MMT Quick Review: CREED

CREED (photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Happy Thanksgiving MMT Family! So I was absolutely correct in my great expectations for the new release CREED, starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and hometown hero Sylvester Stallone. It was everything a Rocky update should be for a new generation – and us folk in generations prior that loved the Stallone films. Director Ryan Coogler, and his co-writer Aaron Covington, injected the right amount of grit, drama, and passion – and added a soundtrack that helped usher the story into the 21st century.

The film follows protagonist Adonis Johnson (Jordan), son of Apollo Creed, who never knew his famous father – his mother was pregnant when Apollo was killed. After his mother’s death, Adonis finds himself in the foster care system, and subsequently the juvenile justice system – until Apollo’s widow Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) finds and raises him. A natural-born pugilist, Adonis engages in several unprofessional bouts before making his way to Philly – where he locates his father’s former rival and best friend, Rocky Balboa, in an effort to get Rocky to mentor and train him. Rocky agrees, but unbeknownst to them both the young Creed will not be the only one up against a major challenge.

Adonis also finds a love interest and confidant in local singer/songwriter Bianca, portrayed by the multi-talented Tessa Thompson, who not only teaches him local lingo – shout out to Coogler and Convington for tackling the “jawn” definition – but helps Adonis learn lessons in trust and forgiveness.

I. Loved. This. Film. I enjoyed watching my hometown, once more, prominently displayed on-screen. At the Philly press stop earlier this month, Tessa Thompson appropriately described the city as a character in this film, and she was absolutely correct. Coogler, a Oakland, CA native, beautifully directed this film and paid homage to the original Rocky – with Art Museum (“Rocky stairs”) shots – as well as local neighborhoods – with scenes that highlighted Philly favorites like Max’s Steaks in Nicetown (I wrote about Kevin Hart taking Ice Cube to Jim’s and Max’s last year) and Johnny Brenda’s (where Bianca performs) in Fishtown.

Also highlighted were the legendary Front Street Gym – where Michael B. Jordan trained for the role – and the South Philly restaurant Victor Cafe – which was transformed into the fictional “Adrian’s” named after Rocky’s late wife.

To say I loved this film is really an understatement. The fight scenes are THE TRUTH and intense. If you can’t handle gore, it may be a bit much – but I’m a boxing fan so I loved them. And Michael B. Jordan is in peak shape – and Coogler made it a point to note at the press conference that Jordan performed all of his stunts, with no body double.

Contrary to what one of my peers expressed in conversation after our early screening, I also enjoyed the love story between the Adonis and Bianca characters. Coogler has a great eye for minute detail – displayed nicely in an intimate scene that finds Adonis assisting Bianca with her braids. It was simple, but authentic – reminiscent of a Rocky and Adrian moment in the original film.

And speaking of the original Rocky, Stallone is great in this movie! Some people didn’t take to his performance in “Cop Land” – having seen him in action movies so long prior. But if you thought that was a solid performance, like I did, you are really going to love him in this.

Okay fam, I could go on-and-on about this movie, but I’m about to enter “Spoilerville”, and we know I don’t do that (if I can help it!). In sum, CREED is filled with great performances and is very entertaining. I expected nothing less from Coogler, who wrote and directed a fave – FRUITVALE STATION. I can’t wait to see what he, Jordan and Thompson – the latter of whom was brilliant in MISSISSIPPI DAMNED (now on Netflix) – are going to do next. And it will be very interesting to see what type of acclaim this movie, Coogler and cast are given – especially Stallone, who is already being lauded for his performance.

Stop back and let me know your thoughts after you see the movie family! Would love to hear your take on this one. 🙂

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: advance screening of CREED on Monday, November 23 (Philly, PA)

CREED (photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Happy Monday MMT Fam! Now if you’ve followed this site for a while, you already know I’ve been waiting for this one, hence the MMT Quick Look earlier this year, and three other things – 1) I love director Ryan Coogler, who I had the pleasure of interviewing when his dĂ©but FRUITVALE STATION was released, 2) I love Michael B. Jordan, who brilliantly portrayed the late Oscar Grant in the aforementioned, and 3) I love, love, love Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky franchise.

Now, I also had the pleasure of screening the movie early to prepare for the CREED Philly press stop – see my Examiner article here – and I didn’t get a pic with Mr. Stallone, but I did shake his hand and tell him how much I loved this latest installment. Same with Mr. Coogler, who actually remembered me from his stop here a couple of years ago. But I didn’t get near that fine Michael B. Jordan, and it wasn’t for lack of trying!

Alright back to the matter at hand! I have five admit-two passes to next Monday’s screening of the film, which opens on Thanksgiving Day. Now, I’m reserving these passes for subscribers only – which means you must be a regular, active follower of this site. If that’s you, and you want to try your luck at a pair, send your full name in an email (please use the address you’re signed up with) to thinkmusicmovies@gmail.com with the subject line CREED. I will select followers at random and notify no later than Friday, November 20.

You can watch a trailer for CREED below and get additional information at the official website here.

Good luck family!

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

 

 

MMT Quick Look: CREED starring Michael B. Jordan

Creed (photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Happy Monday MMT Fam! Okay, so I already told you I’ll be in theaters on Christmas – but I’m also spending time this Thanksgiving watching the fourth and final Hunger Games film and this additional movie that I am absolutely dying to see…CREED!!!! I mean, I am the person who watched the all-day Rocky marathon just this past Saturday on Bounce TV – even though I can recite most of the lines from the gazillion times I’ve watched the films. I am the woman who passionately wrote about director Ryan Coogler’s dĂ©but feature FRUITVALE STATION, which also starred the magnificent Michael B. Jordan. And after the first two trailers that have been released, and the fact that it was shot in my hometown of Philly, I don’t see how this could go wrong in any shape, form or fashion!

Don’t believe me? Check out the trailers below for yourself, and get additional info about the film at the official website here. Okay, I know I’m too hype! CREED opens everywhere Thanksgiving Day, November 25.

Until next thought, Thomasena

FRUITVALE STATION: a review and Q & A with writer/director Ryan Coogler

MICHAEL B. JORDAN, OCTAVIA SPENCER, RYAN COOGLER behind the scenes in FRUITVALE STATION (courtesy of The Weinstein Company)
MICHAEL B. JORDAN, OCTAVIA SPENCER, RYAN COOGLER behind the scenes in FRUITVALE STATION
(courtesy of The Weinstein Company)

I can remember, back in January of 2009, starting the New Year as many do with new goals set, new expectations for myself, and the feeling of a fresh start. Then several days later, I was one of many persons who viewed a terrible tragedy on a YouTube video. It was a haunting and poignant reminder of how precious life is and how sudden it can be taken. I’m of course referring to the death of 22-years-old Oscar Grant III, who was murdered on January 1st, 2009 by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit District) police officer at the now infamous Fruitvale subway stop in Oakland, CA. Oscar was removed from the train by BART officers, after he fought with rivals, and was shot in the back while lying face down on the train platform.

Among those persons who viewed the video was then 22-year-old film student Ryan Coogler, who explained in promotional materials that the event itself and the subsequent aftermath inspired him to make FRUITVALE STATION. “During the trial I saw how the situation became politicized: depending on which side of the political fence people stood on, Oscar was either cast as a saint who had never done anything wrong in his life, or he was painted as a monster who got what he deserved that night. I felt that in that process, Oscar’s humanity was lost. When anyone’s life is lost, the true nature of the tragedy lies in who they were to the people that knew him or her the best.”

Spawned by Coogler’s passion to share Oscar’s story with humanity, and with Academy-award winners Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Octavia Spencer (The Help) signed on as producers (with Spencer also portraying Grant’s mother in the film), “Fruitvale Station” has taken audiences and critics by storm, winning awards at both the Cannes and Sundance festivals. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down with, the now 27-year-old, Ryan Coogler who visited Philadelphia with his beautiful fiancĂ©e, Zinzi, for a press tour back in June.

I know you are a counselor at Juvenile Hall (in San Francisco). If you were watching the film with the kids you work with, what is the one thing you would want them to take from the story?

The fact that they, and people like them, have something to live for. And the idea that if their lives are cut short, their loved ones feel the consequences, as well as others that they may not know or those that they may have had conflict.

I was one of the persons who viewed one of the videotapes not long after the tragedy occurred. And I was amazed at how much I wanted Oscar to succeed in this journey (you explored in the film) even though I knew he wouldn’t. What has been the most surprising, or gratifying, reaction you’ve received to the movie so far?

It is two things. When audience members share they’ve never heard of the case, and I think it’s amazing that you can do some work and it enlightens even one person about an event. And the other is when people come up to me, usually people of different backgrounds, and say that they will never look at a case or headline about somebody like Oscar the same again.

I was curious about the scenes with the woman (Katie) at the fish market, and the web designer (Pete) he met. Were those characters representatives of people he met or actual people?

They are representatives. The character Katie is a combo of two real people. The fish market scene really happened. And there was a white woman Oscar had met earlier that day (New Year’s Eve), who was at BART and recognized him before the fight. She taped the altercation on the train platform, took the video immediately to the family at the hospital, and also testified in court about what she saw.

Coogler’s story of Oscar Grant and Grant’s journey on what would be his last day is nothing short of amazing storytelling. The film captures the audience at the shocking first scene; and yes I will go off script with this spoiler: the opening scene is one of the videotapes from January 1st, 2009 so be prepared. And the film leaves you breathless through the ending scene, which is nothing if not heartbreaking. Michael B. Jordan (Red Tails, Friday Night Lights) gives a riveting performance as Oscar Grant III, and I cannot see him or Coogler nomination-less next award season. And Octavia Spencer is just dramatic gold in her on-screen portrayal of Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson.

“Fruitvale Station” opened last Friday in select theaters in both NY and LA, is being released in additional theaters (including Philadelphia) this Friday, July 19, and will open nationwide on Friday, July 26. On the heels of the Zimmerman verdict, and simply on its own merit, Fruitvale is a MUST SEE. To find showtimes and theaters in an area near you, click here. You can also get additional information about Oscar Grant and the Oscar Grant Foundation by clicking here.

I am really looking forward to reading your comments after you see this magnificent film. Until next thought family, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: Win passes to screen “Fruitvale” (Philly, PA)

photo: courtesy of The Weinstein Company
photo: courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Hey Music Movie Family, I’ve got a special giveaway for you this time.  MMT has obtained passes to the Philadelphia screening of Fruitvale, a film based on the true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant; who was fatally shot by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale train station (New Year’s Day, 2009). The screening will be held next Monday, June 24 and hosted by WDAS-FM’s Patty Jackson.
There will be a Q & A panel after the screening with writer/director Ryan Coogler and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

For a chance to win an admit-two pass you can: 1) make sure you’re signed up (on the right) to follow this site and send an email to thinkmusicmovies@aol.com with your full name and subject line Fruitvale or 2) you can like the new MusicMoviesThoughts Facebook page and leave a comment under the “Fruitvale” post.  Winners will be selected and notified no later than Friday, June 21.

You can read a synopsis of the film and check out the official “Fruitvale” trailer below.

Good Luck family!  Until next thought, Thomasena

Fruitvale (synopsis)

Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award
for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, director Ryan Coogler’s
FRUITVALE STATION follows the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-
year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and
feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start
on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother (Octavia Spencer), whose
birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina
(Melonie Diaz), who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a
better father to Tatiana (Ariana Neal), their beautiful four year-old daughter.
Crossing paths with friends, family, and strangers, Oscar starts out well, but as the
day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easily. His resolve takes a
tragic turn, however, when BART officers shoot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale
subway stop on New Year’s Day. Oscar’s life and tragic death would shake the Bay
Area – and the entire nation – to its very core.