The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Creed II

There are those for whom Rocky IV is the preferred chapter in the original series. Creed II is a gift to us. It brings back the character of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who famously killed Apollo Creed in the ring before losing to Rocky Balboa on his home turf. This time, he's trained his own massive, hulking son Viktor (Florian "Big Nasty" Munteanu) in the sweet science. They challenge World Heavyweight Champion Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) to a fight. He wants to do it for all the wrong reasons, and against the advice of trainer Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and mother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad).

Despite writer/director Ryan Coogler returning only as a producer for the sequel, Creed II manages to maintain a high level of quality. The story builds nicely on the ideas established in the first Creed, while also effectively tying them in to Rocky IV. Character development is also strong, as Adonis gradually learns that the way to beat Viktor isn't by having a thirst for revenge, but rather by being true to the man his father was -- and the man he is inside, too. Jordan is once again outstanding in the role. He and Thompson maintain the great chemistry they previously established. Stallone continues to be iconic as Rocky, and the movie finds a fresh way to end the climactic boxing match. Creed II is another immensely entertaining entry in the franchise.

( 1/2 out of four)

Boy Erased

In Boy Erased, Lucas Hedges plays Jared Eamons, an 18-year-old kid who is sent to a gay conversion camp by his preacher father Marshall (Russell Crowe) and his complicit mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) after someone "outs" him to them. The camp is run by therapist Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton, who also directed), whose professional credentials are a little shaky -- if he even has any at all. At first, Jared takes part willingly because he doesn't want to disappoint his parents, but things get scary and intense after a while. Leaving, though, would mean jeopardizing his relationship with his parents, who want nothing to do with a gay son.

The movie is based on a true story, and it's a riveting look at some of the techniques used in these places. That part is harrowing, as they clearly do far more harm than good. More to the point, Boy Erased is about family, and how this young man feels rejected by his parents because of something he has no control over. Through the course of the picture, he makes a journey from feeling like he's broken to realizing that true healing comes from self-acceptance. Hedges, Crowe, and Kidman all give sincere, heartfelt performances, powerfully conveying the complex family dynamics. There's a subtle thematic suggestion that Evangelicals often use religion as a means of justifying homophobia. Boy Erased could have followed up on that a little more. Nevertheless, this is an emotional, skillfully-made film about the need to love and accept people just as they are.

( 1/2 out of four)

Creed II is rated R for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes. Boy Erased is rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

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