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Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Review you can use: "Creed" and "Southpaw"

Good morning!

I am not a boxing fan. I do not watch boxing. I do not understand boxing. It's the one sport during Olympic coverage that I get up and go do housework.  (2016, Rio...can't wait!)

That said, I can't leave boxing MOVIES alone. I love them.  I've seen many of them.  All the Rocky movies, check. Cinderella Man, one of my all time favorite movies, check.  And most recently I've watched two, "Creed" and "Southpaw."

"CREED" is the next installment/continuation/sequel in the Rocky movie series. I know people are going to disagree with that, because this is a whole knew chapter in a whole new story...except Sylvester Stallone is in it and they call him Rocky and there's boxing in the movie. So yeah, it's the next chapter in the Rocky series.  Anyway, "Creed" follows the youngest son of Apollo Creed, Rocky's rival and friend.  Michael B. Jordan is Adonis Johnson, Apollo Creed's unknown illegitimate son.  He's living in a children's group home when Apollo Creed's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) finds him, takes him in, and raises him.  Boxing is in his blood, however, and Adonis wants to make it on his own without invoking the name of his father, so OF COURSE he heads to Philadelphia and searches out the aging Rocky Balboa for training.

The plot might sound tired and far fetched, but the end result is a touching, exciting, heartfelt film with some great boxing sequences.  Michael B. Jordan walks a fine line with his portrayal of a man whose father is a stranger to no one but him.  And Sylvester Stallone is a revelation with a surprisingly sensitive, layered revisit to the beloved Rocky Balboa.  It's a role that garnered Stallone another Oscar nomination in 2015. Tessa Thompson rounds out the leading cast as Bianca, the nearly deaf musician who becomes Adonis' love interest.  As inspiring and tearful as any of the Rocky movies, "Creed" is a solid outing and I look forward to any more chapters in this new story.

"Southpaw" is about boxing as well, but this time we start at the top, slide to the bottom, and then work our way up.  Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal in some spectacular shape) is 43-0 and the reigning light heavy weight champ and he has it all:  Wife, child, massive house, expensive gifts for everyone in his posse, cars and cars and cars.  When his wife (Rachel McAdams) dies unexpectedly, however, Billy loses it all in a fast slide to the bottom.  His posse leaves, his money dries up, he loses the house. None of it matters until Social Services takes his daughter, Layla (Oona Lawrence...adorable!) and he is instructed to get a job and prove he can be an adult.  he finds hope in grumpy boxing coach Tick Wells (Forest Whitaker) and the two of them learn to fight their demons together. 

It's really not as schmaltzy as it sounds.  Told with grit and very little sentimentality, and a lot of really graphic boxing scenes, "Southpaw" is a little bit of a different view as boxing movies go.  Gyllenhaal turns in what might be one of his best performances yet and Forest Whitaker is his usual magic on screen.  With a score written by the late great James Horner (who did the work for free since the budget for the film was a tiny $30M, and the producers couldn't afford to pay him much, but Horner loved the plot.) "Southpaw" is a solid outing, definitely worth a look if you enjoy boxing movies or good family drama.

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