Dog’s Movie House: “Creed 2,” “The Green Book” Among The Best Of The Year!

Howdy Folks!  It’s The Kendog with a look at “Creed 2” and “Green Book.”

Adonis Creed and Victor Drago face off in “Creed 2”

 

 

 

This fall is turning out to be a banner year for dramatic films.  Usually the holiday season boasts action fare and family fare in equal measure, and to be sure we have films like “Ralph Breaks The Internet” and “The Grinch,” but this year dramas like “Widows” have taken some of the spotlight.  But while”Widows” isn’t doing much at the box office, movies like “Creed 2” and the excellent “Green Book” are looking to compete for filmmakers dollars over the holiday season.

Let’s start with “Creed 2,” the inevitable sequel to the surprise hit from 2015.  This film starts with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) finally winning the heavyweight title with the help and tutelage of the legendary Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).  But all is not well at the top of the mountain as the past returns to confront the young Creed in the form of Victor Drago (the massive Florian Munteanu) who just happens to be the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis’ father in the ring over 30 years prior.  Despite never knowing his father, Adonis is egged on into taking the fight, leading to a rift between him and Rocky.  Also complicating things is the fact that he’s about to become a father for the first time with his new wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson.)   If he doesn’t figure out who he is and what he’s really fighting for, Adonis Creed will lose a lot more than just the heavyweight title.

The fact that “Creed 2” is fairly predictable from a plot standpoint takes nothing away from how incredibly entertaining and satisfying this film is.   In this case it’s the journey that counts and not the destination, and that journey is as satisfying from an emotional standpoint as any film you’re going to see this year.  The script from Stallone and newcomer Juel Taylor, takes a familiar story and infuses it with life, aided by a series of terrific performances.   Jordan continues to impress as Creed, a young man feeling the pressure to live up to a legacy of a man he never knew.   By confronting the family of the man who killed his father Creed may finally be able to grow into his own man, and Jordan isn’t afraid to show people the destructive anger the motivates Adonis.  It can make Creed an unpleasant person at times but you never stop rooting for him to become both the man and fighter he was meant to become.

He’s matched by Stallone as the aging Balboa who has his reasons for not wanting to train Creed for this fight.  He knows first hand the destructive power of the Drago family and the potential damage, both emotional and physical, that can be done to his young charge, if the fight takes place. There’s also good work from Thompson as Bianca and Phylicia Rashad as Creed’s adoptive mother.

The surprise here is Lundgren as an older and very bitter Ivan Drago.  For thirty years he’s been training his son Victor for a shot at redemption that he elder Drago never received.   The conversation between Ivan and Rocky and Rocky’s restaurant is one of the best scenes in the film.  Munteanu also does some fine work as Victor, especially in the scenes in Russia with his father, but his main asset is how freakishly huge and fast he is.  It takes a lot to loom over the muscular Jordan, but Munteanu does it with is.  The guy is a physical monster in all the right ways.

Taking the reigns from “Creed” director Ryan Coogler, Steven Caple Jr. does a fine job orchestrating the action in the ring, although nothing approaches the one take brilliance of Coogler in the original film.   He does let the actors carry the action and the two bouts between Creed and Drago are as dramatic as you’d expect them to be.   All in all, “Creed 2” is a worthy addition to the Rocky storyline and as crowd pleasing a film as you could want.   4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! 

Next we have what I believe to be perhaps the best film of the year in “Green Book.”  Based on a true story, “Green Book” tells the tale of Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer for the Copacabana in 1962 who, to make ends meet during the club’s renovation, takes a job as a driver for acclaimed musician Dr. Don Shirley  (Mahershala Ali) for a two-month tour that will take them through the Deep South.  Shirley just happens to be black and Tony isn’t really down with “the eggplants” as his family cruelly refers to them (in Italian, of course), but Tony needs the money and takes the job.  The result is an astounding journey in equal parts comic and tragic that cements a friendship that will last for over fifty years.

I cannot tell you how much this movie affected and entertained me.  Director Peter Farrelly (of the Farrelly Brothers, directors of “Dumb And Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary” no less) gives as a film that presents social lessons with such a light touch that you are too busy being entertained to realize you’re actually learning something.   Farrelly, who co-wrote the script, gives us two people in Shirley and Tony, that have as much to learn from each other as the world around them.  Tony is street-smart, but as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to diction and social etiquette, while Shirley has been isolated all his life.  The black people he encounters in the South have no connection to him, yet he is treated unfairly like them simply because of the color of his skin.   Tony becomes an anchor for him during these troubling times of isolation and even his savior during a few scenes.  In return, Shirley helps Tony refine his fumbling letters to his beloved wife Delores (Linda Cardellini) and attempts to refine the bouncer into a better human being.  This series of back-and-forths led to the development of a wonderful, lasting friendship.

Everyone in “Green Book” does exceptional work, but this is really a two person show.  Mortensen is terrific as Tony, putting on 30 pounds of extra weight and getting the New York accent just right.  Tony is a flawed but good man who’s just trying to do right by his family and he’s not afraid to extend his hand in friendship to a man whose very skin color may make it dangerous to do so.   Ali is Mortensen’s match as Shirley, a man who finds himself, in his words, “neither white enough or black enough” to fit in anywhere.  For all his refinement and talent, Shirley is one of the loneliest men in the world and Tony’s eventual friendship means more than he’s willing to admit.

 

“Green Book” is a fantastic film filled with heart, humor, and incredible dialogue.  The performances are outstanding the and themes of the film will stay with you long after you leave the theater.   Incidentally, the Green Book was a travel book for colored people in the South, indicating where blacks could stay and eat without getting into trouble in segregated cities and towns.  Maybe we’ve come farther than we thought.  5 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!  So Sayeth The Kendog! 

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