Our reviewers weigh in on "Creed II," "Green Book," "Ralph Breaks the Internet" and "Robin Hood." Plus: Four more movies open Friday, Nov. 23.
The day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday, Nov. 21) brings a couple of new sequels, a sort of reverse “Driving Miss Daisy” and the latest version of “Robin Hood” — all playing at multiple theaters around the Seattle area. Here are snapshots of what our reviewers thought of them. (Star ratings are granted on a scale of zero to four.)
★★★ “Creed II” (PG-13; 128 minutes): Sometimes a formula works just fine — and such is the case for the “Rocky” franchise, currently in capable hands. “Creed II,” in which Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) takes on the son of the Russian boxer who killed his father Apollo in a long-ago match, isn’t quite as magical as Ryan Coogler’s rousing 2015 “Creed.” But it’s got the always mesmerizing Jordan, and Sylvester Stallone wandering around mumbling his lines as if he just made them up (maybe he did?), and a sweet romance continuing with Tessa Thompson’s Bianca, and a lot of in-your-face boxing action, and a very cute baby, and … yes, at some point “Gonna Fly Now” started playing and damned if I wasn’t all in. You know every step of this story already, and it doesn’t matter. This franchise just might go on forever, and I kind of hope it does. Full review. — Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times arts critic
★★★ “Green Book” (PG-13; 130 minutes): Director/co-writer Peter Farrelly’s likable tale of a real-life friendship lets us spend two hours in the company of two electric actors. Viggo Mortensen plays Frank Anthony Vallelonga, better known as Tony Lip, an Italian-American bouncer from the Bronx. Mahershala Ali plays Dr. Don Shirley, a black American of Jamaican descent and a renowned pianist and leader of the Don Shirley Trio. It’s 1962, and life conspires to throw these two very different men together: Don needs a driver for his upcoming concert tour, someone who can handle the kind of trouble that a black man in the Jim Crow South might face. (The title refers to a popular guide used in that era by black travelers, to help them find welcoming lodging in the often hostile South.) Tony needs the work and agrees. And off we go, on a sort of reverse “Driving Miss Daisy.” You watch “Green Book” wishing it were a little better but nonetheless enjoying how very good much of it is, thanks to Mortensen and Ali, who make every moment sing. Full review. — Moira Macdonald
★★½ “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (PG; 112 minutes): When it’s good, it’s very, very good. When it’s not, it’s annoying, cloying and LOUD! The sequel to “Wreck-It Ralph,” the 2012 animated hit from Disney, sends the two main characters from the original — good-hearted, arcade-game lunkhead Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and his precocious pint-size best bud Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) — into the internet to search for a rare replacement component for Vanellope’s outdated racer game back in the real world. This allows the filmmakers to run wild, packing the picture with bright, colorful imagery studded with a profusion of real-life online corporate presences. Under the direction of Phil Johnston and Rich Moore (“Zootopia”), it’s overflowing with humorous observations about the online universe. But the best animated movies are those that feel timeless. “Ralph,” with its right-now storyline, seems already dated, a product of thinking that’s five minutes ago. Full review. — Soren Andersen, Special to The Seattle Times
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“Robin Hood” (PG-13; 116 minutes): There have been a lot of movies made from the Robin Hood legend, and the 1938 “Adventures of Robin Hood,” directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, remains the best. Its 100 or so minutes just breeze by; although packed with conflicts and cliffhangers, there’s no sense of strain about it. To contrast, “Robin Hood,” directed by Otto Bathurst from a script by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, huffs and puffs right off the bat, expending a lot of energy to tell you this isn’t your father’s, or your grandfather’s, Robin Hood movie. Taron Egerton’s Robin of Loxley struts and pouts through his manor before being sent to the Crusades, where he stands up for the Moor who will become this version’s Little John (Jamie Foxx). On returning to England, Robin sets his sights on avenging the injustices committed by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn). The plot is twisty in a perfunctory way, the action predictably explosive, the sought-after exhilaration nonexistent. (The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.) Full review. — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
Also opening Friday, Nov. 23
“Border” (R; 110 minutes): I don’t know a lot about Swedish folklore, so I was in an especially cold state as I went into this movie. As cold as possible is a good way to see it. The film, about a security worker at a Swedish port who can literally sniff out guilt (she usually catches banal lawbreakers — underage kids trying to smuggle a little booze — but one day she detains a well-dressed man who has a SIM card full of child pornography), aims to startle in overt and subtextual ways; the less known before viewing, the better. In Swedish, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema Egyptian. — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
“Maria by Callas” (PG; 113 minutes): Toward the end of Tom Volf’s documentary, legendary opera singer Maria Callas (1923-1977) describes the music she interprets as “the only language I really know.” That description is belied by this documentary, a compendium of interviews, performances and writings from Callas in which she proves an eloquent narrator of her own life. By sifting through these materials four decades after Callas’ death, the movie aims to correct a popular perception that Callas was a diva offstage as well as on. Whether the results qualify as a comprehensive portrayal is best debated by opera historians, but what is clear is that “Maria by Callas” provides an excellent introduction to Callas’ artistry. In English, French and Italian, with English subtitles. Pacific Place. — Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
“Museo” (not rated, for mature audiences; 128 minutes): In 1985, on Christmas Eve, a pair of underachieving 20-somethings broke into the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and stole nearly 150 Mayan artifacts. That robbery is reconstructed in Alonso Ruizpalacios’s new film, but not quite in the usual based-on-a-true-story heist-movie manner. Slow-moving and grand, with lush music and elegant widescreen compositions, it feels less like a thriller than a poetic, intermittently comic meditation on beauty, history and middle-class disaffection. Leonardo Ortizgris and Gael García Bernal star. In English and Spanish, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum. — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
“Searching for Ingmar Bergman” (not rated; 99 minutes): This year marks the centennial of Ingmar Bergman’s birth. The Swedish playwright, theater director and filmmaker (“The Seventh Seal,” “Fanny and Alexander”), who died in 2007, remains one of the most praised and, to a certain extent, most misunderstood 20th-century artists. The praise stems from his cinematic mastery and treatment of profound themes; the misunderstanding, from the conventional wisdom that because Bergman treated profound themes, his work must be a slog. But Bergman was a gripping storyteller. You could even call him an entertainer. The German director Margarethe Von Trotta makes that clear in her new documentary. Grand Illusion. — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times