How often does a franchise include seven films? How often are any of them up to the quality of the original that launched the franchise in the first place? The 1976 surprise hit Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took Best Picture, Best Director (for John G. Avildson), and Best Editing. In every way Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone have been synonymous ever since. Stallone was nominated for his original screenplay and for best actor. Rocky is the story of an underdog, and Stallone was the mirror of Rocky in real life, proving himself to the world as a wannabe A-list movie star. As the franchise continued, Stallone became an international megastar, with movies like Rambo. Many argue the sequel to Rocky, simply titled Rocky II, is akin to the Godfather 2 or Superman 2, an example of Hollywood crafting a truly worthy sequel. From there critics and audiences diverge: Was Rocky vs. Dolph Lundgren as Drago in Rocky IV up to the adrenaline rush of the boxing rounds in the earlier films? Where does Rocky III fit in? The latest entry in the Rocky series, the reboot and eighth film in the series, Creed, is now streaming on Amazon Prime. If you are looking for an inspirational, feel-good movie, it should be the next movie on your list.
What seems to be unanimous is a drop in quality and excitement beset Rocky V and the sixth film Rocky Balboa. So when Creed was released at the end of 2015, who could have guessed it could be on par with the original? The odds were against its success, much like the character of Adonis “Hollywood” Johnson, the son of the late Apollo Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan in the film. Director Ryan Coogler, born ten years after the original Rocky film, grew up with Stallone’s boxer already part of the national psyche, along with other motivational sports films like Rocky director Avildson’s other unforgettable classic, The Karate Kid. Coogler draws from that film’s sensei Mr. Miyagi in one particularly well played training sequence between Stallone and Jordan. Stallone has played sensei before in the series, but only now, with the actor a real-life wise, elder thespian, does he provide a performance that in some parallel universe garnered him not only an Oscar nomination but a win (Stallone was only the sixth actor twice nomination for playing the same character). The young Jordan is equally superb, holding back when others may take obvious choices with a hot-headed fighter. Coogler’s subtlety is the stuff of great filmmaking, such as editing in musical cues from the original Rocky like a whisper throughout the film, only to release the full weight of Bill Conti’s goosebump inducing theme when it meant the most.
But how can Creed be as good as the original?
Has there been a bad Rocky movie? Sylvester Stallone’s springboard to stardom was the character and stories he wrote and starred in beginning with the first, garnering ten Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. Stallone’s acting and screenplay even earned a nomination for the 1976 classic. In fact Stallone has written each of Rocky II, III, IV, V and the most recent Rocky Balboa in 2006. Now the Rocky story takes a new direction, this time with new writers, newcomers Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, with the fall release Creed.
Who doesn’t remember the motivational Bill Conti soundtrack to Rocky? Rocky II’s “Eye of the Tiger”? How about cheering on Rocky as he defeated Dolph Lundgren’s Drago in Rocky IV?
This time Rocky steps into the shoes of those that trained him, Burgess Meredith’s Mickey, Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed, and Burt Young’s Paulie, to train a new fighter. That fighter is Adonis Creed, son of Apollo, who we saw as Rocky’s unlikely trainer in Rocky III, and last saw as he was killed by Drago in Rocky IV.
Check out the trailer for Creed:
Did you miss out on San Diego Comic-Con this year? Taking the sting out of missing the big annual show, both Gentle Giant and Entertainment Earth are making their SDCC 2014 exclusives available to everyone. Although a few items have already sold out, there are plenty of great busts and action figures that will provide something of interest for every sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy fan. Click on any image above or below to go to the store listing for prices and availability.
Number One on our list of the coolest action figures of the year is the above variant Predator figure from Funko’s ReAction retro-action figure line. We’ve seen one of these up close and not only is this a nicely constructed figure with great packaging, it looks like the character cloaked in the film and it comes with green blood splatter applied to the figure and even the box–splatter that was part of the plot of the movie and not just a sales gimmick. This figure sold out fast, but don’t worry, you can pre-order now for its re-release. After the break check out several variant retro-Kenner figures only available for a limited time, including Firefly’s Jayne Cobb and his famous hat, a Malcolm Reynolds with Browncoat. Even new figures from The Twilight Zone of William Shatner and Burgess Meredith!
The high point of the Gentle Giant exclusives is this great Rocket Raccoon bust that we previewed earlier at borg.com. You can just hear Rocket ranting about something, gritting his teeth as he rescues the Guardians of the Galaxy team.
For retro fans, Gentle Giant has three other SDCC exclusives for sale. Check out this two-foot tall Alien figure–inspired by the unreleased Kenner figure from the 1980s:
And how about the latest in Gentle Giant’s line of jumbo-sized classic Kenner Star Wars action figures, one of Kenner’s best, the AT-AT Driver from The Empire Strikes Back: