*NEW* CREED REVIEW *NEW*

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We may have seen it all before BUT Jordan’s performance packs a punch and does enough to hold its own.

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

From the opening sequence, I knew Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) was the perfect choice. Prepping for a underground boxing fight in the deep Mexican underbelly. Built like a machine and punching walls to psych himself up.

Presence, charisma and charm. I knew he had the potential and Creed was the perfect platform. His back story had enough to hold its own. The boy desperate to forge his own legacy. The illegitimate son of a boxing legend. A hot head creating his own destruction.

The slow burning pace had the tendency to drag in places BUT I was still engaged as Don tried to make his own way from his tough upbringing. In and out of foster care. I felt his relationship with Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad – The Cosby Show) wasn’t explored enough. More could have made. Especially after rescuing the poor boy from a detention facility. She was only really brought back in the closing minutes after a harsh warning about following in his father’s footsteps.

The sparring sequences were done well. The little stats and figures flashing up over each boxer that Creed challenged was a good touch. Desperate NOT to use his father’s name, Don struggles to get any one to train him. That is until he gets in touch with an old friend.

Welcome back Rock. As soon as the Italian Stallion made his intro, I was hooked. Jordan and Stallone made a great duo. The usual training montages were funny and still entertained. The punching bag, the skipping rope BUT alas! NO meat punching in the freezers (Steady now) this time. Ol’ Sly’s running commentary kept things light. I was gutted after all the little nods to Rocky that he didn’t make Don drink raw eggs.

The problem was that being a Rocky fan, he was always going to steal the show. You really felt for the old boy as he sat alone at the cemetery reading the paper to Adrian’s grave. And when the Champ received some bad news, it got me a little bit. It was a fitting swansong for the iconic and ageing boxer. One of Stallone’s best performances from arguably one of his best characters. He was funny, charming and there were some genuinely touching scenes.

I liked the blossoming romance between Don and Bianca. Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Selma) had great chemistry. It was a shame that her character got pushed into the background as the film carried on.

Tony Bellew played the cocky light heavyweight champ Conlan to perfection. The perfect villain for the piece. Making money out of fighting a Creed. Despite Don only having one official fight under his belt. The fight sequences were brilliantly captured. You could hear and feel every punch. A bit of a contrast from the dated Apollo/Rocky boxing scraps. The camera angles were a little disorienting at times. You just wanted them to stay static and film the match.

Coogler did indulge in the schmaltz a little too much for the closing act. Johnson’s Rocky homage came off a little hammy. Running up a battered street with a bunch of kids on mopeds just didn’t quite have the same buzz as the famous step run. 

Some might argue that Creed is just a continuation. BUT is there any other way to tell an underdog story in boxing? If the characters are interesting enough, I’m happy to roll with the punches. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As finales go, it was a little too corny. BUT you still couldn’t help but get caught up in it. Rooting for the underdog. Yet after all that build up, the big fight was a little too quick cut and rushed for me.

Creed tied into the Rocky anthology well and was even able to make its own mark. Very much like the protagonist. BUT that wasn’t going to be hard. Come on. Rocky III, IV and V were guilty pleasures.

A little predictable and corny in parts BUT a fitting swansong from Sly and a fresh blood performance from Jordan makes this worth a watch.

3.5/5

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THE EXPENDABLES 3 REVIEW

Third time’s the charm?

They’re back. The Dad’s Army of movie action heroes return for another round of ridiculous mayhem, OTT action and cheesy banter.

It is what is. Big dumb fun. If you don’t know that by the third outing then why are you here?

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t rate the first Expendables. I was baffled when it was green-lit for another.

I remember reluctantly sitting through the second and being pleasantly surprised for what it was. Van Damme and Chuck Norris the saving graces!

So here we are. Yet another and the verdict? Not bad.

The only downfall was Stallone’s feeble attempt at injecting new faces to prolong a franchise no one really wanted. Especially when the newbies in question were so bland and cliched.

The opening prison train sequence got straight to business. The return of Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson to the big screen was a sight to see. Despite their previous misdemeanours, both showed why they still know how to steal the show.

Snipes’ introduction into the mix was brilliant. When asked what he is in for, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be good if he made a tax joke” and before I knew it, bam! Tax evasion.

The banter and quick witted insults really livened up the hammy dialogue. I lost count of the speech digs at Stallone. Even being so bold as to pop a stroke gag. All in reasonably good taste.

Snipes seemed to take over Terry Crews’ role, which I found highly strange. Can’t there be two black guys? Apparently we’re only allowed one.

Crews had one moment to shine with a chain gun before swiftly picking up a weak injury and disappearing into the background. The real reason being a contractual issue BUT a missed presence nonetheless.

The first hour was surprisingly watchable and pacy. The camaraderie among the Expendables was decent. All the old boys having a laugh and not giving a sh- blind bit of notice. And why should they?

However, the middle act tested with lifeless exchanges, generic plot lines and clichéd one liners. Seriously, the story line was so predictable as Barney (Stallone) confronted an old foe and former Expendable in the form of William Wallace.

Cue a self-deprecating suicide mission with our hero pushing away the old gang and recruiting a new one (in the form of ex-MMA fighting champion Ronda Rousey and that dude from Twilight, Kellan Lutz).

It took a while for Gibson to shine. An initial ‘shout-off’ with Stallone didn’t build high hopes. It was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Stallone’s inaudible screeching. Yikes. I couldn’t understand a word that man was saying (More so than usual). BUT thankfully ol’ Blue Eyes managed to deliver some malice to the stale role.

The Stath’s acting was surprisingly wooden (I know. Shock horror!). Disappointing. While Antonio Banderas pretty much did a live action impersonation of Puss in Boots. His intro said it all with Stallone and Grammer an unsuspecting Shrek and Donkey.

Lundgren, Ford, Schwarzenegger, Snipes, Li and . . . Kelsey Grammer?!

Really? Frasier “I’m listening” Crane. What he’s going to do? Step on a rake and mutter away like Sideshow Bob? Anyway, I digress. In all fairness, Grammer was actually pretty good in his small cameo. Providing “valuable Intel” for Rocky as he selected the new recruits.

And that was the problem. The oldies were the appeal. They may lack the vigour and pace of their younger counterparts (I mean, give them a break, they’re in their SIXTIES) but their acting and charisma proved why they’re still the big dogs and these young pups still have a lot to learn.

Rousey and co may have looked tough and done their own stunts BUT when it comes to (I can’t believe I’m writing this) acting? Generic face pulling wasn’t enough.

The inevitable “out with the old, in with the new” spiel was unnecessary and so predictable. You were just counting down the minutes before the old crew returned.

Swarnie wasn’t in this enough. While Harrison Ford showed he still has a sense of humour. Playing the hard ass role to perfection even if his lines didn’t make any sense. Seriously, there was a clunky exchange about somebody messing up and him wearing it that had me scratching my head.

I can’t believe this script was penned by an Oscar winner.

The action pieces were entertaining enough BUT there were moments where the erratic camera work struggled to keep up. An issue I had with the first Expendables.

The finale got more ridiculous as it reached its explosive conclusion BUT with The Terminator bellowing endless “GET TO THE CHOPPER” quotes to my heart’s content, I was happy to oblige.

A guilty pleasure. Say no more. It wasn’t the best one of the bunch BUT it didn’t have that much to compare to.

If you’re looking for an action packed time filler with some of your favourite 80s/90s action heroes then give it a go.

Otherwise, move along folks!

2.5/5

GRUDGE MATCH REVIEW

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The Raging Bull vs. The Italian Stallion. Better late than never?

A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout . . . 30 years after their last match.

Two of the greatest boxing movie icons finally come face to face. In the red corner, two-time Oscar winner and mafia kingpin Robert “Jake La Motta” De Niro. In the blue corner, two-time Oscar nominee and action movie macho man, Sylvester “Rocky Balboa” Stallone. Did we get a tense ten round punch up? Or was it another hyped up dud with a shoddy KO in the first round? LET’S GET READDDDDYYYY TO REVIEEWWWWW.

Watchable if a little disappointing. De Niro and Stallone made a frankly dull, predictable and by the book boxing dramedy a lot more entertaining than it should have been. 

The opening sequence (delivered in a flashy sports feed) quickly established the pair’s rivalry. The CGI and make up actually made the leading men look like they did in the 70s. The quick 30 second boxing skits were quite convincing. We watch Henry “Razor” Sharp (the not so sharp Stallone) battling it with his greatest nemesis, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro), both one a piece in their victories, with one final grudge match on the cards. BUT out of nowhere, Razor retires. 

30 years later and Razor (a hench looking Stallone) is still happy to forget and work at the local steel mill. While Kid (an overweight De Niro) is still living off the fame BUT unhappy about the match that never was. He may still be a unit BUT Stallone hasn’t aged well. However, he delivered some of the best acting I’ve seen him do in some time. While De Niro played the arrogant Billy with aplomb.

An unexpected reunion at a video game commercial shoot set fists flying between the retired boxers. It was hilarious watching the pair flail about like two wrinkly Buzz Lightyears in those ridiculous green suits. Inevitably, the spat goes viral and the grudge match is very much back on.

De Niro and Stallone sparred well off each other. The insults and jibes were snappy and quick witted. It wasn’t long before we discover the real reason behind their rivalry. What could possibly put two men against each other? Bingo, a woman. In the form of the lovely Kim Basinger, who still ain’t looking too bad. What? She had good chemistry with Stallone and made the cliched cheesy romance subplot a little more bearable.

The grudge match opened opportunities for the old codgers. For the Kid? A chance to appease his ego. For the Razor? Money to help take care of his old trainer. The scene stealing Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). And once Kevin Hart was thrown into the mix, the lumbering pace picked up. I never thought Arkin and Hart would make such an entertaining duo.

For all the negative press, I expected something worse. Grudge Match was hardly original. The pace was patchy and the cliched schmaltzy guff was a little predictable BUT it was still easygoing enough and delivered the odd chuckle. Stallone’s training montage was brilliant. A perfect Rocky parody by the man himself. Struggling to drink eggs and wondering why the hell he’s punching meat in a freezer.

The fight scenes weren’t bad BUT I was left wanting by the finale. It was all build up with some promising sequences as the old boys gave it a good ol’ go. BUT it was rushed and quick cut. Whether that was to make up for the ailing actors? I’m not sure. Shame. The tone was all over the pace. The video game scrap. Good. Fighting while skydiving? OTT and stupid. The subplot involving Billy’s newly discovered son (Jon Bernthal – The Walking Dead) was wafer thin and dreadfully cliched.

A mixed bag. Easygoing enough BUT if you were expecting Motta v Balboa, you’ll be left disappointed but give ’em a break. They do their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material was a little weak. For the boxing nuts, hang on for the credits if you want to see a proper boxing rivalry revisited.

2.5/5