I don’t have much history with Rocky; in fact, out of the six previous movies in the franchise, I’ve only seen the first one. For me, events from Rocky II to Rocky Balboa are about as recognizable to me as actual sports history: I generally know what occurred and when, but without any personal experience with any of it. And yet, that lack of direct knowledge is never a detriment in Ryan Coogler’s Creed. It is a film that functions beautifully on its own terms, while also drawing on the history and emotional depth of the Rocky series for additional definition and personality. In a year full of terrific sequels (and hopefully as many as three successful resurrections of ‘80s staples) Creed stands tall among them, serving as a terrific continuation of the Rocky saga as well as an emotionally-charged character film in its own right.
When you look at the initial work of Aziz Ansari, it paints a very particular picture. Through his role as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, his stand-up specials Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening and Dangerously Delicious, and his small cameos in films like Funny People and Observe And Report, Ansari built a strong profile as the swagger-heavy hipster prone to hysterics. And while there was certainly more depth to that persona than you’d think, I don’t know if anyone would have anticipated what Ansari would become as both a performer and a social commentator. But starting with his 2013 Netflix special Buried Alive, a more mature and earnest Ansari began to emerge, questioning life in a more honest and emotional fashion. And now in 2015, Ansari has made good on that shift in voice, and marked himself not just as a funny motherfucker but as an astute observer of humanity that you can find.
Earlier this month we were finally delivered Spectre, the latest James Bond adventure. Featuring many of the principle creatives of 2012’s tremendous Bond entry Skyfall, it would have been a safe assumption that Spectre could at least be a solid movie, if not an all-time franchise great. But instead we got Star Trek Into Darkness 2.0, a film that not only makes major mistakes structurally but seems to completely forget or actively dismiss everything that its immediate predecessor did so successfully. While I wasn’t excited enough for Spectre beforehand for it to match the disappointment of Jurassic World or Jupiter Ascending or Tomorrowland, it was nevertheless a major letdown from 007 and company.
SPOILERS for Spectre and Skyfall follow.
There is a great cinematic tradition of investigation films, stories of intrepid journalists and whistleblowers getting sucked into something much bigger than they can imagine at the outset. Films like All The President’s Men and The Insider are impactful and involving experiences, both in capturing the overwhelming nature of what the characters had to confront but also how relevant these true-life tales are to our society. Spotlight can proudly stand alongside classics such as these without question. Not only does it confidently dramatize an essential effort of investigative journalism, it also conveys the difficulty and ultimate heroism of challenging the very core of your community in pursuit of the only thing that truly matters: the truth.
Welcome to November! This month features a definitive Fall Movie Season schedule, mixing awards-bait dramas and late-year blockbusters, with some comedies added for good measure. What’s particularly notable (if not all that surprising) is that almost half of the movies on my list come out on Thanksgiving weekend, which should make for a lot of cinematic joy between the turkey and football and shopping deals. But besides that, there are more than enough good-looking films to fill the time between now and Tryptophan-o’clock. Let’s take a look at what November has in store for us.