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Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Review- Creed

Sylvester Stallone bestows some wisdom upon Michael B. Jordan in, Creed


Intro

I love the Rocky movies! I mean how can a series keep doing relatively the same thing over and over again and still be captivating after all these years? It's a combination of things like heart, style, Sly's presence, memorable asshole opponents, and Bill Conti's powerful original score and theme song. It's that old underdog against the giant tale. I always find it difficult to place the order of which film is my favorite. It's easy to pick the worst (Rocky V), but the first isn't so easy. Although it has many faults, Rocky IV is up there. The big bad Russian juggernaut Drago (Dolph Lundgren), Sly's training in the snow (EPIC MONTAGE!!!), and the death of Apollo Creed, always hit me the hardest when it came to my nostalgia of the series. I assume it's because that was the first Rocky that I saw on the big screen. The original, II, and III, all have something special to them. What surprised me, though, was that when Rocky Balboa was released in late 2006 to my assumption that Stallone just couldn't let go of his iconic creation, I saw it and realized that there is still plenty of story left to tell about this character. The Rocky universe has other lives inhabiting it that also have their own tales as well. This is one of their stories (cue the Law & Order sound).

Creed

Creed is another Rocky film that when you first heard about it, you most likely rolled your eyes. Who can blame you? The last movie was nine years ago and it was better than it should have been. There's no way that another desperate attempt to wheel Stallone's wrinkled ass into the boxing gym is going to strike lightning twice, right? Funny thing is, though, that Creed is even better than the last one! From an outside perspective, the odds were totally against this film from working; An old property, a young director, an overused movie topic (boxing), and an aged actor who has seen much brighter days (Stallone), should have had every major studio chucking the scripts for this out of their penthouse level offices. Apparently, though, Stallone, Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), and his friend Aaron Covington, churned out a really good story idea and a script that grabbed multiple studio's attention. The story feels fresh, the boxing hits hard, and most importantly, it captures the essence of the original Rocky. What I love, is that Creed doesn't linger on sentiment for too long. It doesn't mess around, it gets to the point. This could have easily gone the route of part V but instead, Creed is nearly exactly what Rocky V should have been. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that this film is Stallone's way of making up for that one. The similarities are there; Kid has anger and inferiority issues, Rocky has health problems and doesn't box anymore, and Rocky trains kid for sentimental reasons. Why is this one so much better? Because it has enough attributes to hang on the Christmas tree every year. The drama knows when to be serious and it knows when to be funny. The light doses of humor throughout the film, connects us in ways that anger and strife cannot. It all works, yet if I didn't see the softer side, I wouldn't care as much. Even though it's not scored by original composer Bill Conti, bits of his classic Rocky theme are played at just the right moments and, it still energizes. The camerawork is truly brilliant. Along with the location shots in Philadelphia, the boxing matches and training shots are fully engaging. The matches have many long takes that are filmed so well, they rival anything from films this year like Mad Max: Fury Road and Sicario.
It's easy to say that Creed is not a Rocky movie, but deep down it is. The story revolves around Michael B. Jordan's (Fruitvale Station) character, however, when Sylvester Stallone enters the picture, he makes sure that you remember who he is. Jordan brings a relatable sense of intense passion to his character that is so sympathetic, you'll want to lace up those Nikes and join him for a five a.m. jog across town. This kid (as well as this film) has something to prove. Stallone is so good as Rocky, that he makes you forget about all of the laughable roles that he's done since the 70's including, Rocky himself at times. Jordan and Stallone own these characters and it's a pleasure to see them do just that. Their Father/Son, mentor/apprentice relationship is even better at times than Rock's with Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and Apollo (Carl Weathers) were. Even the love interest part of Creed is done right. Jordan's girlfriend played by Tessa Thompson (Selma), takes up just enough time to be relevant, but not too much time to overwhelm and derail the story. Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) has a small role as Jordan's Mother that's so good, it'll make you wonder why we don't see her more often in movies. The majority of the film centers around Jordan and Stallone while other characters come and go but do have an impact. The opponents (as always) have a few moments to present themselves before disappearing nearly as quickly as they entered. That's a classic Rocky formula that still works. Professional Boxer Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish (The Hobbit trilogy), Wood Harris (The Wire), and Ritchie Coster (The Dark Knight), all give a little style to their short screen times.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Creed

The Good- This movie is so good, that even at a long hundred and thirty-three minutes, I could have kept going with these characters. There's still so much more for them to tell.
The Bad- No appearance from Carl Weathers, at all! Sure there's some archival footage but, come on! Stallone could have had an imaginary talk with him or something. Damn it all. I want some Apollo!
The Ugly- Rocky V was so bad that nothing from it is mentioned at all. Rocky doesn't even bring up the fact that he trained a kid that screwed him over, big time. It should have been talked about but I understand why it wasn't. That movie really sucked something fierce.

Final Thoughts

Creed is an inspiring and motivating sequel/spinoff that's so good, it made me want to join a gym and beat up some speed bag. My spirit's willing, but my body senses that spirit and gives it two middle fingers and proceeds to point me in the direction of some Haagen-Dazs. Maybe next year (Yeah right). This is one of the best films of the year as well as one of the best in the series. Bring it on, Creed. I can take all that you have to offer.
Rating- 8.5 out of 10

Creed (2015)

PG-13 | | Drama, Sport | 25 November 2015 (USA)

Director: Ryan Coogler           

Writers: Ryan Coogler (screenplay), Aaron Covington (screenplay)           

Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson   

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