Film Review: CREED II (USA 2018)

Creed II Poster
Trailer

Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, light heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago.

Director:

Steven Caple Jr.

Writers:

Cheo Hodari Coker (story by), Ryan Coogler (characters) | 4 more credits »

How time flies.  Before one knows it, CREED II, the sequel to 2015 CREED is now the 8th instalment of the ROCKIE franchise.  All of the films feature Sylvester Stallone who also co-wrote CREED II.  CREED II is not as good as CREED I primarily because ideas are running out – after all it is the 8th film.

The film follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) training in order to defeat the son of Ivan Drago, the powerful athlete who killed his father in the ring more than 33 years prior.

It was in 1985 that the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) killed former heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed during an exhibition fight in Las Vegas.  That same year, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) defeated Ivan Drago in a boxing match on Christmas Day in the Soviet Union. Thirty-three years later, Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), with Rocky’s training and guidance, seeks to avenge his father’s death by fighting Drago’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) while at the same time, Ivan hopes to reclaim his honour through Viktor.  Stallone plays again Robert “Rocky” Balboa, Sr., the two-time world heavyweight champion and Apollo’s rival-turned-friend who becomes Adonis’ trainer and mentor.  He still owns and operates his Italian restaurant in Philadelphia.

The script surprisingly is sympathetic towards the villain Viktor and his over-unforgiving father Ivan.  During a few points in the film, one actually wishes Viktor would win the fight.  Adonis is comes across (unintentionally) as a spoilt celebrity.  Viktor is shown in the script to be a victim of family circumstances that he cannot escape from.  A similar situation was tapped in Steve McQueen’s WIDOWS where the Colin Farrell character is tied in to his family’s reputation.  Both wish to be out.  This is the only positive difference in the ROCKY films.  On the negative, Stallone ups the melodrama several notches.  Adonis’s girlfriend Bianca Thompson (Tessa Thompson) is suffering from hearing loss.  Rocky Balboa has not seen his son and granddaughter for years and finally gets to reconcile (sob-sob!) at the end of the film.  Rocky visits his late wife Adrian’s grave and speaks to her.  Adonis visits his late father’s grave and talks to him too.  It is this melodrama that kills the movie.  

A neat touch is the appearance at the final fight of Viktor’s mother (played with icy coolness by Brigitte Nielsen) who had deserted the family. 

It is clear that Viktor is the bigger and better fighter, so it is a hard task to make Adonis a credible foe that can beat Viktor.  The script devotes the usually hard training sessions (devised by Rocky that Adonis undergoes – like pulling trucks, turning tires and running in the ht desert).

The climax of the film is understandably the heavyweight championship bout between Adonis and Viktor,  executed with all its expected gore and brutal violence.  The fight begins during the last 15 minutes of the movie.

All that can be done with CREED II is to use the recycled formula of what worked in the past.  The result is a lacklustre over melodramatic film with a few good fighting sequences.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPNVNqn4T9I

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1997 Movie Review: COP LAND, 1997

COP LAND,  MOVIE POSTERCOP LAND, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by: James Mangold

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Rober De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport
Review by Jarred Thomas

SYNOPSIS:

The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City policeman slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption.

 

REVIEW:

Writer/director James Mangold creates a film that examines the underbelly of corruption among New York City cops who reside in New Jersey, bending the rules to fit their needs while hiding a dark secret about a recent murder. Sylvester Stallone plays the morally straight New Jersey cop who suffered an ear injury that has relegated him to only work small time crimes. He has become something of joke among most of the residents, in particular NY cops led by Harvey Keitel who reside in the community.

Stallone’s understated performance plays against type and he does a wonderful job in his role. Stallone gained weight for the role and it adds to the character as he appears slow and out of shape. He looks like a real person and not some caricature. It’s a quiet performance unlike his previous films and one that gained Stallone critical praise from critics and peers.

Freddy Heflin (Stallone) is the sheriff of a fictional town called Garrison in New Jersey. When he was a teenager he jumped into the river to save a girl who plunged in from the bridge. In doing so, he damaged his ear making him unable to become an officer on the streets. Now, he’s relegated to perform small deeds such as preserving the peace, scolding rowdy children and check parking. His authority is limited, if he has any at all.

Cop Land is a look at big city corruption in a small town. Harvey Keitel as Ray Donlan does a nice job in his role playing a corrupt officer who acts with more authority in town then he really has, but when he speaks, people listen out of fear. Donlan has ties with the mob which have allowed him to have certain cops placed in his town, giving the name “Cop Land.” Many of the houses in town were bought through dirty money and the depravity doesn’t end there.

Ray’s nephew, Murray (Rapaport), a young cop, unintentionally kills to two black teens after his car side swipes them. Out of fear of racial incident, Ray tries to fake Murray’s suicide. However, when Moe Tilden (De Niro), an Internal Affairs investigator comes investigating, he smells a cover up. Not willing to get caught, Ray tries to have Murray killed, but the job doesn’t go as planned leading Murray to seek the help of Freddy. Can Freddy stand up against the corruption in town or is he simply out of his league?

Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel both provide a well needed boost of energy in this film because although Stallone does a solid job as the slow witted sheriff, there’s really not much to speak of with the other actors. Liotta plays a good/bad cop whose conscience is starting to get the best of him and his loyalties come into question. But it feels clichéd like most of the other characters who hit only one note.

Cop Land has its strong moments, most coming from the three actors De Niro, Keitel and Stallone, but it’s not entirely enough. Towards the middle of the movie, it meanders a bit like Freddy does, maybe even more. Perhaps Stallone being out of his action element too draws attention to itself, and when he finally picks up a weapon the action scene is far too predictable to be even remotely believable. There’s just not enough to recommend this film despite the standout performance of Stallone.

 

Film Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (USA 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

guardians2.jpgSet to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Dan Abnett (based on the Marvel comics by) |
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell

Review by Gilbert Seah 

 
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY Volume 2 follows exactly the path of sequels – louder and more of what were found in the original.

If the first film is your cup of tea, is is doubtless that you will enjoy the volume 2 – because it is nothing more than a replica of the same, only with Disney/Marvel going haywire and completely berserk. The best example is the climatic fight scene where during the battle between the hero and villain, the hero suddenly turns into a pixeled chomping Pacman. (Silly but funny!)

The films does boast an awesome soundtrack. Those who love the oldies, might go out and buy the soundtrack, maybe even skip the movie. There are are familiar songs, some seldom heard for a long time and some choice ones I have never heard before. The film is scored, as in the first film by Tyler Bates.

So, who are these Guardians of the Galaxy? The leader is an unchallenged Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who has a romantic fling with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an alien orphan fighting to redeem her past crimes. There is also Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a highly skilled warrior, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). There is absolutely no explanation why Baby Groot is in this film after a larger Groot died in the original film.

Subplots are thrown in with additional characters like Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s sister. The only other character of importance is Quill’s dad, Ego (Kurt, Russell) who turns out to be the film’s villain.
The plot of the film involves the Guardians of the Galaxy saving the Galaxy from destruction, once at the start of the film and then again. But the guardians are a comical troupe led by no less than a character of the same mould. They obviously get not trouble while saving the galaxy – all these antics supposedly providing fun and reason for millions of cinemagoers around the world to cough up money for an admission ticket or even more to see the film in imax 3-D.

The film contains lots of irrelevant and meaningless quotes that should amuse those easily amused. When Quill’s father turns bad, Quill’s adopted father Yondu (Michael Rooker) tells him: “He might be your father, but he is not your daddy!” Or goes the another saying: “I know who you are, because you are me!”

There is a lot of ego on display here. Not only is the villain named Ego but he is also omnipresent as the entire planet which is also called Ego. There is the egoistic rivalry between the two sisters and more important, the rivalry between the father and son. The father is the personification of ego. He says:’What I have planted is an extension of myself so that eventually, everything is me.”

It is evident that director Gunn has put in a lot of effort to make Volume 2 worth the price of the admission ticket. But take away the special effects and production design, dazzling and expensive though they may be, and what is left is a narrative mess of a tedious convoluted plot littered with irrelevant humour.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cv2ueYnKjg

_________

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Happy Birthday: Sylvester Stallone

sylvesterstalloneHappy Birthday actor Sylvester Stallone

Born: July 6, 1946 in New York City, New York, USA

Married to:
Jennifer Flavin (17 May 1997 – present) (3 children)
Brigitte Nielsen (15 December 1985 – 13 July 1987) (divorced)
Sasha Czack (28 December 1974 – 14 February 1985) (divorced) (2 children)

Birth complications, caused by forceps, resulted in paralysis of the lower left side of his face, manifested by a perennial snarl and slurred speech.

Lords of Flatbush
1974
dir. Martin Davidson
Stephen Verona
Cast: Perry King
Stallone
ROCKYRocky
1976
dir. John G Avildsen
starring
Stallone
Tia Shire
Burt Young
ROCKY IIRocky II
1979
dir. Stallone
starring
Stallone
Carl Weathers
ROCKY IIIRocky III
1982
dir. Stallone
starring
Stallone
Talia Shire
Mr. T
First Blood
1982
dir. Ted Kotcheff
Cast
Sylvester Stallone
Brian Dennehy
ROCKY IVRocky IV
1985
dir. Stallone
starring
Stallone
Dolph Lundgren
ROCKY VRocky V
1990
dir. John G Avildsen
starring
Stallone
Tommy Morrison
COP LANDCop Land
1997
dir. James Mangold
Cast
Stallone
Harvey Keitel
MOVIE POSTERBULLET TO THE HEAD
dir. Walter Hill
Stars:
Sylvester Stallone
Jason Momoa
MOVIE POSTERTHE EXPENDABLES 2
dir. Simon West
Stars:
Sylvester Stallone
Liam Hemsworth
ROCKY BALBOARocky Balboa
2006
dir. Sylvestor Stallone
starring
Stallone
Burt Young
Milo Ventimiglia
The Expendables Movie PosterThe Expendables
dir. Sylvester Stallone
Stars
Sylvester Stallone
Jason Statham
POSTERRAMBO 2
1985
dir. George P. Cosmatos
Starring:
Sylvester Stallone
Richard Crenna
MOVIE POSTERRAMBO 3
1988
dir. Peter MacDonald
Stars:
Sylvester Stallone
Richard Crenna
MOVIE POSTERRAMBO 4
2008
dir. Sylvester Stallone
Stars:
Sylvester Stallone
Julie Benz
MOVIE POSTERESCAPE PLAY
2013
dir. Mikael Hafstrom
Stars:
Sylvester Stallone
Arnold Schwarzenegger
MOVIE POSTERGRUDGE MATCH
2013
dir. Peter Segal
Stars:
Robert DeNiro
Sylvester Stallone
MOVIE POSTERTHE EXPENDABLES 3
2014
dir. Patrick Hughes
Stars:
Sylvester Stallone
Jason Statham

 

Movie Review: CREED (2015)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

creed_posterCREED (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Ryan Coogler

Review by Gilbert Seah

Though featuring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, CREED (alternative title – ROCKY VII), the 7th installment of the ROCKY franchise is an anomaly. It does not contain Rocky in a fight scene and is not a film that is either written or directed by Stallone. CREED is a spin-off from the original series, but it pays homage to the series.

CREED feels like an African American film instead of an Italian American film. It is not difficult to see why as CREED was co-written and directed by Ryan Coogle, best known for his breakout anti-racial film FRUITVALE STATION in which a black man (also played by Michael B. Jordan) was abused by white cops. Everything from the acting, music (lots of rap) and dialogue are African American. And that is a good thing as the film has a more authentic look than many of the other 6 ROCKY films.

Rocky in this film is left in a supporting role. Rocky Balboa is sought by Adonis Creed (Jordan) to be his coach. One wonders who would name his boy Adonis. Unless the father has a name like Apollo, of course. Adonis is the illegitimate son of fighter Apollo Creed. Sylvester Stallone plays his supporting role surprisingly well, winning him a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His character comes down with cancer and has to fight to survive.

One of the most important points of a boxing film are the execution of the fight scenes. The final match between Creed and Conlan (Tony Bellew) the British world light heavyweight champion shot in Liverpool, England is done with the usual cuts. The camera switches back and forth among the boxing action, the boxer’s faces, the coaches, the spectators and Creed’s girlfriend (Tessa Thompson) and ‘adopted mother’ (Phylicia Rashad) to heighten the excitement.

There is no skimping of the blood to emphasize the punishment boxers have to endure for the sport. The bloody slow-motion bloodied knockout on the ring canvas will long be remembered. But the first match between Creed and Tony “Little Duke” Evers (Wood Harris) is done with one single take. This elegant sequence should be seen to be believed with credit given to director Coogle for achieving this feat.

But story-wise, the film often falls into cliched territory. Creed learns the ropes from Rocky. When Rocky is diagnosed with cancer, he initially refuses treatment. So, the audience can only winch when the story goes into – Rocky can learn from Creed as much as Creed can learn from Rocky. Coogle also pushes the sentimentality a bit too far to make Rocky too much the lovable lug. Another example of heightened sentimentality is the part where Rocky visits his ex-coach, Paulie’s grave and begins talking to him.

But the film succeeds from the fight scenes and the superlative acting from both Stallone and Jordan. Jordan body is perfectly cut and muscled like a boxer in top form. The film also pays homage to the Rocky films such as the final scene where Creed and Balboa climb the famous steps to the Philadelphia art museum. And when the Rocky anthem by Bill Conti is heard on the soundtarck, one can feel the nostalgia.

CREED has been hailed critically and the film has done Stallone a good turn at the box-office.

It is difficult to imagine that it has been almost 40 years since the first Rocky was screened. CREED is dedicated to the late producer Robert Chartoff (passed away in 2015) who also produced the first Rocky. The first weekend gross was $40 million, above the $35 million production cost. Stallone has been struggling before with his EXPENDABLES films. Rocky hails supreme again!

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