REVIEW: Creed

25 11 2015

For many people, the sounds of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” or Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” can pump them up and spur them onto achievement. They can see Rocky Balboa jumping, fists raised, at Philadelphia’s City Hall and feel a surge of inspiration.

I, on the other hand, roll my eyes and laugh.

Sports movies clearly calibrated to trigger a feeling of uplift very rarely work on me, perhaps in some part because athletics were always an arena of disappointment and embarrassment in my personal life. (Give me a tortured artist or woebegone writer flick, though, and we’re in business.) Something about the way they contrive practically every move from a calculated playbook always bores me far more than it excites me. If something were really that moving, why not achieve it organically?

So Ryan Coogler’s “Creed,” as nicely mounted it might be, felt dead in the water for me the moment I started recognizing all the expected beats in this passing of the “Rocky” franchise torch. Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Johnson, the son of the great Apollo Creed, looks to become a professional boxer by training with the great Rocky Balboa. And to do so, he apparently has to go through all the same plot points as his mentor: the training montages, the preparatory fights, the tacked-on romance (with Tessa Thompson, a tremendous rising talent who deserves better).

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REVIEW: The Expendables

16 12 2010

If you aren’t willing to forget all cinematic standards, “The Expendables” will be a dismally stupid exercise in corny filmmaking that is only good for mockery.  But if you are willing to watch an hour and 30 minutes of Sylvester Stallone and a bunch of other fading action stars trying to be cool, then you will have one rip-roaringly fun ride.

The stars you recognize are clearly far from their glory days in the 1980s, and Stallone has given them the opportunity to relive them while they wait for their AARP cards.  With a little help from Jason Statham and Jet Li, action stars of a younger generation, they manage to walk through every ridiculous motion that the trigger-happy movies of decades past so seriously that it becomes riotously funny.  (Except I feel like Stallone doesn’t know that he’s not actually cool, so someone needs to man up and tell him.)

“The Expendables” is actually one of the best worst movies I’ve ever seen, so enormously entertaining in all its shortcomings.  There’s everything to love about an action movie in excess, especially blood and gore.  The violence gets so absurd and comical that there’s no appropriate response but laughter to how unrealistic it gets.  But the humor doesn’t stop at the slaughtering of villainous drug traffickers; the script is equally as silly, providing Stallone and company with plenty of horrifying one-liners to utter and hackneyed plotlines to follow.

Hollywood gives us plenty of movies to enjoy if we simply lower our standards.  “The Expendables” is easy to enjoy if we simply have no standards.  C+