Creed II (2018)

I’ll start off by saying this film is incredibly predictable. From the trailer you can probably guess every single plot point in this film, you know how it’s going to end before the film even starts. You know what though? It doesn’t matter. This film is so greatly done that you get completely invested in it even though it’s predictable. The other downside: visually it’s only ever okay. This would be fine if the first Creed film wasn’t one of the best looking boxing films ever made. The way the first film approached some of the fights was a true masterclass in film-making, it made you feel like you were in there with them and you felt every single hit. This…..doesn’t do that. I mean, the fights are shot well and they look good, but there is a noticeable drop in quality between the fights in this one, and the fights in the first one. There’s no stand-out fights here in terms of technical brilliance.

Other than that small niggle, this film is great. It’s so good it retroactively makes Rocky IV better by giving more emotional depth to Drago.  That’s something this film does very well; creates believable bad guys. You know exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing, they’re the heroes of their own story, and you can easily imagine them being the protagonists of another film. It managed to turn a cartoonish villain into a 3-dimensional one, and for that it definitely deserves applause. The Drago’s are also responsible for a surprisingly poignant moment near the end where (spoilers) Ivan Drago’s wife (and Viktor Drago’s mother) realises Viktor is going to lose the fight, and walks out the building with her new husband so she’s not associated with them. At that point you see Ivan’s heart break and he realises what he’s become, so throws in the towel to stop the fight. It’s not quite enough to make him a good guy, but throughout the film it’s hard to say they’re definitively bad guys either. It’s not just their performance though, Michael B Jordan plays Creed like a slightly cocky shit, but one with intense emotional conflict. There’s a moment here where his character says something to Rocky, and the way Michael plays the character, you can tell that he regrets what he said, but is too proud to apologise or go back on it, so he has to go further and dig himself deeper. This all takes place in a second and is done just by facial performance, it’s a masterpiece to see and is one of the best acting moments I’ve seen this year. Tessa Thompson is also great in this, with her character being given far more to do than she was in the first film. In that she was almost 2-dimensional to the point where if she wasn’t in this it wouldn’t be considered a massive loss. But she is essential to this film, her character is the anchor to Creed, the one holding him to earth, stopping him from spiralling out of control. She has earned her place in Rocky lore, pretty brilliant.

Stallone too brings his A-game, still recognisable as Rocky, but no longer the great boxer. His character has developed brilliantly across the last two films, and it’s great he’s not a “I still got it” character. The character knows his boxing career is in the past, and it’s now his job to pass the torch onto someone else (like Stallone himself is doing with these films).

So yeah that’s this film, if you hated the first film, this won’t change your mind. If you loved the first one, there’s a very good chance you’ll like this too. Well worth watching, anytime a film can be predictable yet still provide enough emotion to bring tears to your eyes is worth watching.

The Oscars: who, what, and why

It’s every movie blog’s right of way to write about the Oscars, so a week later and barely still topical, here are our thoughts on the industry circle jerk we call the Academy Awards. (Don’t worry we’ve got some interesting posts coming in the next few weeks, including American Beauty; the secret stoner classic, and a look at possibly the best TV Show of the last ten years, Mad Men.)

Best Actor

Who Won: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenantleonardo-dicaprio-revenant-trailer-buried-alive-092915

Who should have Won: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. Is it his best performance? No. Does it feel a bit more like a career win than anything else? Yes. But in not a very strong year for lead acting performances, his raw and bleeding turn in The Revenant was definitely deserving and definitely won’t be remembered with the same hate other career wins have, like Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.

ayouth4Who should have been nominated: Surprisingly difficult to pick another great lead performance from 2015, but I’m going with Michael Caine from Youth. Though a very natural role for the old actor to slip into, it was still towering above anything he’s done in the last few years, and maybe even his whole career. Caine brings a real edge and melancholy to the aged composer, and though a very specific character in his own right, manages to cut to the heart of all people old and young, to make us treasure the life we still have to lead, and the life we already have.

Best Actress

Who Won: Brie Lawson for RoomPicture1

Who should have Won: Brie Lawson for Room. No I don’t agree with every choice, but this was another good one. Along with the snubbed Jacob Tremblay, the pair brought the needed heart to what could have been (and in some ways was) an over wrought melodrama with a very topical and timely story. But the performances are what boosted this to an effective and moving drama, and the whole film is worth it for that escape scene alone.

maxresdefaultWho should have been nominated: Bel Powley for The Diary of a Teenage Girl. No actress last year gave more of an emotional, funny, heart-breaking, fun, sincere, and just naked performance than Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl. She was the embodiment of the teenager, and her courage to commit to the sexually explicit role added more emotional weight than all of the actual nominations combined.

Best supporting Actor

Who Won: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies Bridgeof-Spies-777x437

19-creed-stallone.w600.h600Who should have Won: Sylvester Stallone for Creed. Not that I think his performance is better than Rylance’s (but it is as good), I just think the sentiment of Sylvester Stallone winning an Oscar for Rocky would have been nicer, as we all doubt he’s got another one in him (but who knows). His performance is also genuinely very strong and thoughtful, and I think the main reason he didn’t win in the end was because Creed got too sentimental about itself near the end, and the cancer subplot was a bit much.

Who should have been nominated: Jason Segel for The End of The Tour. I already went into jason-segel-the-end-of-the-tour-trailerdetail about his performance in our year end awards post here. But to say again, Segel shocked everyone with his subtle and quiet turn as the famed writer David Foster Wallace, his performance doing the surprising thing of letting us see his humanity, instead of understanding his genius (like most biopic type films try to do). With the right push I could have seen him getting a nomination, the Academy tend to love when comic actors go serious.

 

Best supporting Actress

Who Won: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

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leeWho should have Won: Ahhhhh let’s say, Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight. Don’t really have much for any of the nominations, but Leigh’s excellent turn as the vulgar and funny Daisy Domergue was one of the films highlights, having physicality you don’t see enough in female roles, and it was one of the few nominations that didn’t feel Oscar-baity.

this-is-what-a-femiWho should have been nominated: Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road. Talking of physicality, Charlize Theron has in in buckets as Imperator Furiosa, and gave one of the most intense and physically (and emotionally) raw performances of last year. The fact Rachel McAdams’ got a nomination for her okay work in Spotlight and Charlize Theron didn’t is just an insult, especially with how Oscar friendly the film was treated. Would an acting nomination really just too much for you Academy? Did all the sand and dust confuse you and you thought she was black!

Best Director

Who Won: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant.

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Who should have Won: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road. Like with the supporting georgemiller2-xlargeactors, this is less a who’s better choice, and more just the context of the win. Both directors worked in insane conditions to produce their fine films and I think the directing shown in both is as good as each other, from the harrowingly naturally lit landscapes of The Revenant, to the perfect mess of explosions and carnage of Fury Road. But with Alejandro G. Iñárritu having already won last year for Birdman I think it would have been better for the Academy to show love for the talent in a genre and style that rarely gets it.

Who should have been nominated: Paolo Sorrentino for Youth. A very underrated film that should have been much more award friendly than it was. Paolo Sorrentino’s funny and heart-warming if also heart shattering meditation on aging and fame was one of the most breath taking films of 2015, and was directed with more abstract beauty than any other, and felt more like art than a film in many ways. Just look at this opening shot!

Would of given this to Pete Docter for Inside Out, but I guess I went with style over practicality.

Best screenplay  

Who Won: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight.

Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer

d92df7b77dc6506907a694978860da35Who should of Won: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley for Inside Out. Inside Out is one of the most imaginative, smart, and emotionally resonating films I’ve ever seen, it already stands proud amongst Pixar’s classics and was considered by many to be the pinnacle of 2015’s films. And the idea on paper could have gone soooooo wrong, ‘what if feelings had feelings’, it sounds more like a joke Pixar film than a real one. But with an intelligent script, vivid and mature takes on the ideas, and the most poignant message given to us last year, Inside Out was definitely it’s best original script…that I saw.11202259_ori

Who should have been nominated: 99 Homes, an almost mathematically well written and very emotionally intense film about the housing crises. I’m a fan of stories about the good man’s fall to the dark side (Star Wars prequels withstanding) and this film does this masterfully, shaping a very sympathetic lead with the single father Andrew Garfield and a very compelling antagonist with Michael Shannon’s corrupt estate tycoon, who should really have had his own supporting nod too. With this, on top of The Big Short and Margin Call, you really get a complete picture of the different effects of the 2010 housing crises.   

 

Best Adapted screenplay   the-big-short-movie-poster

Who Won: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short.

Who should have Won: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short. I agree with the Academy again for this one; Adam McKay and Charles Randolph took a highly complex issue and made it not just understandable and relatable to a mass audience, but funny, dramatic, and engaging too. Some people complain that the film fails because even after it they were even more confused by the credit crunch than before, with its use of celebrities using big words, but do you know what I call those people; Americans.

14702-10469-14473-10034-Michael-Fassbender-Steve-Jobs-Movie-2015-l-lWho should have been nominated: Aaron Sorkin for Steve Jobs. Arron Sorkin writing a feature screenplay is like Meryl Streep acting in anything, it should almost automatically get nominated, and Steve Jobs is no exception. His second film about a computer billionaire, Sorkin’s signature dialogue crackles in this very showy and masterfully executed play set in three real time acts, that manage to explore the humanity of Steve Jobs and his co-workers without leaving the confides of the backstage.

Best Score

Who Won: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight.

Who should have Won: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight. Not really in love with any of the nominated scores, so I thought I’d go with the consensus, and it’s nice for the Grandfather of western soundtracks to finally bag the award, also it is a damn fine score.

Who should have been nominated: Michael Giacchino for Inside Out, Bundle of Joy. This is legitimately my favourite score of 2015. It’s charming, catchy, and effective. It perfectly captures the bright tone of the film while still resonating for the emotional moments; the ice skating memory scene being a real favourite of mine. It’s magic. What can I say; Inside Out is already a classic, and what classic isn’t complete without its iconic music.

Best Picture

Who Won: Spotlight.index

Who should have Won: Spotlight. Mad Max was close, but out of the nominations I really think Spotlight was the most worthy of them all. Was it the most artsy? No. The most experimental? No. It was a good old fashioned journalism film about a very hard issue, and it taught us all something we should learn, about the power of understating and letting the story and facts speak for themselves. Some people call it boring because it intentionally holds back on the easy drama, and focuses on it like a mystery instead of lampooning Priest and the catholic Church, as it’s smart enough to let the facts do that for it, and not to ‘sex’ it up in anyway like a lot of investigation films do; because that would make it shlock.

Who should have been nominated (and fucking won): Inside Out. I’ve already spoken in insideout8-xlargegreat detail about why this is the best film of 2015, and I was shocked after all it’s critical praising that it wasn’t at least nominated for best picture, because that’s what it was. Hell, back when I first saw it I would have put flesh on it being the first animated film to win best picture. But it’s shameful absence just goes to show that, along with race, sexism, homophobia and everything else, the Academy still have a long way to go before they really look at all films and filmmakers equally.

And that’s that for this year’s Oscars! I know I didn’t even cover half of the awards but I covered the ones I care about, and I know who’s ever reading this doesn’t want to hear me prattle on for pages about what I think should win an arbitrary award that means about as much to the quality of a film as a #1 Dad coffee mug.

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