Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – Rated PG-13

The third, and possibly final Guardians of the Galaxy film is an entertaining and exciting film about friends willing to risk their lives to save one of their own. The film, which cost $250 million, is once again written and directed by James Gunn, who has left Marvel and is now running DC Comics.
Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper is the key figure in this film. We hear a lot about his origin story. As a baby, Rocket is a test subject for the High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, who sees himself as a god-like figure who aims to create a perfect species to live in a perfect society called Counter-Earth. Rocket displays intelligence and aptitude beyond the other animals that have been created and the High Evolutionary wants him back.
The Guardians have established their headquarters on a rebuilt Knowhere. However, they are attacked by Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, a genetically-engineered super-being. During the attack, Rocket is seriously injured. He will soon die due to a kill switch that was embedded in him by the High Evolutionary. The Guardians decide that they have to travel to the Orgoscope, headquarters of the High Evolutionary’s company Orgocorp, in hopes of finding an override code to save Rocket. Continue reading

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My Review of CREED II

Creed II, rated PG-13
*** ½

Creed II is an exciting film that takes us back to 1985’s Rocky IV. The film is a sequel to 2015’s Creed, and is the eighth overall film in the Rocky series. The film is directed by Steven Caple Jr., who replaces Ryan Coogler, who was working on Black Panther when this film was set to begin filming. Coogler is listed as an executive producer for the film. The screenplay is written by three-time Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Creed), and Juel Taylor. The film boasts a solid cast.
Adonis “Donnie” Creed is played by Emmy nominee Michael B. Jordan (Fahrenheit 451, Black Panther, Creed, Fruitvale Station). He is the son of boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died in a boxing match with Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren, in 1985’s Rocky IV. He wasn’t born until after his father died, but has now followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming the World Heavyweight Champion.
Ivan Drago, again played by Lundgren, is training his son Viktor, played by Romanian boxer Florian Munteanu, also known as Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu. Ivan, who was knocked out by Rocky in Rocky IV, costing him much in his life in Russia, including his wife Ludmilla, played by Brigitte Nielson who appears in this film, is looking for revenge. Boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle, played by Russell Hornsby (The Hate U Give, Fences), travels to Russia and watches Viktor brutally knock out opponent after opponent. He returns to the U.S. and challenges Adonis to avenge his father’s death by taking on the son of the man who killed his father in the ring. Ivan also tries to convince Rocky to influence Adonis to take the fight. Adonis’ father had died in Rocky’s arms in the middle of the ring.

Rocky is against this fight versus the vicious Viktor, but Adonis goes against Rocky’s advice and decides to fight Viktor.
Adonis proposes to his long-time girlfriend and aspiring singer, Bianca Porter, played by Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok). They move to Los Angeles, close to Adonis’ stepmother Mary Anne, played by three-time Emmy nominee Phylicia Rashad (A Raisin in the Sun, The Cosby Show), where Adonis prepares for his upcoming fight with Viktor. Donnie and Bianca soon find out that they will be having a child.
Adonis recruits Tony “Little Duke” Burton, son of his father’s trainer, played by Wood Harris, as Rocky’s replacement, and they begin training for the fight. Will Adonis be able to beat the brutal Viktor with all that is on the line for both sides?
Meanwhile, Rocky, out of Adonis’ life, is facing challenges of his own. He has not talked to his estranged son Robert Jr. played by two-time Emmy nominee Milo Ventimiglia (This is Us, Rocky Balboa), for years and has never even met his grandson.

Themes in the film include family, reconciliation, fathers and sons, motivation, legacy and revenge. Content concerns include some adult language, the expected boxing violence and a brief scene of pre-marital sex (no nudity).
The acting performances in the film are good, particularly Stallone as the aging mentor. Jordan and Thompson have excellent chemistry on screen. The musical score from Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, Creed, Fruitvale Station) is outstanding. The film did get slow in periods and could have been shorter than the two hour and ten minute length.
Creed II is an enjoyable and emotional film, the eighth in the Rocky series. It looks back to 1985’s Rocky IV for its emotional connection.

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Movie Review ~ Creed

CreedCreed, rated PG-13

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 40 years since 69 year-old Sylvester Stallone first introduced us to Rocky Balboa in the 1976 film Rocky. This new film, the first in which Stallone has portrayed Rocky since 2006’s Rocky Balboa, is also the first that Rocky has not been the lead character or that Stallone had written the script. This film is directed by 29 year-old Ryan Coogler, who also directed 2013’s excellent Fruitvale Station, one of my favorite films of that year. The star is Adonis Johnson/Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan, who also starred in Fruitvale Station.

Adonis, who goes by Donnie, is the son of boxer Apollo Creed, though he never met him. Apollo was killed in an exhibition match against Ivan Drago, a boxer from the Soviet Union, in 1985’s Rocky IV. Donnie was the product of an affair Apollo had when married to wife Mary Anne, played by Phylicia Rashad (best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show). We see Mary Anne visiting the troubled Adonis in juvenile hall and adopting him.

Later we see Adonis, successful in an office job while also secretly fighting in Mexico having won fifteen fights without a loss. Much to his adopted mother’s chagrin, he quits his job to go into boxing full-time, moves to Philadelphia, where he asks Rocky, who he calls “Unc”, to train him.

But Rocky is finished with boxing, living out his sad and lonely days running his restaurant named after his deceased wife Adrian. He is initially not interested in training Apollo’s son, even though he feels guilty for not having stopped the fight in which his father was killed. Eventually, after visiting Adrian’s (who had been played by Talia Shire) and Paulie’s (who had been played by Burt Young) graves, he does decide to come down to Mighty Mick’s Gym and begin training Donnie.

Tessa Thompson (from Dear White People) portrays Bianca, who lives in the same apartment building as Donnie. She is a talented musician with progressive hearing loss. After a slow start (Donnie comes to her apartment asking her to turn her loud music down), they begin a relationship that will have its ups and downs as they each pursue their careers.

Apollo Creed (who had been played by Carl Weathers) is an imposing presence in this film, even though he appears only in old boxing photos. Donnie is mad at his father, and doesn’t use his name (choosing instead to go by Johnson). He wants to make it on his own, and not be looked at as Apollo Creed’s son.

For Rocky fans, there are plenty of tips of the cap to movie moments and places (even Rocky’s turtle) that you will remember. The directing by Coogler, who also co-wrote the film with Aaron Covington, is excellent, as are the acting performances of Stallone and Jordan. Some are saying that Stallone could receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The film is rated PG-13 for some adult language, boxing violence and one scene of sexuality. Nothing explicit is shown, but it’s obvious that Donnie and Bianca have spent the night together. At 132 minutes, the film dragged at times, and could easily have been edited down fifteen minutes.

I really enjoyed this film, with an older Rocky serving as a trainer and mentor to the up and coming Adonis Johnson/Creed; learning from the past yet choosing to live in the present and invest in Adonis’ future.