Creed (2015) Michael B. Jordan, Stallone – Movie Review

Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of former world heavyweight champion boxer Apollo Creed, who died in the ring before he was born, and a woman Creed had an affair with who died while Adonis was a young boy. Apollo’s widow Mary Anne pulls Adonis out of his hard-knock life foster care and juvenile hall to adopt him as her own son, raising Adonis to be a fine young man with a bright future in business. However, it seems Adonis is his father’s son after all, opting to drop out of white-collar life for a chance to prove himself in the ring as a self-taught, up-and-coming pugilist, undefeated as an amateur boxer in Mexico before deciding to head out to Philadelphia to seek out the training of Rocky Balboa, current South Philly restaurateur who was once the boxer who ended Apollo’s reign in the ring before they became good friends later in life.
Rocky’s initially reluctant, but soon capitulates to the earnest young man’s demands. Despite wanting to make it on his own terms as Adonis Johnson (his mother’s maiden name), soon word gets out that he’s Apollo Creed’s son, which opens a huge door of opportunity when the reigning light heavyweight champion from England, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, wants one big marquee match-up to give him enough money to survive before he goes off to prison. Long-shot odds for Apollo ratchet up to next to impossible when Rocky is diagnosed with a serious illness that threatens to take the former champ down for the count for good.

The Good Dinosaur (2015) Pixar, Disney – Movie Review

Offering up a sort of alternate prehistory on what might have happened bad the theoretical asteroid that hit Earth 65 million years ago that wiped out all of the dinosaurs not occurred, dinosaurs are the ones that have advanced to learn how to speak and perform agriculture. We spy Poppa and Momma awaiting the hatching of three of their eggs, springing forth unruly Buck, enthusiastic Libby, and overly jumpy runt Arlo. Buck and Libby take readily to their parents instructions, but Arlo is always lagging behind in his rites of passage, primarily out of his innate sense of fear, causing Poppa to have to take a more aggressive stance with the tyke to get him where he should be in life. When their silo of corn is constantly being raided by an unknown critter, Arlo is tasked with putting an end to it. After setting his trap and going in for the kill, Arlo discovers a feral Neanderthal boy with dog-like tendencies, and finds he can’t bring himself to do it. Mishaps arise that see Arlo and Spot (as Arlo has dubbed him) washed away in a river and subsequently quite far from home, forcing them to make the long, perilous journey back through strange lands full of stranger creatures.

Brooklyn (2015) Saoirse Ronan – Movie Review

Set in the early 1950s, Saoirse Ronan stars as Eilis Lacey, whom we find at the beginning of the film as a young woman who has grown to not have much of a life worth bragging about in her quaint small town in Enniscorthy, Ireland, where she lives with her lonely widowed mother, Mary, and her kindly older sister, Rose. Eilis finds the town a bit stifling for her, especially working short hours for a bitter spinster who demeans her. She’s been anxious for more, so when a kindly Irish priest living in New York offers her the opportunity to come to America to work in a department store in Brooklyn and a chance to build another life for herself, she’s excited for the chance, even though she dreads leaving her family and home behind. A major bout of homesickness threatens to cut her new life abroad short, at least until she is wooed and courted by a local Italian-American plumber named Tony, whose sweetness and gentlemanly demeanor opens her up to a world of new possibilities of love and a potential future. However, Ireland eventually comes a-knocking when bad news crosses shores, which requires a brief visit where she can see all of the wonderful things she was missing, causing her to go from a young woman with seemingly no future to a more mature one who has to choose between two possible bright ones.

Spotlight (2015) Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo – Movie Review

In 2001, the Boston Globe’s new editor-in-chief is Marty Baron, a Jewish media exec coming in from Miami to take over the reins of a paper that has always catered to a predominantly Catholic community and readership, but one on the cusp of primarily getting their news through their AOL connection and the World Wide Web. Baron’s first order of business is in getting to the guts of what the paper does and try to make it relevant to the readers they serve, and, in a conversation with Walter “Robby” Robinson, who leads a four-person investigative squad known as “Spotlight”, he persuades them to put their current story on hold and dive headfirst into getting to the root of a story about a priest who has been accused of several instances of molestation in the Boston community he serves, as it seems he has had a pattern of doing this wherever the Catholic Church has placed him, only for the story to be mostly buried and see him re-emerge in another community some time later. With the Church having such strong influence in the town, Robinson knows they’re going to face strong opposition wherever they dig, but the more resistance they get, the more they become convinced that the problem isn’t just one priest, or several — it’s an entire system within the Church that systematically keeps the stories under wraps for fear of shining a light on the many disturbing criminal acts within from individual serial perpetrators, as well as the environment of cover-ups that allows them to operate, seemingly without impunity.

The Night Before (2015) Seth Rogen – Movie Review

Isaac, Ethan, and Chris are friends since childhood who’ve made it a point, after Ethan’s parents are killed by a drunk driver, to get together on every Christmas Eve in order to party like there’s no tomorrow. (Yes, they’re going to commemorate someone else’s drunken revelry that led to a tragedy that left one of them becoming an orphan by engaging in it themselves.) Now into their thirties and ready to get serious about family and career, they’ve decided that this year’s night of debauchery will be their last. Knowing they should go out with a bang, Ethan manages to steal tickets to the biggest and most exclusive party in New York City. However, there are several factors that threaten to make the night not last, including Ethan’s inability to get over his ex, dad-to-be Isaac’s over-consumption of the box of various drugs his nine-months-pregnant wife has given him, and burgeoning football star Chris wanting to desperately to score point with the captains on his team that he means to secure a stash of weed they’ve asked him to bring to the bash.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015) – Movie Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the fourth and final film based on the Suzanne Collins trilogy of young adult novels, and the story, as it reaches its big climax, shifts more into a war flick and less a sci-fi based satire, as it becomes a game of survival to see if Katniss can stay alive long enough to capture and kill the villainous President Coriolanus Snow. It’s a decidedly darker film, not only in themes, but also in delivery, as the high-gloss shine of the aristocracy becomes dismantled by revolution, and what’s left of the Capitol is a mostly empty wasteland of deadly booby-traps set up by the craft game-makers (they’ve dubbed this the ‘unofficial 76th Hunger Games’), forcing the small band to evade explosive landmines, powerful gun turrets, floods of hot oil, murderous humanoid mutants (called Mutts), and other nastier concoctions to achieve their ultimate mission. To complete her task, Katniss defies the explicit instructions given to her from leader of the rebellion, President Alma Coin, to remain a tool for propaganda by actually taking a small faction of mainly prior Hunger Games survivors out to the battlefield to infiltrate the Capitol and put an end to the tyrannical reign of Snow over the 13 districts of Panem.

The Peanuts Movie (2015) Blue Sky Studios – Movie Reviews

Though the movie weaves many side stories in and out of it, the through-line of The Peanuts Movie is in whether or not Charlie Brown will strike up enough nerve to talk and get to know the new girl in the school he develops an instant crush on (he’s dubbed her the Little Red-Headed Girl — she’s traditionally never actually seen in prior works, but we finally get a glimpse of her here).  Taking place over the course of a school year, Charlie Brown seizes upon several opportunities to put himself on her radar (a dance competition, a talent show, acing a test, and a book report on “War and Peace”), hoping that being seen as a ‘winner’ will give him the leverage necessary to overcome the instances when he feels like a loser with a perpetual streak of bad luck.  In between this are several interludes, many showcasing some Snoopy solo daydream adventures where he “dogfights” the dreaded Red Baron to fight for the love of a French poodle named Fifi, high in the clouds, which is where the film’s choice to render 3D animation is put to good use, even if repeated visits are a bit of overkill.

Room (2015) Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay – Movie Review

Emma Donoghue beautifully adapts her best-selling 2010 novel of the same name, about young woman named Joy Newsome (Brie Larson), who has been kidnapped and held as a captive for repeated sexual abuse in the soundproofed and electronically secured shed in the backyard of a deranged sexual predator for over seven years. In the shed with her is her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who was born and raised in captivity in that tiny environment that they simply call “Room”, and whose understanding of the world comes only through his mother’s carefully shielded words, a television set that he’s been led to believe shows pure fantasy, and a small skylight. For five years, she’s been able to shield Jack from her captor’s advances, but the constant fear and her inability to keep the inquisitive young boy hidden has her think it’s imperative that she find a way for him to escape, and, hopefully for him to be able to tell someone who can help that she’s still alive and hopeful of being found. However, Jack is the only positive thing she has in this world, and it’s hard to let him go, especially when he doesn’t know anything about what’s beyond Room’s walls, or of other people, which makes his chance of survival in doubt.

Spectre (2015) Daniel Craig as James Bond – Movie Review

M is none too thrilled with the events of Bond’s Mexican excursion, especially as it makes the proposed merger between MI5 and the more top-secret MI6 a reality, which will threaten to take out the 00 series of spies in favor of using hi-tech surveillance equipment like satellites and drones.  This ends up resulting in a grounded 007 getting injected with a substance that allows his whereabouts to be tracked at all times so he doesn’t go rogue again, which, of course, he’s going to disregard.  However, Bond is on a mission, along with Dr. Madeleine Swann, the daughter of a Bond villain who allies with him, seeking revenge for her father’s death, leading him to have to infiltrate a massively powerful underground crime organization known as SPECTRE, run by the umbral Austrian criminal terrorist, Franz Oberhauser, who may have had a hand in all of the super-spy’s most recent foibles.