Creed II


Viewed – 03 August 2019. Netflix

I had mixed emotions whether I was going to watch this sequel to the sort-of spin-off / reboot to the famed Rocky franchise. I really liked but didn’t love the first movie but after hearing about the setup this time around, I’ll admit I was very much intrigued. After becoming world heavyweight champion, Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) the son of former champ Apollo Creed gets an offer from a new boxer hailing from Russia – Victor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) the man who killed his Dad in the ring back in 1985 (Rocky IV). With Ivan on hand as Victor’s trainer also, it quickly brings back painful memories for Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) who doesn’t approve of Creed taking on the fight, believing old wounds shouldn’t be re-opened.

I’ve gone on record in the past as saying, for as much as Michael B Jordan always looks good in movies, especially in the first movie, his acting skills have never quite been up to the task. Here though he fairs better and is given much more depth thanks to fleshed out relationships, not just with Stallone but also his girlfriend and mother, and is given a bigger, more emotional journey too. Add to this great support from Stallone who may take more of a back seat to give Jordan the spotlight – but still delivers. I was also surprised and pleased to see that, although very subtle, Victor Drago and his father Ivan’s relationship was given much more than the one-dimensional bad guys treatment.

Every story-beat and character moment was well done too that even if the material and the structure is far from new, it’s the way it was directed, with skill and care by relative unknown Steven Caple Jr. Oh and its a boxing movie so what about the fights? Superbly filmed and visceral that every punch had genuine impact. Some of the most effective fight footage I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah, not really much to criticise here. It dabbles in a few cliches, has a couple of corny tugging-on-heart-strings moments, but comes together to make one of the best Rocky movies that’s not strictly a Rocky movie. A must see.

Verdict: 5 /5

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Creed


Viewed – 05 July 2016  Online rental

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Rocky franchise.  I’ve watched the first, Oscar winning instalment several times and would be up for checking out the numerous sequels again one day.  So I went into this quite hyped and was one of the people who really appreciated what Sylvester Stallone did with the last movie, Rocky Balboa.

Creed

Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan) is trying to make a name for himself despite the looming shadow of deceased father, renowned champ boxer Apollo Creed.  He turns to his father’s former ageing friend and rival Rocky who is still running the restaurant in Philadelphia.  With reluctance Rocky agrees to train Adonis and gradually help him rise up through the ranks of the local boxing circuit, before eventually attracting the big name fights.  This is shot distinctly in a very authentic, realistic style with I’m guessing a lot of first time ‘from the neighbourhood’ or ‘from the boxing world’ actors.  It’s a trick that worked very well indeed for Eastwood’s Gran Torino, but I’ll admit it seemed to bring the movie down a bit here with even Jordan coming off a bit amateurish; struggling with line delivery in a way I’d only expected from the mumbling Stallone.  However with an earnest and believable turn from the Italian Stallion (especially in one emotional speech) and decent direction I still found this gripping.  It doesn’t offer much new to the formula and is, bar the Creed connection another stab at what became Rocky 5 … but I still found myself swept up in Adonis’s journey and as that Rocky-theme kicked in during the final bout, I was buzzing.

It’s not the best Rocky movie or probably even the best boxing movie and falters in the casting where it could have shined, but for a realistic non-Hollywood boxing drama this still managed to … pack a punch (sorry).

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Escape Plan


Viewed – 24 March 2015  Blu-ray

I haven’t been that interested in this 80s action hero revival that began with The Expendables movies (the first one was bad enough) as I felt there was too much of a nudge-nudge wink-wink attitude going on, that seemed to poke fun at the stars I had once adored.  However this prison-set actioner looked a bit more serious, and well, what’s not to be appealed by a Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up?

escape-plan

Stallone plays a guy who specialises in testing the security of prisons, and has been able to break out of every prison he has been planted in.  However when approached by the CIA to test a top-secret facility, Stallone jumps at the chance to truly put his skills to the test.  However everything is not quite as it seems, and soon he’s inside a high-tech prison even he is unsure can be escaped from.  So he befriends fellow inmate Schwarzenegger who has an agenda of his own.

It’s a fairly complicated set up for what is basically a slightly more tongue-in-cheek ‘Escape from Alcatraz’.  We get a shady warden who seems utterly corrupt, a psychotic henchman who takes too much pleasure in beating up inmates (a snarling Vinnie Jones) and a kindly doctor who takes an interest in Stallone & Arnie’s plight (Sam Neil looking a tad bored).  The plot gets rather convoluted at times (such as the warden’s evil scheme, something to do with a banker?) – but we’re not here for meaningful characters or absorbing plot.  What we do get is plenty of violence, action and intrigue as we watch our heavy-weight heroes devise plan after plan to escape their surroundings.  Stallone struggles with the explain-to-the-viewer dialogue due to his almost incomprehensive drawl, and Arnie seems fairly tired and a shadow of his former self … until he gets a moment where he lays waste to a slew of bad guys with a high powered machine gun … complete with a knowing grin.

I had fun with this.  It’s clichéd, gets pretty silly at times, but retains an 80s vibe of daft plot, maximum action such movies cut their teeth on back in the day.  Entertaining nonsense that’s worth your time if you were ever a fan of these guys.

Verdict:  3 /5

Update


I’ve been a bit distracted lately.  Work has been hectic but now glad to be off for a few days and recharge.  There are a few movies on the agenda as well as games, and I will be watching The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part One over the weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for my review.  I have mixed feelings about this franchise but like it as well, and well, Jennifer Lawrence is very good in them.  Other than that I will be finally watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up Escape Plan during the week, so you’ll get my thoughts on that one also.  There is a possibility of a cinema visit towards the end of the week too, but unsure what I’ll be seeing.

I’ve been playing and enjoying The Order 1886 on PS4 and it has to be said, it’s a really nice looking game – they’ve captured Victorian(?) London beautifully and the story and characters seem quite good also.  The gameplay is nothing special but fairly well done – it’s mostly a cover based shooter like Gears Of War. Even the controversy of the game’s reliance on quick-time events hasn’t ruined the experience for me.

Also I’m thinking of doing more videos on YouTube, but unsure what that will be right now.  Keep an eye on my YouTube channel.

That’s all from me for now. 

When casting goes wrong


We’ve all been there, the anticipation, the excitement for a new adaptation of our favourite book or a continuation of a much loved franchise, only to have our hopes dashed when they announce who is playing who.  See below a few such roles I think were badly miscast.  Do you agree?

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns

kate bosworth

There may be many things wrong with this misjudged sequel to the much loved Superman franchise, even if Kevin Spacey is kind of great as Lex Luthor … I’m sure few can forgive the overly moody, personality-free performance of Kate Bosworth as one of comic-book worlds most loved characters.  Thankfully rectified in Man Of Steel’s Amy Adams.

Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

shmi skywalker

This is another movie that has many problems, but none more so than the meant to be earnest and emotional but actually wooden and amateurish performance of Anakin’s slave mother.  Surely this could have added much needed weight to young Anakin’s story instead of just making this viewer cringe.

Val Kilmer as Batman / Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever

bruce wayne

Personally my least favourite Batman movie, Jim Carey aside and yes I actually prefer Batman & Robin!  But Kilmer here had no presence, no charisma and just didn’t suite either the dark knight or the playboy millionaire persona.  Shudder.

Julian McMahon as Dr Doom / Victor Von Doom in The Fantastic Four

Dr Doom

Yes he’s from Nip/Tuck and kind of pulls it off as a charming nutjob – but the Dr Doom of the comic-books was a hulking, muscle-bound overlord that no matter how much he tries, McMahon just can’t pull off.  A poor-mans bad guy in what turned out to be a poor-man’s X-Men movie (that wasn’t an X-Men movie).

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights

james bond

The looks, perhaps, but the wit and charm of either Connery or Moore?  Not a chance.  The follow-up movie Licence To Kill was at least a good story but Dalton was on borrowed time from the start and just didn’t deliver anything resembling the spy many of us grew up loving.

Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

dragon tattoo

Hot off the set of Bond, where he was surprisingly good, he steps into the shoes of actor Michael Nyqvist and lacked much of the believable emotion of Nyqvist’s performance in what turned out to be one of the most disappointing remakes in a long time – even in the hands of David Fincher.

Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd

MSDJUDR EC009

As the recent Dredd proved this character demands a no-name star beneath that iconic helmet to truly become judge, jury and executioner.  At the time Stallone was big business and he transformed what should have been a faithful comic-book adaption into another Stallone action-fest.  Not a good one at that.