*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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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

HOMEFRONT REVIEW

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Have faith in the Stath. Even if the film’s a little . . . Well . . .

Do you love action movies? Do you love Jason Statham? Do you care about plot or feasible story lines? No? Let me guess. Do you like your movies served explosive with a side order of violence? Then this is for you.

If you’re a Stath nut, then in the roster of his works, this falls short. Although not his worst, I’ll leave that to Hummingbird, it still had nothing on Crank or the epic Transporter films (Minus Part 3).

Written by Sylvester “The ExpendablesStallone, Homefront is about a former DEA agent Phil Broker (Statham) who retires to the rural Deep South, after a botched operation, with his young daughter (Izabela Vidovic). What starts off as a little playground fight between Stath’s little ‘un and one of the local kids, escalates into a bitter community feud, which in typical fashion, leads to all-out mayhem.

The cliches are all there. One on one knife fights (Check), random weapons scattered across the house (Check), the usual “Trust me baby, Daddy’s coming” rubbish (Check, check, check). BUT for the first hour, I was able to enjoy it. In fact, it was actually quite watchable.

All thanks to a surprisingly decent cast. Kudos to Kate Bosworth as the nagging heroin white trash neighbour. However, it was a shame that her character faded further into the background as the chaos ensued. Clancy Brown was wasted as the Sheriff with his Django-esque delivery, “You got my attention, son”. Clearly, the point of his character was to establish that the police don’t run things in this town BUT to have such a great actor in such a small passive role, it felt like a missed opportunity.

I was surprised to see Winona Ryder in this and looking good (Steady now). Even managed to bag the best (or worst) character name of Sheryl Mott. Sly you dirty old man. Unless he’s not familiar with the expression? Moving on . . .

Stath applies his usual gravitas to yet another stocky role. However, the chemistry between him and Vidovic was quite good and made that inevitable Commando-esque father/daughter relationship much more bearable. I was glad to not actually hate the kid, which is normally a given in these sort of movies.

James Franco was brilliant. He stole the show. Bringing his squinty eyed menace to the meth dealer and “town authority” Gator Bovine (What a name!). He managed to make a memorable turn with the cardboard material he had (Sorry, Sly) and inject some much needed tension to the more heated exchanges with Stath’s Broker.

The action sequences were impressive. Most notably with Stath’s fighting scenes. You could feel every punch and hear every crunch. It’s a shame that what could have been a tense action thriller combining Breakdown with a hint of Deliverance had to crash and burn into the same old cliched guff.

It fizzled out far too quickly and we were left with numerous explosive endings with the inevitable OTT shoot em up, punch first questions later spiel taking over. It was just so predictable and felt like all the other action flicks out there that have done before and much better.

Despite being watchable, it was hardly memorable or outstanding BUT if you really fancy giving it a go, I could think of worse ways to kill 90 odd minutes.

Not bad BUT certainly not great.

2.5/5