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First, an apology. This review won’t be entirely spoiler-free. I am going to reference a couple of events that occur early in the film and can (and have been) widely deduced from the trailers. But if you really, really want to know NOTHING, stop listening or reading right now.

You have been warned.

Purely as a film, Endgame is not great. Look, the main plot involves time travel and there’s only been one movie franchise that had a good time travel plot and that’s Back to the Future. (There’s also an excellent episode of Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribbleations, that’s probably the best time travel show ever made.) Endgame does not break the streak of bad time travel stories. After filling us with all kinds of babelfish talk about the “science” of time travel, it then breaks all its own rules and the overall story is incoherent.

The one nice thing about the time travel is it allows direct call-backs to previous films. Our heroes are inserted directly into scenes from other MCU movies, and we get a little more context around iconic set pieces. There’s also a brilliant comics-based Easter egg involving Captain America and an elevator. So, even though it doesn’t make sense, it’s still a lot of fun.

There are also some pretty big character changes early in the film that are hand-waved away with a little bit of exposition, leaving you scratching your head and asking, “Why?” There are some comic bits that go on too long or fall flat—mostly involving Thor or Ant-Man. Captain Marvel is presented as so powerful, you wonder why Nick Fury didn’t page her about a dozen movies ago.

But...you’re not supposed to be paying attention to any of those things. The movie is merely a foundation for emotional beat after emotional beat. The only think that kept me from standing up and cheering loudly during the final fight is the fact I was in a crowded theater. Seriously, this movie was made to be shown in a stadium with the entire crowd roaring.

And crying. There was audible sobbing throughout the theater I was in. My daughter went through tissues like they were candy. I was choking back tears plenty of times myself.

Call it an epilogue. Or a coda. Or a finale. Whatever it is, it wraps up what is really phase one of the MCU. I know Marvel calls this the end of Phase 3. (Well, technically, July’s Spider Man: Far From Home is the end of Phase 3.) But, this has been one continuous story since Iron Man in 2008. We’ve been building toward this film—this MOMENT—for eleven years. And at the heart of the entire saga have been two iconic figures: Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.

Endgame is, first and foremost, the story of Iron Man and Captain America. If you are a fan of either (or both), you will leave...well, not satisfied, per se, but complete. This is the end of their stories, at least, for now—this is the comics, after all. It is a huge, fantastic, celebratory flourish to eleven years and 22 films. The only question now, is what’s next?

The movie really does end with the credits. There are no credit scenes. The credits themselves, though, are a love-letter to the fans from Marvel and the actors who have been with us on this journey. So at least stick around for that—you’ll know it when you see it. Then, spend the remaining credits scroll decompressing and get one last, little audio-only tag at the end.

What did you think of Endgame? Go ahead and post spoilers in the comments if you wish. I’ll post warnings all over the place keeping people away from the comments unless they don’t care. For now, all I can say is, make mine Marvel.

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The Final Deduction (Nero Wolfe, #35)The Final Deduction by Rex Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels are one of the more unique entrants into the mystery genre. Combining the intellectual acumen of a Sherlock Holmes (Wolfe) with the hard-boiled street smarts of a Sam Spade (Archie Goodwin), the novels are a treat to the ears, especially for lovers of good dialogue.

In The Final Deduction, Archie, the narrator, is in peak form. From badgering Wolfe into working (twice!) to convincing a wishy-washy client to show some spine (by lying about his--Archie's--mother!), the patter never slows down. Stout also likes to set up Wolfe's routine and then break it, and does so here by having Wolfe and Archie decamp for 24 hours to earn a fee. Archie's one-paragraph description of Wolfe's travails during the absence from home (he has to use soap that smells of tuberoses instead of geraniums!) is mournful and sarcastic in a manner that is pure Stout.

If there's any knock on this novel, and there is, it is the plot is pedestrian, easily deduced by the reader, and seems--more than most Wolfe novels--to be a perfunctory vehicle for the characters. Of course, it is those characters we love, and The Final Deduction is full of them. There are precious few Stout books I would actually recommend against reading, and this one is certainly not one of them. Enjoy deducing your way through The Final Deduction!

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I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the DifferenceI Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom S. Rainer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shakespeare wrote "brevity is the soul of wit," and no book I've read exemplifies this more than I Am a Church Member. Thom S. Rainer's slim tome does not waste time using 30 different Bible quotations to make the same argument over and over. Each chapter is only a few pages and gets straight to the point. Christians are all members of the body of Christ, but also members of a local church and there are responsibilities to that local church. A quick read and one that drives home how loving our siblings in Christ necessarily means we must also love, serve, and support the church.

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The Last CoincidenceThe Last Coincidence by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Roughly a decade after Rex Stout's death ended the Nero Wolfe series of books, Robert Goldsborough was hired to continue the series. There are two distinct eras of Goldsborough's books. Early Goldsborough runs from 1986 (Murder in E Minor) to 1994 (The Missing Chapter). Late Goldsborough begins in 2012 (Archie Meets Nero Wolfe) and continues to (as of this review) 2018 (The Battered Badge).

I generally find the early Goldsborough books to be superior, as he does a much better job of capturing Stout's tone. The Last Coincidence, unfortunately, does not quite live up to the standard of the other early Goldsborough books. Three things are just a little off.

First, while Wolfe certainly sounds like Wolfe, Archie's voice is not quite "on" in this book. The tone is not as off in the late Goldsborough books, but there's a certain flippancy that Archie carries with him that seems forced here. Perhaps it's the subject matter (date rape), or trying to shoehorn Lily Rowan into the story. (Goldsborough is far more fascinated with LR than Stout ever was.)

Second, the plot is pure contrivance. Wolfe pulls the solution out of thinner air than when he pinned his solution on a diphthong (A Right to Die, 1964). Stout plotted some whoppers, but this one truly stretches credulity.

Third, there is the subject matter issue. Goldsborough dances around the date rape subject, never quite plumbing the horror of it and never quite raising the victim to true sympathy. He doesn't downplay it so much as he doesn't play it up quite enough. Since it is the motivating force for murder, it should get more word space.

Overall, a serviceable, but not particularly good, entry into the Nero Wolfe canon.

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The Missing ChapterThe Missing Chapter by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roughly a decade after Rex Stout's death ended the Nero Wolfe series of books, Robert Goldsborough was hired to continue the series. There are two distinct eras of Goldsborough's books. Early Goldsborough runs from 1986 (Murder in E Minor) to 1994 (The Missing Chapter). Late Goldsborough begins in 2012 (Archie Meets Nero Wolfe) and continues to (as of this review) 2018 (The Battered Badge).

Early Goldsborough is far superior. The seven books of that corpus, of which The Missing Chapter is the last, hew very closely to Stout in tone and setting. The books are contemporaneous with their publication. For example, Archie prints out a check register from his PC; and, New York's distressing crime rate, very high in the early 90s, is frequently mentioned. Archie, the narrator of the books, sounds much like Archie. Wolfe sounds like Wolfe. Late Goldsborough is a different story, but that will have to be another review.

Thus, I thoroughly enjoyed The Missing Chapter. I slipped easily into the cadences and rhythms of Archie's patter and Wolfe's erudition. All the necessary filigrees are there, with necessary updating to 1994. (Archie notices a big screen TV! Wolfe has to get a new elevator!) The characters are intriguing (though there's far too little of Cramer and Stebbins), and the acerbity you associate with a murder investigation flows throughout. There's even a little bit of scandalous behavior, but the language is always clean. Archie never repeats the more vulgar language he hears.

The plot is reasonably tight, though the hints at the murderer seem a tad too obvious, but there's enough misdirection to hide what's in plain sight if you're not paying attention. My only knock on the book is the subject matter. The victim is the continuator of a popular detective series. It's hard to read the book and not feel like you're reading a sensationalized autobiography of Goldsborough as the continuator of Nero Wolfe. One even wonders if the pressure of continuing this beloved series is what led to the 18-year break between this book and Archie Meets Nero Wolfe.

If you are a long-time reader, as I am, of the Stout books, The Missing Chapter is a worthy addition to the Nero Wolfe canon. If you've come more recently to the Goldsborough books, you may find this book surprising in its deftness, and a welcome entryway to the older Wolfe books.

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User Rating: 5 / 5

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