The Beekeeper

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/23/24;
Warner/MGM;
Action;
Box Office $ 66.22 million;
$17.99 DVD, $22.99 Blu-ray, $27.99 UHD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexual references and drug use.
Stars Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Josh Hutcherson, Bobby Naderi, Jemma Redgrave, Minnie Driver, Phylicia Rashad, Jeremy Irons.

Director David Ayer’s The Beekeeper borrows the “John Wick” formula to provide yet another excuse for a sullen, enigmatic Jason Statham action hero.

In a film driven by an obvious central metaphor, Statham plays Adam Clay, the lonesome beekeeper of the title, who tends to his honeybees in a barn he rents from the kindly Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad). In a matter of narrative expedience, within seconds of the film establishing both characters, Eloise is ripped off in a phishing scam that targets the elderly through a fake computer virus warning.

Too embarrassed by her feebleness, and despite having a daughter (Emmy Raver-Lampman) who’s an FBI agent, Eloise promptly shoots herself in the head.

When Agent Parker and Clay briefly connect over the outrage of what happened to her mother, she vows to bring the scammers to justice despite her department’s apparent lack of resources to trace the well-funded ring of thieves responsible. Clay has other ideas.

He turns out to be a retired former operative of yet another one of cinema’s favorite inventions — the super-secret underground agency that operates above the law. In this case, they’re a covert group called the Beekeepers, a branch of the U.S. government tasked with the vague mission of making society work by “protecting the hive.” Clay admired the metaphor so much he took up the actual hobby.

Aside from one pretty effective reveal, without which the plot’s logic might not hold up, the film isn’t very subtle with its storytelling, and to its credit doesn’t try to overcomplicate things. Clay pretty quickly traces the hacker scam to a douchey tech billionaire played by Josh Hutcherson, who has in his employ a former CIA director (Jeremy Irons) as head of security, who serves as both the primary source of exposition about the whole Beekeeper mythos and the top salesman to the audience of the idea that a rogue beekeeper can’t be stopped.

Clay has a brief encounter with an active beekeeper, the result of which suggests the organization is too over the top to remain hidden for long. Sure enough Clay’s personal war of vengeance on behalf of Eloise delivers countless avenues of information to Agent Parker, who is somehow allowed to remain on the case despite her personal connection to it.

The film’s charm lies almost entirely in the goofiness of its premise, which very obviously opens the door for sequel potential. As yet another potential Statham action franchise, The Beekeeper is mostly left to speak for itself, as there are no filmmaker testimonials or bonus materials of any kind included with the film on disc.

Creed III

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner/MGM;
Drama;
Box Office $156.25 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sports action, violence, and some strong language.
Stars Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Mila Davis-Kent, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad.

The first two “Creed” films featured the title character dealing with personal issues stemming from earlier “Rocky” movies. For the third installment, the spinoff series jettisons Rocky for Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) to deal with some personal demons from his own past.

The premise involves Creed retiring from boxing and setting up his own gym, where he now manages the current boxing champ, Felix Chavez (played by real boxer José Benavidez Jr.). From out of the blue he is confronted by his old pal Damian (Jonathan Majors), who has been in prison for 18 years for an incident in which he pulled a gun on some thugs who were beating up on the younger Donnie. Dame was locked up just as he was about to embark on a promising boxing career, so he asks Donnie to get him back into the game.

Donnie sets Dame up at his gym as a sparring partner to Felix, but Dame’s latent anger gives him a violent streak that makes the rest of Felix’s entourage uneasy. When an upcoming title bout is derailed by an injury to Felix’s scheduled opponent, Donnie suggests Dame take his place, which Felix reluctantly accepts on the promise of a big payday.

Needless to say, the fight does not go well, and Dame not only seizes upon the opportunity to claim the title but turns out to have a massive grudge against Donnie as well. In typical “Rocky” fashion, the only recourse for both men ends up being a climactic title fight.

Rocky’s current in-universe status isn’t mentioned, Sylvester Stallone’s absence is felt, though he did seem to make a definitive exit in Creed II. While this is the first “Rocky” movie without Rocky in it, it still leans into many of the franchise’s tropes, beginning with a reference to Rocky’s underdog status from the first film being the justification for Dame getting a title shot out of nowhere. The story, as is usually the case with the “Rocky” franchise, mostly uses the boxing plot as a backdrop for familial relationships, particularly Adonis’ relationship with his adorable daughter.

And, much in the same way Stallone directed many of the original “Rocky” movies, Jordan takes the helm behind-the-scenes for this particular sequel.

Though it’s a boxing movie on its surface, the character dynamics are more typically found in a pro wrestling storyline, taking some narrative shortcuts to steer the characters toward settling all their personal animosities in the ring.

Looking past the connective tissue, however, the film is at its best when Creed is with his family, and during some good boxing scenes that seem especially brutal for the franchise.

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The Blu-ray includes a light smattering of bonus materials that glimpses behind the scenes of making this particular sequel without delving too much into the franchise’s legacy behind it — which may echo some of the public disagreements between Stallone, who is contractually listed as a producer, and other producers who control the rights to the franchise.

The 10-minute “Michael B. Jordan: In the Ring/Behind the Camera” focuses on the actor making his directorial debut, while the nine-minute “There’s No Enemy Like the Past: Donnie and Dame” explores the relationship between the two former friends turned rivals.

Rounding out the extras are three superfluous deleted scenes that run a total of four-and-a-half-minutes. Frankly, there seems to be more substantial unused material in the film’s trailers.

In regards to the 4K edition, the extras are found only on the regular Blu-ray Disc in the combo pack.

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.