Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/12/24;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $124.44 million;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some language and sci-fi violence.
Stars Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Randall Park, Temuera Morrison.

Director James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom represents the end of the road for the so-called DC Extended Universe. Not that you’d know it from the film itself, which makes no references to the larger franchise, even as the world is threatened to such a degree that the Justice League would probably get involved.

The film is a direct sequel to 2018’s Aquaman, and even accounts for the fact that it’s been five years since that film was released. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), aka Aquaman, splits his time between saving the world, serving as king of Atlantis, and raising his baby son alongside his wife, Mera (Amber Heard). However, Atlantis is threatened by a revenge-minded Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who has spent years search for it only to discover a lost kingdom where he finds a powerful trident that infuses him with the essence of an ancient warlord.

When Black Manta seizes control of an ancient power source that destroys Earth’s atmosphere and mutates living creatures, Aquaman seeks help from his half-brother and former rival to the throne, Orm (Patrick Wilson).

What unfolds is essentially a buddy cop movie with Aquaman as the wise-cracking hotshot and Orm as the serious and mannered sidekick. Their relationship is pretty much the best part of a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays pretty fast and loose with the fantastical nature of the Atlantean mythos, which serves as a handy excuse for some flashy and colorful visual effects.

Fans who enjoyed the first Aquaman will no doubt enjoy this continuation the most, as the two films present a nice little duology that isn’t too dependent on the larger context of the now-defunct DCEU.

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The film’s Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD disc presentation includes about an hour of behind-the-scenes material in the form of seven featurettes that are pretty typical for this kind of thing. The primary making-of featurette is the 21-minute “Finding the Lost Kingdom.” The 10-minute “Aquaman: Worlds Above and Below” looks at creating some of the new locations in the film; the six-minute “Necrus: The Lost Black City” focuses specifically on the hidden civilization buried beneath Antarctica, while the eight-minute “Escape From the Deserter World” examines the sequence in which Aquaman frees Orm from his sandy prison, and the four-minute “Brawling at Kingfish’s Lair” showcases an undersea pirate haven. The 10-minute “It’s a Manta World” focuses on the villain, while the two-minute “Oh TOPO!” delves into the expanded role for Aquaman’s octopus sidekick, TOPO, and the four-minute “Atlantean Blood Is Thicker Than Water” spotlights Arthur and Orm’s unique bond.

These extras are also available through most digital platforms, some of which also offer Aquaman Through Fire and Water, a seven-minute motion comic that serves as a loose prequel to the film.

‘Expendables 4-Film Collection’ Due in Blu-ray Combo Pack March 5

The Expendables 4-Film Collection arrives on Blu-ray (plus DVD plus digital) March 5 from Lionsgate.

The action franchise has earned more than $780 million at the box office.

This bundle, which features four art cards, includes all four films in “The Expendables” franchise. In The Expendables, the elite mercenaries (Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham) are caught in a web of betrayal and deceit when they’re hired by a shady operative (Bruce Willis) to overthrow a South American dictator. In The Expendables 2, a deranged arms dealer (Jean-Claude Van Damme) turns the team’s (Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren) easy paycheck into a tragedy, while The Expendables 3 pits old school vs. new blood when Barney Ross and his team (Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford) square off against a longtime foe (Mel Gibson). In Expend4bles, a new group of mercenaries (50 Cent, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa) joins the “old guard” to help fight an arms dealer with his own private army.

Each title includes myriad special features.

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The Expendables 4

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/21/23;
Lionsgate;
Action;
Box Office $16.71 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong/bloody violence throughout, language and sexual material.
Stars Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Randy Couture, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, Andy Garcia.

The first “Expendables” film in 2010 offered the intriguing premise of assembling a team of action all-stars as a paramilitary mercenary squad tasked with carrying out dangerous international missions. Subsequent installments expanded the roster to an almost absurd level of action talent, even if some of the bigger stars were basically relegated to cameos. The box office underperformance of the third film in 2014, however left some doubt as to the sustainability of the franchise.

Thus, despite receiving a theatrical release and a comprehensive marketing campaign, The Expendables 4 (or Expend4bles in the parlance of Hollywood’s cutesy naming conventions) almost feels like one of those direct-to-video franchise extensions that used to be more prevalent in the heyday of DVD.

At least they dragged out a few of its geriatric regulars to try to justify its existence, though a majority of the cast ends up being sidelined for most of the movie, turning it for the most part into just another Jason Statham action vehicle.

The story involves Statham’s Lee Christmas character seeking revenge when a member of the Expendables is killed during a botched mission to stop terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons. When Christmas is benched by the Expendables’ new CIA handler (Andy Garcia) on the subsequent mission to stop the terrorists from using the stolen nukes to ignite World War III, he decides to go anyway, which comes in handy when the rest of the team is captured.

Statham does his best to carry the proceedings across the finish line, but he isn’t given much to work with. The screenplay is saddled with trite dialogue, stilted performances and plot twists that, while predictable, ultimately don’t make a lot of sense.

Though billed at 103 minutes, the story manages to resolve itself in just over an hour and a half, leaving a whopping 11 minutes of credits.

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Expend4bles might offer a few moments of enjoyment for the franchise’s most ardent fans, but this is clearly a franchise that is a shell of its former self.

The bulk of the action takes place in two extended set pieces — first a chemical weapons plant in Libya, then a barge transporting the nukes to be detonated off the coast of Russia. It’s amusing to see the producers in the bonus materials talk about wanting to film “real” action in order to live up to the reputation of the franchise, when the final product looks like it was passed through a CGI filter.

This may be a case where the need for a ultra-high-definition presentation didn’t do the film any favors, as the visual effects look so clean they might as well be from a video game, rather than have the kind of gritty look a film like this needs. Too many close-ups of the actual stars in the middle of stunts look like obvious process shots.

The director for this installment is Scott Waugh, whose previous works include 2012’s Act of Valor, an actioner that employs the gimmick of casting real Navy SEALs, and the recent Hidden Strike, the Jackie Chan-John Cena team-up filmed in 2018 that was shelved for five years before surfacing on Netflix.

The Blu-ray includes a solo commentary track from Waugh, as well as two behind-the-scenes featurettes: the 17-minute “Bigger, Bolder, Badder: The Expendables in Action” about the stunts, and the 19-minute “More Than a Team: New Blood Meets Old Blood” about the cast. Also included is the film’s theatrical trailer. The extras are included on both the 4K disc and the regular Blu-ray of the film.

A Steelbook collection of all four “Expendables” films on both Blu-ray and 4K disc is available at Walmart for $69.99.

Walmart exclusive “Expendables” collection Steelbook

WWII Film ‘Come Out Fighting’ Headed to DVD and Blu-ray July 4

The World War II film Come Out Fighting, inspired by the story of the 761st Tank Battalion known as “The Black Panthers,” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc July 4 from Screen Media.

In the military adventure, a small, specialized squad of U.S. Army African American soldiers are sent on an unofficial rescue mission behind enemy lines to locate their missing commanding officer. The squad, upon battling their way through the German defenses, encounters more than it bargains for when it locates a downed U.S. Army fighter pilot. With the help of their friends at the 761st tank battalion, known as “The Black Panthers,” the squad must find a way to survive and make it back in one piece.

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Written and directed by Steven Luke (Operation SeawolfBattle of the Bulge: Winter War), the film stars Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight), Tyrese Gibson (“The Fast and Furious” franchise), Kellan Lutz (“The Twilight Saga”), Hiram A. Murray (Operation Seawolf) and Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV).

 

‘Universal Soldier’ 4K Ultra HD Steelbook Due June 21 From Lionsgate

Director Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi actioner Universal Soldier arrives June 21 on 4K Ultra HD plus Blu-ray plus digital Steelbook from Lionsgate.

The 1992 sci-fi classic stars Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD, Double Team, Double Impact, Kickboxer), Dolph Lundgren (Johnny Mnemonic, Masters of the Universe, Rocky IV), Ally Walker (Kazaam, While You Were Sleeping, TV’s “Profiler”), Ed O’Ross (Dick Tracy, Red Heat, Lethal Weapon) and Jerry Orbach (TV’s “Law & Order,” Broadway Bound, Beauty and the Beast).

In the film, Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and Sgt. Andrew Scott ( Lundgren) are two soldiers who kill each other in Vietnam and are brought back to life 25 years later for a secret government program. Known as “Unisols,” they are genetically enhanced, unstoppable killing machines without memory, feelings or free will. But when Deveraux’s memory starts to return and he escapes the program, a superhuman chase across the country begins. 

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Special features include audio commentary by Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Van Damme and  Lundgren; audio commentary by Emmerich and Devlin; the “A Tale of Two Titans” featurette; the “Guns, Genes, and Fighting Machines” featurette; an alternate ending; behind-the-scenes footage; and the trailer.

Shout! Sets Dec. 3 Theatrical, Digital Release for Action Thriller ‘Castle Falls’

Shout! Studios has set a Dec. 3 multiplatform release for Castle Falls, an action thriller starring Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren.

Directed by Lundgren, the film will be released simultaneously in theaters, through digital retailers and on demand. A DVD and Blu-ray Disc release is expected to follow in January 2022.

The film follows rival gangs as they seek out millions of dollars hidden inside Castle Heights Hospital, a symbol of the city’s segregated past that has been packed with dynamite and is ready to be demolished. A gang leader, now in prison, hid the $3 million in cash he stole from his rivals inside the abandoned building. Now, three desperate parties want the money — a blue-collared ex-fighter (Adkins) who finds it while working as part of the demolition crew, a prison guard (Lundgren) willing to do anything to pay for his daughter’s cancer treatment, and a ruthless gang who claim to be the rightful owners.

The film also stars Kevin Wayne, Jim E. Chandler, Luke Hawx, Scott Hunter and Kim DeLonghi.

Lionsgate Heroes Get Dads Into Action for Father’s Day

Lionsgate has an army of heroes ready to ramp up the action for dads on Father’s Day, June 21. The studio’s catalog is filled with classics that feature iconic characters, including Rambo, John Wick and the Highlander; the genre’s top directors, including James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven and Roland Emmerich; and the genre’s biggest stars, including Sylvester Stallone, Keanu Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and many more.

All five installments in the saga of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo are available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate. In First Blood (1982), Stallone originates the role of the war hero, an ex-Green Beret haunted by memories of Vietnam. In Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), with a screenplay by Stallone and James Cameron (Titanic), Rambo’s survival skills are tested on a top-secret mission that takes him back to the jungles of Vietnam in search of American POWs. In Rambo III (1988), the veteran has finally begun to find inner peace inside a monastery — until his friend and men-tor Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) shows up to ask for his help on a top-secret mission in Afghanistan. Rambo (2008) finds the hero leading a group of battle-scarred, combat-hardened mercenaries on a mission to rescue aid workers in war-torn Burma. Finally, Rambo: Last Blood, billed as the last chapter of Rambo’s story, finds Stallone’s tortured warrior in a brief moment of relative peace before he must unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission.

Lionsgate’s catalog also includes the saga of another hero driven by vengeance, John Wick. Keanu Reeves stars as Wick in three chapters available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. In John Wick (2014), the ex-hitman comes out of retirement to hunt down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. The sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 finds Wick returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt with a large bounty on his life. In John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, Wick has a $14 million price tag on his head after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy international assassins’ guild.

No action catalog is complete without Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Lionsgate has two of his iconic movies, Terminator 2, available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, and Total Recall, available on Blu-ray plus Digital HD, DVD and Digital. In the science-fiction classic Total Recall (1990), directed by Paul Verhoeven, Schwarzenegger plays a mild-mannered construction worker who takes a virtual vacation and finds himself embroiled in espionage on Mars unable to determine if the experiences are real. Director James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) has the action star in another sci-fi classic, reprising his role as a robotic killing machine — this time on the side of humans Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong).

Another classic 1990s action film, Universal Soldier, is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate. The Roland Emmerich-directed science-fiction actioner (1992) pits Jean-Claude Van Damme against Dolph Lundgren in a story of military experiments gone wrong.

Lionsgate has two star-studded ensembles in 2010’s RED and The Expendables. RED, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, stars Bruce Willis as a former black-ops agent who reassembles his old team to battle an assassin. It also stars Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Mary-Louise Parker. Boasting a who’s who of action stars, The Expendables features Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and many more in the story of a CIA operative who hires a team of mercenaries to eliminate a Latin dictator and a renegade CIA agent. It features an appearance by Schwarzenegger and is also available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Government intrigue also figures into Sicario, about an idealistic FBI agent enlisted by a task force to aid in a drug war at the border. Available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, the 2015 dramatic action film stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro.

Finally, Lionsgate’s catalog features action-filled adventures Cutthroat Island (1995) and Highlander (1986). Directed by Renny Harlin, Cutthroat Island, available on Blu-ray and DVD, stars Geena Davis as a pirate racing against rivals to find a hidden island harboring treasure. Highlander, also available on Blu-ray and DVD, stars Christopher Lambert as an immortal Scottish swordsman battling through time.

Actioner ‘Universal Soldier’ Shooting to 4K Nov. 5 From Lionsgate

The 1992 actioner Universal Soldier will come out on 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital) and digital 4K Nov. 5 from Lionsgate.

Directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, upcoming World War II epic Midway), Universal Soldier stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, alongside Ally Walker and Ed O’Ross. The film follows soldiers Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and Sgt. Andrew Scott (Lundgren), who killed each other in Vietnam. But their demise proves to be just the beginning for the U.S. government, which brings both men back to life decades later for a secret anti-terrorism program.

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Special features include:

  • audio commentary by Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Van Damme and Lundgren
  • audio commentary by Emmerich and Devlin
  • the “A Tale of Two Titans” Featurette
  • the “Guns, Genes, and Fighting Machines” Featurette
  • an alternate Ending
  • the “Behind the Scenes” Featurette and
  • a trailer.

Dolph Lundgren’s ‘The Tracker’ Hits DVD, Blu-ray Disc, Digital on Sept. 24

Lionsgate Sept. 24 will release the Dolph Lundgren action film The Tracker on Blu-ray Disc (with digital copy), DVD and digitally.

The revenge thriller is currently available on demand.

Lundgren stars as a troubled warrior who returns home to solve the mystery of his family’s murder — and punish those he finds guilty. The Tracker will be available for the suggested retail price of $21.99 (Blu-ray) and $19.98 (DVD).

Lundgren portrays Aiden, whose wife and daughter  were abducted and killed during a vacation. A decade later, a detective with new evidence calls Aiden to the scene of the crime — but Aiden arrives to find the cop murdered and the police refusing to help. Now, Aiden must use his skills as a sniper and warrior to unravel the vast conspiracy behind his loved ones’ murders.

Aquaman

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/26/19;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $334.52 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language.
Stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ludi Lin, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison.

It’s a bit amazing to think that the Justice League member so often derided as “the one who talks to fish and is useless on land” is now the subject of the highest-grossing movie based on a DC Comics character at the worldwide box office.

Already a regular target of parody shows such as “Robot Chicken,” the Aquaman character was famously used as the centerpiece of a storyline on HBO’s “Entourage” involving a blockbuster movie version directed by James Cameron — poking fun at both Cameron’s penchant for water movies and the idea that anyone would ever make an Aquaman movie.

Well, the real film, directed by James Wan, certainly dispels any notion that Aquaman isn’t suited for the big screen. Coincidentally, with this film and Furious 7, Wan became the only director other than Cameron (with Avatar and Titanic) to guide two films from separate franchises into the global box office’s billion-dollar club.

Jason Momoa takes on the title role, his third film appearing as the character, after a cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and an expanded presence in Justice League. His larger-than-life persona and carefree attitude serve the film well by helping the audience accept the bizarreness of the worlds being created without the need to take it too seriously.

Arthur Curry (Momoa) is the product of the unexpected love of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) who ends up at his shore when she escapes an arranged marriage. Arthur’s unique heritage gives him superhuman abilities, such as strength, invulnerability, the ability to swim fast and a telepathic bond with sea creatures.

With his reputation as a hero established in Justice League, Arthur is sought out by the princess Mera (Amber Heard) to claim the throne of Atlantis from his half-brother (Patrick Wilson), who wants to destroy the surface world.

To do that, he and Mera must embark on a quest to locate a mythical weapon that will allow him to assert his claim as the rightful king of Atlantis.

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The story will draw a lot of comparisons with Black Panther in that both deal with heroes introduced in earlier films, with their own films focused on tying their origins into storylines involving taking control of their hidden kingdoms away from maniacal family members who want to conquer the outside world. Tonally, the film is more like Thor: Ragnarok, which also deals with a battle for the throne of a powerful kingdom. These recent superhero movies have certainly embraced that Shakespearean power dynamics motif lately (which may just speak to how most comic books can be reduced to a few fundamental tropes before all the personality and detail that makes them popular are added).

Aquaman

Between the “Game of Thrones”-esque political intrigue and “Indiana Jones”-style adventure subplot, much of the film’s success owes to its sense of fun and its willingness to depict absolutely anything on screen despite how absurd it is while treating it as epic. Wan fills almost every frame with fantastic imagery awash in vibrant color that really shines through in its high-definition Blu-ray presentation. Many of the scenes look as if Wan pulled them directly from a comic book, and even makes Aquaman’s traditional orange and green costume look cool, which should no doubt please fans of the character.

The Blu-ray includes more than an hour-and-a-half of featurettes detailing all the aspects of the production, from Momoa’s casting, to the stunt work, to the development of the depictions of the undersea kingdoms that comprise the Atlantean realms.

One of the more interesting videos in this regard is the “Kingdoms of the Seven Seas,” a profile of underwater politics hosted by Dolph Lundgren, who plays the ruler of one of them. Between this and his recent turn in a “Rocky” retrospective on the Creed II Blu-ray, Lundgren has been pretty busy on the Warner lot hosting bonus videos.

Another interesting tidbit comes during an analysis of the film’s memorable sequence involving the devolved creatures of the Trench, which plays to Wan’s horror roots. At one point, an excited Wan suggests the Trench should be the basis of its own movie. Unsurprisingly, a Trench spinoff has already been announced.

Finally, the disc includes a three-minute scene from the upcoming Shazam! movie.