Tag Archives: Sylvester Stallone

Creed II (2018) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Creed 2

Director: Stephen Caple Jr.
Screenwriters: Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson

I think the Creed movies are to the Rocky Movies what the Craig-era Bond films are to the Moore-era. They’ve ditched the indestructible hero for a more realistic approach. You would never have seen Rocky pissing blood after one of his fights, but that’s a scene we get in the latest outing for Adonis Creed.

This time he’s facing the son of, arguably, Rocky’s most memorable opponent Ivan ‘The Russian’ Drago. Viktor Drago has been living and training with his father his whole life, preparing for the day when he would get his chance for revenge. Drago senior’s defeat by Balboa disgraced the family, leading to their exile from Moscow and eventually the break-up of his marriage, so Viktor has a huge axe to grind with the man in Adonis Creed’s corner. Creed has plenty of emotional baggage as well, squaring up to the son of the man who killed his father in the ring, and all-credit to Michael B. Jordan we feel that angst every time he’s on screen. Bringing back an old foe is a gimmick that might stretch credibility for some people, but the boxing game is a lot like the movie business; if there’s a hook to market it on that will get bums on seats and make big bucks, they’re happy to back it.

Structurally speaking we’re in Rocky II territory here. It’s the chapter where marriage and babies (and complicated pregnancies) are addressed, and the fighter has to weigh up his responsibilities as a husband and father against his career. Jordan is terrific in the lead role. You can see the pain behind his eyes as he tries to cope with conflicting emotions this challenge has stirred up. Much as I love the original Rocky films (except V of course), I don’t think they ever had characters with such emotional depth, and this isn’t just confined to the good guys. Drago is far from a two-dimensional baddie, with both he and his father having their own, well thought out and satisfying character arcs.

The formula of the Rocky movies is still there if you look. Success – defeat – training – rematch, but these are much more grown up films than their predecessors. The Rocky movies sometimes felt like they whizzed through the downtime just to get to another training montage or fight, but the Creed movies don’t mind giving extended screen-time to personal issues and home life and this helps us connect more with the characters. The training montages look less like MTV music videos and more like sweat, pain and hard work. I suppose my only gripe is that they’re now using awful rap music (I consider all rap music awful) to soundtrack these films instead of classic eighties rock, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

The fights are expertly choreographed and exciting, as usual, and I have to commend them for finding a way to give us two fights with the young Russian without resorting to the cliché of losing the title and wanting a rematch. There are also a couple of nice cameos from previous Rocky movies with Brigitte Nielsen returning as Ludmilla Drago and Milo Ventimiglia as Rocky’s estranged son Robert.

Creed II builds on an incredibly strong first movie and gives us something with more depth and weight, and though there are plenty of echoes of the Rocky movies – ‘I don’t think you can win, so I can’t train you’ – these films have their own identity with well-rounded characters and original twists to the fights, and never feel like an obvious retread.

Now the big question is will Creed III have Adonis fight the son of Clubber Lang? I pity the fool who wouldn’t want to see that!

Advertisements

Rocky Balboa (2006) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Rocky Balboa

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writers: Sylvester Stallone, Sylvester Stallone (characters)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Tarver, Milo Ventimiglia, Burt Young, Geraldine Hughes, Tony Burton, James Francis Kelly III

Back in 2006 it had been Thirty years since People’s Champion Rocky Balboa was introduced to the world and now Rocky Balboa comes out of retirement and dons his gloves for his final fight; against the reigning heavyweight champ Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon. My reaction in 2006? What the heck are you doing Sly? You’re past it. The last Rocky movie was terrible and it had been a long 16 years after that fifth instalment. In a way the character of Rocky at this point was mirroring Stallone’s career at this point. I’m not for one minute saying Sly was washed up or done but the early 2000’s wasn’t exactly kind to Stallone with his choice of film. The Get Carter (2000) remake was terrible, Avenging Angelo (2002) and D-Tox (2002) were straight to Video / DVD release. I think my judgement at this point was justified along with many of Stallone fans out there. The same can be said for the Rocky fans (character fanbase) in the film, he had his day and were quick to right him off.

Possibly the biggest decision in this project for Sylvester Stallone was writing the character of Rocky’s wife Adrianne out and having her passed away a few years earlier. A bold move for Sly. Talia Shire’s character was what grounded Rocky. Her strength and love for her husband is what drove Rocky in those early films. They would have disagreements on his health and state of mind and probably when you think about it she would have disagreed with Rocky stepping back in the ring one more time. The events of Rocky V seem to have been overlooked in some ways. After the gruelling battle in Moscow in Rocky IV, it had a mental effect on Rocky and the Doctors said he would be able to get back in the ring. It’s been a while since I subjected myself to the fifth film but I recall Rocky would have had his boxing license refused due to this. So clearly Rocky Balboa (2006) is retconning quite a few things from the 1990 and I’m glad. The passing of Adrianne also adds emotion and an emptiness in Rocky’s character early in the movie. 

Sadly Sage Stallone wouldn’t return to the character of Robert Balboa. Sly wanted his real life son to return to the role but had other commitments in his schedule and the role was given to Milo Ventimiglia. Stallone chose wisely here in Ventimiglia. Not only did the actor have that sluggish snarl synonyms with Stallone but his characteristics were like a young version of the veteran actor. At this point, the emptiness in Rocky’s life without Adrienne is coupled with the fact that Robert distances himself from his Father who he regards as a large shadow casting over his own life. You can’t blame the son here. The Legend of Rocky Balboa looms large in most peoples lives in Philadelphia. Ventimiglia is good in the role and his relationship with Stallone would blossom into a great Friendship that is still strong today. The relationship between Rocky and Robert is almost the same as it was in Rocky V and they have certainly picked out the best part of this relationship for this film. There is love there but at a safe distance.

Thankfully Paulie (Burt Young) is still around and ensures that the series has the continuity. The sadness in this character is the regret he has for his treatment of his sister Adrianne. As much as Rocky reminisces over the past 30 years with great fondness. Paulie would rather forget the past and drown it out in booze and anger. You witness this in Rocky’s annual tour of his old haunts that remind him of his old life and you also see that his hometown has moved on. Not much is left of the places and buildings of yesteryear and this is relevant in the narration of Rocky ageing and everything around him moving on and leaving the past in the past. It was a nice touch to know that Rocky hadn’t lost everything in the years since we last saw him. his Restaurant “Adrianne’s” would of course be a shrine to his Wife and his past achievements were he could tell his stories to the customers who dined here. 

“Screw you Creepo” was one of those lines in the first Rocky movie that stands out from a lesser character that was almost an extras role in “Little Marie”. I found it interesting that Stallone would resurrect this character as one  of the supporting characters and the role would go to Geraldine Hughes. I’m not entirely sure the reason for this choice. Did the story need a strong female character for Rocky to rely on now Adrianne wasn’t there for him? Marie would of course “care” for the Italian Stallion without the emotional baggage that came with Adrianne. Along with her son “Steps” (James Francis Kelly III) who would have purpose in Rocky’s life, rather than hanging around street corners. I think this character is used in the opposite way to Robert. Steps doesn’t have the shadow hanging over him and is quite in awe of Rocky’s achievements. Another resurrection all but smaller was of course the inclusion of Spider Rico, Rocky’s first opponent in the opening scenes of the original movie and it was nice to see they managed to get Pedro Lovell back to play the role. It’s a nothing role more than another token gesture to the past and Spider really just appears in those scenes in the Restaurant and Kitchen scenes as someone Rocky takes care of.

The first half of the movie is a trip down memory lane and being reintroduced to the characters of the past and where they are now. Thankfully after enough reminiscing we move forward with the storyline. During a drinking session with his friends, Robert is subjected to the Bar’s television news that using the latest computer generated imagery and statistical algorithms at the peak of their game, they are able to create a virtual bout between Rocky Balboa and the current champion Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Antonio Tarver) The surprising reaction from the bar dwellers and Robert watching this is that there is still plenty of love and respect for Rocky in 2006. The reaction from both Rocky and Dixon camps is of disbelieve as the algorithm awards the fight to Balboa. Rocky fans are in joy of this outcome and Dixon’s entourage are outraged at this decision. The main problem I have with the character Dixon is that he isn’t really the bad guy in the story. He comes across as a fighter who has surrounded himself with sycophants, ditched his old trainer and his matches are set up with no real challenge. It’s like a water down version of Apollo Creed. Tarver in his portrayal is fine, not menacing, more a frustrated fighter who is pushed over the edge by the CGI fight.

Rocky Balboa wouldn’t be a Rocky film without a quote or six and to be fair there is some quotable and memorable lines in there from Stallone and Young mostly. “But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” I’ll not quote that whole speech but it is pretty impressive and relevant to the relationship between Father and Son. Also I think the “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.” line was more of a personal one for Sly. I truly believe he is talking about himself here and not Rocky. This goes back to what I was saying about What the heck are you doing Sly? You’re past it. He really did have to win over the fans, win them back….. Much like Rocky must do in this film. As a writer and in particular the character of Rocky is important to Stallone. He cares a great deal about him and you know this through his treating of the character. Stallone has always been a talented writer and director and here he is pouring his heart and soul into this project.

Clark Mathis’ cinematography has the look, feel and pacing of the original films. I loved the fact they knew of the forecast of snow for the running up the stairs scene and how important it was to capture the moment. It made it on to the poster that shot and it gives the film a gritty realistic look in its promotion. The cinematography switches from cinematic to television for the boxing match. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would like this style and its presentation might take me out of it. Thankfully these sequences are inter sliced between both. For the boxing it’s television and for the acting portions we go back to cinematic. It doesn’t kill the pacing or feel either. Those final scenes after the match weren’t planned either. The eruption and spontaneous cheers for Rocky were from a real boxing crowd that were there for a real match as all of the movies scenes were captured before the real thing began. The chants of “Rocky” at the end weren’t rehearsed or planned. Shows you the love for the character and from the reaction of Stallone you can tell it meant a lot to him. Basically he was using his Rocky persona to milk it and rightly so.

Overall Rocky Balboa is surprisingly good. I appreciate the risk Stallone took in resurrecting the character after so long and let’s face it. Without this film we wouldn’t have got Creed and Creed 2. Sly should be proud of this work and I’m sure he is. After this release his film choices were once again box office draws in Rambo 4, The Expendables and as previously mentioned The Creed films. The film is possibly my 3rd best Rocky film after 1 and 2 and to quote the last line of the film, “Yo, Adrian, we did it… We did it.” Indeed you did. Recommended.

The Expendables 3 (2014) Movie Retro Review by Darrin Gauthier ‬

EXPENDABLES 3

Director: Patrick Hughes
Writers: Sylvester Stallone (screenplay), Creighton Rothenberger (screenplay)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li

‪Plot:  Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates.‬
‪Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes‬
‪Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 32%    Audience  49%‬

‪Why I watched it: Dumb question, this kind of action movie is my wheelhouse and yes I saw the first two.‬

‪Thoughts: This looks to be the last one in this franchise and it’s funny cause I don’t think it ever found it’s feet, on paper this is a no brainer but too many egos and really a lack of good story has hurt them so far.‬

‪What I like: I love B-Movie action films, they’re feel good movies for me, I don’t need much just sit back and enjoy, don’t over think it, these kind of movies are the perfect enjoy them for what they are and I did for the first two.  The first one didn’t really lick but I had fun with the second and now this one just gives us more and I mean more, two different teams of expendables more big names added and Mel Gibson as the bad guy and some of this work. This franchise has always been the more is more concept, heck they had Gibson and Ford to this and really were they needed.  Gibson works as the main heavy and he plays it pretty straight, he doesn’t go way over the top he plays a evil heavy with an ax to grind.  ‬

‪I also liked Kelsey Grammer as a headhunter so to speak. Lots of action of course and I thought the story moved pretty well considering they do three movie here, the set up, the recruiting of a new team and then a rescue by the old team, there was a lot of ground to cover and I’ll give them some credit for packing a lot in story wise.  I also liked Banderas, he makes me laugh, I love his over the top characters.‬

‪What I didn’t like: This movie has the same problems that the first one had, it’s just not that much fun, it’s way to serious and they should have embraced the B-movie qualities of this material. Also lets try to figure out why this wasn’t a R-Rated movie, it’s way too tame with this cast it should have been balls to the wall.‬

‪There’s one part of this movie that didn’t work for me at all and that was the new team, we didn’t need it and they added nothing, well the one thing they added was more bodies on the screen and man was that screen crowded.  No one on the young new team brought anything to the table.  If you were wondering why Ronda Rousey doesn’t have a film career look not further than Expendable 3, sh’s stiff and not a great presence.  There’s too many characters here, I mean two full teams, bad guys and guest stars no wonder this movie was over 2 hours and come on this type of movie shouldn’t be more than 100 minutes.‬

‪The fight scenes were fine but nothing special, also the fight scenes don’t tell I good story here, we don’t worry about anyone, there’s no stakes here.  Watching this film I really felt Stallone and company missed the point, take half this cast, make a tighter and more violent film and then you would have something.‬

‪Final thoughts: I didn’t mind the film but man it should have been more fun but I will say I didn’t mind watching it as it’s fun to see these many action stars together I just wished they were in a better film.‬

Creed (2015) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

CREED

Director: Ryan Coogler
Writers: Ryan Coogler (screenplay),  Aaron Covington (screenplay)
Stars: Michael B. Jordan,  Sylvester Stallone,  Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad

The idea of a Rocky spin off sounds like taking things a little too far in a franchise that spanned over 40 years. If this movie had been pitched around 15-20 years ago I would honestly predict it would have been a straight to VHS release lying in some bargain bin at the local supermarket and the name Sylvester Stallone wouldn’t have been attached to it.

The surprising success of the 2006 film “Rocky Balboa” changed everything with this franchise. Back in 1990 the awful Rocky V looked to have killed off our beloved “Italian Stallion” in an underwhelming plot and substandard performances from the actors and not to mention the abandonment of the classic Bill Conti score. Fast forward 16 years and to be honest the news of a new Rocky movie didn’t excite me one bit. My first thought was…how old is Sly now? What far fetched storyline will we get to believe Rocky Balboa could step in the ring again. Well enough of that for now as I will do a Retro Review on that movie soon and explain why I was wrong on so many levels.

We revisit the “Rocky” universe 9 years on that film and surprisingly Stallone isn’t in the writing chair for “Creed”. Both Coogler and Covington wrote the screenplay and follow the early life of a young man named Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) (opening in the year 1998) who has spent most of his childhood life from one detention centre to the next. That is until an older lady visits him in his cell (after one two many punch ups) and offers him a chance to restart his life under her wing. Adonis surprised and a little confused on why this stranger would want to do this kind act. She reveals herself to be the wife (Mary Anne) of his father…….Apollo Creed.

The audience learns very early on that just before Apollo died, he had an affair and as a result Adonis was born after his father passed away. The year is now 2015 and we also learn that Adonis is now a settled young man making his way in the world and pursuing a career thanks to the guidance of Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) Just like his late father he has a passion for fighting and wants to begin a career in the ring under the name of Adonis Johnson to make his own name in boxing without the burden of living under a large shadow.

I must say the first 10-15 minutes of the movie made me realise that the angle Coogler and Covington found to resurrect the franchise was clever and solid. The casting of Rashad as a seasoned actor to play the widowed Mary Anne was just write to open the movie and Michael B. Jordan as the lead was a fine piece of casting too. Jordan was just about at the write age to portray a character that if we are checking our calculations should be 30 years old (although Jordan was 28 at the time) if Apollo in the timeline died in 1985 (is this canon?)

Having made this decision to become a fighter Adonis heads from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and to look up an old friend (and foe) of Apollo Creed. Enter Sylvester Stallone as the iconic but ageing Rocky Balboa. Stallone basically inherits the role played by Burgess Meredith in those original films and I think is the same age as Meredith was in the original Rocky. Since we last saw Rocky in 2006’s Rocky Balboa another family member has passed on (Paulie) and Rocky is still running his restaurant “Adrian’s” in honour of his late wife.

I have to say and this is full credit to the writers in this spin off movie. Although Stallone makes an influence on every scene, the storyline generally avoids a trip down nostalgia lane and to be fair to Stallone, he takes a back step in this story and only adds a familiar face to the film. Don’t get me wrong, Rocky is battling his own demons and both Adonis and Rocky support each other in their battles and their fight.

Without a doubt Michael B. Jordan occupies the leading role with charisma that Carl Weathers would be proud of while Sylvester Stallone carries his ageing character with dignity and doesn’t conceal. In fact it’s quite the opposite as he takes advantage of his age in order to portray Rocky’s story.

Tony Bellew portrays Liverpudlian”Pretty” Ricky Conlan, the cocky boxing champion of the world who needs a massive send off as a public relations strategy after some legal bills. What better way than Bill his final bout against the son of Apollo Creed. Unfortunately, the movie dedicates him very little time to Conlan and I felt he was as menacing as Mason “The Line” Dixon was in “Rocky Balboa.” Everything you expect from the public image of a boxer in real life but nothing happening in his personal life. This itself has a little impact on the fight itself as I felt a little more information about this character could have added a bit of spice to the fight. Nonetheless Bellew is a good opponent.

The same could be said of Adonis’ love interest Bianca played by Tessa Thompson. Thompson is a fine actor and every scene she is in is decent. The chemistry between Jordan and Thompson is also decent but the character is somewhat shoehorned into the story and doesn’t really serve any purpose other than Adonis having a connection outwith Rocky in the city of Philadelphia.

In summary “Creed” is a great movie and as believable as the story can be with the backstory already fleshed out about the main characters heritage and the legacy that is lying in wait. The actors barely put a foot wrong and the casting of Jordan and his chemistry with Stallone works. It may not be up there with Rocky or Rocky II, but I would put it on par with Rocky Balboa for its cinematography and for its storyline. Highly Recommended.