Review: Creed

Creed_posterWhat made 1976’s Rocky such a brilliant and celebrated picture? At its heart, the movie wasn’t about boxing, or about a particular opponent. Rocky was about the struggle within. It was about overcoming yourself and exceeding expectations, regardless of winning or losing.

Rocky’s II – V went away from this formula, and made the films more about defeating a villain than the metaphor. Rocky VI steered back in the direction, but still didn’t truly tap the full true potential of the Rocky franchise. Alas, it took six more Rockys and 40 years to come to Creed, the most compelling character study since the original film that captured the Academy Award.

Creed centers around Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed. He was rescued out of the foster care system by Apollo’s wife Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashād), who provides a stable home in Los Angeles and a world of opportunities away from boxing. Johnson ends up at a hedge fund, but has been fighting on the side in Mexico. Ditching his cushy lifestyle, Johnson moves to Philadelphia to pursue boxing full time, recruiting Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) as his trainer. Eventually, an opportunity opens up to fight world light heavyweight champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, setting up a tantalizing and thoroughly satisfying choreographed climax to the film. The final fight scene on its own brought the audience to raucous cheers, resembling the closest thing I’ve seen to an actual boxing match on film. Continue reading “Review: Creed”

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Review: Wonderful Nightmare

20150812090613_1_1439370373A cold, calculating, highly-successful single lawyer is forced into the body of a lower middle-class, unemployed, married woman with two children. Hilarity and romance ensue.

That, in two sentences, is the plot of Wonderful Nightmare, a 2015 South Korean romantic comedy film that was featured on the final night of the 2015 New York City Korean Film Festival in Astoria, New York. If you’ve heard of that plot before, it’s probably because you remember Nicolas Cage’s 2000 movie Family Man.

Any review of what is essentially a remake of a movie doesn’t have to turn on originality so much as execution of the story. And, for the most part, Wonderful Nightmare does exactly that, turning a thoroughly unlikable lead character Yeon-woo (Uhm Jung-hwa) until a more humbled version of herself by the end of the film. As in the tradition of Korean films, director Kang Hyo-jin throws in several plot twists designed to wrench the heart and bring tears to the audience’s eyes. Continue reading “Review: Wonderful Nightmare”