Creed 2 (2018)

Creed 2

Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) stares into the face of the son of Ivan Drago, Viktor (Florian Munteanu).

As in all great sports films (including the 2015 predecessor), Creed II is not about boxing but about development of character. Perhaps the only reason why it is not as great a film as the first is because it is not as fresh, but it still packs a whallop.

The film begins as Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, who is having a great year with this and Black Panther) has just won the belt and is more than in his prime. He has proposed to his longtime girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson), whose music career is still going steady (despite the fact that she has in fact lost her hearing due to illness), and both are on the verge of starting a family. Even outside the ring, he is still looking for advice from his mentor/friend Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). There is still a vibrant electricity in their scenes together, filled with humor and heart.

All of this takes a back seat when Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby, who was recently in The Hate U Give) is set to promote a fight between Creed and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the infamous killer of Apollo. There is indeed intensity bubbling on the screen when we see the meeting between Rocky and the elder Drago. Ivan has been an outcast ever since his loss in the fourth film, and needs to win not only the promoted fight, but the respect of those he once considered family.

There is so much emotional baggage going into the ring for the audience (let alone the characters) that it is pretty impossible not to be invested in the action on-screen. Director Steve Caple Jr. handles the script as if it were a Hollywood relic (and rightly so). That is not to say the boxing scenes are boring. Far from it. He is smart enough to handle them with as much care as he does what happens outside the ring as well.

Parents, as long as your kids have seen the original films in the series (except number five), they are fine here. There is one mild scene of sensuality at the beginning, and some swearing (not to mention obvious violence), but I would say middle school and up is fine.

I left the film with one concern: where do we go from here? Topping off this face-off will be a hard act to follow, but one I will gladly pay for in a heart beat.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok

Despite the loss of his hammer (and some hair), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still ready for battle.

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

After the events of Thor: The Dark World (which is shown to us in a play on Asgard) and a battle against evil beings set to Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) set out to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), only to discover that he is being pursued by a secret sister of Thor, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett, who, as of this reading, I have yet to see give a bad performance).

The God of Thunder escapes, only to be marooned on a far away planet run by the Grandmaster (a role that could only be played by Jeff Goldblum). It is here where he reunites with his old “friend from work”, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

From his first lines, I have finally began to realize how much of a sense of humor Thor has gained since he first hit the big screen back in 2009. This third film delivers some of the best humor any Marvel film has delivered (or any comic book movie, for that matter). I won’t go spoiling anything, except to say I never saw a movie I can remember that had the term “The Devil’s Anus” before. Yeah, you heard me.

Parents, there is one part in the movie that I felt was a little bit on the queasy side. We learn that the Grandmaster’s space ship is used mainly for orgies (“Don’t touch anything,” Thor orders). Yes, it is funny, but a little awkward. Nevertheless, if your kid has seen a marvel movie, they will like this one.

Even with grand special effects and wise cracking dialogue, the most enduring thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the sense of fun. You can tell all the actors (including the very welcoming Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi as the heartfelt Korg) are having a blast. It is no wonder why so many actors in Hollywood are jumping on the Marvel express.

Overall: Four Stars ****