Creed III (12A, 116 minutes)
Verdict: a shaky starting point
All the training that Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa did, culminating in the famous run-up to the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, certainly paid off.
Here we are, moving forward half a century after Rocky (1976), and the franchise is still going strong.
There were six Rocky movies before Stallone’s character turned the spotlight to Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his old adversary and friend, Apollo Creed.
As tired as I am of the word “franchise,” and of series of movies that go down through generations and mine the same increasingly tired seam (Bond and the Carry Ons are flawless, of course), I was a fan of both Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018).
There is an expression in boxing: the ‘one-two combo’. Jab with one hand, cross with the other, or attack your opponent with a left hook followed quickly by a right uppercut.
Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed for a third time in this ‘truly silly’ sequel pitting him against an old friend
Jonathan Majors stars as Damian Anderson, an old friend of Adonis who took to the rap for a crime the boxing champ committed when he was younger
The Rocky/Creed movies do just that with their audiences, appropriately enough. Beat them flat with extreme brutality in the ring and smartly follow them up with heart-wrenching poignancy, a cinematic one-two combination that’s been working for 47 years and counting.
Classic movie on TV
Groundhog Day (1993) – C5, 12:30 p.m., Sunday
You wouldn’t want to look at it every day. But once a year or so. . . why not? A wonderful premise for a comedy, impeccably realized.
But for me, despite – or just as probably because of – this old formula, Creed III doesn’t quite hold up. For starters, there’s no Stallone this time around, not because they couldn’t come up with an entry into the Great Mumbler’s story, but because he’s at odds with veteran producer Irwin Winkler. Anyway, Rocky/Creed’s recipe feels wrong without the original ingredient.
More problematically, at least from where I sat, the elastic stretch between fiction and real life breaks all the way in Creed III.
As all boxing fans know, these movies have always taken enormous liberties with what I will call, for lack of a shorter word, veracity. In the huge blockbuster Rocky Balboa (2006), the jaded old champion scrambled back into the ring at the age of 60. But this one gets really crazy.
Set in the present, it begins with a flashback to 2002, when delinquent Adonis commits a violent assault, then watches as his friend, Damian, takes the rap. Two decades later, Adonis has retired from fighting, but works as a trainer, manager and promoter.
With wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their deaf daughter Amara (beautifully played by deaf newcomer Mila Davis-Kent), he lives in splendor on a hilltop, with that panoramic view of Los Angeles that, it sometimes seems, ten rich enjoy in the movies.
But then Damian (Jonathan Majors) reappears in his life. He’s just been in the joint for almost 20 years, but he was a great amateur boxer in his youth and now he wants Adonis to give him a shot at the world heavyweight title.
Adonis owes him something, you see. So when the mighty Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) conveniently pulls out of a highly anticipated upcoming match, the script is written. “Right now we need to think outside the box,” Adonis muses, thinking not only outside the box, but well beyond the more distant realms of reality.
Tessa Thompson returns as Adonis’ wife, Bianca, in the ninth film of the Rocky/Creed franchise
From there, the story gets even crazier, with Adonis himself donning the gloves again as a scoring exercise – a spoiler only for those who’ve never seen any of these movies.
Maybe it’s because I just wrote boxing promoter Frank Warren’s autobiography that I feel a little offended by all of this in a way I’ve never felt before. Heaven knows the so-called “noble art” has its flaws as a sport, but there are dozens of immovable obstacles to prevent inexperienced, long-forgotten amateurs, after a brief burst of intense training, from choosing to attempt a world title.
It doesn’t do boxing any good if people are told otherwise. We all love an underdog story, of course, but commercial fiction doesn’t have to be so divorced from hard facts.
But if you can look past that, and the unsettling spectacle of young Amara at ringside as her beloved father engages in a thunderous battle, Creed III has its merits.
It is tightly directed (his directorial debut) by its star, Michael B. Jordan. And as a morally compromised opponent, Majors does a great job.
With his turn as the villain in the new Ant-Man movie still in theaters, he’s clearly on his way to stardom. But that rarely happens, even in acting without a lot of hard work and a lot of luck.
In boxing, it only happens in the movies.
Spooky influencer with the CIA ghosts on his tail
The most recent films about the fashion industry have increased the iconic status of such giants as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Mary Quant.
But Fashion reinvented (12A,****) takes a different approach and examines the dubious morality of an industry that, if it were a country, would be the world’s third largest emitter of carbon emissions after China and the US. creative director of London-based fashion company Mother Of Pearl.
In less confident hands, the film could come across as an elaborate commercial, but following Powney and her colleagues as they try to tick every possible ethical box in the making of their ‘No Frills’ collection, it’s hugely enlightening about ‘ one of the most destructive industries in the world’ and how this needs to change.
If that sounds dignified but boring, look out for one of Powney’s heroes, designer Katharine Hamnett, who is as fierce and vicious as ever in her advocacy of more sustainable fashion. The film will be shown in selected cinemas from today.
Fashion Reimagined examines the dubious morality of the industry and follows a London-based company as it tries to tick every possible ethical box when creating its new collection
Frank (Anthony Mackie), Melanie (Erica Ash), Fulton (Niles Fitch) and Kevin (Jahi Winston) have a supernatural problem in the Netflix comedy We Have A Ghost
I enjoyed the Netflix comedy We have a ghost (12,***)pictured above, in which a family moves into a haunted house, befriends the resident ghost, Ernest (David Harbour), and tries to capitalize on making him a social media sensation, rightfully drawing the attention of the paranormal investigation department from the CIA.
It’s fun, especially when Jennifer Coolidge screams into (and just as quickly out of) the picture like some crazy TV medium.
I also have a lot of admiration for a gloomy Belgian film, Close (12A, ****), in cinemas today. With skill and sensitivity, writer-director Lukas Dhont tells the story of two 13-year-old boys, unusually devoted friends until their classmates start asking questions about their sexuality, leading one to distance himself from the other with terrible consequences.
It’s very tenderly done and the acting, especially by the two boys, is great.