“Creed” Brings Rocky Back To The Ring

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ryan Coogler inspired to make Creed.

It’s has been a long road from obscurity to legend for Sylvester Stallone. That’s what the 29-year-old director of Fruitvale Station talked about to persuade Sylvester Stallone to allow him to make Creed, the seventh film in the franchise, now playing. “I was just always honest with (Stallone) and let him know what the movies meant to me,” said Coogler during a recent interview in Toronto — fittingly held in a Yonge St. boxing gym — along with Creed’s stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad; PG-13 (violence, language and some sensuality); in general release The challenge for the “Rocky” sequels was finding creative ways to make Rocky Balboa the underdog when he obviously wasn’t. “Creed,” which is half Rocky sequel and half Rocky spin-off, has the same problem. “Creed” brings the Rocky saga into the 21st century through bloodlines that go back to the franchise’s roots. Jordan), a pair of prehistoric pals (“The Good Dinosaur,” featuring voice performances by Raymond Ochoa and Jeffrey Wright), and a dogged detective (“Victor Frankenstein,” starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe). Critics say he’s a contender once again: “Creed” is one of the best entries in the venerable franchise, with fantastic performances from Sylvester Stallone and Michael B.

But money and a gift-wrapped career can’t squeeze the boxer out of his blood, and eventually Adonis sets off to Philadelphia in search of his destiny. The troubled son of Rocky’s one-time rival and later friend and mentor, Apollo Creed, was born after his dad’s death in the ring (in 1985’s Rocky IV). When Adonis finds Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), the ex-champion is living a humble lifestyle in his old neighborhood, running an Italian restaurant (Adrian’s) and trying to defer his hometown hero status. Jordan’s formidable charisma, ‘Creed’ is only sporadically compelling, resulting in a movie that never quite shakes the impression that it’s a novel but not particularly necessary addition to the ‘Rocky’ series.” — Tim Grierson, Screen International Pixar has ruled the computer animation genre since it debuted “Toy Story” in 1995, but it’s never attempted to release two films in one year before. While Adonis sets about convincing Rocky to train him, half a world away a troubled champ named Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) is looking for one last score before starting a prison sentence.

That changes this week with the release of “The Good Dinosaur” — which follows on the heels of this summer’s widely acclaimed “Inside Out” — and critics say it’s a worthy entry in the Pixar canon, even if it doesn’t quite measure up to the studio’s best. There’s a scene where Rocky, who has health issues, explains his feelings about what’s left of his life and his career to Johnson that is arguable the most dramatic of Stallone’s career. “Creed” ends with a finale fight between Johnson (don’t call him “Baby Creed”) and an undefeated Scottish fighter in Europe, and yes, the “Rocky” theme, composed by Bill Conti, ushers us into the big brawl. “Creed” has plenty of the original Rocky color and feel. It was an intensely personal project for Coogler, who said the Rocky movies helped his father deal with his own mother’s breast cancer when he was young. Set on an alternate version of Earth where dinosaurs have survived extinction, the story centers on Arlo, a timid Apatosaurus who finds himself lost after chasing a caveboy into the wilderness.

He later used the dramas to motivate Coogler in high school and college. “Whenever I’d have a big football game or a big test at school, he’d say, ‘Hey man take 10 minutes, we’ll watch this scene from Rocky.’” Coogler recalled. “He’d get fired up … this’ll give you the juice! Critics say “Victor Frankenstein” resembles its title character’s creation: it’s a bunch of disparate elements fastened together, lacking the spark needed to come to life. James McAvoy stars as the doctor and Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor; together, they team up to create artificial life, but (spoiler alert!) their macabre experiments eventually spiral out of control. “Victor Frankenstein” is currently at 18 percent on the Tomatometer; here’s what some of the critics are saying: Rotten: “As Radcliffe says from the beginning, we know this story. With his days as a champion fighter long gone, we see more clearly that it is the charm that Stallone instills in Rocky that makes him such a beloved character. Since we already do, the longer this particular version of it continues, the more we wonder why we’re bothering to sit through it.” — Jen Chaney, Washington Post Rotten: “Despite half-hearted moves towards providing a new take on a classic story, ‘Victor Frankenstein’ is less “aliiiiiive!” than trapped in a coma of its own making.” — Rebecca Pahle, Film Journal International

Director Ryan Coogler offers up more than your basic underdog story and staging, and makes the material interesting on a visual level as well as emotionally. She describes Stallone as “an awesomely eccentric, fantastic dude.” Thompson observes Rocky audiences remain loyal because “they give us a sort of perspective of what’s possible with self determination, perseverance. He helped the actor avoid the kind of slip-ups that make moviegoers cringe, learning not to “oversell a punch, not taking the punch too soon, taking a long time, especially when you do slo-mo shots.

Coogler said his most difficult day on set was shooting an emotional scene involving Jordan and Stallone and the famous “Rocky steps” leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s still a fun movie, and “Creed” will offer plenty of nostalgia-heavy payoffs for longtime fans, some that only hardcore Rocky nuts will spy. But anyone whose familiarity with Rocky begins and ends with Balboa’s Cold War battle with Ivan Drago would be well advised to see the classic that started the whole thing.

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