Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $224.54 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences o violence and action, and language.
Stars Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Ben Kingsley, Benedict Wong.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a sweeping fantasy epic with bold action and breathtaking visual flair.

For some perspective, the film centers on a character whose primary comic book was called Master of Kung Fu and was created to cash in on the martial arts movie craze of the 1970s. As the particulars of his origin and portrayal would be seen as highly problematic today, Shang-Chi’s backstory has been modified to better fit within the MCU, bringing together a few story threads introduced in earlier films to shine a light on a new corner of the franchise.

In the film, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is the son of Xu Wenwu (Leung), leader of a global criminal empire called the Ten Rings, an organization that appeared in 2008’s Iron Man, the very first MCU movie (Shang-Chi is the 25th).

Wenwu has survived for centuries thanks to 10 mysterious bracelets that imbue him with great power and aided him in building his fortune. In his journeys he learns of a mythical land called Ta Lo that supposedly houses magical beasts. In attempting to enter the village, he is bested in combat by its guardian, Ying Li (Fala Chen), and falls in love with her.

Years later, following his mother’s death, Shang-Li has turned his back on his father’s criminal ambitions and is living in San Francisco, where he goes by the name Shaun and tries to live a normal life with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Those efforts are shattered when he and his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), are attacked by his father’s thugs and summoned back to the Ten Rings. Wenwu believes their mother’s soul is trapped in Ta Lo, and he wants their help accessing the village so he can save her.

The film also serves as a sequel of sorts to Iron Man 3 and the short film All Hail the King in continuing the story of Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery character, the actor who posed as the terrorist leader The Mandarin and in doing so inadvertently appropriated Wenwu’s identity. Kingsley is a great source of comic relief and a welcome addition to the festivities.

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The Blu-ray includes a nice audio commentary with director Director Destin Daniel Cretton and writer Dave Callaham, who discuss developing and making the film. There are also two featurettes, the nine-minute “Building a Legacy” about the making of the film, and the seven-and-a-half-minute “Family Ties” about the characters and their role in the MCU.

The disc also includes 15 minutes of interesting deleted scenes, including an explicit tie-in to the original Iron Man movie, plus some additional moments of character depth.

Rounding out the package is a two-minute gag reel.

In the combo pack that includes both the regular and 4K Blu-rays, there are no extras on the 4K disc.

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Creed II

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/5/19;
Warner/MGM;
Drama;
Box Office $115.7 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality.
Stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Russell Hornsby, Florian Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren.

Given the premise used in 2015’s Creed to restart the “Rocky” franchise, this sequel is more or less exactly the movie the series’ fans were waiting for.

The eighth film in the “Rocky” franchise continues the story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the young boxer who is still haunted by the legacy of his father, Apollo. Adonis faces a new challenge in the form of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of former Russian champion Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) famously defeated in 1985’s Rocky IV.

The fact Apollo died as a result of an exhibition match against Ivan Drago gives Adonis added motivation, as he seeks retribution for his family name. But Rocky doesn’t think the match is worth it, pointing out Adonis has bigger priorities in his life now, such as starting a family with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Creed II

While the film serves as a natural sequel to both Rocky IV and Creed, it borrows a lot from Rocky III in terms of story structure. While much of the plotting fits in well with the “what happens next” soap opera flow of the “Rocky” movies in general, the film is bound together by the motif of legacy, in particular the influence parents and children can have on each other that transcends generations.

In fact, two of the featurettes included with the Blu-ray are built upon this idea. The first is “The Rocky Legacy,” a 15-minute history of the “Rocky” films hosted by Lundgren that examines why the franchise has endured. The second is the seven-minute “Fathers and Sons” featurette, which takes a deeper look at how the desire to build a legacy impacts the characters involved.

Interestingly, the film adds depth to the Drago character beyond his role as the cookie-cutter villain from Rocky IV. He blames Rocky for his loss of stature following their match, and through his son he seeks a measure of revenge as well, against the fighter now seen as Rocky’s protégé.

There’s a six-minute featurette devoted to the casting of amateur boxer Munteanu as the younger Drago, and he certainly casts an intimidating shadow when standing next to Jordan’s Creed (not unlike seeing Lundgren’s towering frame over Stallone 33 years prior).

The six-minute “The Women of Creed II” focuses on the other side of the equation, Thompson as Bianca and Phylicia Rashad as Adonis’ mother representing the impact his professional struggles have on his personal life.

Finally, there are four deleted scenes running a total of 10 minutes, and a couple of them will be of particular interest to longtime “Rocky” fans.

One features the funeral of Spider Rico, who was the first boxer Rocky was seen fighting during a sparring session in the first film back in 1976. This scene adds a bit of context to one of the film’s plot developments.

Another scene serves as an epilogue to the main story, as the characters encounter each other in the locker room after the climactic fight.

While the business of Hollywood is such that it would be unwise to rule out another sequel, the conclusion of Creed II leaves the characters and viewers in a place where it would be a satisfying conclusion to the series if the particulars involved chose to leave it at that.

At least, until 2045, when the next entry sees Mickey’s great-great-grandson challenge the grandson of Clubber Lang to an MMA fight. Stay tuned, fight fans.