Pick Your Sport

All Movie Review Articles

Stallone Lands a Knockout with Creed

I finally caught the new Rocky saga, titled Creed, and I must say, was pleasantly surprised. I am not a Rocky aficionado but  have seen most of the installments and I really think this one stands up to be the best film since the original.  I am sure that all of the Rocky experts have their own personal favorite but I am hearing from some of these folks that this one is right up there with the best.

As I watched, I kept waiting to get to the part of the movie where the film takes a turn into typical formula, syrupy and sentimental homage to the Rocky brand.   In Creed, the writing by Aaron Covington and directing by Ryan Coogler kept the bar set high for a more gritty and engaging film.   The film delivers the goods in action, with the boxing cinematography honed to perfection with cringing and powerful punching shots that look incredibly real.

The story begins with the young Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, as a troubled youth in a Los Angeles juvenile detention center. Adonis has a problem with anger which manifests into fighting his fellow inmates.  While incarcerated, he gets a visit from his mother who wants him to live with her.  The film jumps to years later, Adonis is boxing in a rowdy Tijuana bar/boxing ring where he unloads a blur of punches to knockout his opponent out within seconds.   The film quickly shifts to Adonis as a financial analyst working a desk job.  This career was certainly not appeasing him so he quits to give it his all to become a boxer.  He gets rebuffed by the staff and humiliated at the gym where his father once trained.  Adonis contemplates and makes the decision to move to Philly and look up Rocky to become his trainer.

In Philly, we find the widowed Rocky shuffling around in his restaurant which adorns his wife’s name.   Stallone has gracefully and realistically aged Rocky into a senior citizen content in his old man ways.  Adonis finds him and asks for his training services.  Rocky wants nothing to do with this kid and especially nothing to with boxing.  Adonis lands a cheap apartment and begins training on his own while stubbornly pursuing Rocky to train him.  After finally relenting, Rocky comes to the gym for first time in years and begins showing the kid the ropes.

Not to completely abandon the Rocky and Hollywood formula, Adonis meets a girl that inspires. She is a talented singer but also has a personal crisis of impending hearing loss that she must contend with.  The underlying issue with Adonis is excepting the fact that he is Apollo Creeds son and that  people are going to judge him because of that.  He is constantly hiding the secret so it’s not used as a stigma against him.

I am not going to spoil any more of the plot not because not of some big surprise ending but for the fact that the script is good enough stand on its own. The acting is very good which is not always easy to pull off in a Rocky film.  Stallone might be hearing some Oscar talk as well as Michael B. Jordon as Creed who will be well on his way to a successful acting career.   I also enjoyed the way the film went into the backstreet s of Philly and gives us a look into the world of boxing gyms.  Lastly, the film felt very urban and current while still being heroic and a movie for most all ages.


The Angry Sky – The Story of Nick Piantanida

ESPN has been producing some the best documentaries with their 30 for 30 series of films.  I have not seen more than ten of them but what I have viewed, the quality of production and storytelling is first class.  My favorite piece I have watched is the one called, “Angry Sky.”  This is the story of an individual by the name of Nick Piantanida.

The reason I call him an individual is because he is not from the sporting world even though he did play a little college and high school basketball.  Like sport heroes, Paintanida possessed an incredible will to succeed far beyond most citizens in society.  Nick was a daredevil, an explorer, adventurer, trailblazer, force of nature but also a good family man and all around good guy.  It may sound like I am heaping on a lot praise but what he did in his moment of time was incredible.

If you don’t know the story, Nick Piantanida attempted three times to successfully skydive from space. He held the record for the highest accession in a balloon, reaching 123,500 feet.  All of these attempts came in the mid 1960’s when such technology and knowhow was barely developed.  Piantinida was neither a college graduate, pilot, engineer, astronaut but a truck driver with a passion for sky diving.  When he took to sky diving in his thirties he fell in love with it and couldn’t get enough. He heard about an American, Joseph Kippenger who successfully parachuted from a balloon at 102,000 feet.  Nick wanted to beat this mark by reaching 118,500, the number which he obsessed over.

The story of Nick Paintinida is not so much about his attempts but about how he was able to pull them off.  Through the support of his family and friends and his tireless efforts to sell his idea, he was able to keep the dream moving forward.  Piantanida was very charismatic and persuasive guy which he used to sell his plan to politicians, engineers, business partners and his family. Imagine trying to present your idea to those who thought you might be nuts.   Piantanida did just that and more for he had to get up in those prototypes with confidence that these would be perform.

Nick Piantanida had bigger stones than anybody I ever heard of.  Who honestly would go up in a balloon, 123,500 feet and want to jump out.  Not until 2012 when Felix Baumgartner did just that when he successfully jump from a balloon at 127,852 feet.  This was done with a well-financed team and almost fifty years after Painanida did it with a shoestring budget.  When you think about, Paintanida was the first real astronaut that was not part of any government program and the most unheralded up until now.  Salute Nick Paintinada! Read More →