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?
Westworld was writer/director Michael Crichton’s original high-tech vacation theme park-turned disaster blockbuster film, from 1973. Twenty years before Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs went on a murderous rampage, it was a sideshow automaton from the Old West pavilion that turned on the tourists. We showed you the first teaser trailer for the new series Westworld (discussed here at borg.com) and now we have a fuller look at the newest incarnation of borgs Hollywood has created for us in HBO’s latest trailer for the series.
Jonathan Nolan, brother of The Dark Knight series’ Christopher Nolan, is directing the return of the sci-fi classic, also the latest J.J. Abrams production. The original Westworld starred Yul Brynner as the cool and unflinching Gunslinger, with Richard Benjamin running for his life, along with appearances by James Brolin and Majel Barrett. The new series stars a great, comparable actor to Brynner as the Gunslinger–Ed Harris, as well as Anthony Hopkins in a role like Richard Attenborough’s mastermind in Jurassic Park, plus a host of genre actors: X-Men’s James Marsden, Jimmi Simpson (Psych, House of Cards, Zodiac), Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II, The Chronicles of Riddick), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), Star Trek’s Clifton Collins, Jr., Veronica Mars’ Tessa Thompson, Prince Caspian’s Ben Barnes, and James Bond’s Jeffrey Wright.
But it’s Evan Rachel Wood’s character Delores who takes center stage in this trailer–and hopefully the entire series, which looks to hone in on what it takes to be human. It’s a theme we love to see in the best borg shows, from the mind of Philip K. Dick in Blade Runner to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data to Terminator Genisys, and the BBC series Humans last year. We ask the question all the time here. Are the creations in the new Westworld just updated automatons? Merely androids? Or will the biological meet high-tech to give us something else?
Check out the latest trailer for the series Westworld:
Okay, it doesn’t really seem possible. We know Sylvester Stallone more for his action movies than any acting prowess. Yet he is Oscar material. Rocky–the movie and role that made him a household name, earned him nominations for both acting and his screenplay. The latest Rocky movie, titled Creed, is his seventh film as boxer–now retired boxer–Rocky Balboa. And the latest trailer (see here at borg.com for the first Creed trailer) shows he still has the acting chops, and can give as emotional a performance as ever, and maybe one that could garner him another Oscar nod for the same role he played nearly 40 years ago in 1976.
Like the first Rocky film, Creed looks more like a drama than just another boxing movie. This time Stallone handed the writing and directing honors to 28-year-old Ryan Coogler. Will it take passing his most significant life’s work to someone else to get him a story that provides the recognition he deserves?
If you’re a Veronica Mars or Heroes fan, as you watch this new trailer for Creed keep an eye out for the girlfriend of Creed’s son (Michael B. Jordan playing the characters Adonis Johnson). It’s Tessa Thompson who played Veronica Mars’ off and on friend Jackie Cook, and Becky Taylor on Heroes (Claire’s sorority sister and her power was invisibility).
Here’s trailer #2 for Creed: