Sunday, 17 January 2016
Live At The Apollo.
133 Minutes. Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson. Director: Ryan Coogler.
Ding! Ding! Round One. It's 1976 and who would have thought the greatest fight in cinematic history would everlast the full 12 rounds and more than 40 years? As the Italian Stallion from Philly ascended the 'Rocky' steps and fist pumped Carl Weathers' Apollo Creed in the face and became the champ without knocking him out or even winning that bout. He beat all the competition however. 'All The Presidents Men' and De Niro's 'Taxi Driver' to the Academy's Best Picture heavyweight belt. Now who said this prize fighter wasnt worth his pound for pound weight in Oscar gold? Because from a Golden Globe to the undisputed award nomination the Academy are supporting Sylvester Stallone, right in his corner once again. After Sly played rope a dope with critics for years from drawing 'First Blood' from his 'Rambo' franchise and then showing us all the 'Judge Dredd' and 'Demolition Man' star was far from belonging with the rest of 'The Expendables'. But if you thought that was his most creative homage franchise of sorts than you havent seen nothing yet in this modern day Hollywood nostalgia age. Round Two. This is the man that finally beat Apollo in 'Rocky II'. Round Three. Showed the 'A Team' of Mr. T that he was no fool in 'Rocky III'. Round Four. Avenged the death of Creed by the gloves of Dolph Lungren in 'Rocky V'. Round Five. Didn't even step in the ring but still street K.O.'d some kid for 'Rocky VI'. All before making his name again in 2006, still dancing at 60 in the video game age with 'Rocky Balboa'. Six round knockout. The King of the Ring like a 'Raging Bull' even knew how to send himself up alongside Bobby in their comedy 'Grudge Match'. But now after all these years Balboa is back in a spin off, reboot sequel ringside. As soon as you hear that iconic music you know its on. Da, da, daaa. Da, da daaa!
But this time the eye of the tiger belongs to to the beholding vision of a new legend. Survivor rising up, a young simba in this game like J. Cole is a lion. The Human Torch that fantastically ignites our screens aflame, hotter than Steph Curry with the shot. A real Marvel despite a flawed reboot (we're talking about 'F4' not 'Rocky 7'). And the name of this (fictional but probably has the muscle to step it up for real) sporting legend, Michael Jordan. Wait...what? Again...no, not M.J. B, but Michael B. Jordan. You think that was an 'Akward Moment'? You shouldnt. You should know this kids name by now thanks to films like that class comedy and more meaningful movies like the underrated, Academy ignored 'Fruitvale Station'. A critical movie that everybody needs to see and hear about, concerning the all too soberingly familiar, tragic turn of Oscar Grant who was shot by police in the Oakland train station AFTER being handcuffed and pinned to the ground. How can anybody especially the Academy ignore Oscar's story? Well Michael didn't with a heartfelt and honoured performance that was as raw as it was respectful, yet redefining. But now reuniting with dangerously dynamic director Ryan Coogler (who has just been handed the keys to Wakanda by Marvel for the new Chadwick Boseman 'Black Panther' movie AFTER the cats 'Civil War' debut) the pair are unfairly getting the Oscar 'Sicario' like snub again despite Stallone being lifted above shoulders even when pushing 70. Still regardless of how Sly this all is in the raging red corner is Apollo's baby blue. This is 'Creed'...the 'Rocky' legacy but Adonis Creed all the same, weathering the storm of his fallen fathers name and fame. And honoring it all the same. Kind of like what star and director do for Oscar. In some ways you could call this a spiritual sequel of tribute to 'Fruitvale'. And the potential of what could have been to so many lives of those living under surface ignorance and racist discrimination if those in power really treated them like they mattered. Showing Grant from the canvas to the fist pumped skies that living vicariously through M.J.'s work he's still a champion. This is for him. Its more than a snub. These movies have always been about more than sports. But just like the Chicago Bulls always belonged to number 23, this is Jordan's movie...and Coogler's too in their tag teamed up real reunion. Jordan looks like the greatest of future times and can take more than a sucker punch...not just from the Academy. He's even managed to float like a butterfly away from Jake Gyllenhaal's stunning 'Southpaw' (here's a guy who during a Hollywood Reporter rountable discussion with the Oscar merit likes of Matthew McConaughey, Josh Brolin and Forest Whitaker, geeked out at having Gyllenhaal standing behind him...but just look at this kid now). But his powerful passion and ingrained intensity really stings like a bee. He kills it with an assassins Creed. And just wait until all that soul and emotion, spills out like blood on the canvas to the heart of a terrific and tenacious Tessa Thompson who can really cut a record. Or the moving mothering of the magnificent Phylicia Rashad...yep Claire Huxtable from 'The Cosby Show'. Everybodies mother in the 80's! It's all love!
Chasing chickens isnt the only thing Coogler has in his coop as this franchises new promotor goes all Don King in his hype homage and Mayweather modern day movement. From old gyms, restaurants and friends, all the way down to the turtle, some teenagers wont get the references, but in the seventies if your greatest opponent in the mirror was acne you'll spot and love it. This is 'Rocky' all the way down to the trillby and rubber, stress ball bouncing. But the 'Creed' of this new franchises still knows its new audience. Espeically in the heart of the inner streets of a Philadelphia Springsteen sang about, from The Roots of a legendary soundtrack to those little hood motorcyles. And I bet you thought Balboa's shadow boxing step up the Musuem of Art was inspiring enough to get you all amped up. Well circle around this and you wont be running on fumes, but pure passion petroleum, diesel power. And as for the boxing scenes themselves, surrealy staged in Liverpool football team Everton's Goodison Park, you've barely seen realer or better from 'The Hurricane' to 'Ali' in this modern but all real, no fake, no FX update. It makes HBO look like WWE. Getting ready to Rocky rumble this really finds itself on the same canvas as the classics of this great genre. And we aren't talking about all the Rocko movies, even though this one captures the duked out drama, biggest battle is outside the ring, life methaphor of a sport and most successful game to take it to the blockbuster movie ring with Tyson tenacity (just wait until the next Foxx biopic). That's why we keep talking all these hits...whether you booyah the sport or think it barbaric. And of course we do because of Sylvester. Still no pussycat when most would be stroking one in their Barcalounger like Blofeld. What more can we say about this all-action, all-American hero that the Academy Award isnt about to? The direction this movie maker has over fond friend and raved rival Schwarzenegger. His underrated complete, actual acting style. His charismatic, nice nature as he talks to old friends whether they are from the wrong end of the tracks, or on the other side completely. Or the genuine grit on his reatrained emotion (leeeets geeet reaady for the man tears to ruuuuumbbbble!) and pure pained and powerfully painted passion that brings everything back that ever hurt him. You dont know what he's been through...like he doesnt you. But remember its not about how hard you're hit. And boy does he get hit AND get back up, even in the clocked face of the undisputed opponent of time. Seconds out? Nah Rocky Stallone has given years to this. And the winner and still undefeated, heavyweight champion of the world is.... AAAADRIAANNNE! TIM DAVID HARVEY.