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“Creed II”, or “How to Train Your Drago”

Creed II!

This time around, “Baby Creed” has a happier, less insulting context.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Creed, the seventh film in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series, was one of my two favorite films of 2015. It was the first major-studio film for director Ryan Coogler, whose debut Fruitvale Station was my favorite film of 2013. This year’s Coogler model, the amazing colossal Black Panther, will be ranking very, very high for this year’s standings. Tangential note: remember how Black Panther was a 2018 release, even though it feels five years old by now, because 2018 has been that kind of year?

I was a little nervous knowing Coogler would be handing over the reins of Creed II to a relative newcomer, one Steven Caple, Jr. Granted, we knew the main cast would be back — Stallone himself, Thor: Ragnarok‘s Tessa Thompson’s Bianca (levels above the standard Concerned Girlfriend), and of course Michael B. Jordan, star of Fruitvale Station and costar of Black Panther and season 1 of The Wire, which I will never, ever stop name-checking. With the larger-than-life core of Creed still intact, could failure possibly be an option?

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Black Panther” End Credits

Black Panther!

Local theater, doing it right.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Ryan Coogler’s emotionally charged directorial debut Fruitvale Station was my favorite film of 2013. His follow-up, Creed, struck a bone-deep nerve inside me and was one of my two favorite films of 2015. It didn’t hurt in the least bit that the star of both films was Michael B. Jordan, who’s been raising his game with every project from his early start in The Wire to Chronicle (my favorite film of 2012) and beyond.

As a longtime comics fan who counts Christopher Priest’s ’90s runs on Marvel’s Black Panther as one of the all-time greats, and who wouldn’t have dreamed of this past weekend ever happening as a kid, I was beyond excited when the reins for the big Panther motion picture were handed over to Coogler, and that Jordan would be a part of it.

In a rare move for me, I kept my expectations unreasonably high. In a rare move for Hollywood, my expectations were blown away.

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“Creed” and the Fight to Mean Something

Creed!

You wanna climb to the top, be ready to do the footwork.

It was probably unfair of me to assume Creed would be one of my favorite films of 2015 before I walked into the theater. Previously in the tragic Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan together made my favorite film of 2013. A year earlier, Jordan costarred in Chronicle, a left-field surprise that became my no-contest favorite of 2012. Prior to that, he was in season one of The Wire and thereby granted a lifetime pass for any future catastrophes beyond his control.

On the other hand, I’d only seen three of the six Rocky films — the first one as part of a successful ’90s mission to watch every Best Picture Oscar winner ever; Rocky III at the drive-in, where a furious, pre-laughingstock Mr. T frightened 10-year-old me almost to tears; and the shamelessly jingoistic yet totally engrossing Rocky IV, the only time in my life I’ve ever seen dudes in a theater jumping out of their seats and cheering and fist-pumping at all-American awesomeness overload. Yes, really. I’ve never felt the urge to keep up with the Italian Stallion since then, or to backtrack for the second one.

So in fairness, I had to allow that Creed could’ve gone either way.

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“Fantastic Four” a Maddening Marvel Mishmash

Human Torch!

Michael B. Jordan gets into character while the film crew shields themselves from the toxic work environment.

As a longtime comics fan, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four was one of my favorite Marvel series as a kid. Years later I developed an appreciation for the first 103 issues in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave us some of the greatest stories among their many collaborations. My FF fandom came and went as creative teams, interpretations, and times changed, but I have fond memories of great runs by Walt Simonson, Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, and the long-forgotten team of Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz (#219, 222-231) who introduced Marvel’s First Family to this impressionable eight-year-old. I have those runs, and I have my warm memories, but my emotional attachment to them as individual characters has faded enough over time that I’m open to seeing new and different reinterpretations. Honestly, though, I haven’t encountered a worthwhile use of the FF in years.

Meanwhile in the more recent past, I previously named Chronicle my favorite film of 2012. A previous entry already used up a couple hundred words explaining what impressed me about this found-footage mini-epic that imagined what would happen if one of Disney’s Witch Mountain films were remade as an episode of Black Mirror. Credit remains due to lead actors Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and The Wire‘s Michael B. Jordan; to screenwriter Max Landis making a heck of a feature-film debut; to cinematographer Matthew Jensen, editor Elliot Greenberg, and numerous other cast and crew members for an experience that still rattles me whenever I think back to key scenes.

In the MCC capsule summary I’d expressed my hopes of seeing big things from director Josh Trank in the future. Here we are today, living in that bleak future where the boundaries of Chronicle‘s imagination are visible in maybe two sequences from Fox’s newly rebooted Fantastic Four, which was mostly directed by Trank and finished by a producers’ committee using Trank as their contractually subjugated proxy/scapegoat. In a short-lived tweet last week Trank publicly blamed the studio for all the faults in the finished product. The multiple flaws that riddle this slipshod corporate product from start to finish belie Trank’s sorry attempt at a total cop-out.

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Top 10 Even More Shocking Surprises in the Next “Fantastic Four” Film

Fantastic Four

Left to right: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan

Today the internet exploded once again (it seems to do that a lot) after hearing the news that Fox had completed casting of the primary roles for their Fantastic Four reboot, scheduled to hit theaters June 19, 2015. Unfortunately Fox forgot to ask the fans to approve their choices first and decided to make its own decisions like an independent adult. The internet responded by leaving nasty notes in Fox’s locker and spitting on its cafeteria pizza at lunchtime.

Fans who feel sole ownership of an intellectual property that’s been around for fifty years unanimously agreed everything about the four actors seen above is wrong. Reed Richards absolutely, positively must be middle-aged. Ben Grimm must begin as a muscular guy, because medical science has proven cosmic rays can’t possibly turn a short, thin guy into a giant rock monster. Johnny Storm has to be white, because all siblings in all Creation have identical skin tones. Sure, Jessica Alba wasn’t white in the last two movies either, but This Is Different. Thanks to these complaints, Fantastic Four has already been given a 5% Rotten rating on the Tomatometer sixteen months before release. That’ll show ’em.

This way for more thoughts about the stars of the series formerly known as the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!

“Fruitvale Station”: Last Stop, This Life

Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station

In less than ninety minutes, first-time director Ryan Coogler’s straightforward yet piercing Fruitvale Station introduces you to your new best friend, lets you hang out with him for a while, shows him at his best and worst, and then punches you in the chest while forcing you to watch helplessly as his life is taken right in front of you.

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