The Good Shepherd
There is something hopelessly enjoyable about this final bout of the long-running Rocky saga. Our pugilist hero is quietly getting on with his life when a TV computer simulation of a fight between him and reigning Heavyweight champ Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver) sees Rocky come out on top. This hypothetical contest generates so much attention that Dixon's greedy managers convince Rocky to come out of retirement for an exhibition fight with the champ. On top of having to get back in shape, Rocky is trying to get close to his son who is resentful of his father's fame, and he's grieving over the death of his beloved Adrian. At one point Rocky sagely philosophizes to his son that life is all about how many punches you can take. But at 61 Stallone deserves to be indulged. A quick glance at the films he's been doing over the past 10 years is enough to make you realize why he risked completely humiliating himself with "Rocky Balboa." And yet against all the odds, Stallone has managed to make a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Not bad considering that I rate the third, fourth and fifth sequels as among the worst films ever made.
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )
The Good Shepherd
Having sat through this long and rather tedious story about how the CIA came into existence, I promptly forgot it. It's not that "The Good Shepherd" is a bad film. It's a solidly made picture with some good acting from a strong cast. But it so painstakingly strives to be epic that something is lost along the way. Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, an emotionally-closed and stra-ight-faced young student who ends up getting involved in espionage in WWII. The story spans some 30 years of Wilson's life, culminating with his taking a very senior position in the newly-formed CIA. "The Good Shepherd" is definitely timely given the recent scandals over the CIA's clandestine operations in counter-terrorism, but it's too self-conscious to ever really engage the audience. It's a pity because with some better direction and a better lead than Matt Damon, who is excruciatingly two-dimensional in his role, "The Good Shepherd" might have been a very good film. It's tempting to imagine what Francis Ford Coppola might have made of it in his heyday. But "The Good Shepherd" is nonetheless worth watching for the fascinating story it tells. The secret institution has never looked so dark, dysfunctional and disturbing.
( Tim Ochser )