“CREED II” Rated PG-13. Grade: B

One week after “Green Book,” “Creed II,” an­other Amer­i­can fa­ble of racial heal­ing, ar­rives, and while not nearly as pow­er­ful (or novel) as “Creed” (2015), it’s a de­cent, if to­tally pre­dictable, “Rocky”-based box­ing pic­ture about fa­thers and sons. Robert “Rocky” Bal­boa, the char­ac­ter Sylvester Stal­lone cre­ated and played in the Academy Award-win­ning 1976 film, is back as the trainer and coach of sur­ro­gate son Ado­nis John­son Creed (Michael B. Jor­dan, “Black Pan­ther”). Ado­nis “Donny” is the son of Rocky’s most mem­o­rable op­po­nent, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Back in Ukraine, a de­feated and aged Ivan Drago (Dolph Lund­gren) has trained his 6-foot-4, 245-lb. son Vik­tor Drago (charis­matic Ro­ma­nian boxer Flo­rian “Big Nasty” Mun­teanu) to be dev­as­tat­ing in the ring, where he is un­de­feated. With the en­cour­age­ment and help of Amer­i­can pro­moter Buddy Mar­celle (Rus­sell Hornsby), Drago is­sues a chal­lenge to Creed and Rocky. Meet us in the ring for a Creed-Drago re­venge match.


Grade: C

The “magi-zo­ol­o­gist” and wiz­ard Newt Sca­man­der (Academy Award win­ner Ed­die Red­mayne) is back to bore us yet again in “Fan­tas­tic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindel­wald.” Once again di­rected by David Yates of those dreary, in­co­her­ent “Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows” films and once again scripted by Harry Pot­ter cre­ator J.K. Rowl­ing, this in­stall­ment be­gins in 1927 New York City, where the trans­port of the dan­ger­ous su­per-vil­lain pris­oner Grindel­wald (Johnny Depp) goes hor­ri­bly wrong in ways that are hard to see be­cause of the edit­ing, du­bi­ous and ex­ten­sive CGI, and the al­most con­stant murky vi­su­als with dark back­grounds. Get ready to squint at lot at things you don’t re­ally care about.

“THE FAVOURITE” Rated R. Grade: A

Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos’ “The Favourite” is the best film I have seen this year. Set in the open­ing of the 18th cen­tury in Eng­land dur­ing the costly War of the Span­ish Suc­ces­sion, “The Favourite” tells the tale of three English­women: Queen Anne (a de­light­fully batty Olivia Col­man), Queen of Eng­land, Scot­land and Ire­land; Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), Duchess of Marl­bor­ough, the queen’s con­fi­dante and best friend; and Abi­gail Hill (Academy Award win­ner Emma Stone), Sarah’s pen­ni­less cousin, who was sold into slav­ery by her de­gen­er­ate gam­bler fa­ther and ar­rives at Queen Anne’s court a kitchen ser­vant. Col­man is sub­lime. Stone de­liv­ers the film’s oc­ca­sion­ally anachro­nis­tic, of­ten vit­ri­olic di­a­logue with su­perb mal­ice and wit and gives an­other award-wor­thy turn as the won­der­fully sharp-tongued Abi­gail.

“GREEN BOOK” Rated PG-13. Grade: A

Based on a true story, “Green Book” is, first of all a “Driv­ing Miss Daisy”-like tale of racial rec­on­cil­i­a­tion re­leased at a time of re­newed (if it ever went away) racial di­vi­sive­ness in the United States, fu­eled by ghastly po­lit­i­cal forces seek­ing to ben­e­fit from it. The film is the story of two very dif­fer­ent men: happy-golucky Copaca­bana bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Val­le­longa (Viggo Mortensen, who put on Robert De Niro-like poundage for the role) and con­cert pi­anist Dr. Don­ald Shirley (Academy Award win­ner Ma­her­shala Ali), who dresses im­pec­ca­bly and lives in an or­nately dec­o­rated apart­ment above Carnegie Hall. Tem­po­rar­ily out of work and with a lov­ing wife, Dolores (a great Linda Cardellini), and young fam­ily to sup­port, Frank re­luc­tantly takes a job driv­ing and serv­ing as un­of­fi­cial prob­lem-solver for Shirley, who has a con­cert tour tak­ing him and his trio through the Deep South. The cul­ture po­lice will call “Green Book” a white­wash and a fairy tale. Big­ots will bigot. But it was one of the most en­joy­able films I have seen all year.

“THE GRINCH” Rated PG. Grade: C+

Can the peo­ple who bring us the “De­spi­ca­ble Me” films (i.e. Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment) do jus­tice to “The Grinch,” the an­i­mated char­ac­ter with a heart “two sizes too small,” who is even more de­spi­ca­ble be­cause he steals Christ­mas? As this new dis­ap­point­ing Grinch film opens, we are re­minded that Whoville, the town that is home to the Whos, is just like your town “if your town was a dream.” On an even higher peak of Mt. Crumpit next door dwells the lonely, furry and very green Grinch (Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch in a role pre­vi­ously voiced by the leg­endary Boris Karloff and more re­cently played live-ac­tion by Jim Car­rey). Cum­ber­batch, who more suc­cess­fully voices Smaug in “The Hob­bit” se­ries, makes the Grinch sound like a coun­try yokel who some­how got to be a school prin­ci­pal.

“ROBIN HOOD” Rated PG-13. Grade: D

This dis­as­trous new “Robin Hood” from di­rec­tor Otto Bathurst (“Peaky Blin­ders”) was ap­par­ently con­ceived as a graphic novel or a big screen com­puter game. It’s the only ex­pla­na­tion I have for the film’s com­plete and ut­ter ridicu­lous­ness in al­most ev­ery depart­ment. The 13th/14th cen­tury ac­tion be­gins when Robin “Rob” of Lock­sley (a charm­less Taron Eger­ton) falls madly in love with Mar­ian (Eve Hew­son in heavy makeup), whom he catches try­ing to steal a horse. Fol­low­ing a lu­di­crous make­out mon­tage, Rob is drafted into the Third Cru­sade, where he barely sur­vives a bat­tle with Moors us­ing a cross­bow ver­sion of a ma­chine gun and meets and bonds with a fierce Mus­lim fighter, whose name “trans­lates” as John (Jamie Foxx) and who stows away on an English ship for three months shortly after los­ing a hand in bat­tle.


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