Film review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Worth and Here Today

"delivers plenty of bang for your buck"
Film review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Worth and Here Today

(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ****

Heralded as the first Marvel superhero movie to feature a predominantly Asian cast, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (12A) stars Simu Liu as Shaun, whom we first meet as a mild-mannered parking attendant working in San Francisco alongside his friend Katy (Awkwafina), who is shocked and awed when Shaun is attacked on a bus and employs martial arts skills to see off five assailants. Shaun, it transpires, was once trained as an assassin by his father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), who is now assembling certain artefacts – jade necklaces, the ten rings of the title – in order to free his dead wife Li (Fala Chen) from an eternity in the clutches of the soul-sucking Dark Dweller. 

Having picked up Shaun’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) in Macao, Shaun – now Shang-Chi – and Katy travel into the mystical realm of Chinese mythology (complete with dragons, guardian lions and all manner of mythical creatures), to prevent Xu from unleashing the Dark Dweller on an unsuspecting world ... A martial arts flick on an epic scale, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is most notable as the Marvel movie that attempts to bridge the gap between the modern superhero and the gods and heroes who populated the ancient myths. 

Shaun might be possessed of ‘a martial arts style from the gods’, but otherwise he can call upon no other magical powers during his quest: indeed, most of his efforts are devoted to defeating magic and the supernatural, this despite his mortal limitations. Simu Liu offers an impressive blend of impressively choreographed power and dust-dry humour in the lead role, whilst Awkwafina shines as the raucous sidekick who frequently punctures the mood with her irreverent one-liners (watch out too for a hilarious cameo from Ben Kingsley as a Liverpudlian sage). Slickly directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle), Shang-Chi... delivers plenty of bang for your buck. (cinema release)

Worth ****

Stanley Tucci as Charles Wolf in Worth
Stanley Tucci as Charles Wolf in Worth

Worth (12A) opens in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, with the American government terrified that the families of those killed in the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers et al will sue the airlines for untold billions and thus ‘crater’ the American economy. Enter Ken Feinberg (Michael Keaton), a renowned attorney and mediator, who volunteers to oversee the Victim Compensation Fund. ‘What is a life worth?’ Feinberg asks, but this is not a philosophical query: each life must be assigned a dollar amount. 

As Feinberg sets about the impossible task of devising a formula that will please everyone, he quickly finds himself fighting a host of battles: with Lee Quinn (Tate Donovan), a lawyer representing the interests of the super-rich; with Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer whose wife died in the 9/11 attack, and who campaigns to ‘Fix the Fund’ on behalf of those who might otherwise be penalised for being poor; and with his own waking conscience, as he begins to look beyond the spreadsheets and actuarial assessments and starts listening to those who lost their loved ones. Written by Max Borenstein and directed by Sara Colangelo, Worth is a powerful drama that offers no easy solutions to its many conundrums. 

The main plot centres on the either-or clash between Feinberg and Wolf, and their pragmatism and idealistic compassion, respectively, but where the story really scores is in its exploration of the real-life tragedies, as Feinberg’s partner Camille (Amy Ryan) leads their legal team into the emotional labyrinth of engaging with the victims’ families. Wholly absorbing, psychologically acute and boasting superb performances from Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci, Worth is a most unusual legal drama, and not least because all sides are fighting ‘a case in which there is no winning.’ (Netflix)

Here Today ***

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in Here Today
Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in Here Today

Here Today (12A) stars Billy Crystal as Charlie Burnz, an aging comedy writer for a TV sketch show recently diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. A chance encounter with the vivacious Emma (Tiffany Haddish) reinvigorates Charlie’s life, much to the displeasure of his daughter Francine (Laura Benanti), whose relationship with her father has been strained ever since the death of her mother, Carrie (Louisa Krause). 

What follows, with Crystal writing and directing, is a frequently touching account of an unorthodox relationship Charlie and Emma have no interest in labelling: each is intrigued by the other, but not in a sexual way. The storytelling is occasionally clumsy when Crystal tries to force the plot, but the characters are charming when they are allowed to behave naturally, and Charlie’s gradual decline is heartbreakingly poignant as the award-winning playwright, attempting to cling on to his memories by writing a memoir devoted to his life with Carrie, finds himself staring endlessly at the cruelly blank page. (cinema release)

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