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“Creed II” Gets Raw and Rickety with Rocky-isms

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Creed II, despite showing no shortage of boxing enthusiasm, falls prey to all the predictable theatrics and pitfalls of a sports sequel. It takes the character of Adonis Creed and prepares him to weather familiar territory in the Rocky franchise, pumping him up for the long haul of taking on new challenges. It’s very much a “more” sequel; more intensity in the fights, more drama stirred up outside the ring, and more theatrical music to turn the one-on-one boxing matches into towering and thunderous battles of gods. And while Creed certainly still has some of that charm in its eyes and adrenaline in its veins, there’s an unfortunate feeling one can’t shake that there’s not a lot of new tricks for this spin-off franchise.

Michael B. Jordan still has the right stuff as Adonis Creed. He’s a fierce competitor when he slips on the gloves and a fearful mess when it comes to taking the next step in his relationship with his best girl Bianca (Tessa Thompson). His mentor Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is still in his corner to coach his many matches but there’s one fight he won’t be there for. Remember Ivan Drago from Rocky IV? He’s back, reprised by Dolph Lundgren, and has a new young Russian contender, his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu), ready to defeat Rocky’s boxing apprentice. You may recall that Drago was the one who killed Creed’s father, Apollo. Time for a revenge fight!

Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in
CREED II, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures film.
Credit: Barry Wetcher / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
© 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

The story makes its intentions clear from the first scene where Creed repeats the inspiring mantra of only fighting for himself and proving nothing to nobody else. Indeed, Jordan remains the centerpiece so prominently he pushes aside all other characters and arcs. Consider how Ivan has a lot riding on this fight, not only to seek revenge but also to gain the favor of his country and his ex-wife, who apparently left him for being a loser. It sounds a little too cartoonish of a villain plot and the film almost out of mercy never draws too much attention to this plight. Also absent from the second half is Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), another villain trying to push the boxing narrative of Creed vs. Drago and keep that match on the schedule. There’s a lingering theme amid these characters about when the fight isn’t worth it, yet all that questioning evaporates when the film quickly settles into being the guaranteed crowd pleaser of Adonis winning the fight.

Purely on the aspect of boxing, the film is neat to watch. It plays up the theatrics of the matches with an epic score and gets up close and personal with the punches. You feel every blow as the soundtrack boasts the brutal slugs to the face and ribs, almost as loud and grand as the epic music trying to drive the excitement up further. And while it is thrilling to get engaged in the main events of the picture, there’s that lesser drama that hinders a bigger film. Consider how Drago’s son seems defeated before the final blow is struck, more emotionally than physically. The triumphant punch across the face with a rousing reprisal of that old Rocky theme is all but assured at that point.

Florian Munteanu stars as Viktor Drago and Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed in CREED II,
a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures film.
Credit: Barry Wetcher / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
© 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Where the film kept winning me back wasn’t so much in the fights but in the quieter drama. There’s an ease to scenes where Rocky and Creed are merely talking about family and what’s most important in life. The two of them ooze with warmth where I found myself particularly charmed at a simple departure of Creed asking if Rocky is good and he gives a relaxed assurance before strolling off to let Adonis purpose to Bianca. And while the scenes between Jordan and Thompson are rather sweet, there’s no stopping the power of Phylicia Rashad as Creed’s mother, dominating scenes where she playfully asks about kids and powerfully puts the boy in his place when it comes to choosing his battles.

While I enjoyed Creed II and have no doubt that it’ll inspire cheers in the theater, I couldn’t help but notice all the tired tropes being unearthed, properly dusted off as they may be. There’s a training montage, a fall from grace, and plenty of televised boxing decadence. The first Creed film was exciting and inspiring because it felt new and refreshing. Creed II, however, gets too comfortable with that old Rocky formula, where the film becomes more centered on the match than the character. We certainly get a rousing fight but little more than that as Creed II comes up abundant on muscle and lower on the relatable human aspects. Here’s hoping Creed III won’t feature him fighting Mr. T’s protege.

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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