(M) Four decades after the original Rocky, we are up to the eighth movie, Creed II, in which former heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is long retired. Rocky’s great rival Apollo Creed is dead, having been beaten to death during a bout in Rocky IV (1985). His fighter son, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), who we met in the previous movie, Creed (2015), has dad on his mind and Rocky in his corner as his trainer and de facto father. The doped-up Soviet boxer who killed Adonis’s father, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), is still alive. He has a son, too, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Obviously the two boys are going to fight. It more or less works, though there are a couple of still moments. But when the quiet ends and the fight begins it looks superb under Kramer Morgenthau’s camerawork. I don’t think I have sat before a boxing film where the punches felt harder.
Puzzle (M) Agnes (Kelly Macdonald), the central character in Marc Turtletaub’s directorial debut, Puzzle, seems to belong to another era. An immigrant from Hungary and a devout Christian, she lives in Bridgeport, not far from New York City, with her husband Louie (David Denman), who owns a small garage, and her two sons. Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) works alongside his father but would rather be a chef, and Gabe (Austin Abrams) is a student who instead of going to college, as his parents wish, wants to go to Tibet with his vegan girlfriend Nicki (Liv Hewson). These are interesting characters with small but believable problems and concerns, and the film delicately and affectionately explores their lives. Macdonald gives a beautiful, gentle performance. Puzzle is getting a pitifully limited release, but it’s worth seeking out.
The Club “Tradition, tradition, tradition. We’ve been strangled by it.” So declares club president Ted Parker early in The Club, David Williamson’s drama about a struggling Australian football team that has not won a premiership for 19 years. The play kicked goals at the box office when it came out in 1977 and was filmed three years later by Bruce Beresford. Tradition soon took a back seat as Australian sport entered the commercial age. Now it may be hip-and-shouldered from the back seat altogether thanks to Adelaide theatre company isthisyours?, which is bringing an all-female version of the play to the Sydney stage. This production of The Club will stick to Williamson’s play, which unfolds behind closed doors. With Jude Henshall, Louisa Mignone and Ellen Steele (pictured) Belvoir St Theatre, Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills. Tuesday, 6.45pm. Tickets: $25. Bookings: (02) 9699 3444 or online. Until December 22. A Cheery Soul we finally come to care. Williams’s production and Elizabeth Gadsby’s design, with a great score by Clemence Williams, smooth over abrupt stylistic shifts. Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre, Bennelong Point. Today, 2pm and 8pm. Tickets: $65-$108. Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 or online. Until December 15. Duration: 2hr 30min, including interval.