Happy Thanksgiving from Showtime Showdown! There are a ton of movies out to battle for your wallet as you try to escape from your awkward family.
I have to admit to something, which is shared by any blue-blooded American – I love the Rocky movies. They taught me everything I needed to know about being an underdog, race relations and intense training to music montages.
My dad must have raised me with these movies, because when I saw Rocky V at the age of 10, I was disappointed in its quality. I knew it left a smear on Rocky’s reputation as a film icon. Which is why, when Rocky Balboa actually turned out to be good, I felt that Rocky had come back in the final round for a metaphorical knock out.
Now, nine years after Balboa, Michael B. Jordan takes on the role of Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who was Rocky’s best friend and greatest opponent. Adonis was born to fight, but has also been raised with a silver spoon by Apollo’s widow. He had been fighting in underground boxing rings, but wants to take it farther. The only problem is, he wants to succeed by his own merits and not the legacy of his late father. He soon meets Rocky and they begin training together. With the hype around Rocky training Apollo Creed’s son, the current champion requests a match. Much like any other boxing movie, this all builds up to one glorious bout where Adonis is the clear underdog.
Creed, as a movie, is strikingly similar to Adonis Johnson, the character. Just as Adonis wants to make a name for himself, he cannot outrun the legacy his father left behind. Creed intends to be a serious boxing drama in its own right, but cannot help but use the assistance of the franchise that came before.
Not that I’m complaining. I’ve already seen a overly serious boxing movie this year with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Southpaw. Seeing a movie that balances out serious elements with the semi-foolishness that Rocky movies entail makes for a great cinematic experience.
Jordan’s star power has quickly been on the rise and this movie will not hurt it. He more than holds his own as the lead and could have done so even without Stallone providing support.
Don’t go into Creed expecting a montage-filled macho fest. It leans heavily on a story that builds Adonis’s character as a conflicted fighter from LA trying to prove himself in Philadelphia and eventually in front of the world. At times, it can lag because it pushes a romantic angle (not between Rocky and Adonis) so hard, instead of the training, that it feels like a different type of genre film.
The best parts of the movie comes down to the original way each fight is shot. Director Ryan Coogler managed create one-take fights where each fighter trades blows without cutting or using trick photography. It provides a sense of realism and actual stakes. This style is kept until the final fight, where it turns into a traditional Rocky closing bout, music and all. I assure you, when you hear it, you’ll be cheering.
Creed may seem like the sixth sequel to a great movie, but it can also stand on its own and hopefully spawn Creed movies that continue with its own legacy. The biggest failing is that it didn’t treat the previous franchise with a love letter, but instead used it as a crutch. B+
After last year’s I, Frankenstein, the masses couldn’t be satiated with their constant need for strange reboots of Mary Shelley’s classic story, and so we have another version of Dr Frankenstein and his monster.
This time around, the story is told through the eyes of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). He had been raised as a circus clown his entire life, but also had a penchant for medicine and science. When Dr Frankenstein spies his true talents, he rescues him and utilizes his mind for his mad science. Together, these science bros come up with the plans to return life from death’s door.
Nobody asked for this movie and I imagine that it will disappear before anyone notices. The draw here is the two leads. Daniel Radcliffe, while not being great at picking scripts, is generally solid and relatable. His take on Igor provides us with a character that rarely sees the light of day. When acting opposite each other, Radcliffe and McAvoy are captivating enough. Yet, much of the story is dedicated to Igor pining for a trapeze artist/aristocrat (don’t worry, it’s not supposed to make sense). The romance is forced and takes away from the best part of the movie – James McAvoy.
McAvoy knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in and he chews the scenery like a pro. His eccentric life-of-the-party take on Dr Frankenstein is a blast to watch, merely because he puts it all out there and doesn’t take it seriously.
Tonally, the movie doesn’t know what it is. It has echoes of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies (style over substance), and at other times it veers into philosophy, while falling prey to the foils of Van Helsing. In short, it’s a silly mess that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Victor Frankenstein does not stand out. If you do end up seeing this movie, see it strictly for James McAvoy’s performance alone. It’s fine as a Redbox movie, but should be left at that. C+
Now that we’ve got past the two blockbusters of the week, let’s move on to an indie darling.
Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as Eilis, a young girl living out her drab days in Ireland in the 1950s. Her life changes when she moves to New York. She is unbearably homesick until her work situation improves and she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a second-generation Italian who makes it his personal mission to sweep her off her feet.
Eilis’s new life plays out like a fairytale until she is called back home to Ireland. It’s when she goes back home that she must make the decision fall back into a comfortable life that she was born into or to move forward with her happiness with a slight amount of risk involved.
I’ll just say this, if you’re a fan of romantic movies, you have been robbed for years now. Whoever keeps funding these Nicholas Sparks adaptations doesn’t really care about the audience. The Sparks machine just keeps churning out sentimental garbage that rarely stands out.
Brooklyn turns the game around. It’s a genuinely romantic movie that goes further than a love triangle. It is Eilis’s story. As the title suggests, the romance is also between two phases/places in her life. Brooklyn may be scary and new for Eilis, but it also provides a future. Eilis’s hometown is a sleepy town where people settle into an isolated life and don’t hope for much more.
The key here is that the movie doesn’t force you into picking a side. You never want her to leave Brooklyn once she gets there. However, the movie convinces you that Ireland may be the better choice at the same time. Because I had just as much internal conflict about her choices in love and location, it managed to be pure escapism.
You can’t expect the common tropes here. Instead, Brooklyn is a simple story (maybe too simple for some) that caters to characters and makes you identify with them immediately.
I may be artsy-fartsy on this one, but I give it an A