Monday, November 30, 2015

Movie Review - Creed (and the Fridley Theater Fraud)

  I went with Kathy to see Creed on Thanksgiving afternoon. Creed is the seventh movie in the saga of Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky Balboa’ character and at the same time a stand-alone film with Rocky as an important but decidedly supporting role. Adonis Johnson is an orphaned juvenile delinquent that we first meet punching out a bigger juvenile delinquent in a juvenile delinquent center when he is rescued from his situation by Mary Anne Creed, the widow of Apollo Creed (the boxer who Rocky beats for the world championship and killed in the ring by Russian Ivan Drago in Rocky IV), dropping the bombshell that Johnson is Creed’s illegitimate son. Mary Anne Creed is played by Phylicia Rashad and when she gets Adonis out of the juvenile delinquent center the first thing that popped into my mind was whether she was looking for Bill Cosby so she could bail him out of jail.

  We next see Johnson as an adult working for a big financial services firm and boxing on the side in Mexico. He uses the name of Johnson to avoid unwanted comparisons to his father and to make his own name even though he has no problem living in the Creed family palatial mansion. Johnson quits his day job to become a full time boxer. He heads to the local gym but can’t get respect as a serious fighter so he heads to Philadelphia to get Rocky Balboa to train him.

  Rocky Balboa is much the same as the Rocky we left at the end of the 2005 Rocky Balboa movie except he is lonelier than ever before. Rocky still has his restaurant but Paulie is buried next to Adrian, Little Marie and her son Steps aren’t working at the restaurant any more, and his son Robert has moved to Vancouver. All Rocky does is feed his turtle, buy food for the restaurant, and visit Adrian and Paulie’s graves. Johnson spills the beans about his father and Rocky finds a new purpose in training him.

  After the introductions the movie becomes a version of the original Rocky except in a sort of funhouse mirror with Michael B. Jordan playing Rocky’s part and Stallone playing the role of Mick the trainer. Instead of meeting a girl in a pet store who lives with an abusive alcoholic brother, Johnson meets a singer in an apartment in his building that lives with a degenerative hearing condition. Rocky as Mick trains Johnson using the drills Mick made him go through like chasing chickens and boxing with his shoe tied to each other. I especially liked how Mick’s old gym has become a shiny redone showplace so Rocky finds a filthy dive gym to do his training.

  Johnson wins his first fight against the son of one of Rocky’s old pals but is outed as Apollo Creed’s son by the jealous father. This leads to an opportunity to take on the English World Champion in Liverpool under the condition that Johnson takes on the ‘Creed’ name to cash in on the box office appeal. Around the same time Rocky finds out that he has cancer and while he really wants to join Adrian and Paulie in the afterlife he and Johnson decide to take on their challenges like the champions they are, were, and want to be.

  Creed has gotten highly positive reviews and Stallone is being touted as a potential Academy Award winner. I liked the movie a lot but wouldn’t say it was the best movie I’ve seen in years or even this year (Terminator:Genisys gets my vote for 2015). I thought the fight scenes were the best I’ve ever seen. There were a lot of close-up shots of only one boxer that made it look like I was in the ring and could smell his breath. The fighting was fast and furious but I never felt like it was speeded up artificially by cutting shots to different angles the way some of the other so-called action movies do. Stallone plays his aging Rocky character to perfection. Before he decided to train Johnson he reminded me of a lot of old guys I see that have nothing to live for and are just waiting to die. When he decided to train Johnson he reminded me of the old guys I know that are always living for something even if it is just to wake up tomorrow. His waffling between the two view points when he finds out he has cancer is a great character study. I liked Michael B. Jordan as Johnson-Creed, especially how he showed that he was scared senseless before his fights even while he was putting up the obligatory tough guy stance.

  The thing I didn’t like about the movie was that since it was certainly a Rocky reboot I didn’t really understand Johnson/Creed’s motivation to be a boxer. Unlike the original Rocky who was a leg-breaker for the mob with no way out except his once in a lifetime chance to fight Apollo Creed, Johnson lives in a mansion and has a six or seven figure career as a financial services big shot waiting for him whenever he wants. I never really got the sense of desperation that I got from the Rocky movies. Out of all the Rocky movies I never cared for the third and fourth ones because Rocky had it made and his struggles seemed artificial. Rocky V is universally thought of as the worst of the series but it’s my favorite because it gets the character back to the struggles for survival and drags his family into it for good measure. I would have empathized with Creed more if the main character didn’t have a ready made safety net. That safety net may be the reason that the movie proves popular with the younger generation. It may well be that the new heroes of a world where the Kardashians are celebrities because of their celebrity aren't celebrated because they triumph against all odds but because they triumph an have a safety net.

  In addition to the drama on the screen I had a small dose of drama at the Fridley Theater in Marshalltown, Iowa where I saw the movie. The theater advertises free refills of soda and popcorn. I paid $12 for our movie tickets and got a large popcorn for $5.00 and a medium Mountain Dew for $4.5) instead of the $5.00 large soda. After the movie I thought I wanted some more soda so I want to the concession stand and asked for a refill. The young clerk stopped applying his pimple cream to one his many pimples and said “We don’t actually give refills for medium drinks.” As I was leaving the theatre without my refill I was telling Kathy about my lack of a refill an the lady trying to sell me a gift certificate for the Fridley Theater in Marshalltown, Iowa chimed by telling me I should get a large soda next time. What an asinine policy! If I was trying to beat the Fridley Theater in Marshalltown, Iowa out of 50 cents I would have tried for the whole dollar by getting the $4.00 small soda instead of the $4.50 medium soda. I was leaving the theatre and wasn’t going to be watching movies all day drinking out of the same cup. Get with it Fridley Theater of Marshalltown Iowa – give out a refill for the medium drink!

  Leaving the world of boxing drama for the world of basketball prediction drama, I overcame all odds to go 3-0 in last Friday’s games to boost my season record to 14-4-1 with my mythical winnings at a season high of $960. The odds I overcame was the Spurs covering against the Nuggets on the road despite leaving two of their better players (Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan) in San Antonio to rest for the Saturday night home game against the Hawks which the Spurs also won and also covered. As usual I’ll be betting $110 to win $100 on tonight's picks using the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page for entertainment purposes only with no real money wagered.

Boston Celtics at Miami Heat
The Celtics started their five game road trip with a 20 point loss in Orlando last night and made the short trip to Miami to face the Heat. The Heat are starting a four game homestand, have had two days off and will have another two days off after this game. I expect the Heat to play with a lot of energy and easily cover the five point spread.

San Antonio Spurs at Chicago Bulls
The Spurs have now won 10 of 11 with nine of the wins by double digits after beating the Nuggets in Denver and the Hawks in San Antonio this weekend. Tonight the Spurs travel to Chicago to give 3.5 points to the Bulls. take on the Bulls who are home after splitting a four game western road trip. I think the Spurs are playing like a well oiled machine and will give the points even though the Bulls have only lost one game in Chicago this year and have had two days of rest.

Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz
The Jazz are coming off two double digit wins over the Clippers and Pelicans and are home against the 18-0 defending champion Golden State Warriors. Is this where the Warriors finally lose? I think the Warriors will get their six game road trip off to a good start and will lay the nine points as they continue their chase towards the NBA records of 33 wins in a row and 72 wins in a season.