CREED II” A DURABLE FRANCHISE; “KOMINSKY METHOD” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
CREED II (Rated PG-13) Outside of the “James Bond” and “Star Wars” films, few movie franchises seem as durable as what Sylvester Stallone created over forty years ago with the underdog boxing legend of Rocky Balboa in “Rocky.” We may have seemingly run out of Roman numerals for the “Rocky” films, but the shift is now to boxer Adonis Creed, trained by the Philadelphia legend, and as a result, “Creed II” ably carries on the “Rocky” universe to please the fan base.
The story gets off to a rousing start when Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) slugs it out in a brutal match to become the heavyweight champion of the world. With victory comes the inevitable burden of having to defend the title. Yet, there is life outside the ring and most of it revolves around Adonis and his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a talented singer, worrying about the child they are expecting could inherit her mother’s deteriorating hearing disability.
Meanwhile, Rocky still copes with the loss of his beloved wife, running her restaurant while still yearning to remain a worthy mentor to Adonis, who fails to take the legend’s advice on which opponents to fight in future bouts. The specter of Rocky’s bout with Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) from years ago looms large here. Recall that Drago killed Apollo Creed in the ring before losing a match to Rocky, so bad blood still lingers.
Now that Apollo’s son, Adonis, is being challenged by Drago’s son, Viktor (Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu), for a big showdown in Russia, it is merely the elder Drago’s desire for revenge by way of his hulking, menacing progeny. For Rocky, however, the loss of Apollo in the match with Drago is not something he can easily forget, and as a result, he really wants no part of a fight with the Russian’s offspring because remorse cuts so deep.
For his part, Adonis considers Rocky the putative father figure he longs to have, and so there is plenty of drama of whether they will reconcile their differences about the boxer’s future. In the end, of course, the fateful match is set for a big arena in Moscow, but not before Adonis undergoes arduous training in the Arizona desert with exercises that seem incredibly unorthodox. As expected, “Creed II” resolves the storyline with an expertly choreographed fight between Adonis and Viktor that is truly spectacular. The payoff is visceral and stunning, and likely to be everything a fan of the “Rocky” franchise could want.
“THE KOMINSKY METHOD” ON NETFLIX
The work of Chuck Lorre in sitcom television is filled with huge hits. “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” stand among his popular shows. For Netflix, Lorre has created “The Kominsky Method,” which though providing humor, is not a traditional sitcom by any means. This new series streaming on Netflix is not easily pigeonholed for any genre. It’s all about the human condition, mostly about two aging characters in the throes of pending mortality, familial grief and unfortunate medical conditions.
Michael Douglas stars as Sandy Kominsky, an acting coach running his own workshop, and Alan Arkin is Norman Newlander, his longtime agent and best friend. Both of them have reached that stage in life where griping about matters trivial and significant is a daily routine. Thrice married Sandy mentors many young students eager to get into show business. The interactions with his charges can often be surprising and humorous. If he were about four decades younger, he’d probably be dating some of them.
The best part of the series is when Sandy and Norman banter with each other, and fortunately that happens often enough to keep it interesting. When Sandy mentions that one of his students is “age appropriate,” Norman cracks that a woman half of Sandy’s age is “still an old woman.” And yet, one of the students in Sandy’s class is the middle-aged Lisa (Nancy Travis), who starts dating the acting coach with some mixed results in the beginning. She’s recently divorced with a teenage son that one would charitably describe as difficult.
Sadness intrudes early on when Norman’s beloved wife is bedridden with a terminal illness, and the fact she passes away gives way to some powerfully emotional scenes before, during and after the memorial service. During the eulogy, Sandy says he was the one who set up Norman with his wife because he “had no patience for women with integrity and self-respect.” Mind you, the service included a Barbara Streisand female impersonator to perform her favorite song. Sandy challenges his students about being hung up on political correctness, managing to drag his travails with a prostate exam from his flippant urologist (Danny DeVito) into the conversation. Indeed, quite a bit of time is spent on Sandy’s troubles with urination. “The Kominsky Method” it touching and amusing, and Douglas and Arkin are certainly worth watching as they joke as well as commiserate about the inevitable struggles of the aging process.