Review: 'Creed II' Gives The Dragos and Rocky Fans The Story Arc They've Been Waiting For

Who would've thought it would be 2018, and Rocky Balbao would still be in a movie hitting theaters. Thankfully, the iconic sports franchise got a reboot three years ago that surpassed all expectations. With that kind of success, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that we'd be getting a sequel to Creed with the stakes even higher. This time, the son of Apollo Creed would be facing off against the son of Ivan Drago; the man who killed his father in the ring. The much anticipated story was put in the hands of up and coming director Steven Caple Jr., with the responsibility of not only bring back an iconic villain, but also stepping into the shoes of the talented Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Creed). No pressure Steven, no pressure at all.

As a stated above the film follows the now champion of the world Adonis Creed, son of famed boxer Apollo Creed. With things looking good in both his personal life with his girlfriend Bianca, and his career, Donny is blindsided by a challenge to fight Viktor Drago. The raw and unknown Viktor has been training in Ukraine with his father for the right opportunity to take on Donny in front of the world, giving boxing fans the match of their dreams. With his father's death at the hands of Viktor's father to motivate, Donny is now left with the chance to finally do what his dad couldn't and beat a Drago once and for all.
One of the biggest challenges the film has to tackle is taking the over the top story of Rocky VI and grounding it in realism. Caple Jr. and co. manage to pull this off perfectly, specifically in the way they've added depth to Drago's character. You really feel like this was a man who has been shunned by his own country and even those close to him, and that motivation is made clear through scenes between him and Viktor. While I could've used more scenes developing the relationship between Ivan and Viktor, its made clear that the later Drago is tough on his son. Making Viktor a more quiet character who showed little emotion around anyone aside from his father also was key to showing this, and helped make his character even more intimidating and hard to read. Does he really share a strong hatred for Creed, or is he just doing all this to please his father?
Once again the standout performances come from Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan. Stallone's further exploration into Rocky's own past mistakes and loses feels genuine, and he gets some great emotional scenes with Donny and Bianca. Stallone plays Rocky as an even more calm and wise figure in Creed's life then in the first film, and it mirrors how Rocky trusts Donny to make his own life decisions. While there unfortunately isn't too many scenes between Stallone and Lundgren, the tension is felt whenever the two are starring each other in the eye. The film makes it clear that Stallone as Rocky is passing the torch to Jordan as Creed, and this is made clear by his slightly more distant presence in the movie.
Jordan brings the dramatic scenes to life every time he's on the screen, truly helping the audience feels the frustration and mixed emotions Donny is going through. The contrast between Jordan's portrayal of the character's soft side when he's around Bianca and their daughter, to the anger filled scenes when he's face to face with the man who killed his father is remarkable. Some of the movies most emotional scenes are taken to another level by his performance, and his chemistry with both Stallone and Thompson is certainly a huge factor.
As for the direction of the movie, Steven Caple Jr. does a great job injecting his own style while still making it feel like a continuation of what Coogler did the first time around. Unfortunately some of Coogler's signature touches such as the one-take fight scene, as well as the perfect incorporation of the soundtrack in certain scenes aren't present here. Some of the fights in particular probably really would've benefited from Coogler's direction, but I feel Caple Jr. really shines with how he handled personal character moments. There are smaller scenes in the movie and exchanges between characters in the movie that may not seem all that important to the plot, but give us a much better idea of how they interact. In a movie that puts so much focus on parent-child relationships, this is something that needed to be handled well, and it was.
Although the absence of Ryan Coogler doesn't go unnoticed, Creed II is a more than worthy successor to the original movie. It gives closure to some of the most famous story lines in past Rocky movies in a way that doesn't feel fake or forced, and instead feels like a natural progression of boxing history. What the movie likes in some of its style and fight scenes, it makes up for in important dramatic and character moments that further the arcs of the main three characters of this series. Rocky fans and casual movie goers alike won't be able to resist moving to the edge of their seats when Drago and Creed are in the ring together, and that just proves Caple Jr. and the cast have done their jobs well.

I give Creed II 4 out of 5 stars:

So what did you think of Creed II? Did you think it was better of first then the first movie? Would you like to see another sequel? Let us know below!

Jon Favreau's Live-Action Remake of 'The Lion King' Gets Its First Nostalgia Filled Trailer

Disney's live-action remakes of their most popular animated movies have garnered mixed reactions from fans and audiences. But most people will agree Jon Favreau's take on The Jungle Book a few years ago was one of the best adaptions they've seen yet, so it makes sense that this is the man tackling one of the company's most iconic stories. With trailer to Tim Burton's Dumbo and Guy Ritchie's Aladdin already having made their way online, it was only a matter of time before we got our first look at Lion King. What better time then Thanksgiving to bring audiences back with the narration of James Earl Jones' Mufasa over some very familiar shots, and of course the Circle of Life playing in the background. 

Below is the first trailer for The Lion King:
The trailer is actually very similar to the one shown for the 1994 animated movie, with almost exact recreations of some of those shots. Characters we see are Rafiki, a young Simba, and an ending shot of Mufasa. We see a glimpse of iconic scenes such as when Simba is held up at pride rock, the stampede that ultimately takes his father's life, and his conversation with the ghost of Mufasa. We see just enough to get us excited a pay homage to the original movie, but without hearing the voices of any of the new cast members or seeing how their characters will look.
It'll be very interesting to see Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner's Pumbaa and Timon, as well as John Oliver's Zazu, Chiwetel Ejiofor's Scar, and of course Donald Glover's adult Simba. We can probably expect to see more of them as more footage and trailers make their way online as we near the movies summer release date. A lot of these cast members have the tough task of replacing very iconic and recent portrayals of these characters, so it makes sense we only year Jones voice in the trailer which fans are already used to. 
So far Favreau's take on the Lion King seems to be a pretty by the books remake of the original, with a lot of the same key plot points taking place. Like with Jungle Book though we can probably expect some slight changes, including the addition of new songs. The original songs of the film are all extremely well known, but with talented musicians like Beyonce and Donald Glover on board and Hans Zimmer returning to work on the score, I'm sure we can expect some impressive additions to the Lion King catalogue. 
So what did you think of the first trailer for Favreau's Lion King? Do you feel a remake is necessary? Let us know below!

'Sopranos' Prequel 'The Many Saints of Newark' Casts Alessandro Navoli As Dickie Moltisanti

Fans of the HBO series The Sopranos thought we'd seen the last of David Chase's world after the screen went black during the series finale years ago. Unfortunately, five years ago we lost Tony Soprano himself James Gandolfini, which seemed to have put any idea of continuing the series to bed. Instead, director Alan Taylor has been brought on board to adapt a prequel film to the show written by Chase. The series will show how the crime family came to be, and show many of the predecessors to the guys like Tony, Silvio, Paulie, and Christopher. Pretty much everything about the show has been kept tightly under wraps, but we now know at least one cast member he has joined in a key leading role.

Actor Alessandro Navoli best known for his work in movies like Face/Off, Selma, American Hustle, and The Wizard of Lies will star in the movie. Navoli will be playing the father of Christopher Moltisanti, who fans will remember was a key character and Tony Soprano's nephew in the show played by Michael Impereoli. Christopher's father Dickie has been mentioned several times in the show, as was killed off camera prior to the events of the series. Its believed he was killed by a police officer who Christopher eventually gets revenge on in Season 4. 
Much in the same way as The Godfather: Part 2 told the story of a young Vito Corleone and how he rose to power and started his crime family, The Many Saints of Newark will hopefully give fans that same insight into the DiMeo family. Its expected characters such as Tony's mother, father, and Uncle Jun will all be a part of the movie but have yet to be cast. There's also been rumors the child versions of Tony and his crew will make in appearance, but this has yet to be confirmed.
Not much is known about the film's plot other then the fact that it takes place in the 1960s and will focus on tensions and riots between African-Americans and Italian in the Newark, New Jersey area at the time. In the coming months it'll be interesting to see who else joins Navoli on the project, and who will play the rumored roles of young Tony, Uncle Jun, Johnny Soprano, and Dickie's father Aldo Molstisanti. 
So who would you like to see cast as the young Tony, Junior, and Johnny? Are you interested in seeing the history of DiMeo family on the big screen? Let us know below!