Tag Archives: Milo Ventimiglia

Creed II Movie Review

When a little underdog of a movie named Rocky came out 42 years ago, a litany of Roman numeral titled sequels wasn’t foreseeable. Fantastic box office returns and a surprising Best Picture Oscar win changed that dynamic. 1979’s Rocky II was eagerly awaited and served as nothing much more than a retread of its predecessor. It was a dull copy at that where the main difference was its hero Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) besting rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

Creed came out in 2015 and it had underdog status itself. The concept of shifting the focus to Apollo’s illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) and his prowess in the ring seemed a little lame upon its announcement. However, like Rocky, the picture exceeded expectations with energetic direction from Ryan Coogler, fine work from Jordan, and an emotional storyline with Rocky’s cancer diagnosis. Stallone was even nominated again for an Academy Award.

Financial success has brought those Greek digits back. Creed II has a deeper well to drain from as far as plot compared to Rocky II because of the further follow-ups. Coogler isn’t behind the camera anymore as he took on the phenomenon that was Black Panther. Steven Caple Jr. takes over the reins while Stallone shares script credit (something he didn’t do three years ago).

1985’s Rocky IV is the entry that the second Creed taps for material. As you’ll recall, this was the saga where Balboa fought fierce Russian competitor Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) while seemingly punching out Communism too. Part four was cheesy, very much of its time, and highly enjoyable. It’s also the one where Drago delivered a fatal blow to Apollo after the energetic “Living in America” performance of James Brown.

Adonis gets an opportunity to avenge his father here. Drago’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) is an up-and-comer with his sights on the now heavyweight champion. His pops Ivan sees it as revenge after mother Russia shunned him following his loss to Balboa. The daddy issues don’t end there. Creed is now engaged to singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and she’s expecting. Rocky is estranged from his son as Adonis often fills that void.

The Italian Stallion isn’t thrilled with the prospect of Creed/Drago II, considering Apollo died in his arms. And we know that training montages will keep the drama unfolding. We don’t have a Xerox like situation with this sequel. It does follow the path of #4 in numerous ways, including a Soviet set main event.

Ivan Drago was a man of few words in ‘85 and he still is. His back story of abandonment from his wife (Brigitte Nielsen, who cameos) and countrymen has the potential to be compelling, but it’s given the short shrift. Jordan is still excellent in the title role, as is his chemistry with Thompson. Stallone’s character arch here is considerably less captivating than the last time around. This franchise is shifting away from him to Adonis and you feel it.

Like Creed, the ring action is more realistic than anything in the Rocky tales, where punches landed with a percentage of around 110%. Caple Jr. does decent work filming them, though not to the level of what Coogler accomplished.

Creed II is a superior direct sequel than Rocky II. The common thread is that neither are particularly memorable or necessary. To add to the clichés that permeate this series (sometimes in supreme guilty pleasure ways), it’s not a knockout. If you’re a true fan, though, it certainly won’t break you.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Creed II

Three years ago, the biggest surprise of Oscar night was Sylvester Stallone losing Best Supporting Actor to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies. The legendary performer was nominated for his seventh portrayal of Rocky Balboa in Creed, nearly 40 years after Rocky won Best Picture.

Creed was an unexpected critical and box office smash with a knockout score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, Oscar attention was reserved for Stallone only. Creed II opens on Wednesday and reviews are out. The tale of the tape indicates a mostly satisfying if predictable experience that serves as a follow-up to Rocky IV. The Tomato meter currently sits at 72%.

While its predecessor was heralded for Stallone’s work, early critical reaction here is more focused on Michael B. Jordan’s return in the title role. Yet any awards attention he receives will be for his supporting role in Black Panther, I suspect.

Bottom line: Creed II may please fans of the franchise. Like the Rocky sequels, don’t expect awards voters to punch ballots for it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Creed II Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/20): On the eve of its premiere, I have increased my prediction for Creed II

When Creed debuted three Thanksgiving weekends ago, it did so in the manner of the character who began the franchise nearly four decades prior… as an underdog. The Rocky spinoff managed to majorly defy expectations with rave reviews and even Oscar chatter for costar Sylvester Stallone in Supporting Actor. That wave of buzz resulted in a $29 million Friday to Sunday start and $42 million total for the five-day holiday weekend. The eventual gross was $109 million.

Like Rocky before it, now come the sequels with Roman numerals as Creed II premieres next week. Michael B. Jordan is back along with Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Milo Ventimiglia (reprising his role as Balboa’s son from 2006’s Rocky Balboa). And that’s not the only blast from the past as Adonis Creed is fighting the son of Ivan Drago from 1985’s Rocky IV. That means Dolph Lundgren returns with a reported appearance from Brigitte Nielsen as well. Florian Munteanu is Drago’s spawn and other new cast members include Wood Harris and Russell Hornsby. Steven Caple, Jr. takes over directorial duties from Ryan Coogler, who moved onto a little something called Black Panther earlier this year (he does executive produce).

So how will the second round measure up? Jordan has certainly increased his visibility even more with his acclaimed villainous role in the aforementioned Panther. And part 4 of the Rocky series that this harkens back to is perhaps the most well-known sequel of the bunch.

That leads me to think II will open on an even keel with its predecessor. Yet I’m not seeing a compelling reason for it premiering much bigger. This might seem like a dull prediction, but I truly think the box office decision will match what came before.

Creed II opening weekend prediction: $31.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $45.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Ralph Breaks the Internet prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/13/ralph-breaks-the-internet-box-office-prediction/

For my Robin Hood prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/14/robin-hood-box-office-prediction/

For my Green Book prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/17/green-book-box-office-prediction/

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 2007: A Look Back

Today on the blog, I continue on with my listing of the Top Ten Summer Hits from years past. I’ve already gone over both 1987 and 1997. If you missed those entries, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/07/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1987-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/11/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1997-a-look-back/

On this Throwback Thursday, we travel back a decade to 2007 to find what was burning up the charts in a summer where comedies like Knocked Up and Superbad were making us laugh, the Transformers franchise was just beginning, and Spider-Man 3 was overwhelming us with too many villains and Tobey Maguire dancing.

As I have with these posts before, I’ll rank them on my own (not exactly refined) musical scale of 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (summer fire) and let you know whether or not said song resides on my Apple Music playlist.

Let’s get to it!

10. “Make Me Better” – Fabolous feat. Ne-Yo

Brooklyn MC Fabolous starting making hits in 2001 and this Timbaland produced and string heavy track featuring Ne-Yo is one of his biggest. Timbaland always delivers good beats. It’s decent, though nothing too memorable.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

9. “Bartender” – T-Pain feat. Akon

Like many of Mr. Pain’s tracks, this is made for careless nights at the club and in that sense, it’s perfect acceptable. Like some of those nights, however, you may have forgotten it by morning.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

8. “Makes Me Wonder” by Maroon 5

The first single from Maroon 5’s long-awaited second album, this was actually their first #1 hit (a bit surprising considering the smashes from their debut release). It’s a catchy as heck pop concoction with Adam Levine’s fine vocals.

My Rating: 8 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

7. “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston

Jamaican artist Kingston scored a huge one hit wonder here with this reggae tinged ode to a girl he loves. The lyrics are really quite disturbing if you think about them at all, but summer songs are all about enjoying them with the top down and this pretty much delivers.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

6. “The Way I Are” by Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson

Grammatical issues aside, the second single from mega-producer Timbaland’s Shock Value album is a synth heavy standout jam. My goodness – this man was on fire in the mid 2000s.

My Rating: 8 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

5. “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” – T-Pain feat. Yung Joc

And now for the lead single from Mr. Pain’s second smash album. It’s another club anthem meant for quick consumption on a night out and it’s a notch above #9 “Bartender”.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

4. “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s

The signature tune from these Illinois rockers, this track was inescapable a decade ago. The ballad’s rating here perhaps suffers from its overexposure, but it does get in your head.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

3. “Party Like a Rockstar” by Shop Boyz

The first and only hit from these Atlanta rappers, “Rockstar” merged the sounds of hip hop and rock that first gained exposure two decades earlier with Aerosmith and Run DMC. It’s the most downloaded ringtone of 2007. It’s not “Walk This Way”, but it’s fun.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

2. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie

The fourth single off her debut album and the third #1 from it, Black Eyed Peas songstress Fergie slowed it down here with this ditty. Truthfully, it was never among my favorite tracks that were singles but maybe I just gravitated toward other hits like “London Bridge”, “Glamorous”, and “Clumsy”. Still it’s solid. By the way, if that guy Fergie is romancing in the video looks familiar – that would Milo Ventimiglia or Jack from TV’s “This Is Us”.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

1. “Umbrella” by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z

Now we’re talking! One of Rihanna’s best cuts, this was actually rejected by Britney Spears. Oops. With a fine assist from Mr. Shawn Carter (who co-wrote), “Umbrella” features a towering beat and is one of the endlessly played tracks that somehow doesn’t get old. It deserves its accolades.

My Rating: 10

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

Well, that does it folks! The last ten, twenty, and thirty years of summertime hits. Next summer – get ready for 1988, 1998, and 2008. And hitting the blog within days will be reviewing the movie summers of 1987, 1997, and 2007. Stay tuned!