Out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week: Two big "blowed up real good" movies, one above average, the other--well, it's Death Race, so what are you gonna do; plus a shrewd look at some young superheroes.
Reviews of the latest entry in this startlingly durable, if turbulent, franchise ranged from surprised admission that it was pretty good for a B-movie to outright appreciation of its careful direction and savvy handling of its action-driven plot. Be warned: it's startlingly graphic, and it's not about the nuances of the acting; but it may well be in the upper range of movies for which those are the most prominent caveats.
Formats: Blu-Ray and DVD.
The story: John wakes up from a coma to discover his wife and daughter were slaughtered in a brutal home invasion. Haunted by images of the attack, he vows to kill the man responsible, Luc Deveraux. While John tries to piece his reality back together, things get more complicated when he is pursued by a relentless UniSol. As John gets closer to Deveraux and the rouge army of genetically enhanced warriors led by back-from-the-dead leader Andrew Scott, John discovers more about himself and begins to call into question everything he believed to be true.
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (Luc Deveraux), Dolph Lundgren (Andrew Scott), Kristopher Van Varenberg (Miles), Scott Adkins (John).
Directed by: John Hyams.
Features: Audio Commentary: Director John Hyams and Actor Dolph Lundgren; Days of Reckoning: The Making of US4 (HD, 1:20:15): Coming Into Focus (27:30), There is No End (23:21), Production Wrap (29:23); Previews.
At the other end of the destruction-saturation spectrum there's this direct-to-video car-crash of a movie, where making sense or engaging the viewer takes a back seat to, as one reviewer put it, "hot chicks, manly men, big explosions and plenty of blood and guts." And what more do you need from a movie?
Formats: DVD, Digital Copy, Blu-ray.
The story: Convicted cop-killer Carl Lucas, aka Frankenstein, is a superstar driver in the brutal prison yard demolition derby known as Death Race--only one victory away from winning freedom for himself and his pit crew.
Starring: Luke Goss (Carl 'Luke' Lucas), Dougray Scott (Niles York), Tanit Phoenix (Katrina Banks), Danny Trejo (Goldberg), Ving Rhames (Weyland), Tanya van Graan (Amber), Robin Shou (14K), Roxane Hayward (Prudence), Langley Kirkwood (Dr. Klein), Fred Koehler (Lists), Olivia Jackson (Palmer), Brandon Livanos (Rebel), Yrsa Daley-Ward (Salinas), Jeremy Crutchley (Psycho), Sean Cameron Michael (New Doctor), Mark Elderkin (Sgt Fury), Eugene Khumbanyiwa (Nero), Dumani Mtya (Angry skinhead), Bart Fouche (Razor), Anton Jeftha (The Jackal).
Directed by: Roel Reine.
Features: R-Rated and Unrated Cuts (HD); Audio Commentary; Deleted Scenes Grab Bag (HD, 22 minutes); The Making of Death Race 3: Inferno (HD, 11 minutes); Racing for Death (HD, 6 minutes); Art Imitating Life: Goldberg (HD, 5 minutes); My Scenes Bookmarking.
Understanding the superhero ethos through young eyes less jaded and trauma-hardened than the stone-faced adult heroes of yesteryear may be the most important recent innovation in comics and (in particular) superhero animated series, and Young Justice, set in an alternate universe and following an interplay of intricate storylines, does it better than most.
Formats: DVD (2 discs).
The story: The members of Young Justice — Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian and Artemis — try to find out whether they have what it takes to be a proven hero. The latest season jumps ahead in time 5 years to re-introduce the original squad as well as all new members Nightwing, Wondergirl, Blue Beetle, Batgirl, and Beast Boy as they fight off a secret alien invasion affecting the entire planet.
Starring: Cameron Bowen (Tim Drake/Robin), Lacey Chabert (Zatanna Zatara), Tim Curry (G. Gordon Godfrey), Bruce Greenwood (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Logan Grove (Garfield Logan/Beast Boy), Stephanie Lemelin (Catherine Cobert/Computer), Eric Lopez (Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle), Yuri Lowenthal (La'gaan/Lagoon Boy), Jesse McCartney (Dick Grayson/Nightwing), Danica McKellar (M'gann M'orzz/Miss Martian), Masasa Moyo (Karen Beecher/Bumblebee/Cat Grant), Nolan North (Conner Kent/Superboy/Matt Hagen/Clayface).
Directed by: Jay Oliva, Michael Chang.
Features: None listed.