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Monday, September 25, 2017, 8:48 a.m.

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Home Movies

By Karen Martin

This article was published August 18, 2017 at 1:48 a.m.

DVD cover for Chuck

Chuck, directed by Philippe Falardeau (R, 1 hour, 38 minutes)

Chuck Wepner, a New Jersey boxer whose story inspired Sylvester Stallone to make Rocky, nearly went the distance with Muhammad Ali in 1975. There were 19 seconds to go in the 15th and final round when the referee stopped the fight. Wepner was ranked as the eighth best heavyweight in the world in 1975, even though he still had a day job.

As played by Liev Schreiber, the New Jersey State Champ lives in a modest house he shares with wife Phyll (Elisabeth Moss), who might be called long-suffering if she wasn't so aggressive in undermining her husband's would-be dalliances.

The fight with Ali comes at the end of the first act; there's very little boxing in the rest of the movie. While Schreiber and Pooch Hall (who plays Ali) acquit themselves well in the ring, there's no emphasis on violence. Chuck is mostly about what happens after you become a Rocky-style folk hero.

If there's a spurt of uplift at the end, it's because the real Wepner did manage to finally get his act together again, with the help of tough-loving bartender Linda (Naomi Watts).

The real appeal of Chuck exists in the way the look and feel of the period are re-created. It's hardly a perfect film. While Jim Gaffigan is hilarious (and unrecognizable) as Wepner's doltish best friend John, Ron Perlman struggles under distractingly heavy prosthetics that are supposed to make him look like Wepner's trainer-manager Al Braverman.

Yet you root for this movie the same way you might have rooted for Wepner. It's not a contender, but it has a tough, hard-earned nobility.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (not rated, 1 hour, 28 minutes) After the death of Elvis Presley in 1977, mysterious Orion appears, provoking some to believe he's the second coming of the King. This intriguing documentary by Jeanie Finlay reveals the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up biography of Jimmy "Orion" Ellis, whose curious career helped ease the pain of grieving Elvis fans but suffered from never being able to achieve full-throated stardom on his terms.

The Emperor in August (not rated, 2 hours, 16 minutes) A restrained, stylish and precise drama of historical maneuvers, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that led to Japan's surrender to the Allies on Aug. 15, 1945. With Tsutomu Yamazaki and Masahiro Motoki; directed by Masato Harada. Subtitled.

Once Upon a Time in Venice (not rated, 1 hour, 34 minutes) This action comedy sounds better than it plays: Steve Ford (Bruce Willis, phoning it in), a combustible private investigator in Venice Beach, gets pretty upset when area tough guys steal his adored dog Buddy. So, with no compunction as far as restraint is concerned, he goes after them. With John Goodman, Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Adam Goldberg, Famke Janssen; directed by Mark Cullen.

The Wall (R, 1 hour, 28 minutes) A taut, low-key war thriller that concerns a battle of wits with survival as the prize, The Wall focuses on the dilemma of two wounded soldiers, trapped by a horrifically accurate Iraqi sniper, with only a crumbling wall between them. Options for survival do not abound. With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena; directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Ultimatum).

After the Storm (not rated, 1 hour, 57 minutes) A graceful and emotional revelation of the intricacies of family relationships, After the Storm follows a once award-winning author turned private detective (Hiroshi Abe), whose grief causes him to squander his income on gambling following the death of his father, which alienates him from the rest of his family, including his young son (Taiyo Yoshizawa). Then a stormy summer evening gives him a chance at redemption. With Lily Franky, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi; directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. Subtitled.

MovieStyle on 08/18/2017

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