Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan talk ‘Creed’

26 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A feast of films on Thanksgiving Eve.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — ‘Creed,’ the 7th installment in the iconic franchise of ‘Rocky,’ films is set to hit the big screen on Wednesday, nationwide.

Nine years after we thought Sylvester Stallone wrapped up his durable franchise on a high note with “Rocky Balboa,” he’s back to pass the torch in style with Ryan Coogler’s “Creed,” one of the year’s warmest and most crowd-pleasing surprises.But for the young actor, there was no way of missing the fact he was stepping into a huge cultural legacy with his new movie Creed — which turns the focus to the son of Rocky’s great rival, Apollo Creed. “You have enough people saying it around you,” Jordan says with a laugh from Philadelphia — the home of all things Rocky. “And honestly, it’s kinda hard to do an exterior scene in Philadelphia with Sylvester Stallone — you have hundreds of fans lined up on the sidewalk waiting for us to yell cut, then they’re like ‘Sly!

Jordan), an unacknowledged son of Apollo Creed, and his struggle to follow in his father’s footsteps as a prizefighter with the help of his father’s greatest opponent and friend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). It seems that before Rocky’s opponent-turned-pal Apollo Creed died in “Rocky 4,” he planted the seed for this spinoff during an extramarital affair. Pictures Invites You to ¬ìThe Big Picture¬î, an Exclusive Presentation Highlighting the Summer of 2015 and Beyond at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 21, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Donnie angrily moved through foster care, group homes and juvie before being rescued by Apollo’s widow (Phylicia Rashad), who is alarmed and dismayed by the adult Donnie’s plans to fight full time.

But even though it doesn’t have the same ring, Atlas might have been more appropriate, because this young man believes he carries the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon Coogler, an African-American man born and bred in Oakland, Calif., inherited his “Rocky” love from his father, who inherited it from his mother – three generations have found the movie a source of powerful, personal inspiration. “My dad watched my mom pass away from complications of breast cancer,” Coogler said. “Near the end, the only thing they could do together was watch TV, and it so happened the “Rocky” movies were on a lot, and that became a deep bond for them.” Then it all came full circle – Ryan’s dad became ill, just as the young director’s success with “Fruitvale Station” was cresting, and the two returned again to the movies that sustained them in football locker rooms and hospital waiting rooms. They went for the underdog-rooting, for Rocky and Adrian, for the unexpected sweetness, for the redemption angle, for the reconstituted boxing movie cliches that tasted not new, but new-ish.

That angle was pitched to Stallone by the film’s writer/director Ryan Coogler. “There’s so many children out there that don’t have that structure, that family environment. Inspired by his experience with his own ailing father years ago, Coogler came up with the story of Creed’s illegitimate son Adonis, who is trying to make his own name in boxing and seeks out the reluctant Rocky to be his trainer. Adonis was orphaned and raised in group homes before Apollo’s compassionate widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) took him into her home when he was a preteen. “Creed” was co-written by director Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) and Aaron Covington, based on an idea by Coogler and on characters created by Stallone, whose “Rocky” screenplay was nominated for a 1976 Academy Award (as was his lead performance). He first suggests some drills to Donnie — who baffles the senior citizen by taking a photo of the instruction sheet with his phone and assuring Rocky it’s stored in the cloud — and invites the young man to move into a spare bedroom.

I think we all have friends that are like family and those are the people you lean on to get through obstacles, that get you through the hard times,” Jordan said. Finally he quits and heads to Philadelphia and the only man in the world who can help him figure out whether he can live up to the achievements of the father he’s never known. After Donnie falls for a singer, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who faces some challenges of her own, he is invited to bring his boxing skills to the world stage. It comes as no surprise that Rocky has thrown in the gloves after the deaths of Adrian and Paulie, and manages Adrian’s restaurant as quietly as he can, even if he is the most famous celebrity in the city.

A fighter who has self-trained himself via YouTube, he quits his financial services job in Los Angeles in the film’s early moments and relocates to Philadelphia, where he looks up Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, of course) and persuades the fading pugilist to train him. Talk to Coogler for five minutes about his passion for the film, you understand how he coaxed a reluctant Sylvester Stallone out of “Rocky” retirement. “Here’s the amazing thing about Stallone. With the rest of the “Rockys,” the ones concerned with ego and celebrity and increasingly contrived suffering, once was enough, although No. 6, “Rocky Balboa” in 2006, wasn’t bad.

Her character is a young music-maker on the Philadelphia scene and she channeled a local songstress as she prepared for her role. “I’m so happy that you mentioned Jill Scott,” Thompson told Washington during her sitdown with CBS 3. “She was someone I looked to when trying to figure out my voice and tone, and luckily Philly has such a rich music history that there were so many resources.” This creates the father-son bond he never had, offers plenty of homages to the earlier films, and makes for more than one eye-of-the-tiger-like montage.

Now, some are tipping the veteran’s emotional performance for an Oscar. “And with this one, I feel people are going to really open up to him opening up. This results in a training montage that demonstrates writer-director Coogler (of the indie sensation “Fruitvale Station”) not only respects but totally gets what made the original underdog classic win the Best Picture Oscar in 1977.

Working with a gifted director and the first “Rocky” script that he does not have a credited hand in, Stallone responds with one of his most careful and nuanced performances in years as he becomes heavily involved in his new protégé’s life. He really brought something and it touched me a lot.” Having grown up a sporty, competitive kid in New Jersey, Jordan took to the challenge of getting in pro boxer shape with glee.

That’s when you realize what an incredible actor he is – to make us think those guys are real.” “In talking to Sly about it, each of those films is about his life, and how it changed in relation to the success of the movies, how it reflected his relationship with the film industry.” For Coogler and for Jordan, “Creed” performs some of the same functions. It relies on warm affection for Rocky, admiration for a sinewy, skilled Jordan, the father-son relationship they develop and rousing lessons about mustering the courage to fight, even when the opponent seems unbeatable.

That life includes a terrific Tessa Thompson as Bianca, a feisty and supportive musician who is losing her hearing and has no time for Adonis’ bouts of self-pity. This is a boy and his dog story but an animated Apatosaurus named Arlo is the former, and a child, who walks on all fours, howls and expresses emotions like a spirited pup, the latter. There’s something to be said for the underdog who gets a shot and takes it, eventually pulling his bruised and battered body up from the canvas through sheer force of will, determined to take another swing at a bigger, faster opponent. There is, in fact, more filmmaking savvy in co-writer and director Ryan Coogler’s prowling opening shot, introducing us to young Adonis Johnson in a 1998 L.A. prologue, than there was in all of the ’76 original. It’s his Apollo connection that gets the unranked Adonis a shot at a title bout — British lightweight champ “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (real-life boxer Tony Bellew, a screen natural) needs a high-profile match to provide for his family before being sent to prison on a gun charge.

He’s not reinventing the “Rocky” wheel with “Creed,” but he is re-envisioning it, dragging Rocky into the modern age but still letting him be a part of the past. I’ll give up some doughnuts and cheese steak for this.” The positive response to Creed brings with it a very high probability Jordan will now continue the franchise along this new branch. Like “Rocky,” “Creed” is not as phony or blustery as the recent effort “Southpaw,” and it does not make the mistake of making his opponent a villain.

Stallone and Jordan (who was in “Fruitvale Station” and the unfortunate “Fantastic Four” reboot) have great chemistry together as their characters each urge the other not to give up. With that in mind, he says he plans to never stray far from boxing shape. “I took a couple of punches from some pro fighters — you feel like you’ve been in a car accident for a couple of days after,” he laughs. “But a lot of ice, a lot of socks stuffed with rice stuck in the microwave for a couple of minutes … I learnt a lot of boxing tricks.” If any doubt remains as to Jordan’s ability to pick himself up off the mat, his response to the flame out of his would-be blockbuster Fantastic Four back in August proves he’s made of tough stuff. Arlo must confront his fears if he’s to survive, let alone make his mark and return to his mother and siblings. “The Good Dinosaur” has beautifully detailed, majestic landscapes, a touching scene explaining the loss of parents with bits of driftwood and other wordless representations of friendship. Even as someone who was never a huge fan of the series, I found myself misting up at the final scene in “Creed” that, in less sure hands, would have been unbearably schmaltzy. The reason the “Rocky” movies resonated so well was Rocky was an emotionally open book, an everyman plucked from obscurity and given a chance, not just at the title, but at love.

The superhero movie was all but disowned by its director, Josh Trank, on Twitter just before its release and its entire gross in the US only limped to the same mark Ant-Man hit on its opening weekend. “Honestly the biggest lesson I learnt from that is everything’s not in your control,” Jordan says. “You can show up to work every day and give 130 per cent and do the best job you can and sometimes you might still miss your mark. Hopefully, the new iteration of “Star Wars” (which bowed a year after the “Rocky” saga) will be able to deliver a knockout punch like this for its seventh outing in December.

You may think it skews young, and in some ways it does, but its artistry and heartfelt examination of family, friends and (confronting) fears give it universal appeal. Of course it’s fairly predictable, and yes, even a bit formulaic, and sure, even corny at times, but it also has a vitality that’s reminiscent of the early “Rocky” films. A scene in which Rocky accompanies Creed to the ring, his hand firmly perched on the young man’s shoulder, may make you tear up. “Creed” is the real thing.

The first of three training montages kicks in, as does Adonis’ romance with the musician downstairs, Bianca (Tessa Thompson, from “Dear White People” and a huge asset here). And you, too, hiding in the corner!” As directed by Paul McGuigan, this is Mary Shelley as bromance, with Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) a brilliant hunchbacked man enslaved and abused as a circus clown. Rocky faces a life-threatening health crisis; Adonis faces a vicious Brit (played by ABA heavyweight champ Anthony Bellew) in a Liverpool title match.

Designed, edited and choreographed as one gorgeous, intense, bloody take, it is the sort of filmmaking that should usher Coogler from scrappy underdog to a title contender. She’s got her own thing, and it has to go both ways.” “Creed” also reflects Coogler’s enthusiastic feelings for Philadelphia, a city he fell in love with long before he started writing his “Rocky” spin-off. “I first came here when I was 16.

Victor rescues and creates Igor, naming him, fixing the hump on his back and helping him to literally and figuratively stand upright for the first time. But you never know; quality sometimes wins out, although it’s Stallone’s aging Rocky who at one point in “Creed” notes: “Time takes everybody out.

Time’s undefeated.” That’s a pretty sticky line, but the way Stallone says it, under his breath, the corn works; it feels like a moment overheard, not a thesis line hammered. Ostracized and unemployable, he cranked out schlocky B-picture scripts to support his family and wrote the Oscar-winning “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One” although behind a front or under a pseudonym. Bryan Cranston leads the cast as the larger-than-life Trumbo, a mustachioed man with a cultivated style of speaking and habit of smoking and writing in the bathtub, typing with two fingers on a typewriter balanced on a wooden tray. It ticks all the right boxes about how Congress had no right to investigate how Americans “vote, think or pray,” as Trumbo says, but it feels heavy-handed — as with a composite screenwriter (Louis C.K.) or comically over-the-top producer (John Goodman). She is pitch perfect as Eilis Lacey, a young unmarried woman from tiny Enniscorthy, Ireland, who is “away to America” shortly after the movie opens.

Her shipboard passage, job, visa and even the few clothes in her suitcase mainly come courtesy of her older sister and a kindly priest (he is the 1950s antidote to the child predators in “Spotlight”). Her voyage is rough and her homesickness almost crippling once she arrives in Brooklyn, moves into a boardinghouse and starts a job at a department store. The promise and delight of this new world open when she meets an Italian-American plumber, but when a tragedy pulls her back to Ireland, she sees what a parallel life could hold. Much obviously has changed in the past half-century, but “Brooklyn” is emblematic of the often lonely immigrant experience, a coming-of-age tale in the truest sense, and a story about being a stranger in a new land, and then an old one, and deciding where home, hope and the heart reside.

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