By Jay Bobbin Zap2it
"Creed": The "Rocky'' saga continues with a surprising degree of impact in director Ryan Coogler's solid and re-energizing continuation of the franchise, focusing on the boxing-hopeful son (Michael B. Jordan, who also worked with Coogler on "Fruitvale Station'') of Apollo Creed ... but the film also is trained on Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, amply and properly rewarded on the awards trail for his excellent work here), who faces new challenges of his own as he becomes the younger man's trainer. Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad also give notable performances, but the film clearly belongs to Jordan and Stallone -- with an especially hearty ``Yo!'' to the latter. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Room": Director Lenny Abrahamson's engrossing drama has put a very bright spotlight -- particularly during the movie industry's award season -- on Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay, both superb as a mother and son held captive in one room for years. After such a long stretch of isolation from the rest of the world, they map out a strategy for their escape, setting up the powerful second half of the film. Emma Donoghue adapted her novel for the screen, also providing roles for Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers (as the captor), William H. Macy and Wendy Crewson ... but this unquestionably, and justifiably, is a star-making vehicle for both Larson and Tremblay. **** (R: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Danish Girl": After his Oscar win for "The Theory of Everything,'' Eddie Redmayne took on another challenging role and gave another widely praised performance in the true drama of one of the first men to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. Landscape artist Einar Wegener becomes Lili Elbe, necessitating changes in her relationship with wife and fellow painter Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) -- who finds herself on the verge of a romance with an art-dealer friend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Director Tom Hooper's cast also includes Ben Whishaw (alias Q to Daniel Craig's James Bond), Sebastian Koch and Amber Heard. **** (R: AS, N. P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Youth": Expert acting by several masters of it, led by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, is the principal joy of writer-director Paolo Sorrentino's drama. The two stars play entertainment talents vacationing at a resort in the Alps and viewing their careers different -- with the filmmaker played by Caine still very active, and the musician portrayed by Keitel considering himself retired, though he's still in demand. Also highly notable is Jane Fonda as a veteran actress who has worked with the Caine character many times. Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano also are featured. *** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray)
Also Releasing this week:
"The Night Before": To the long line of contemporary comedies that try to put an amusing take on the end-of-year holidays but ultimately misfire, add this example. Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie play buddies who seek the biggest party they can find on Christmas Eve. It's long been an annual ritual for them, but it's about to vanish as they (allegedly) become adults, so finding the wildest bash they can is imperative. Those familiar with the Rogen brand of humor certainly will find it here, especially since he's also one of the picture's producers; Lizzy Caplan ("Masters of Sex''), Mindy Kaling, Jillian Bell ("22 Jump Street'') and Michael Shannon also appear. DVD extras: four "making-of'' documentaries; outtakes. ** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Legend": The story of the Krays, the twin brothers who made names for themselves in the 1960s London underworld, has been told on the screen before -- but it gets fresh treatment from an able Tom Hardy in the dual roles in this retelling by director-screenwriter Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential''). Reggie and Ronnie Kray's reign is seen from the perspective of Frances Shea (Emily Browning), whose involvement with Reggie gave her a unique view of their psyches and frequently violent activities. Christopher Eccleston, Colin Morgan and Tara Fitzgerald are in the supporting cast. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Macbeth" (March 8): Michael Fassbender portrays Shakespeare's legendary character in this latest of the play's screen adaptations; Marion Cotillard plays Lady Macbeth. (R: AS, V)
"Open Season: Scared Silly" (March 8): The supposed presence of a werewolf puts the residents of a forest -- human and otherwise -- on edge in this animated, direct-to-video sequel. (Not rated)
"The Peanuts Movie" (March 8): Snoopy goes after the Red Baron again, while Charlie Brown deals with another affair of the heart, in this computer-animated feature. (G)
"Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series" (March 22): The cult-classic show, about a Detroit high school circa 1980, makes its Blu-ray debut and features Seth Rogen and James Franco. (Not rated: AS, P)
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" (March 22): The movie franchise concludes as Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) targets her society's leader ... who's also targeting her. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
TOP 10 DVD RENTALS
(Week ending February 14, 2016, courtesy of Rentrak Corp.)
1) "The Martian"
3) "The Last Witch Hunter"
4) "Hotel Transylvania 2"
5) "Ted 2"
7) "The Visit"
8) "Maze Runner: The Scorch TrialsSicario"
10) "Bridge of Spies"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence