Film review: Creed 2

Welcome to another sweet spot time for films!  Thanksgiving through Christmas is when Hollywood trots out the better than normal stuff: holiday feel goods, kids films, and comic book films.  Maybe even an academy award film in limited release or 2.  Let’s talk Creed 2 and take it back…do-do, doooo do. Take it baaaaaack.

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No, Carl Weathers doesn’t come back to life after his corpse is struck by lightning.  But it sure looks like Sly Stallone did.  Ryan Coogler is out as director as he was busy making billions with Black Panthers.  Stephen Caple Jr has come in from the bullpen to direct the sequel.  So Creed (Michael B Jordan) has risen through the ranks and has become the heavyweight champion of the world.  Meanwhile, in the center of American’s election, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is trained by his father, Ivan (Dolph Lundgren). But a hustling promoter (Buddy Marcelle) is watching Viktor smack around Russkies like Russian men knock around their wives.  Obviously, he’s looking to get a fight between Creed and Drago to recreate the fight that their fathers had 30 years ago.  FYI, the Dragos aren’t doing so well.  They’re humping crates around when they’re not training.  Russia has turned its back on Drago.  Brigitte Nielsen left Ivan because he lost to Rocky and then found true love with Flavor Flav.  You’ll definitely sympathize with Lundgren as Ivan Drago.  He lost everything and lived a life of obscurity, being SO CLOSE and missing it.  He is obviously trying to relive the glory days and what could have been through his son.  You’ll also remember he’s an asshole when he needles Creed and Rocky.   

Tessa Thompson reprises her role as Bianca, Adonis Creed’s girlfriend.  She continues to hit it out of the park in this installment.  She’s making strides with her music while fighting through her healing impairment.  And of course, Stallone is back as everyone’s favorite Italian pugilist/trainer.  Now that Creed is champion, Viktor Drago challenges him for a fight.  Cute the multitude of emotions/flashbacks that Creed and Stallone go through from 30 years ago, when we all had to suffer through James Brown’s “Living in America.”  And oh yeah, when Stallone balked at throwing in the towel and getting his best friend killed.  

Fast forward to Creed taking on the fight and getting smoked by Drago.  Except this fight ends in a DQ so Creed still holds onto the title.  We begin to channel Rocky 3 where Rocky gets tuned up by Mr. T and here are where the parallels begin.  Both are questioning their heart and hunger throughout the second acts.  A life changing moment occurs with Creed and he’s debating if boxing still worth it.  Phylicia Rashad appears fresh out of testifying at Cosby’s trial and returns as Creed’s mother.  She reminds him of the obvious that there’s no need to do the rematch  end up like his father but hey, make your own decisions, son.  And of course, what would be a Rocky/Creed film without a training montage?  Creed realizes he can’t go about it the usual way so Stallone takes him to another venue, a la Rocky 4, sans cheesy 80’s music.  No, he doesn’t finish at the top of a mountain while yelling, DRAGO, in a 360 degree shot.  One more parallel?  Sure.  Creed even enlists Tony “Little Duke” Evers, the son of his dad’s trainer, Duke.  Remember him? “Throw in the damn towel!” 

Creed 2 is pretty good.  We even get a nice cameo in this one, I guarantee you’ll have an, “Oh shit!” moment in this theater.  Yes, it’s pretty predictable and yes, there are a ton of obvious similarities to Rocky 4.  But this an enjoyable film and you’ll feel satisfied, not overstuffed, like Thanksgiving dinner.  And let’s cross our fingers that for Creed 3, he fights Clubber Lang’s kid.  And wrestles Hulk Hogan’s son, Nick.  Wait, whoops…

I give it a 7/10

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Film Review: Black Panther

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Black Panther has taken the world by storm, both the film and the cologne.  To be frank, I had no desire to see this film.  I also had no desire to see Ant Man and Dr. Strange and was pleasantly surprised by both.  I also had no desire to see Batman V Superman and the first 2 Thor films and hated them all.  I wasn’t familiar with Black Panther growing up; he was as tertiary as Ant Man and Dr. Strange so why make an entire film about him?    It opened on Rotten Tomatoes at 99%; which made me afraid that with today’s racial climate, people would inflate their scores to come off as “woke” and not racist.  Is white guilt playing a role in the success of this film?  Is this going to get the female Ghostbusters/Wonder Woman treatment?  Who shot first, Han or Greedo?  Clearly Greedo shot first and missed and any of you who think otherwise is wrong.

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to Wakanda, his home country in Africa, after the death of his father in Captain America 3.  Wakenda sits on a treasure trove of Vibranium, the same stuff his suit and Captain America’s shield is made of.  They’re a technologically advanced nation although they hide their success right in plain sight to blend in with the other African nations.  T’Challa becomes king of Wakanda and has his family that supports him in many ways.  His sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), plays Q to Panther’s James Bond.  His mother, (Angela Bassett) is queen of Wakanda.  Daniel Kuluuya (Get Out) plays T’Challa’s best friend and solider.  Panther also has an army of kickass women soldiers that protect him, including his ex, Lupita Nyong’o.  We learn that N’Jobu, Panther’s uncle, was killed while stationed on Earth.  Enter Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), Panther’s cousin; who is hellbent on revenge for his father’s death and through military training, will stop at nothing to kill T’Challa and take over as King of Wakanda.  Killmonger wants to supply all suppressed minorities around the world with the Vibranium and technology so they can no longer be the little guy.

Are there nods to any of the other Marvel characters?  Very, very few.  Andy Serkis reprises his role as Klaw, an arms dealer who fought off the Avengers in Cap 3.  Other than that, no other call backs to the other Marvel films except the end credits which I won’t spoil.  Now, for the social themes.  A lot of people are talking about the female empowerment in this film.  Those lady bodyguards do kick ass and it’s not contrived one bit.  It’s completely believable and they’re a welcome mixture of action and comedy.  Director Ryan Coogler does a fantastic job of portraying African rituals and pride while spinning the tale of Black Panther.  I’ve seen a lot of people post on social media this is the best comic book film ever.  It’s not.  I’ve seen some people post that Killmonger is the best villain in a comic book film ever.  He’s very, very good but c’mon, not the best.  Heath Ledger as the Joker will be damn near impossible to unseat and I’ll even throw Magneto, Green Goblin,  and Vulture (Michael Keaton) in that group of untouchables.  Is this film as a masterpiece like others pain it to be?  No.  I felt that it drag a tad here and there.  The action was solid, the plot flowed smoothly, and the jokes worked.  But it’s damn solid and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I’ll bet that you will as well.

Score of 7.5/10