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Creed: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Creed (2015) movie poster Creed

Theatrical Release: November 25, 2015 / Running Time: 133 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ryan Coogler / Writers: Ryan Coogler (story & screenplay), Aaron Covington (screenplay), Sylvester Stallone (characters)

Cast: Michael B. Jordan (Adonis "Donnie" "Hollywood" Johnson/Creed), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Tessa Thompson (Bianca), Phylicia Rashad (Mary Anne Creed), Andre Ward (Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler), Anthony Bellew ("Pretty" Ricky Conlan), Ritchie Coster (Pete Sporino), Jacob "Stitch" Duran (Stitch), Graham McTavish (Tommy Holiday), Malik Bazille (Amir), Ricardo "Padman" McGill (Padman), Gabe Rosado (Leo "The Lion" Soprano), Wood Harris (Tony "Little Duke" Burton), Liev Schreiber (HBO 24/7 Narrator)

Buy Creed from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • 2-Disc DVD • Instant Video

Sylvester Stallone has clung to his successes longer than anyone would deem prudent. There were three Rambo movies in a stretch of five years and five Rocky films over the course of fifteen. Then, late last decade, upon entering his sixties, Stallone went back to both wells with untimely sequels in each franchise.
Then he ran The Expendables into the ground with at least one sequel too many.

Now, nine years after Rocky Balboa, here is Creed, yet another Rocky movie. But this one is different, not only because for the first time Rocky is not the lead character and not the one doing the fighting. This is the first film in the nearly 40-year-old boxing franchise not to be written by Stallone himself. The 69-year-old Italian-American has passed the creative reins to Ryan Coogler, a young African-American filmmaker who drew rave reviews for his feature debut, 2013's Fruitvale Station.

The star of that independent drama, Michael B. Jordan, follows Coogler here and fills the titular leading role of Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed (played in Rockys I through IV by Carl Weathers), the late world heavyweight champion and dear friend of Rocky Balboa.

In "Creed", budding boxer Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is trained by the friend of the late father he never knew, Philadelphia legend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).

Creed opens in 1998, with a pre-teen Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) getting into fights in juvenile detention. The troubled youth is given a chance at a better life by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad, the third actress to play the part), Apollo's widow (who is not Adonis' mother). In the present day, we see that Adonis (now Jordan) has taken advantage of his opportunities. He has made a killing with a vague office job in the financial industry, but he quits that because it's not doing it for him. Adonis gets his kicks in boxing fights down in Mexico.

He has participated in fifteen of them and won every one.

Having been widowed by the sport, Mary Anne does not approve of Adonis following in his father's footsteps. But he's old enough to make his own decisions and he does just that, deciding to relocate from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, where he leaves behind the comforts of a mansion to rough it out in a gritty urban apartment. There, he finds his father's pal, who has not kept in touch with the other Creeds and doesn't even know of Adonis' existence (he was born after Apollo died). Rocky has hung up his boxing gloves to run Adrian's, a quiet little Italian restaurant, but the persistent Adonis persuades him to train him at his old gym, Mickey's.

Rocky does that, keeping Adonis' heritage a secret per the young man's wishes. But the secret gets out and soon Adonis is a topic of discussion on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" and elsewhere. Adonis' newfound celebrity even lands him a big ticket bout with the world light heavyweight champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (real life boxer Tony Bellew), a Liverpudlian who is about to serve a 7-year jail sentence on drug charges. The only catch is that Adonis Johnson must change his name to Adonis Creed. On the side, there is a romance with a music-blaring neighbor with a progressive hearing disorder (Tessa Thompson).

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) holds a punching bag for Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) while others look on at the training session.

Creed takes its cues from other dormant or aging franchises like Planet of the Apes, X-Men, and Star Trek that have been revived with a different approach and new personnel. It is undoubtedly the seventh installment in the series: a sequel, not a reboot. But the Rocky-less title makes clear that this is a new beginning, a new generation. It might well not need its own sequel, unless the reception is warm and the demand strong. (Both were and thus one has been tentatively scheduled for November 2017.) What is important is that Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington (an English crew member new to writing) are not treating this as just another Rocky movie, but an opportunity to give the world of Rocky contemporary relevance by making a good film that leans on the franchise's lore but stands on its own.

Coogler and company succeed, with seeming ease. Proving that his remarkable debut was no fluke, the writer-director also demonstrates that his vision and skill do not merely lend to a $900 thousand indie. Here, with a budget of $35 million and having to answer to execs from both producing company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and distributor Warner Bros., Coogler does not miss a beat. He brings awareness and respect for Stallone's signature series, but also a willingness to put the Italian Stallion on the sidelines of another brand new character's story.

That absolutely proves to be the right decision, for Creed does not invite comparisons to past Rocky sequels as much as it does to other solid boxing movies. While it's no Raging Bull or The Fighter, it's noticeably better than the more recent likes of Southpaw, the overrated MMA family drama Warrior, and Stallone's own Rocky-flavored geriatric comedy Grudge Match.

Tessa Thompson plays Bianca, Adonis' love interest, a musician neighbor with a progressive hearing disorder.

Coogler and Jordan clearly have a strong and fruitful chemistry. While it may be premature to liken the late twentysomethings to Scorsese and De Niro or Scorsese and DiCaprio, there is real dramatic potential there.
Jordan has a magnetism and swagger that no other contemporary displays. Those unique qualities may explain why filmmakers have wanted to cast him in roles that have historically not been African American. He is the first to rebound from 2015's Fantastic Four, which reteamed him with another promising second-time director to disastrous results. I still believe that unconventional superhero movie unfairly got a bad rap, but it already feels like old news with a different reunion yielding this most satisfactory new take on an old franchise.

Stallone has resisted supporting roles ever since Rocky made him a star, but clearly he is better suited to those duties than leading man ones these days. Coogler gets probably the best performance from the surgically preserved aging actor since the original film opened on Thanksgiving week thirty-nine years earlier. With his distinct deep voice and macho mannerisms, Stallone is a natural to fill the mentor role that Burgess Meredith held for him. He is the only remnant from the past movies, other characters from which are otherwise represented only in photographs and headstones. Creed knows its predecessors and shows its love for them most explicitly in a Ludwig Gφransson score that reworks Bill Conti's enduring themes. But this film is more interested in looking forward than back and is the better for it.

Judging from the applause that accompanied the final fight scene (one of just two the film serves up at any length) and became rapturous at the end credits, Creed is certain to please crowds. It also pleased this critic, who entered liking the original film, having different degrees of tolerance for the next four (I've still not seen Rocky Balboa), and not really expecting too much from this new story.

In the face of strong competition, Creed performed respectably at the box office, grossing $110 million domestically and another $63.5 M from foreign markets on a reasonable reported production budget of $35 million. Though that meant it sold just a small fraction of the tickets that the first four Rocky movies did, it did do more business than its immediate two predecessors and more than all but 28 of last year's films domestically. I assumed the film's timing and strong critical reception made it a shoo-in for the stealthy Best Picture nomination that Warner Bros. Pictures has been getting on a yearly basis since 2002. Instead, the highly acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road enjoyed an unusual resurgence on its way to perplexingly becoming 2015's most decorated film. Creed settled for just a single nomination: Stallone for Best Supporting Actor, his first Oscar recognition since losing Lead Actor and Screenplay on the original Rocky 39 years earlier. That was problematic to some, with Coogler and Jordan missing their respective categories and thus contributing to another year of diversity-lacking selections that prompted some to take Hollywood and the Academy to task for, with major consequences occurring this year. Though Stallone was the favorite to win, an obvious sentimental choice acknowledging the arc of a character that has been part of cinema's culture in five consecutive decades, he ended up losing to Bridge of Spies' Mark Rylance in arguably the biggest surprise of the night.

While it can't be called an Oscar winner, Creed can be called yours, should you choose to buy it in this week's DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack releases.

Creed: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as 2-disc DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

You expect Creed to look good on Blu-ray and it certainly does. The 2.40:1 picture is sharp, spotless, and well-defined throughout. Even better is the default 7.1 DTS-HD master audio mix, which envelops you with music, crowd noises, and sound effects while presenting dialogue crisply and without concern.

Ryan Coogler directs Stallone, Jordan, and Thompson from a Philadelphia stoop in "Know the Past, Own the Future." Michael B. Jordan undergoes boxing training in the name of "Becoming Adonis."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Creed is joined by three bonus features on Blu-ray, none of which make it to the DVD sadly (because that DVD is merely the first of a two-disc set).

"Know the Past, Own the Future" (14:49) is kind of a general featurette on the franchise's revival for and by a new generation. The piece benefits from liberal excerpts from previous Rocky movies (all but Rocky Balboa) and includes comments from MMA fighters, boxers, and ringside announcer Michael Buffer.

"Becoming Adonis" (5:46) looks at Michael B. Jordan's physical training and boxing training needed to fill the title role.

Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) gets a call from Adonis asking to use the family name in this deleted scene. While the Creed DVD is void of bonus features, they are found on a Disc 2 of the standalone release.

Next and last comes a long reel of eleven deleted scenes (19:36).
These include an alternate opening, Rocky going through his old tapes and scrapbooks, a glimpse of an additional Bianca concert performance, Adonis calling home to ask his mother if he can use her surname, an extended graveside visit to Adrian, and a couple of further scenes between Adonis and Bianca.

The Blu-ray opens with a trailer for Barbershop: The Next Cut and a promo for digital movies. The DVD starts with Barbershop and proceeds to promote In the Heart of the Sea, and Point Break before running that digital movie ad.

On each disc, the main menu temporarily attaches a song to static poster art.

The two plainly-labeled black discs share a slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase with a Digital HD insert that doubles as an ad for the official game Real Boxing 2: Creed.

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) runs fast ahead of motorcyclists, while his clothing pays respect to another Michael Jordan.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Creed manages to stomp out any cynicism and skepticism you may enter with. Yes, the Rocky franchise is long in the tooth and hasn't been anything special in well over thirty years, but new personnel and a new protagonist coupled with evident respect for Rocky Balboa produce an irresistible crowdpleaser that should be easy for a new generation to embrace. This always tasteful feel-good sequel exceeds expectations and simply entertains and inspires.

Warner treats this box office performer to great picture and sound plus a solid 40 minutes of bonus features. It's a set that's easy to recommend both to Rocky fans and those who are completely unacquainted with the franchise and up for seeing a good film.

Buy Creed from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / 2-Disc DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Boxing: Rocky • The Fighter • Southpaw • Million Dollar Baby • Real Steel | Sports: Invincible • McFarland, USA
New to Disc: My All American • Straight Outta Compton • Secret in Their Eyes • Bridge of Spies • The 33
Written and Directed by Ryan Coogler: Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan: Fantastic Four (2015) • Chronicle | Sylvester Stallone: Grudge Match
Tessa Thompson: Selma | Phylicia Rashad: For Colored Girls

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Reviewed March 3, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, and 2016 Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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