Once again, Sylvester Stallone finds himself returning to the ring in the legendary roll of cinema's greatest underdog, Rocky Balboa. But this time around, he stays in the corner and never laces up the old gloves, I promise. Instead Rocky's assistance is needed when a new breed of boxing icon Apollo Creed shows up in his restaurant in Ryan Coogler's sophomore feature, Creed.
Michael B. Jordan stands front and center as Adonis Johnson, a child born from a mistress of Apollo who never met his father. And after his mother passes away unexpectedly, Adonis is bounced around the foster care system regularly punished for doing the only thing he knows how to, fighting. He's finally taken in by Apollo's longtime wife and raised with an opportunity to avoid the ring. Yet, his natural instincts can't be ignored as he seeks the guidance of Rocky Balboa to help mold him into a professional fighter.
There are a few spectacular moments peppered throughout Coogler's pet project. We're given an impressive and emotional performance by Stallone and it's a welcome return for the former champ. However, Creed swings and whiffs at its ineffective romance subplot and feels too preachy to land an impactful blow. Ironically, we're force-fed Adonis' repetitive and hollow desires to form his own legacy, all while the film relies on cheaply imitated pieces of the Rocky franchise's past.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
The last time Jonathan Levine made a movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen headlining its cast, he landed atop my best films of 2011 with the unforgettable comedy-drama, 50/50. Almost a handful of years later and the team have decided to sprinkle in some Anthony Mackie in what very well may be the buddy-buddy comedy of the year, The Night Before.
After tragically losing both of his parents on Christmas Eve several years earlier, Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) has relied on the debaucherous company of his best friends Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie) to help get him through the holiday. However, as they grow older their wild annual antics must come to a close in one final night to remember. Yet, as the trio of friends are individually forced to face the biggest obstacles in their lives, they rediscover their ability to handle anything as long as they have the help of each other.
As expected, The Night Before delivers plenty of laughs and a whimsical holiday cheer. And although the film is obviously plagued by unforgivable situational conveniences and poorly developed subplots. the comedy is stellar enough to sustain the movie's infectious energy. While The Night Before falls well short of Levine's most respected work, it will longtime be remembered for its seasonal appeal and entertaining jokes.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4