The Film Fix: Review of Green Book, Ralph Breaks The Internet, Creed II and more

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By Jonathan W. Hickman, The Film Fix

Check out the below list of big-screen options you’ll have during the month of December.

REVIEWS OF FILMS IN THEATERS

Green Book – Fix Rating 9/10
Based on a true story, ”Green Book” follows the evolving relationship between Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) and classical African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). They go on a musical tour through the Deep South in the 1960s.  Forming a rare and genuine relationship on the road, the two men learn from each other as they are forced to confront intolerance. Exposing the template for friendship that continues to push our nation positively forward even as there are steps backward, “Green Book” is one of the year’s best films and is not to be missed.

Ralph Breaks the Internet – Fix Rating 8/10
Brimming with self-aware and topical comedy, Ralph and Vanellope’s new adventure is even better than the last. When the Sugar Rush video game is damaged in the arcade, best friends Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (the voice of Sarah Silverman) have to brave the new virtual world of the internet to find the right piece and fix the old machine.  This leads them into some dangerous places, as the unregulated world wide web proves to be a challenge to navigate. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is Disney at its most playful and entertaining.

Creed II – No Fix Rating 5/10
An often cartoonish tale, this sequel manages to undermine the goodwill generated by the 2015 reboot, which effectively revived the dead “Rocky” franchise. “Creed II” marginally qualifies as serviceable entertainment. After losing in royal fashion in the flat-out terrific “Creed,” Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), boxing legend Apollo Creed’s son, has a new threat to worry about.  Storming in from Russia, the beast-like wrecking machine Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of disgraced former challenger Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), demands a shot at the top belt. Therefore, a contrived fight is artificially arranged, because, naturally, it will sell tickets. Like almost every sequence in this film, nothing is authentic, as the “Rocky” sequel formula is followed with expected results.

DECEMBER 7

Mary Queen of Scots – Fix Rating 6/10
Featuring fine work by Margot Robbie, playing English Queen Elizabeth I, and Saoirse Ronan, as the title Mary, this is a handsome but historically dubious telling of the infamous story of the ill-fated Scot. Certain to be criticized for the liberties that it takes with history, we see the power struggle for the crown from each woman’s perspective.  Robbie’s work that may get award’s notice.

Vox Lux – Fix Rating 7/10
When teen Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a horrific school shooting, she’s vaulted to pop star status based on the strength of a song written in hopes of healing a nation.  The unusual story traces the rise of Celeste from teen to adult superstar (later played by Natalie Portman). Clever and different, fine performances by Portman, Jude Law, and Cassidy make this movie worthy of checking out.  Willem Dafoe lends his distinctive voice to provide informative narration. Building on the promise shown with 2015’s “The Childhood of a Leader,” uncompromising director Brady Corbet is in complete control of his visuals and narrative making “Vox Lux” consistently interesting and, at times, shocking.

DECEMBER 14

If Beale Street Could Talk – Fix Rating 6/10
After taking home Oscar gold in 2016 with the wonderful “Moonlight,” writer/director Barry Jenkins turned to a screenplay he had written before his great success.  That script, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” is an adaption of a James Baldwin book. The story methodically follows the struggles of Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne), as she desperately tries to prove that her fiancé, Alonzo (Stephan James), is innocent of a rape that he did not commit.  As Alonzo spends time in jail, Tish gives birth to their child. Heart-breaking and real, “Beale Street” is also slow and meandering. The energy that Jenkins brought in “Moonlight” is missing as this film feels like one segment from that film stretched to feature running time. Performances are wonderful with “Atlanta’s” Brian Tyree Henry sharing a memorable scene.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – (preview)
“Spider-Verse” is another take on the Spider-Man characters, this time rendered in the stunning animated format.  The web-slinger in all his/her incarnations appears in this interesting looking feature that uses the concept of crossing parallel dimensions in order to bring all the heroes together.  Even Spider-Ham joins in. This has to be better than “Venom,” right?

DECEMBER 21

Cold War – Fix Rating 9/10
If 2018 was the year of the timeless love story (see “A Star is Born”), “Cold War” proves that romance can be harshly dangerous, especially if your living in a repressive country. When music composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) first meets Zula (Joanna Kulig), he’s merely searching for the right fit for a dance and performance company.  But it wasn’t just her voice that intrigued him. Zula, a stunning beauty, carried something dark and instantly attractive in her assertive manner. In time, the two become inseparable. But when Wiktor decides to leave their county and defect, the separation takes a toll on their difficult relationship.

Following the couple over a period of years, we see them rise and fall in their careers, all the while pining away for one another.  At times, they share a stolen moment, as they go to great pains to avoid detection by authorities. Shot in the 1:37:1 Academy aspect ratio, this rich, black and white foreign feature, written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (see “Ida”), is sure to receive end of the year awards notice. “Cold War” is an impressive, sad, finely etched story of troubled souls, cursed by their love for one another, during the wrong time and in all the wrong places.

Destroyer – Fix Rating 7/10
Nicole Kidman is having a fantastic year.  After delivering an award-worthy performance in “Boy Erased,” it is her work in Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer” that will really turn heads.  Here she plays an alcoholic police detective named Erin Bell, who has forever been damaged by an undercover assignment that went bad. Years later, she discovers that one of the players from that dark assignment has returned.  A one-woman wrecking machine, Erin sets off, often haphazardly, on her own to bring the criminal to justice—her particular kind of justice.

“Destroyer” isn’t just some revenge, action, crime tale, no, this is a character study about a wronged woman seeking to put some order back into her life.  We see her struggle with her relationship with her teen daughter and battle the bottle addiction. Kidman delivers a stripped bare performance appearing so beaten and ugly throughout most of the movie that you might not even recognize the classic Hollywood beauty. After 2018, one thing is clear, Nicole Kidman is an acting force.

BIG HOLIDAY RELEASES OF NOTE

Aquaman – (preview)
Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) gets his own film to tell the origin story of how he becomes a superhero, who is also the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. The trailers tease many crazy visuals, like sharks wearing armor and lots of under the sea fight sequences.

Mary Poppins Returns – (preview)
“Mary Poppins Returns” is the long-awaited sequel to the 1964 classic “Mary Poppins.”  This time around, the beloved title character is played by Emily Blunt. In this new musical fantasy, the famous nanny is back to once again impart a little magical wisdom.

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