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Archive for March 3rd, 2023

‘Creed III’ wins a split decision in a sequel boxed in by its ‘Rocky’ formula

The “Rocky” sequels aren’t exactly known for their nuanced opponents, so give “Creed III” credit for trying to flesh out its antagonist, played by Jonathan Majors. But bulking up the back story slows the pacing, in a movie that finally delivers the goods but whose broader ambitions under director/star Michael B. Jordan get boxed in by its ring-shaped formula.

If only the script and story were in the same kind of fighting shape as its leads. Grounding the narrative in Adonis Creed’s past does provide a weightier foundation, but the tradeoff is an element of sluggishness in a movie that, despite its impressive cast, never feels particularly light on its toes.

A 20-year-old flashback introduces the young Adonis at a pivotal moment with his friend Damian (Majors when he grows up), a promising Golden Gloves boxer. Something happens that sends the latter to jail, and after his release 18 years later he’s eager to make up for lost time, even though he’s past what would normally be considered any fighter’s prime.

Adonis, meanwhile, is happily retired from the ring, helping develop boxers (including the reigning heavyweight champ) and orchestrate fights, while happily raising his young daughter (Mila Davis-Kent) with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Still, he carries guilt over what transpired with Damian, resisting Bianca’s pleas to open up about their history and what’s gnawing at him.

Hoping to make amends, Adonis throws Damian work as a sparring partner for the champ, though his old friend still hungers for the title shot he was denied. When circumstances derail a planned championship bout an opportunity presents itself, with the prospect of giving an unknown his chance drawing comparisons to the late Apollo Creed’s long-ago stunt with that Rocky guy.

Director-star Michael B. Jordan (left) squares off with Jonathan Majors (right) in "Creed III."

Adonis presses ahead, ignoring the objections of his former trainer and now partner, played by Wood Harris. (Sylvester Stallone, for the first time, has opted to sit this one out, although he is credited among the producers.)

“I still got gas in the tank,” Damian insists in response to Adonis’ initial skepticism, and Majors – the highlight of the recent “Ant-Man” sequel – invests the character with a quiet sense of menace and determination that does feel combustible.

While that construction makes a good deal of sense (“Creed” director Ryan Coogler shares story credit with his brother, Keenan Coogler, and Zach Baylin), there’s a flatness to the middle rounds – including the time devoted to Adonis’ domestic bliss – before getting down to business.

The same goes for the boxing sequences, which stumble a bit when Jordan seeks to expand the template by incorporating slow motion and a moment when the world essentially melts away, leaving only the fighters to duke it out in an empty void – an interesting device that ultimately doesn’t quite work.

Those deductions aside, the Jordan-Majors dynamic (as it happens, a faceoff of two topnotch Marvel villains) imbues the movie with heavyweight talent in more ways than one. The challenge is that the durability of the “Rocky” franchise from which “Creed” has cleverly drawn in the earlier films makes it as difficult to mess up its simplest charms as it is to enhance or deviate from them.

“Creed III” offers enough appealing elements, old and new, to finally come out ahead on points. Yet those strengths are balanced by shortcomings that make that judgment something seldom seen in this winner-take-all movie world of boxing – namely, a split decision

Wayne Shorter, jazz saxophonist and composer, has died at age 89

Miles Davis (left) and Wayne Shorter performing in 1967.

Wayne Shorter, a Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer who helped shaped the sound of contemporary jazz, has died, according to his publicist.

He was 89.

Shorter died Thursday in Los Angeles, his publicist Cem Kurosman with Blue Note Records told CNN in an email. No cause of death was shared.

Shorter was nominated for 23 Grammy Awards during his career and won 12 times. His first Grammy nomination was in 1973. His most recent win was in January for best improvised jazz solo performance for “Endangered Species.”

Shorter began playing the clarinet at age 16 but later turned his focus to the tenor sax before entering New York University in 1952.

Upon graduating in 1956, he played with jazz pianist Horace Silver until he was drafted into the Army. He served for two years, per the artist’s biography on Bluenote.com.

Throughout the late ’50s and into the ‘60s, Shorter joined various jazz groups and collaborated with artists such as Maynard Ferguson, Joe Zawinul and Art Blakey. In 1964, he was recruited by legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis to join Davis’s Second Great Quintet band, with which he played until 1970.

With Davis, Shorter was one of the Second Great Quintet band’s most prolific composers and contributed to hits such as “Nefertiti.”

In the ’70s and ‘80s, Shorter played with various jazz bands and musicians. He had a 15-year run in the group Weather Report, a group he co-founded, playing alongside Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous until 1985.

Shorter went on to collaborate with various rock ‘n’ roll legends. He toured with Carlos Santana in 1988, and contributed to the Rolling Stones’ 1997 hit album “Bridges to Babylon” on saxophone. In 1998, Shorter was also featured on jazz pianist Herbie Hancock’s “Gershwin World” album.

Other notable musicians Shorter worked with include Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan.

In 1999, Shorter received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee School of music alongside legendary rock artist David Bowie, who was also a skilled saxophone player.

“Wayne and myself were just so moved to hear our compositions coming back at us through your ears and abilities. It was dynamite,” Bowie said during his commencement address.

Shorter received an honorary doctorate award from NYU in 2010 during the university’s commencement at Yankee Stadium. In 2015, he was honored by the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards, with a lifetime achievement award. Shorter was also an honoree at the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.

Hancock called Shorter his “best friend” in a statement shared to CNN on Thursday from Shorter’s publicist Alisse Kingsley at Muse Media, going on to say that the late musician “left us with courage in his heart, love and compassion for all, and a seeking spirit for the eternal future.”

“I carry his spirit within my heart always,” Hancock said.

Shorter is survived by his wife Carolina, daughters Miyako and Mariana and his newborn grandson Max, according to his publicist’s statement.