Sports look: 'Creed II," Patriots, '100 Yards'

By Tom Von Malder | Mar 10, 2019
Photo by: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan star in "Creed II."

Owls Head — Creed II (Warner Bros., Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 130 min.). For too much of "Creed II," it was "seen that before" for me, both as a younger recreation of "Rocky IV" and innumerable fight films in which the first contest does not go well and there is an eventual rematch with victory coming from far behind. What is a bit difference is the heavy emphasis  that the script by  Juel Taylor and star/producer Sylvester Stallone (creator of the Rocky character and the first film in the Rocky series) places on family, specifically fathers and sons, but also wives as well.

The film brings back both Stallone as the aging Rocky Balboa and Michael B. Jordan ("Black Panther") as boxer Adonis "Donnie" Creed from the more exciting "Creed." Rocky is both friend and trainer to Donnie. Separated from his own son for years, Rocky has become a father figure to Donnie, after Donnie's father died fighting Ivan Drago (a returning Dolph Lundgren) -- Rocky carries regret that he did not stop the fight when it was clear how bad a beating Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) was taking. Of course, Rocky then went on to defeat Drago, which sets up the revenge factor in this film, as Drago has brought up his own son, the massive Viktor (Florian Munteanu), to become a heavyweight title contender.

Via a televised news conference, the Dragos bait Donnie, newly crowned heavyweight champion, into a fight with Viktor. Rocky, feeling Donnie's style of boxing does not match up well against Viktor's, refuses to be involved in the fight, which goes the way one would expect -- with one slight wrinkle. Rocky comes back onboard for the rematch, to take place in Russia, and there naturally are montages of Rocky teaching Donnie a different, closer boxing style. The rematch is as brutal as one would expect, but is lifted considerably when Bill Conti's "Rocky" theme gets played. Music can do wonders for the emotion in films like this.

Also back are Tessa Thompson as Donnie's girlfriend Bianca, who has now signed to a record label and wants them to move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles for her career, and Phylicia Rashad as Donnie's mother, Mary Anne. Neither of whom are happy about the first fight with Viktor, although both are in the crowd at the Russian stadium later. The film is directed by Steven Caple Jr. ("A Different Tree," "The Land"). The film's rating is knocked down a half-star for its use of the annoying Max Kellerman of ESPN as a ring announcer.

Bonus features include a look at the film's father-and-son dynamics (7:16); the casting of Munteanu as Viktor (5:43); and the female characters, with a Sugar Ray Robinson interview (5:51). There also is a recap of all the Rocky films (15 min.) and four deleted scenes (9:46), which include Rocky delivering a eulogy for a deceased boxer, Donnie and Bianca discussing fame in a Philly restaurant, and a nice beat when Donnie talks to Viktor in the locker room after their second fight. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.25 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Super Bowl VIII Champions: New England Patriots (Cinedigm, Blu-ray + DVD, NR, 74 min.). This is an excellent look at the Patriots' 2018 football season, a season that resulted in the team's sixth Super Bowl victory in 18 years, an unprecedented string of success. I must confess that I am a huge Patriots fan, so I love the Blur-ray's back cover tagline of: "That's right, they did it again."

The NFL Films documentary opens with the loss to Philadelphia in the previous year's Super Bowl -- the Patriots have been to three straight Super Bowls and four of the last five now, winning three times. Next are action highlights -- often with the players "miked up" --  from each game of the regular season, including plays that helped set team or league records. The shaky 1-2 start included owner Robert Kraft's 300th victory, then quarterback Tom Brady threw his 500th regular-season touchdown against Indianapolis. Brady reached 1,000 yards rushing -- rushing is something he is not noted for -- against Minnesota and, against Miami, he threw his league record 580th touchdown, including regular season and playoffs. While the team had a losing road record for the first time since 2009, they won a record 10th straight division title and earned a record ninth straight post-season bye. They also appeared in their eighth straight conference title game. They also were the only team in the league with an unbeaten home record in 2018. They then won the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. The regular season gets 35 minutes, then more time is devoted to the three playoff games, including about 20 minutes to the Super Bowl game.

Blu-ray exclusive extras are devoted to the team and are high quality, even though each is short. There is a look at Coach Bill Belichick (4:25); an interview with Bill O'Brien on Belichick's football knowledge (2:2). Brady's legacy, with interviews with Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning (2:55); tight end Rob Gronkowski's relationship with a 7-year-old, cancer-stricken fan from Texas (3:04); an interview with receiver and Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, who used to date Jerry Rice's daughter (ironically, Edelman is now only second to Rice in Super Bowl catches) (3 min.); receiver Chris Hogan talking about going from lacrosse to football (46 secs.); and an interview with safety Patrick Chung, who sings a bit of his mother's song (48 secs.).

Extras on both Blu-ray and DVD cover the whole league and are the ones  presented annually. They include the Super Bowl Opening Night with player interviews and fan attendance (11:12); the post-game ceremonies (8:05); the NFL Films' shots of the year (4:04); and NFL Films sounds of the year (7:16; the funny plays), game day sounds (6:11), sounds of speed (4:31) and quarterback sounds (7:17). The extras total 66 minutes. Grade: film 4 stars; extras 2.5 stars

100 Yards (RLJE DVD, NR, 113 min.). This faith-based film, which is Dove Foundation approved, is the story of a famous college quarterback who, despite being drafted in the first round by Miami, foregoes the NFL to search for his mother, who was helping children and the poor in the Philippines when she disappeared during a typhoon. Instead, Rich Porter (Steven Brewis) is playing for the local football team in Cebu, Philippines, while he and his coach (R.C. Ormand as Josh Berry) follow leads, hoping to find Rich's mother.

Rich has had tragedy in his past, which we learn about halfway through the film, but apparently was the subject of a news story, written by Ray McQuinn (Sean Patrick Flanery of "Young Indiana Jones" series and "The Boondock Saints" films). Now, Ray has shown up in Cebu, hoping to write a "makeup" article, but instead is fed lies by Rich's temporary girlfriend Tess (Melissa Paulo). They had been dating a month, but Rich breaks up with her when he finds out she has been feeding Ray dirt on him.

If that was not enough -- and Rich drinks heavily due to his past -- Tess lies about Rich attacking her, which leads to his being struck by a teammate. When Rich collapses, tests reveal he has Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. Staying at St. Thomas Hospital during treatments, he has to share a room with another GBM patient, young Darrell (Jerald Uy), a fan with whom he had posed with for a photo weeks earlier (at which time, Darrell says he will see Rich again, apparently part of the film's mystical/religious theme).

To help pass the time, Darrell has invited a game, The 100 Yard of Life," in which movement is determined by written tasks, such as trying a new food, making a new friend or smiling all day. Rich plays the game with Darrell, to whom he becomes very attached. Rich also comes to respect and befriend his nurse (Rebecca Lim as Brittany Kim). One of the film's most emotional scenes is when Rich opens up to Brittany about the tragedy in his past.

The film, directed by Ross Campbell (also the writer) and Dale Fabrigar is a bit heavy of the melodrama, and especially Rich's bad boy behavior through the first half of the film, but it is ultimately endearing through the character of Darrell and his growing friendship with Rich. Several times, characters talk about faith and religion, at times seemingly out of the blue. There are no bonus features. Grade: 3 stars

Burning (South Korea, Well Go USA, Blu-ray + DVD, NR, 148 min.). This film often left me cold, despite the presence of Steve Yeun (ex-"The Walking Dead") as the mysterious Ben. Most of the story is told from the viewpoint of Lee Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo of "Six Flying Dragons," "The Throne"), a young man who is kind of adrift. He is an aspiring novelist who has yet to decide what he will write about.

His father has gotten in trouble for attacking a public official, so Jong-su is forced to return to the home where he grew up to maintain it in his father's absence. It appears to be located  in an isolated village near the North Korean border (loudspeaker broadcast of North Korean propoganda can be occasionally heard) and the property has exactly one cow. Just before moving home, Jong-su meets Shin Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun in her film debut, a street hawker, who tries to get customers into a shop. She holds a drawing for a watch, which Jong-su wins. (I was soon guessing that she may have deliberately stacked the contest so he would win.) Before they go out on a date, she reveals that she grew up in the same town as Jong-su, but she has had plastic surgery so he may not recognize her. (She also claims Jong-su rescued her after she fell into a dry well at her mother's home, something Jong-su does not remember and will test the truth of throughout the film.)

Hae-mi is about to take a trip to Africa, so she asks Jong-su to take care of her cat. This cat is never seen, although the food dish gets emptied, implying it is not a lie. Visiting her apartment to see details of minding the cat leads the pair to having sex -- possibly Jong-su's first time --  during which he weirdly stares out her window. When Hae-mi returns, and Jong-su has hopes of continuing their relationship, she turns up at the airport with Ben (Yeun), whom she met at the Nairobi airport. Soon the three enter in a weird kind of competitive relationship. Ben is almost as much an enigma as Hae-mi; he says he plays, when asked what he does for work, and he apparently has lots of money, as he drives a Porsche and lives in a luxury apartment.

One meaning of the film's title comes from Ben's late-night confession, while smoking pot, that he has a hobby of burning down abandoned greenhouses, of which, apparently, South Korea is full. Jong-su becomes obsessed with the idea of burning greenhouses, especially when Ben says his next target is very close to where Jong-su lives, but the film never delivers any proof that Ben actually has committed arson. This "confession" comes 74 minutes into what is a long film of 148 minutes. With most of the "action" psychological, that length may be a detriment to some viewers. Another "burning" in the film is Jong-su's growing envy of Ben's wealth and upper class status, while at the same time that he becomes fixated on his rival.

Based on the short story, "Barn Burning" by Haruki Murakami, the film is directed by Chang-dong Lee, writer of "Oasis" and "Green Fish." He also wrote the screenplay here. The film was South Korea's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2019 Academy Awards, although it did not make the final cut. The only extra looks at the characters (2:29). Grade: film 3 stars

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