Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘CREED II’ and ‘INSTANT FAMILY’ rely on formula, but go ahead and bring the tissues

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James C. Clay // Film Critic

CREED II

Rated PG-13, 130 minutes.
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Cast: Michael B. JordanSylvester StalloneTessa ThompsonPhylicia RashadDolph LundgrenFlorian Munteanu

The ROCKY franchise still lives on. It’s an irresistible formula that takes the shape of a sports drama that solely relies on heart. Each of these films take on a different aspect of the human experience, and it just so happens that this formula is easily replicated. The first ROCKY dealt with romance and proving to yourself you’re good enough; ROCKY II was about feeling like a fraud; ROCKY III and IV deal with grief.

CREED II is the eighth film of the franchise, and although it isn’t a perfect sequel (and sticks to formula to a tee), director Steve Caple, Jr. made a film about fathers and sons and becoming a better partner. The film relies on brawn and male ego that is, buy and large, disgusting. However, Sly Stallone’s script – along with the performances from Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu – ground the testosterone and reckon with the consequences of holding onto anger and self deprecation.

It’s surprisingly a beautiful film when looked at through this lens. CREED II offers the formula the audiences are craving, but doubles down on finding truth and acceptance on our place in the world. 

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes: A total of nine minutes of deleted scenes show the Italian Stallion speaking at a funeral, teaching kids boxing lessons in a few moments that show Stallone’s range with the character, but needed to be cut from the film. Also, stick around for a look at Michael B. and Tessa munching down on Philly Cheesesteaks.

The Women of CREED II: Without characters like Bianca (Thompson) and Mary Anne (Rashad) CREED II would be just another forgettable boxing film. The feature takes a look at the dynamics of the women in the film. They are more than just the worried wife in the stands, they are active participants in their own story.

Fathers & Sons: Stallone loves the Shakespearian idea that the sins of the father will affect the son. It plays to the cheap seats, but a committed director in Steve Caple Jr. shows the depth these actors went to make this story resonate.

Casting Viktor Drago: This dude, Florian Munteanu, goes down in the franchise as one of the great opponents either Rocky or Creed have faced. He towers over Michael B. Jordan, as his formidable presence is like a Mac Truck barreling down the highway. Yet, the boxer is more than just a physical presence, he brings pathos to understand the complexities of this character.

The Rocky Legacy: This 15-minute feature is a fluff piece and speaks for itself. 

Fight Through The Pain: Watch Michael B. Jordan boast about how hard he worked out for seven months!

Grade: B+

CREED II is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Now

INSTANT FAMILY

Rated PG-13, 117 minutes.
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabella Moner, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro 

INSTANT FAMILY shines a rare light on the American adoption process. Directed by Sean Anders (DADDY’S HOME) and starring Mark Wahlberg (TED) and Rose Byrne (BRIDESMAIDS), the trio find a way to bring truth to a story that has its heart in the right place, even if it struggles with some tonal issues.

The story centers on a married couple, Pete and Ellie, who unexpectedly find themselves adopting three children (Isabella Moner, Gustavo Quiroz and Julianna Gamiz) as they struggle to develop as a new family. This dramedy will show families the joys and pains of the adoption process, even if the results are a bit contrived at times. However, the cast and Anders (who got the idea for the film after he adopted his own children), allow this material to be heartwarming and enjoyable, if not a bit saccharine. Despite its faults, INSTANT FAMILY is more than worth a watch.

Special Features:

There are loads of special features on this, and while the actual film doesn’t bring tears, seeing the stories of real-life families is awe inspiring.

Commentary by Writer-Director Sean Anders: Feature-length commentaries by filmmakers are a godsend , and while this one won’t reveal subtext, Anders is such a lovely guy that it’s nice to sit down for a chat with him for two hours.

Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It: This feature shines a spotlight on the reasons why Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Byrne) go from a childless home, to a family of four overnight.

Kid Power: We are taken inside the audition process for the three kiddos, each one possessing different qualities.

I Need Some Support: The special features highlight the authenticity of this film, bringing up many aspects that are unheard of in the mainstream, such as these adoption support groups. In the film, they are led by two social workers, played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro, for a bit of comedic relief.

The Families Behind: Bring out the tissues, as several families who appear in the film tell the story behind their adoption. Bless these people, spreading nothing but love.

Grade: B