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Recent Movies: Creed; 45 Years; The Revenant

February 16, 2016

Recent Movies

Creed

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is a young black man from Los Angeles and has aspirations to be a boxer. He moves to Philadelphia to seek help from Rocky Balboa as played by Sylvester Stallone who reprises his famous role yet again.

The introduction to Adonis as a child is rather fascinating when a mysterious maternal figure appears in his life. The identity of his connection with the woman is revealed later as is his connection with Rocky. These revelations are intriguing as are the fates the viewer gradually learns of other characters in the early “Rocky” films.

At the start of the film, there are many good reasons given to discourage Adonis from boxing. This is just the obligatory attempt to appear cautious and concerned. Then, the movie rips right into glorifying the sport.

Overall, the movie has good elements. There are energetic scenes and the acting is fine. Stallone’s presence and charm add greatly to the film although the recent batch of awards does seem like over-praise.

The trouble is that the movie seems to follow the formula of the many standard boxing movies before it. The mandatory romance could be foreseen within milliseconds. (In fairness, the love interest has an interesting story of her own. The movie would have benefited with more emphasis on it.) And the training scenes, while finely edited, seem endless – mainly because we’ve seen them before in many other movies.

“Creed” pays a nice sentimental tribute to the original “Rocky” film while introducing younger talent. It would have benefited more from a story with more surprises.

RATING (out of four stars): * * 1/2

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45 Years

Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Jeff (Tom Courtenay) are a retired, childless couple who live in the countryside region in Norfolk, England. When Jeff receives information about a former lover long gone, the internal lives of each are affected as is their marriage.

As the story is of the day-to-day lives of this couple and the various other people in their lives (plus a beautiful dog), the pace seems slow but it is always steady and intriguing thanks partly to director/writer Alexander Haigh. The many quiet scenes lead magnificently to a grand event that is familiar to many of us: a crowded anniversary party. Haigh’s screenplay also includes gems about the process of aging including the reflection on how life choices change when one ages.

Courtenay is very convincing as someone who withdraws due to the recall of old grief. He also has a great moment in the final scene.

But it is fair to say that the movie truly belongs to Rampling. In addition to the film’s narrative, she tells a parallel story of her inner life with deep facial expressions and subtle body movements. In scenes when she’s with someone else, one is more inclined to watch her as she listens rather than the speaker.

Whenever I note an outstanding performance (as I do below), there is usually at least one “meltdown” scene in which the performer chews the scenery. That never happens in “45 Years”. But Rampling’s subtlety is so powerful and unique that her performance is exceptional. Though she was born well after the end of the silent move era, she could easily have been a silent film superstar with her unique talents.

RATING: * * *

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: Lead Performance by Charlotte Rampling

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The Revenant

Based on a true story: In 1823, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an experienced hunter and trapper working with other trappers in the northwestern U.S. While facing hardship and difficulties in the wild, Glass is betrayed. The movie chronicles his survival and his quest for revenge.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has created brilliant scenes within the elements of nature. He is greatly aided by cinematographer Emmanuel Lukezki. The many aerial vistas (filmed in southern Argentina and the western regions of Canada and the U.S.) reward the eyes and there is great excitement in battle scenes and the now famous and unforgettable scene involving a grizzly bear. The filmmakers can also be credited for keeping the viewers’ interest during all of its 2.5 hours.

At one point, I found it too hard to accept that one man (Glass) could withstand so much and not only survive but even thrive at times. After some research, I learned that the events of the first half of the film are indeed true but the second half was fictionalized for dramatic purposes.

In a very unusual performance, DiCaprio deserves credit for a film in which he is mostly silent. There are moments of intense emotion with his great struggles and he can definitely elicit sympathy in his silence.

“The Revenant” is certainly a good film overall but probably not worthy of all the awards it is receiving. It is yet one of many macho movies galore. It is very skilled but it does not advance the genre.

RATING:   * * *

 

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