the long-awaited second season.  The show, an adaptation of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play, follows the misadventures of an over-sexed woman (Waller-Bridge) in the UK. She’s up for almost anything, and in this season, she finds herself smitten with a priest (played by “Sherlock’s” Andrew Scott).

What movie to watch: Guava Island (streaming now) – This “secret” movie project is from Donald Glover and his Atlanta director Hiro Murai.  Using the music of Glover’s alter ego Childish Gambino, the 55-minute movie is about a musician on a fictitious island who has to deal with political unrest. Rihanna plays the love interest.

Another movie to watch: Yardie (May 15) – I gave this one a 6 out of 10 fix rating when it was released theatrically. Although there’s something missing from actor Idris Elba’s directorial debut, it’s certainly worth a look.  A revenge tale at its core, “Yardie” follows Dennis as he leaves Kingston, Jamaica, to expand his employer’s drug trade in London.

What to avoid: Body of Evidence (May 31) – Just like you should probably avoid “Taking Lives” on Netflix this month, another tempting option might be to watch Madonna opposite Willem Dafoe in “Body of Evidence.” And even “Taking Lives” might be superior to this movie in which Madonna is accused of killing an older man by having sex with him.  Dafoe plays her lawyer in this limp courtroom drama.

HBO

What to watch: Barry Season 2 – This series, created by SNL alum Bill Hader and “Silicon Valley” producer Alec Berg, might seem like a cliche-ridden affair, but season 1 hooked viewers with its off-kilter tone.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a professional killer decides to leave the business but keeps getting dragged back in. Well, that’s part of the premise for “Barry,” a show about such a killer, played by Hader, who takes an assignment in Hollywood and decides to stay and take up acting.  His acting teacher is played by a hilarious Henry Winkler. But while the laughs come at a price, “Barry” has weight, and season 2 keeps the drama and the funny moments mixed uncomfortably, which is the show’s magic.

What to watch: Game of Thrones Final Season – If you survived the giant-sized battle of Winterfell last month, you are no doubt eager to continue the journey with the final three episodes all reported to also be lengthy.  Who will take the Iron Throne? Will anyone be alive at the end? Tune into HBO every Sunday for appointment television or binge them all after they’ve premiered on the HBOGo app.

THEATRICAL TEASERS

Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Despite it’s “PG” rating, this movie might have a chance of unseating “Endgame” at the top of the box office.  The story is set in the world of Pokémon, in which a boy finds a talking Pikachu that wants to become a detective.  In addition to rising star Suki Waterhouse, many will be interested in Ryan Reynolds’ voice work as the title character.

ART HOUSE CORNER

Wild Nights With Emily – Fix Rating 7/10
An adaptation of a stage play by Madeleine Olnek, who writes and directs this movie version, “Wild Night with Emily” is an unusual viewing experience.  The narrative concerns the odd life poet Emily Dickinson (played well here by SNL alum Molly Shannon), who was unable to find respect until after her death.  Focusing on Emily’s relationship with her sister-in-law Susan (Susan Ziegler ), Olnek’s film feels very much like a filmed play; however, it does have a cinematic feel.  What stands out is the use of Dickinson’s poetry, that has been restored following exhaustive analysis of her original hand-written words.

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