Review: Creed

Creed-Movie-Poster Synopsis: Adonis Creed, the youngest son of Apollo Creed, follows in his late father’s footsteps to become a boxer. Adonis enlists the help of a retired Rocky Balboa who was his father’s friend and greatest rival. 40 years after the first Rocky film, Creed breathes new life into the franchise accompanied by knockout performances by Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan.

There’s no question that Michael B. Jordan is a great actor, but this young man has the ability to be a superstar. Starring in Creed was a fantastic way to rebound from the flop that was Fox’s Fantastic Four.

Jordan gives a balanced performance as a troubled young man who’s inspired by his father to be a fighter, but doesn’t want to be cast in his shadow. We’re introduced to Adonis as a young boy in a juvenile facility who gets in trouble for badly beating another child. Instead of being transferred to yet another foster home, he gets taken in by Mary-Ann (Phylicia Rashad), Apollo Creed’s affluent widow.

We then fast forward to an older, clean-cut and successful Adonis who quits his job to become a full-time fighter, much to the dismay of Mary-Ann. Adonis moves to Philadelphia to enlist the help of his father’s greatest rival, a retired and older Rocky Balboa, who refuses several times before he gives in to Creed’s persistent son.

The movie does an excellent job of building a father-son like relationship between Adonis and Rocky. Throughout the course of the film, it seems like Rocky is paying a debt to Apollo by helping his son become a great boxer. But it gets deeper than that. Rocky and Adonis form a bond that’s reminiscent of the one he had with the senior Creed, but deeper in the sense that Rocky gets to lead Adonis on the path to become a great boxer himself.

The two characters share funny family moments such as the young Creed telling an old Balboa about the cloud and cracking typical old man jokes. A retired Balboa having fun watching the rookie Adonis go through the same grueling training he had to endure in his formative days as a boxer. Though both characters are faced with their own battles, they find solace and strength in one another to work to defeat them.

Sly Stallone may not be the best actor in the world, but damn does he put forth his best acting skills in this film. Six movies and 40 years later, he still completely embodies the Balboa character and you can tell that Stallone still really enjoys playing this role. He also does an exceptional job of emoting during his more emotional scenes with Jordan.

The fight scenes were also very well done. It was cool watching Adonis grow from a regular street boxer to a professional one. He certainly gets knocked down a few times, and badly, but it’s what you would expect from a boxing movie. Also, you can tell Jordan gave everything he had into preparing for the role. He’s certainly in amazing shape.

It’s hard to call Creed’s main villain, heavyweight champion Tommy Holliday (Graham McTavish), an actual villain because he hardly appears in the movie until the climax of the film. His purpose is to take advantage of Adonis’ inexperience and defeat him in a championship match in order to make money off defeating Apollo Creed’s son. It’s clear he was just there so Adonis could learn the lesson that your greatest opponent is yourself, a trope that’s constantly used throughout the film, but isn’t overused.

Tessa Thompson appears as Bianca, a singer with progressive hearing loss and Adonis’ love interest. She and Jordan had good enough chemistry to make their relationship believable.

Even if you’ve never seen the other Rocky films, Creed emphasizes the bond between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed well enough that new audiences understand Apollo was and still is an apparent character in the movie. Also, I’d like to see more Creed movies. This has the potential to be a very good series if it continues to embody the same gritty and underdog spirit that’s made the original Rocky movies so special.

Quick tidbit: Wire fans will be happy to see a brief Avon and Wallace reunion in the movie.

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Review: The Expendables 3

The-Expendable-3-Movie-Wallpaper-30-1024x576 Back for a third time, the mercenary squad led by Sylvester Stallone prepares to take on the american action genre one more time. Since 2010 the goal has been to somehow rekindle the magic of action films of the 1980s. From Rambo to Terminator and every shoot ‘em up movie in between, The Expendables 3 works its butt off to make your brain hazy with nostalgia. It tries, but the real question is does it succeed. The simple answer is NO. There are many movies that lack plot and substance and suffer tremendously for it. Luckily, The Expendables 3 doesn’t suffer from a lack of plot, but rather an abundance of it. Overly saturated with team building moments and poorly constructed plot points so heavy handed you want to cry out “WE GET IT!!! NOW GO SHOOT SOMEONE!!!!” Never in the history of meathead action movie franchises, which I love, has their been a cast who just isn’t in on the joke. The entirety of the movie, sans the last 40 minutes, is largely a poor man’s version of a Tom Clancy film. Working to give unneeded exposition to make a “fuller” film, writers Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, and Sylvester Stallone waste vast amounts of the viewer’s time. We all know why we are here, and its not for the heart and mental conflict of the characters. We signed up to see Rambo, The Terminator, and their buddies blow things up...a lot!

The general format of The Expendables movies have been largely the same, and this third installment doesn’t break from that mold. The team goes on a mission and realize another conflict has arisen from another character who is pretty much the definition of an Expendable himself. In this case, its Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks. A founding member of The Expendables, he is matched against Stallone’s persona from the start. Stonebanks hates the Expendables and wants them all dead. Simple enough, now get to the shooting. No wait, lets shoehorn some other garbage in to make it feel more like a movie first: CIA managers, 5 new team members who are introduced so slowly over the course of 30 minutes you begin to check your watch. When Stallone has to retire his old team we are treated to what should have been a montage of a new team assembly scene, but alas it was just painful. The montage is the staple of these types of movies and here is yet another missed opportunity. Not until the last 40 minutes do we find our heroes where they live best, the battlefield. For that last section of the film, its the closest thing to what the entire film series should have been to date. Tanks, failing buildings, and dirt bike stunts are all here and this is all I ever wanted. For the first time the series felt, in those moments, like it was self aware. Just about every moment prior to it we suffered through clunky dialogue by an ensemble cast of non-actors. The two truly talented actors in the movie, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas, were the absolute highlights. Gibson was an over the top villain in the perfect way, besting any of the bad guys from the previous two entries. Banderas was the perfect amount of comic relief. Unlike the rest of the cast, these two aren’t completely washed up. Honorable mention goes to Wesley Snipes, and his return to the big screen. He had a couple of cool moments but this is a poor return for him; he deserved better.

There really isn’t much of a reason to see this movie. Its a violent, yet completely bloodless, movie with a PG-13 rating to reach a younger audience. Well, I hope it reaches them because it missed me by a mile. As a lover of over the top poorly acted muscle bound action movies of the 1980s this fails at one major point...TOO MUCH PLOT. Stop trying to make me care about why the bad guy is bad. I know he is bad because he has an evil look and has henchmen. Stop trying to make me care about the background of your new crew...NO ONE CARES! Did I need to know backstory on Dutch, Dillon, Mac, Blaine, Billy, Rick and Poncho in Predator? No, I did not. Just drop them in the jungle and point their guns towards the bad guy. Nothing more, and nothing less. In this case less is more, and I wish I had more of my time back by watching less of The Expendables 3.

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