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This film snuck up on me a little. I did not know they were making another Rocky sequel, and when it came out I was truly excited about it. I was thinking, yeah.. Apollo Creed was great and I would love to know his story..

When the film started, the excitement hit me again, and I even got goosebumps during the opening scene. As the title graphic CREED filled up the screen, I was ready for this ride with a smile on my face. This Rocky movie franchise, that had made me feel this way many times before, was going to do it to me again, years later!

But that excitement began to fade quickly during the film. The elements were there, but what happened?

There are some great moments: Ryan Coogler, the films director, brings a freah modern feel to the franchise, without loosing the overall picture. He deals with the flashbacks and nostalgia in a fun way. The pace towards the end of the film is a little tedious, but the final fight is well percieved and fun to watch.

Michael B. Jordan's performance as Adonis "Donnie" Johnson Creed is solid overall, but I was never truly inspired by his personality. The charachter never says a whole lot, but Jordan does a nice job of filling the role. The screenplay is very similar to the original Rocky, where an inexperienced underdog is given a once in a lifetime, if not unrealistic opportunity to fight against a boxing legend for promotional reasons. The big difference is that, despite his hardships, I never felt the passion for Donnie Creed as I did for the young Rocky Balboa. Something was missing.

The true highlight and reward of the movie is Sylvester Stallone. It surprised me at first.. but became more and more obvious as the film moved along, that Stallone was stealing the show, even without ever getting in the ring. I began to see that when he was absent from a scene, the movie suffered. Then, my surprise turned into an overwhelming affection for Stallone and his Rocky persona. It came over me like a flood.. how I had grown up watching this movie franchise, and how great and inspiring it had been. All of those memories and emotions are embodied in Stallones performance in a way that was truly unexpected. I may have to see it again to be sure, but I feel it could be Stallones best performance to date in any film, Rocky or not. It almost felt like Stallone was Rocky and we are watching their combined life story unfold.

The biggest let down for me was Creeds opponent, "Pretty" Ricky Conlan, a British fighter, and the world light heavyweight champion. I found this character totally unengaging, and flat. Rocky always fought great opponents, including Mr. T, "Thunderlips", and two times with Creed himself. But I can assure you that there will be no sequel named after Conlan. Even though the exciting final fight between Creed and Conlan works, and is coreographed well, it just did not have the same rivalry effect to me.

Mostly, the film does succeed as a solid boxing movie, with all the aspects you may expect from such. I have no doubt that folks will enjoy it, in fact there is already word of a sequel. Creed is certainly better than a couple of the other Rocky installments through the years. Southpaw, another boxing film which was released earlier this year, was just about as good. And I guess thats the real dissapointment.


Bitter Feast

This is one of my favorite movies right now. It is timely, in line with the abundance of cooking and food shows out there lately, but also within the now popular talk of sustainability and locally harvested fare vs. mass produced foods. Yes, I am talking about a horror movie here, called Bitter Feast (2010).

Starring James Le Gros as a befuddled, frustrated chef named Peter Grey who believes way too strongly in wholistic food preperation. He stars on his own cooking show called "The Feast", which apparently was once successfull, but now has become tense and uncomfortable, due mostly to a light hearted co-host who makes fun of him to the audiences delight.

To make matters worse, Peter's cooking just recieved a horrible review from food critic and blogger JT Franks played by Joshua Leonard. It is looking very much like chef Grey's show is going to be cancelled, and he has lost his job at the restaurant. So, he focuses in on JT Franks and his review as the main cause for his newfound troubles, and kidnappes him.

The rest of the movie is a dark, yet sometimes humorous romp through this twisted "revenge" scenario that chef Grey has in mind to teach JT a lesson. Joe Maggio wrote the screenplay and directs with a deft hand, keeping the mood and feel of the movie wonderfully errie and in tact. If this sounds even a little bit interesting to you, your going to love this movie. 


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara, the actress who earmed a Golden Globe nomination playing Lisbeth Salander in the 2011 English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is actually not the first to play this role in film recently, but she totally nails it. I had the pleasure of seeing Noomi Rapace first in the 2009 subtitled version of the film out of Denmark. Noomi does a great job, but Rooney Mara's 2011 Oscar nominated version is in a league all its own. The film, like her performance, is truly breathtaking, and the story is told in a bold, clever way.

From the awesome, intense opening montage fueled by Trent Reznor's piercing music, you get the feeling your in for something special, and you certainly are. Excellent casting and performances across the board, including a well played Greman "bad-guy by Stellan Skarsgard, and a surprise by Daniel Craig of 007 fame, who shines as a subtle, somewhat volnurable and human man. I thought he was going to be the weak link in the film, but he is great and adds depth to the story.

I give this one 4 out of 5 stars, with believability maybe the only flaw.. its fun, satisfying, and bad ass!! Better see it and get ready for the sequels.. $$


Pirates of the Carribean 4 - On Stranger Tides Missing Anything?

Am I missing something here? This is one extremely popular series of films. The acting and special effects are great, so good at points I remember thinking it may never get much better.. (will get back to that in a moment).

Let's start with Johnny Depp, who many say is custom made for this recurring role as a bumbling, yet sharp witted and at times amazingly agile Pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, who in this fourth installment is in search, along with many others, of The Fountain of Youth.

During this search Jack encounters many exciting challenges such as Mermaids, numerous double crossing "friends", a possessed ship, and ultamately Black Beard himself. We even have Penelopy Cruz replacing Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann, Jack's love interest slash foe in the series.

So the stage is set, the cast and crew not only extensive but super talented..and in 3D... so.... wait for it... The Film Still Falls Flat!

Why? Story. How can the story suck with all this? Well, not sure, but the film does lack something fundamental. It is certainly Jerry Bruckheimerish.. but hey even he made a lot of us cry at the end of Armageddon, right?

No, there is something about this movie that misses the mark. Maybe it is how everyone keeps showing up everywhere everyone else is with such ease. Maybe it is the lack of slapstick action that the other films had more. All I know is, for all of the perfection in this films inner workings, the end result surprisingly seems mediocre.

There are some highlights though, such as the mermaids, that carry the film through. Geoffrey Rush steals the show as Barbossa, who by the end of the film I was rooting for the most. Keith Richards makes a showing and has one of the best lines in the film when he asks if it looks like his face has found the fountain of youth.

All in all, the movie is fun, if anything just for the effects and charachters. I just wanted to like it more...