June 8, 2023
Movie reviews: ‘Creed III’ is knockout climax to a sometimes formulaic, but heartfelt, story

Movie reviews: ‘Creed III’ is knockout climax to a sometimes formulaic, but heartfelt, story


This image released by MGM shows Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed in a scene from “Creed III.” (Eli Ade/MGM via AP)Can “Creed III,” the new Michael B. Jordan film now playing in theatres, really be part of the “Rocky” franchise when it doesn’t feature either Rocky Balboa or even a hint of “Gonna Fly Now,” the original movie’s inspirational theme song?

The answer is a resounding yes. Technically the ninth movie in the series, “Creed III” finds fresh ways to echo the original while doing its own fancy footwork.

“Creed III” begins with a flashback. It’s the early 2000s and fifteen-year-old Creed (Thaddeus J. Mixson) is running with Damian “Dame” Anderson (Spence Moore II), an older guy from his group home. With a lethal right hook Dame is headed for the boxing big time; the nationals, the Olympics and then, maybe, a world championship. “You’ll be with me,” he tells young Creed. “Someone has to carry my bags.”

When things get violent one night in front of a liquor store, Creed runs to safety but Dame goes to jail.

Cut to present day.

In “Creed II” Adonis, (Jordan who also directs this time out), finally stepped away from the long shadow cast by his father Apollo Creed and mentor Rocky Balboa to become his own man. Retired—”I left Boxing,” he says. “Boxing didn’t leave me.”—His career and family life in order, he’s now a celebrity gym owner and boxing promoter.

“I spent the last seven years of my life living out my wildest dreams,” says Adonis. “Rocky. My dad. This is built on their shoulders.”

Adonis moved on, but Dame (Jonathan Majors), fresh out of jail, is mired in the past. The former prodigy boxer wants his shot at a title, at the life Creed has, and he wants to fight Creed to get it.

“You think you mad?” he asks Adonis. “Try spending half your life in a cell. Watching somebody else live your life.”

“Creed III” isn’t really a sports movie. Blows are exchanged, and there’s even a lo-fi training montage—instead of Rocky’s famous run on the 72 stone steps leading up to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Creed bolts up the Hollywood Hills—but this is more about the trauma of the past revisited in the present, than the action in the ring.

Like the other movies in the “Rocky”/”Creed” Universe, “III” is about family. Creed’s mother (Phylicia Rashad), wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) provide family dynamics at home, but it is the bond between Creed and Dame, once as close as brothers, that provides the movie’s core relationship.

The two friends, separated by dreams, jail and success, are forever bound by memories and the shared stories of trauma. The difference between them is that Creed has managed his life with control and timing, while Dane is about rage and revenge. Their mano-et-mano showdown may ultimately unfold in slightly predictable ways by the film’s twelfth round, but Jordan and Majors are anything but obvious.

Jordan delivers the goods as Creed, but it is Majors who steals the show. Dame is a complex character, one cursed to feel left behind. “I was the best but I never got a chance to show that,” he says, his voice dripping with anger. Majors makes us feel empathy for an intimidating guy who doesn’t play by the rules, by showing both his steeliness and vulnerability.

“Creed III,” of course, leads up to a showdown between the two frenemies, but as a director Jordan finds a way to make the inevitable fight more personal, more dynamic than the usual boxing movie finale. It’s a knockout climax to a sometimes formulaic, but heartfelt, story of ambition and regret.


For five BBC series and a feature film, Idris Elba has played the unconventional British detective DCI John Luther as a psychologically dark combination of Columbo’s rumpled intelligence with the deductive abilities of Sherlock Holmes. Thirteen years after first donning Luther’s famous grey wool jacket, Elba returns with “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” a nihilistic crime thriller now playing in theatres before moving to Netflix next week.

The story begins with the blackmailing and abduction of teenaged office cleaner Callum Aldrich (James Bamford). By the time London copper Luther arrives on the crime scene a crowd has gathered, including Callum’s distraught mother Camille (Borislava Stratieva). She insists Luther promise that he will bring her son’s abductor to justice, and breaking the first rule of police work, he gives her his word.

But before he can solve the case, Luther’s history catches up with him when his past transgressions are made public. Criminal charges are filed. He is found guilty of witness tampering, vigilantism and a myriad of other crimes. Sent to a maximum-security facility, he can’t let go of the case, especially when the abductor (Andy Serkis) taunts him from the outside.

One elaborate prison break later, Luther is back on the case, despite the best efforts of counter intelligence operative Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) to track him down and send him back behind bars.

“Luther: The Fallen Sun” brings back many of the hallmarks of the beloved TV series. Luther is still the perceptive detective who knows the intimate inner workings of the criminal mind, the rain-soaked streets of London have rarely looked more gothic, the baddie is as unhinged as a screen door flapping in the wind, the unveiling of Luther’s iconic grey jacket is treated like the unearthing of a priceless religious artefact and, of course, Elba’s charisma cuts through the movie’s gloomy look and feel like a hot knife through butter.

So why, then, is “Luther: The Fallen Sun” such a bummer?

It begins promisingly, with the abduction and creepy Luther-esque set up, before allowing the story to overwhelm the thing that make the BBC series so watchable, Luther’s complicated relationship with the order part of law and order. His ability to think, and sometimes behave, like the villains he hunted was exciting, particularly in his complicated, line-crossing relationship with malignant narcissist Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson, on four seasons of the TV show. It was that dynamic that gave the character, and by extension, the show, its complex aura of danger.

That was no ordinary police procedural. Unfortunately, “Luther: The Fallen Sun” is. Keeping Luther on the run, isolating him for much of the film’s running time takes away the interactions so crucial to bring the story to life. What’s left is a sorta-kinda action movie with a pantomime baddie but the heart of what made “Luther” great is missing.

“Luther: The Fallen Sun” has all the earmarks we expect from “Luther” but this time around they feel as rumpled as Luther’s famous jacket.


In “Juniper,” a quiet intergenerational family drama from New Zealand and now playing in theatres, a grandmother and grandson bond over the regrets and difficulties of their lives.

Charlotte Rampling stars as Ruth, an English, boozy ex-war photographer, who decides to recuperate from a badly broken leg at her estranged son Robert’s (Marton Csokas) home outside Auckland. Although wheelchair bound, she has an almost unquenchable taste for alcohol, a sharp wit and, she says, the desire to have one last great romantic fling.

When her seventeen-year-old grandson Sam (George Ferrier), still stinging from the death of his mother, returns home to find the seventy-six-year-old woman living in his house, he isn’t pleased at the prospect of having to look after her, even with the help of a live-in nurse (Edith Poor).

The pair get off to a rough start, but as time passes, one life wilts while the other begins to blossom.

“Juniper” is a poignant, if predictable, movie about connection. As Ruth and Sam parse their differences, working through the accumulated regret that scarred their lives, the two form an unlikely bond. The circumstances of their situation may be unique—the setting, etc.—but the story arc itself isn’t.

We’ve seen this kind of coming-of-age story before but Ferrier and Rampling bring the characters alive in a way that plucks at the heartstrings. Low key performances emphasize Ruth and Sam’s internal conflicts, but it’s Rampling who commands the screen. Ruth is a regal, complex character and Rampling makes her compelling, if not exactly warm, with a winning mix of stillness and feistiness.

“Juniper” takes some time to get where it is going, but once invested in this odd couple, the familiar story beats fade and the strength of the relationship takes over, making for a more interesting ride to the film’s predictable conclusion.


Over on my bookshelf is a book called “Cult Flicks and Trash Pics” edited by Carol Schwartz. Contained within are descriptions of the kind of wild-and-wonderful B-movies theatres usually only show after midnight. Schwartz presents schlock films like “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” and “Dismember Mama” as though they were “Citizen Kane” or “Breathless,” cinema classics of the psychotronic kind.

It’s rare these days to find a movie that feels like it could earn a place in this book, perhaps wedged between “Eegah! The Name Written in Blood” and “Elephant Parts,” but “Enter the Drag Dragon,” a new flash-and-trash flick from Ottawa filmmaker Lee Demarbre, and now in limited release, just might make the book’s next printing.

Billed as the “world’s first ever drag queen, martial arts, comedy,” the movie is a no-holds-barred, extreme indie action-adventure flick starring Jade London as Drag Queen and part time detective Crunch. He lives with best friend and food delivery entrepreneur Jaws (Beatrice Beres) at an abandoned movie theatre owned by their friend Fast Buck (Phil Caracas). Together they use martial arts to solve cases, but will that be enough to fight off the undead guardians of their biggest score ever, the Aztec Mummy treasure?

Add to that some musical numbers, deadly nunchakus made of sex toys and some very elaborate hairdos and you have a singular film that would make B-movie legends Lloyd Kaufman (who makes an appearance in the movie) and Ed Wood proud.

“Enter the Drag Dragon” knows who its audience is. It is an anarchic, queer gorefest that owes a debt to everyone from Bruce Lee and Russ Meyer to Luis Buñuel and RuPaul. Demarbre is obviously a student of Midnight Madness genre, and delivers, for better and for worse, a movie that simultaneously pays homage to the form while reinventing it for a new generation.

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