Tag Archives: Florian Munteanu

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) Review

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Simu Liu as Xu Shang-Chi/Shaun
Awkwafina as Katy
Meng’er Zhang as Xu Xialing
Fala Chen as Ying Li
Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist
Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan
Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery
Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Martial-arts master Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

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I was interested in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. For the first time in a while, it would be a new movie in the MCU following a character I’m not familiar with, and I liked the trailers and the look of the movie. I was expecting to enjoy it, as I enjoy most MCU movies. However I actually ended up liking it even more than I expected to.

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One of the refreshing aspects about this movie is how self-contained it is as an origin story, it doesn’t feel like a stepping stone to set up more movies. It doesn’t even tie into the multiverse event that some of the recent MCU projects have been moving towards. It’s very much its own thing, and which already has me on board. Another refreshing part is that is feels like a very different entry into the MCU, even to the point where it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie at times. Once it started with the incredible opening sequence, I knew that I would really like it. In a way the plot is formulaic (not just to other movies in the series, but other action, fantasy, and martial arts films), however it was way more nuanced than I thought it would be. At its core the movie is focussing on a complex family dynamic, and with that there as a lot of thought put into the character work and history of this family. As the emotional core, it exceeds. In terms of the writing for the characters, it’s definitely some of the best in the MCU. In a way this movie is flashback heavy, that doesn’t sound good on paper, but each flashback feels purposeful and is done to flesh out this family story. The humour was generally alright, a lot of it really didn’t land but this is honestly the first MCU movie in a while where it didn’t feel like the humour took away from serious moments or stop the flow of the movie. The third act does feel a bit overstuffed with too many things, and it does have a formulaic CGI filled climax, which was a bit of a shame considering it pivots away from what is essentially a fantasy martial arts movie. However, it does have some incredible moments and it works well enough, it just felt like it came out of left field. There is a mid credits scene and a post credit scene, both setting up follow ups to this movie and the MCU, and they are worth sticking around for.

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The performances from the cast were generally great. Simu Liu played the lead role of Shang-Chi quite well from his grounded family life to the actual fighting. Initially Liu was just alright in the part, but by the end I thought that he was a great fit for the character. Awkwafina is also here in one of the main roles as Shang-Chi’s friend, who goes along with him on his adventure. She does act in the way that you’d expect her to if you’ve seen her other performances (especially with the humour). It doesn’t always work, but it wasn’t as distracting as it could’ve been, and the chemistry between her and Liu was believable. Meng’er Zhang was also really good as Shang-Chi’s sister, and Michelle Yeoh was a really good addition. However, by far the highlight performer is that of Tony Leung as Wenwu (the real Mandarin in the comics), the main villain of the movie and the father of Shang-Chi. He had such a strong onscreen presence, and you end up sympathising with the character, both through the performance and the motivation. Definitely one of the best Marvel villains, and honestly its worth checking out the movie for him alone.

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Destin Daniel Cretton is the director of Shang-Chi, I know him from his work on Just Mercy, and his first action movie was quite good. The cinematography here by Bill Pope made this one of the most visually stunning MCU movies. Aside from some washed out visuals at times, mainly in the third act, it looks very good, especially with the sets and environments. The action is also a highlight, with some top notch, fantastically choreographed and energised fight sequences that rank among the best in the MCU. A lot of the action set pieces are well thought out and put together. The CGI could be a bit of a mess at times in the third act, but I still enjoyed those scenes. The music was solid too, particularly the score from Joel P. West.

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Maybe it’s just because I’ve been finding most of the recent movies in the MCU to range from okay to just good, but there was something about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings I loved. I enjoyed the visuals and the very entertaining action scenes, the acting was really good, with Tony Leung being the standout. However, I even really liked the story and characters, and the way everything progressed. I will definitely need to see it again to see if it still holds up beyond the first viewing. However, from the initial viewing I really liked it, and it ranks amongst the best of the series. Honestly, while it does tie into the MCU for sure, it is standalone enough that you can go into it having not seen the prior movies. It is worth checking out for sure.

Creed 2 (2018) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Tessa Thompson as Bianca Taylor
Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago
Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago
Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed
Director: Steven Caple Jr.

In 1985, Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lungren) killed former U.S. champion Apollo Creed in a tragic match that stunned the world. Against the wishes of trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Apollo’s son Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) accepts a challenge from Drago’s son (Florian Munteanu) — another dangerous fighter. Under guidance from Rocky, Adonis trains for the showdown of his life — a date with destiny that soon becomes his obsession. Now, Johnson and Balboa must confront their shared legacy as the past comes back to haunt each man.

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While I’m not a huge fan of the Rocky series (I’ve only seen the original film), Creed was one of my favourite films of 2015. The idea of a sequel to Creed, a movie that seemed to be a good sendoff for the Rocky series, but also being done without writer/director Ryan Coogler, seemed like a recipe for disaster. Also it’s bringing back a classic Rocky antagonist, Ivan Drago, and it just seemed really forced and cliched and looked like it wouldn’t really work. Creed 2 however turned out to be a real surprise.

Creed 2’s story admittedly isn’t the most unpredictable. Not that everything in the trailer is all that’s in the movie, but when watching the movie, you can get the idea of the direction the story will take and what things will happen. Not that this is a big negative against the movie, it’s just not as surprising as maybe the first Creed. Also, the Rocky series is very formulaic, so it’s a given that it would follow similar story beats. Without spoiling anything, structurally this movie is a bit different from what you’d expect based off the plot summary. On paper the idea of the plot sounds incredibly silly, but like the first Creed movie, they actually take the story very seriously and it works. This is probably the darkest of the Rocky series. The third act is so incredibly satisfying, with an ending which would be perfect for the entire Rocky/Creed series. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes and you can feel the runtime and some of the pacing was a little slower, but I was still invested in what was going on.

Michael B. Jordan is once again great as Adonis Creed, this is even more his movie than the previous Creed with the whole movie pretty much surrounding him rather than him and Rocky. He’s really convincing both in the dramatic side as well as on the physical side. Sylvester Stallone is also good as Rocky. Whereas in Creed where Rocky was a really present supporting character with a big storyline, here he’s even more of a supporting player but he’s still quite involved with the movie. Rocky Balboa is still Stallone’s best role and he gives yet another great performance as him. One of the highlights of Creed was Tessa Thompson as Bianca Taylor, Adonis’s girlfriend. Thompson made Bianca more than just the protagonist’s love interest and that continues into Creed 2, with their relationship playing a big part in the story. The chemistry between Jordan and Thompson is also once again great and feels really believable and genuine. The biggest surprise is of Dolph Lungren as Ivan Drago (again I should mention that I never saw Rocky 4), who gives a great performance. The film took a really cheesy character from Rocky 4 that was pretty much an 80s Russian villain and made him into a real fleshed out human being. The movie surprisingly gives some time focussing on Drago and his son Viktor (played by Florian Munteanu) and that really benefited the movie. Florian is a real boxer and that could’ve been either been good or bad, as being a good boxer isn’t guaranteeing that they are good at acting. Even though he doesn’t have many lines, he really works in the role and is imposing as this beast of a boxer, but he’s also someone you can sympathise with given what’s happening with him and how he’s been brought up. There are also some parallels between Rocky and Adonis, as well as Ivan and Viktor. I actually would’ve liked to have seen more scenes between Ivan and Viktor.

One of the biggest concerns of Creed 2 I had was the lack of Ryan Coogler being involved. His direction of Creed was fantastic and added a lot to it, and so I wasn’t sure how a different director would handle the sequel. While Steven Caple Jr.’s direction isn’t quite at Coogler’s level, it’s still rather solid and all around really worked. There isn’t as much fighting as you’d think there’d be, but the fight scenes that we get are really great. It doesn’t quite reach the levels of the first main fight in Creed with the tracking shot, but they’re all great. It all feels real tense, you feel every blow that’s dealt to Adonis. The last fight in particular was really great, and was captivating, cathartic and really satisfying.

Creed 2 is surprisingly great. It doesn’t quite reach the levels of greatness of the first Creed but it’s a very solid movie, very satisfying and well made, and also a perfect ending to the Rocky/Creed series. I heard that there may be like a Drago movie and while I’d be on board with that, I hope that the Rocky/Creed series ends here, because I can’t think of a better ending to the series than this. If you like Creed or the other Rocky movies, I’m pretty sure you’re going to like Creed 2 as well.