Editor's note: The video above is from May 27.
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
The next time you hand your keys over to a hotel valet, he might just be the next reluctant superhero! That's how we meet Shang-Chi is the latest Marvel movie, but you can call him "Sean." He's escaped to a simple life in San Francisco, and out from under the grips of his warlord father and his powerful Ten Rings. (D.C's Wonder Woman isn't the only one with fancy jewelry!) A simple bus ride reveals Daddy's not done. When a hulking guy with a machete arm comes after Sean, buckle up for one of the best fight sequences on wheels. Grabbing the wheel, (nod to Sandra Bullock) is Sean's gal pal Katy, played by the always fab Awkwafina. Turns out Dad sent the henchman. He wants to reunite the family (that includes Shang-Chi's sister) and take down the mystical village he believes is harboring his wife, not accepting that she was killed long ago. Shang-Chi knows such an act will set evil forces loose and sets out to prevent it. Whew! Got that? I'm confusing myself!
It's refreshing to meet a new member of the Marvel Universe. (Had YOU ever heard of him?) Simu Liu, who plays him, was an accountant before getting into stunt work. If ever there was an everyman-turned-hero, it's him. "Shang-Chi" is no "Black Panther," but it's well directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, visually stunning, and the fight scenes are top notch. As all origin stories, it gets weighted down in mythology, and I haven't even told you about the "Iron Man 3" character who resurfaces, along with his winged, faceless pet. Turns out that village is home to plenty more of those along with some other nifty creatures and amazing dragons. Nods to casting Tony Leung as Dad and Michelle Yeoh as Shang-Chi's aunt. I did find myself wanting to get back to good ol' contemporary superhero life, which we do in the middle of the credits. So, stay. Yes, there's an additional morsel at the end, too. And who can resist a Marvel movie that uses an Eagles song as a foil. (You'll see what I mean.) Check into "Hotel California," and check out Marvel's latest.
(Disney/Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13. Running Time 2 hrs. 12 mins. In theaters only)
I didn't remember asking for a new "Cinderella" (we just had a live-action film starring Lily James a few years ago), but here we are with another one. James Corden (also a mouse/footman) came up with the story switcheroo.
Cinderella's more focused on the glass ceiling than the glass slipper. She wants to make her own way in the world as a seamstress. If a prince comes as part of the package, all the better. But he's not the be-all, end-all. That said, he's not too wild about inheriting the throne, but his sister is smart and ambitious. You can see where this one's going. Singer Camila Cabello plays the title role, a first for her, and she has a great ease before the cameras. The screenplay by writer/director Kay Cannon (of the "Pitch Perfect" movies) is also funny. It's hard to accept the great Idina Menzel playing second fiddle as the Stepmother, and Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver as the king and queen are kind of a waste. The real casting coup here, besides Cabello, is Billy Porter as "Fabulous Godmother" - and is he ever! The other fun idea is the use of classic pop songs throughout, and they're well-chosen. It all plays out a little uneven, but it's a fun watch, as long as you get it in before midnight.
(Amazon Studios. Rated PG. Running Time 1 hr. 53 mins. Streaming on Amazon Prime)
And may I take a minute plug this really fine coming of age movie? "CODA" stands for Children of Deaf Adults. Newcomer Emilia Jones stars as Ruby, the only hearing person in a deaf family. Marlee Matlin plays her mom and also executive produced the film. When Ruby wants to pursue her music education rather than work in the family fishing business, there's plenty of family friction. Of course, she falls for the cute guy in music class, but there's nothing trite about this story. Seek it out.
(Apple TV+. Rated PG-13. Running Time 1 hr. 51 mins. Streaming on Apple TV+)