By Alex McPherson

Ambitious but held back by genre conventions, Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut “Creed III” features great performances and viscerally engaging boxing sequences, while sidelining its more thoughtful ideas to a fault.

Continuing the story of Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Jordan), the son of Rocky Balboa’s rival-turned-friend Apollo, “Creed III” sees our hero encountering ghosts from his past entering the literal and figurative arena. We begin with a flashback to 15-year-old Adonis (Thaddeus J. Mixson) sneaking out of his mother’s house to watch his best pal Damian Anderson (Spence Moore II) compete in a local Golden Gloves competition.

Damian, a boxing prodigy, dreams of one day becoming the world heavyweight champion. His hopes come to a screeching halt as Adonis starts an altercation with someone outside a liquor store. Damian is arrested in the ensuing scuffle, spending 20 grueling years behind bars, and Adonis gets away.

Seven years after the events of “Creed II,” Adonis announces his retirement from boxing to spend time with his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who’s now a music producer; his deaf daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent); and his adoptive mother, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad).

A few years later, Adonis runs a boxing academy, training his new protégé, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), for a title shot against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), with the help of the gruff, wise Tony “Little Duke” Burton (Wood Harris). Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, such a pivotal presence in the previous “Creed” films, is nowhere to be found.

Everything seems to be working out quite nicely for Adonis. He’s rich, with a happy family, and has secured his place among the boxing legends. What he isn’t ready for, regardless, is a reckoning with his past. Damian (a scene-stealing Jonathan Majors) shows up outside his gym unexpectedly, looking to make up for lost time. Adonis and Damian’s interactions are awkward, mixing flashes of their former camaraderie with creeping unease and resentment. Damian, as it turns out, isn’t so thrilled about Adonis’ success, and wants to finally realize his goals through whatever means necessary.

Adonis — bottling up feelings of guilt, trauma, and diminishing self-worth — must confront this symbol of his past and make peace with it for good. This involves an eventual heart-to-heart (or, rather, fist-to-face) in the place most conducive to resolving conflict: the boxing ring, in front of boatloads of rabid fans.

Indeed, for all of Jordan’s high-minded aspirations, “Creed III” ultimately plays it safe, pitting Adonis against a frustratingly limited antagonist reverting back to a predictable formula, and using its layered themes as window-dressing for seen-it-before spectacle. It’s still entertaining, though — delivering the bruising set-pieces, extravagant training montages, and reliably solid performances we expect, albeit not breaking free of tradition to deliver a KO.

As a directorial debut, “Creed III” is impressive, with Jordan competently helming the action and giving actors plenty of room to flex their chops. The boxing scenes themselves remain the highlight; cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau puts viewers right in the thick of it, giving each punch a tactile sting. Jordan also uses slow-motion to emphasize their raw impact and the considerations behind each jab, while being unafraid to take a more “artistic” approach in visualizing the boxers’ inner thoughts during climactic showdowns. The film gets quite brutal at times, leaving viewers with both feelings of cathartic excitement and, perhaps, a bit of exhaustion. 

Outside the ring, “Creed III” is far less stylish, with muted color grading and conventional framing of dialogue-heavy scenes, interspersing flashbacks to that fateful day in Adonis and Damian’s history. Joe Shirley’s score is chock-full of memorable tunes and recurring motifs, which help propel the proceedings along and lend even the less successful moments a distinct identity.

Jordan continues to shine as Adonis — depicting his range as a loving father, devoted husband, yet someone whose ego and sense of “masculinity” affects his willingness to be vulnerable. Despite his lavish home and outward appearance of strength and happiness, Adonis is battling self-doubt regarding his accomplishments, exacerbated by Damian’s re-emergence and subsequent manipulation.

Having already watched Adonis ascend through the boxing ranks and manage his father’s legacy (a central theme of the previous films), it’s interesting, in theory, to watch him grapple with his fame, and recognize just how easily it could have gone the other way — although this introspection leads (unsurprisingly) back to the blunt boxing ring, the ultimate mediator. Majors proves a worthy foil in Damian, bringing a jumpy, volatile energy ensuring him and Jordan are always engaging to watch interact onscreen, ignoring the script’s clunkiness.

Thompson gives characteristic gravitas to Bianca, who plays an ancillary role to Adonis’ arc but faces her own challenges; having progressive hearing loss, she’s had to stop her singing career. Davis-Kent (who’s deaf in real life) holds her own alongside Jordan, Thompson, and Majors — making the most out of a role that’s ultimately setting the stage for a “Creed” spinoff down the road.

The bulk of the film’s issues stem from the framing of Damian as an over-the-top adversary. Damian’s a damaged man, looking for retribution against his childhood friend: they grew up together, but he took a vastly different life path, largely due to chance. With this backstory, Damian should be easy to sympathize with, but “Creed III” too often sways to extremes — depicting Damian as a taunting and merciless individual who, at times, seems less like a flesh-and-blood human being than a “big bad” for our (flawed) lead to vanquish.

By the end, “Creed III” largely eschews the moral ambiguity that was initially so interesting to deliver the usual thrills and avoid deeper insight into both Damian and Adonis’ psyches; in the end, it lacks the emotion that might take it to another level. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but considering the talent involved and a premise begging for more depth, the cast deserves better — especially Majors, whose versatility as a performer isn’t fully capitalized on.

For most viewers, however, “Creed III” will suffice, if not exceed expectations. The fundamentals are all there, but this story could have used another bout of training.

“Creed III” is a 2023 sports action-drama directed by Michael B. Jordan and starring Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Mila Kent-Davis and Wood Harris. It is Rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language and runtime 1 hour, 54 minutes. It opened in theaters March 3. Alex’s Grade: B-.

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed

By Lynn Venhaus

The formula is familiar and the plotline predictable in “Creed III,” but there is an authentic undercurrent between the heavyweight stars Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors playing childhood friends turned professional rivals.

Adonis (Jordan) has been thriving in both his career and family life, but when a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces after a long prison sentence, Damian Anderson (Majors), the face-off is more than just a fight.

The third chapter sadly doesn’t feature Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, but returning castmates include Tessa Thompson as Adonis’ pop-star wife, Wood Harris as trainer “Little Duke,” Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago, and Phylicia Rashad as Mary-Anne Creed.

The mainstay of the Rocky-Creed films is the family legacy thread, and screenwriters Keenan Coogler (original director-writer Ryan’s brother) and Zach Baylin (“King Richard”) lean heavily into it. The face-off between former friends seems more contrived than typical. The melodrama is hyped up as Adonis’ future is on the line and “Dame” has nothing to lose.

However, Jordan, as first-time director, keeps the action fast paced and the obligatory training montage as well as fight scenes intense. Both lead actors are in commendable shape, and the boxing benefits from their commitment.

The subplot about hearing loss is an admirable point – and Jordan’s and Thompson’s sign language is flawless. That part about a family seemingly on top of the world dealing with struggles gives the film a heart-tugging element.

The original “Creed” in 2015 was rousing crowd-pleasing entertainment, lovingly crafted by director and co-screenwriter Ryan Coogler. The underdog boxing story had plenty of Easter eggs to the “Rocky” series.

If you don’t remember it, or the follow-up in 2018, you can still enjoy this film, but it does help to get up to speed about the back story. Last time, Adonis Creed, the son of the legendary heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, faced the son of his father’s boxing foe and killer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren in “Rocky IV”) in the sequel, with Donnie taking on Viktor in a story about not escaping your past and family is everything. Real Romanian boxer Florian Munteanu returns as Viktor in a small role in “III.”

That theme continues here, as a retired Adonis is grooming Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) to be the next champ. He’s pulled back into the ring through a series of unfortunate events. He’s living large, but potshots in his direction are taking an emotional and mental toll. Dame is eager to take his shot and has something to prove.

Looming large is the absence of Stallone, the heart and soul of the franchise since the Oscar-winning crowd-pleaser “Rocky” in 1976. He’s played Rocky eight times, and it’s unfortunate they had no place for him in round three, because his presence is needed. He is the anchor, and not only earned an Oscar nomination for the first “Creed,” but elevated the second one.

Nevertheless, the supporting cast is convincing in their roles. Thompson excels as Adonis’ wife Bianca, and Mila Davis-Kent is endearing as their smart, headstrong daughter Amara.

This doesn’t have the same impact as Coogler’s original, nor does it have the sentimentality. He didn’t direct the second one, as he was too busy with “Black Panther,” and here, he just supplies the story and produces.

Jordan not only is up for the physical challenge of playing Adonis, but also the emotional complexity, and with Majors at the top of his game, the conflict has some bite to it.

Majors, who was noteworthy in early work – “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “Da 5 Bloods,” and “The Harder They Fall,” with his acclaimed performance in last year’s “Devotion” and now as Kang the Conqueror in the Marvel Cinematic Universe making him one to watch, is impressive as Dame. He takes a one-note role and commands the screen.

The music score is a worthy addition from Joseph Shirley, and the soundtrack pulses with urgency.

The tech work is superb, with sharp cinematography by Kramer Morganthau, who worked on the second one, and slick editing by Jessica Bacesse and Tyler Nelson. Production designer Jahmin Assa has created quite a crib for the Creeds and contrasts the past with the present effectively.

Is there enough juice for another one? Will the audience keep coming back? Time will tell.

While it isn’t a knockout, “Creed III” packs enough of a punch for those seeking another chapter in this 47-year-old story and an abundance of contemporary action.

“Creed III” is a 2023 sports action-drama directed by Michael B. Jordan. It stars Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Mila Davis-Kent, and Phylicia Rashad. It is rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language. Run time is 1 hour, 56 minutes. It opens in theaters on March 3. Lynn’s Grade: B-

By Lynn Venhaus

Local Spotlight: Ian Coulter-Buford, formerly of Belleville, Ill., and now on the national tour of “Hadestown” currently at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis through Oct. 23, is the dance captain, understudy for Hermes and a swing in the show.

Here’s a Fabulous Fox video in which he shares a few moves from the Tony-winning Best Musical.

For more information on Ian, who has an MFA in theatre from Illinois Wesleyan University, visit his website:

Announcements: Matinee Added!

Stray Dog Theatre has added a Saturday matinee for its last week of its critically acclaimed “A Little Night Music.”

Four other performances remain of the Sondheim classic, Oct. 19-22, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Tower Grove Abbey.

For tickets or more information, visit:

Phil Rosenthal

TV: Somebody Feed Phil

Host Phil Rosenthal opens the sixth season of the Emmy-nominated food/travel series “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix. The new episodes take Phil to Philadelphia, Nashville and Austin in the U.S., and Croatia and Santiago across the universe.

A special tribute to his late parents, Helen and Max, is featured as well. The pair inspired their fair share of “Everybody Loves Raymond” moments, which Rosenthal created and was the executive producer from 1996 to 2005 (he also wrote 23 episodes).

Book: Phil Again

“Somebody Feel Phil: The Book” is available in bookstores and online today. It includes recipes, production photos and stories from the first four season.

Rosenthal will be at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 with a presentation called – Somebody Feed Phil the Book: Untold Stories, Behind-the-Scenes Photos and Favorite Recipes: A Cookbook

The ultimate collection of must-have recipes, stories, and behind-the-scenes photos from the beloved Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil.

“Wherever I travel, be it a different state, country, or continent, I always call Phil when I need to know where and what to eat. He’s the food guru of the world.” —Ray Romano

From the JBF: Phil Rosenthal, host of the beloved Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil, really loves food and learning about global cultures, and he makes sure to bring that passion to every episode of the show. Whether he’s traveling stateside to foodie-favorite cities such as San Francisco or New Orleans or around the world to locations like Ho Chi Minh City, Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, or Marrakesh, Rosenthal includes a healthy dose of humor to every episode—and now to this book.”

For tickets or more information and the complete schedule, visit:

Trailer: “Creed III” Released Today!

Follow-up to “Creed” in 2015 and “Creed II” in 2018, star and director Michael B. Jordan introduced the trailer to the third installment yesterday to critics (more on that later), and it came out today.

It will be released in theaters and IMAX on March 3, 2023.

Synopsis: After dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been thriving in both his career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian (Jonathan Majors), resurfaces after serving a long sentence in prison, he is eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian – a fighter who has nothing to lose.

The screenplay is by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, with story by them and originator Ryan Coogler.

Besides Jordan and Majors, cast includes Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Mila Davis-Kent, and Phylicia Rashad.

Premium Video on Demand: “The Good House”

Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline reunite for the third time in this adult romantic drama, based on the novel by Ann Leary. Weaver is Hildy Good, a realtor in a small New England town, and she rekindles a romance with Frank Getchell (Kline), But she needs to take care of a buried past, for her drinking is getting out of control again. It’s a portrait of a proud woman who wouldn’t think of asking for help, but whose life won’t change until she does.

Premium Video on Demand is $19.99.

On Nov. 22, the movie will be available video on demand for $5.99, and rental as DVD. It’s available for purchase as a Blu-ray + Digital combo or DVD.

Notes: The pair were in “Dave” (1993) and “The Ice Storm” (1997). Kline, 74, from St. Louis, has won an Oscar for “A Fish Called Wanda” in 1989. For his work on Broadway, he has won three Tony Awards — for two musicals, “The Pirates of Penzance” in 1981 and “On the Twentieth Century” in 1978, and the comedy “Present Laughter” in 2017.

Blackberry Telecaster

Drink: Purple Power

It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Fountain on Locust is hoping to see St. Louis turn purple in support!

Order the Blackberry Telecaster or Le Fleur at the Fountain from today through Sunday, Oct. 18 – 23, and half the profits will go to help local St. Louis non-profit ALIVE provide shelter, healing and hope to domestic violence survivors in need.

For more info, visit

Word: The origin of the cocktail

On this day in 1776:  In a bar decorated with bird tail in Elmsford, New York, a customer requests a glassful of “those cock tails” from bartender Betsy Flanagan.

Playlist: Chuck Berry

It’s Chuck Berry’s birthday – he was born Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis and died on March 18, 2017.

As part of his 60th birthday celebration, parts of the film, “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll” was recorded at the Fox Theatre on Oct. 16, 1986.

For a look back at that experience, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an article today:

Here’s Keith Richards joining Berry for “Nadine”:

By Alex McPherson

“Without Remorse,” roughly based on Tom Clancy’s 1993 novel, is a serviceable yet forgettable action film elevated by a committed performance from Michael B. Jordan.

We follow John Kelly (Jordan), a Navy SEAL chief who finds himself immersed in an international conspiracy with a gargantuan body count. After rescuing a CIA operative in Aleppo, Syria, and unexpectedly encountering Russian military forces, all hell breaks loose. Three months later, Russian FSB operatives brutally murder two SEAL team members who participated in the mission. They also execute Kelly’s wife, Pam (Lauren London), and unborn child. While Kelly is able to kill three of the operatives at his house, one escapes.

Mean-spirited CIA officer Ritter (Jamie Bell) and Defense Secretary Clay (Guy Pearce) want to brush the situation under the rug for fear of starting an international incident, but Kelly takes matters into his own hands. Thanks to the help of his superior officer, Lt. Commander Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), Kelly gets the intel necessary to exact revenge without, well, much remorse or self preservation. After being arrested and branded a felon for his vengeful acts, he’s placed on a black ops team to eliminate those responsible once and for all. Copious bloodshed ensues, and Kelly eventually acquires the last name of “Clark.”

Worth watching if only for Jordan’s acting chops, “Without Remorse” ends up feeling predictable, dated, and shallow by the end credits — squandering an opportunity to give Kelly much depth, or present a storyline that isn’t swamped in clichés. That’s not to say there isn’t some entertainment value to be found here, however, as Jordan’s performance remains consistently engaging, and director Stefano Sollima knows how to stage punchy, visceral set pieces.

Indeed, even though “Without Remorse” fails to delve into Kelly’s psychology beyond the surface level, Jordan’s portrayal lends him a damaged, unhinged quality. Jordan convincingly sells the fact that Kelly has nothing left to lose and is ready to die for retribution over his family’s killing. He’s always a gripping presence onscreen, and we can infer deeper tensions from his body language alone, even if Taylor Sheridan’s script avoids any kind of real complexity in his character or the larger plot he’s embroiled in. 

Similarly, side characters, particularly Turner-Smith, turn in decent performances, but they end up feeling quite plain. There’s little to latch onto emotionally across the board, and “Without Remorse” fails to make any kind of meaningful social commentary. The plot twists are easy to foresee, ending with patriotic sentiments that caused me to roll my eyes.    

If only Sollima’s film had given us more time to grow attached to Pam before she’s unceremoniously riddled with bullets, or provided any unique spin on the “America vs. Russia” trope, then perhaps “Without Remorse” could have stood out from its military-obsessed competition. Alas, for all the film’s thematic failings, it still remains enjoyable, due to the slickly choreographed shoot-em-up sequences peppered throughout.

Jordan, ripped as ever, absolutely shines in these scenes. A brutal interrogation within a burning car, an underwater escape from a downed airplane, and a claustrophobic punch out in a jail cell stand out in particular. It’s too bad the final-act skirmishes feel repetitive and too video gamey to impress. They’re sometimes dimly lit and, reflective of other elements, feel generic.

As a precursor to more Tom Clancy films down the road, “Without Remorse” carries out its mission dutifully, but uncreatively. Jordan, holding the whole ordeal together with his jacked arms, deserves better. 

“Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” is a 2021 action thriller directed by Stefano Sollima and starring Michael B. Jordan, Guy Pearce, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Colman Domingo and Lauren London. Rated R for violence, the movie runs 1 hr. 49 minutes. Streaming on Amazon Prime beginning April 30. Alex’s Rating: B-