Creed

Posted on November 24, 2015 at 5:18 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense sports violence (boxing), illness and disability
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: November 25, 2015
Date Released to DVD: March 7, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B019EEK7ZA
Copyright Warner Brothers 2015
Copyright Warner Brothers 2015

Rocky had to find the eye of the tiger. When we first met him back in 1976, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) was an amiable, good-hearted lug who loved his pet turtles, Cuff and Link, and if he ever saw himself getting into the ring with champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), he could only imagine it would be as a sparring partner. His aspiration was not to get his nose broken and go the distance. Over the course of six films, he took on ever-more daunting opponents, so we could always think of him as the underdog. In the first film, he had the advantage of surprise. Creed assumed he could easily defeat the unknown fighter. Rocky did go the distance (and did get his nose broken), and lost in a split decision. In the second film, Creed knew what to expect and his pride was on the line. This time, it was Rocky who got soft after his fame and success. He had to get hungry and learn to be a fighter again. Rocky faced — and defeated — a champion at the top of his game.

Rocky went on to fight ever-more terrifying foes: Clubber Lang (Mr. T) who was not the decent, honorable guy that Creed was, and then the steroid Soviet man-machine Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). In the last two films, Rocky struggled with the killer knock-out punch that we all face — old age. His trainer Mickey and his wife Adrian have died. He still wants to go the distance, but now it does not seem so distant any more.

And now here is another fighter looking for a title shot. We first meet young Adonis Johnson (called Donny) in juvie, where we learn that he just can’t stop fighting. Eye of the tiger is not his problem. It is taming the tiger he has to work on.

Apollo Creed’s widow Mary Anne (dignified but warm-hearted Phylicia Rashad) is willing to give him a home. Donny’s father was Apollo Creed. His mother is dead. Mary Anne has decided to raise him. And she has no intention of letting him become a fighter.

Donny (charismatic Michael B. Jordan) is doing well in his office job, but there is something in him that just needs to punch people. So he leaves Mary Anne working in an office and he seeks out Rocky as a trainer. Rocky does not want to train anyone (see Tommy Morrison in #5). He just wants to miss Adrian in the restaurant he named for her. But this would not be a Rocky movie if Rocky didn’t go back to the gym, and pretty soon that training montage starts up. Gosh darn if it doesn’t still work, especially when that Rocky theme starts filtering through.

Pretty soon there’s a pretty girl, of course, Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson (“Dear White People” and if you haven’t seen it, please do so now). I loved this character for many reasons, primarily because she never took the “oh, don’t fight, you’ll get hurt” role (that is left to Rashad), and because she plays a character who embraces life so fully that she responds to a progressive hearing loss by devoting herself to her passion for creating music while she can. It is genuinely moving to see a disabled character in a film who is not defined by disability. Bianca is a strong, confident, passionate woman and Thompson plays the role beautifully in every sense of the word. Plus, she and Jordan have some sizzling chemistry.

This next chapter (apparently the beginning of a new series) goes the distance. Jordan, thankfully far from the catastrophically awful “Fantastic Four,” is back with writer/director Ryan Coogler. Their last film together, “Fruitvale Station,” was one of the best movies of 2013. As they did in that film, they have created a character who is complex, layered, trying to understand his past and not sure whether he can move on from it. Jordan can hold the screen with as much star power as any young actor in Hollywood today. He and Coogler are true to the Rocky tradition without being trapped by history. Yes, they go back to the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And yes, you will tear up when they do.

Parents should know that this film includes intense scenes of boxing with graphic injuries, strong language, sexual references and a sexual situation.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Adonis want to use his father’s name? What changed his mind? What would you do if you had Bianca’s health challenges?

If you like this, try: the “Rocky” movies and “Southpaw”

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Trailer: “Creed,” a New Chapter in the “Rocky” Saga

Posted on July 18, 2015 at 8:00 am

In Rocky, Sylvester Stallone played the title character, who got a one-in-a-million chance to fight the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). In this film, Rocky is training the son of Apollo Creed, played by one of my favorite young actors, Michael B. Jordan.

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Series/Sequel Sports Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Rocky and Bullwinkle Celebrate their 50th Anniversary

Posted on November 20, 2009 at 8:54 am

My friend Bob Elisberg has a marvelous salute to the sensational Rocky and Bullwinkle, “from the maniacally clever mind of Jay Ward,” who yesterday celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first broadcast.

My parents were very strict about television, but this was one of the few shows they let us watch. They not only let us — they watched with us. It was one of the first television shows for children to have jokes for adults. As I grew up, there were innumerable times when I would learn something new and suddenly have the retroactive pleasure of understanding some past Rocky and Bullwinkle joke. There’s an opera called “Boris Godunov?” Aha! That explains the name of R&B bad guy Boris Badanov! And remember the name of their alma mater? Wassamata U? Remember “fan mail from some flounders?” And “watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat?” (“That trick never works!”)

Few people today will get the joke about the Kerward Derby (a play on the name of then-minor-celebrity Durward Kirby), but this is still purely delightful.

And of course I always had a special fondness for Dudley Do-Right because his leading lady was named Nell.

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Rocky

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

Plot: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a sweet-natured but not very bright boxer and small-time enforcer for a loan-shark. He has a crush on Adrian (Talia Shire), the painfully shy sister of his friend, Pauly (Burt Young). Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is the heavyweight champion, whose big upcoming fight is canceled when his opponent is injured. Creed and his promoters decide to give an unknown a shot at the title, and pick Rocky.

Rocky has never really committed to anything before, but this opportunity galvanizes him. He works with Mickey (Burgess Meredith) a demanding trainer. He takes Adrian on a date, and they fall in love. When her brother becomes furious over their relationship, she moves in with Rocky. Rocky knows he cannot beat Creed; his goal is to “go the distance,” to conduct himself with class and dignity in the ring and still be standing at the end of the fight. Apollo, sure of himself and busy marketing the fight, neglects his own training. Apollo wins, but it is a split decision. Rocky goes the distance. Surrounded by fans and the press, he bellows over and over “Adrian!”

Discussion: In Rocky’s first fight, we get a glimpse of his potential. But it is also clear he has failed to make a commitment to anything. Mickey wants to throw him out of the gym because he doesn’t take boxing seriously enough. It is less an insult to boxing than an insult to himself. He takes pride in small things, like his pet turtles, and the fact that his nose has never been broken. When he gets the call from Apollo, he assumes that he is going to be invited to be a sparring partner for the champion, the greatest honor he could imagine for himself.

But Apollo’s impetuous offer gives Rocky a chance to see himself differently. That offer does for him what Paul does for Billie in “Born Yesterday,” what Miss Moffat does for Morgan in “The Corn is Green,” or Obi-Wan does for Luke in “Star Wars.” Rocky has a chance to think of himself as someone who can hold his own with the world champion, and once he has that image of himself, it is just a matter of taking the steps to get there. That image also gives him the courage to risk getting close to Adrian. Rocky also gives Adrian a chance to see herself differently. He was told when he was young that he was not smart, so he should concentrate on his physical ability; she was told she was not pretty, and should concentrate on her mental ability. Each of them sees in the other what no one else did. He sees how pretty she is; she sees how bright he is; each sees the other as loveable, as no one has before. This, as much as anything, is what allows both of them to bloom.

Rocky is realistic about his goal. He does not need to win. He just needs to acquit himself with dignity, to show that he is in the same league as the champion. In order to achieve that goal, he will risk giving everything he has, risk even the small pride of an unbroken nose. He develops enough self-respect to risk public disgrace. This is a big issue for teenagers — adolescence has been characterized as the years in which everything centers around the prayer, “God, don’t let me be embarrassed today.” Rocky begins as someone afraid to give his best in case it is not good enough, and becomes someone who suspects that his best is enough to achieve his goals, and is willing to test himself to find out.

It is worth taking a look at Creed as well. Like the hare in the Aesop fable, he underestimates his opponent. He is so sure of himself, and so busy working on the business side of the fight that he comes to the fight unprepared.

It is especially meaningful that the action behind the scenes paralleled that in the movie. Stallone, a small-time actor, was offered a great deal of money for this script, which he wrote. But he insisted instead on selling it for a negligible sum, provided that he play the lead. The entire movie was made for less than $1 million. Stallone beat even longer odds than Rocky did when the movie went on to win the Oscar as Best Picture. Stallone also became only the third person in history (after Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles) to be nominated for both Best Actor and Best Screenplay.

Questions for Kids:

· Why did Mickey want to throw Rocky out of the gym?

· Why didn’t Rocky have higher aspirations, until after he got the offer from Apollo?

· How is Apollo like the hare in the fable about the tortoise and the hare? Why is it so hard for Rocky and Adrian to get to know one another?

Connections: There are four sequels, all increasingly garish and cartoonish. They are barely more than remakes, and are only for die-hard fans.

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Drama Series/Sequel Sports
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