Three Strikes You're Out

 

            In “Late Night,” Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a late-night talk show host who has always prided herself on taking the high road, and striving for quality and excellence.  In other words, B-O-R-I-N-G. Though she's won several Emmys, her ratings have been slipping for years, and finally, the network has told her this is her last season, and she can either cheerfully introduce her successor or just go quietly.  She chooses neither.

            Realizing that she's become so out-of-touch with her own show that she doesn't even know the names of her own writers, she finally notices that they're all white males, as is her stage manager.  And she never leaves the studio and goes out on the street to talk to people.  So she decides that she really needs a different voice, so here comes Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), whose previous work experience has been....quality control in a chemical factory?

            Despite the two significant main characters, the rest is completely formulaic:  Molly struggles to find acceptance, but gets Katherine to re-think some things.  Ratings start to rise again.  And yes, by the end, we overthrow the white patriarchy and everything is better.

            “Late Night” really can't decide whether to be a comedy or a drama, and misses a lot of opportunity for one-liners among a crew that's supposed to be good at them.  The best moments, actually, are the tender ones, with Katherine and her ailing husband, Walter (John Lithgow).  The rest just doesn't have the substance to keep us interested.

            And while we're on the superficial, “John Wick: Chapter Three-Parabellum” is nothing but non-stop violence.  Keanu Reeves reprises his title role, and there's a very loose plot about some kind of secret organization that the mortal combatants supposedly answer to, but really, it's all just an excuse for more knife fights, gun fights, car chases (and crashes), sword fights, you name it, it's a weapon.  Even for movie violence, it's particularly egregious (think nails to the forehead and knife points to the eye).  There's no letup, and there's nothing remotely redemptive, and in the end, it's completely pointless.

            “A Dog's Journey” at least tries to be a feel-good film, but the premise is preposterous:  a dog dies but comes back in the form of another dog, who somehow finds a connection with the same family, then that happens three more times.  As if there's such a thing as quadruple dog reincarnation?  Well, at least there's a romance in there somewhere, but its impact is muted by some angry family estrangement, as if we're trying so hard to “keep it real” that we're disappointing the family-centered audience.  Not even all the dogs are lovable, and all the discordant notes here makes this movie seem out of tune with itself.

            These three offerings deserve to be at the bottom of your “must see” list.

           

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association