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

Monster Hunter

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Action Fantasy;
Box Office $15.1 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $40.99 UHD BD;

Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of creature action and violence throughout.
Stars Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Ron Perlman.

Seeing how Monster Hunter is based on a video game and stars Milla Jovovich, it’s not hard to guess the director would likely be Paul W.S. Anderson. And like most of his films (Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator), Monster Hunter is a slick-looking production light on story and heavy on action. Think of it as Stargate mixed with Tremors.

Jovovich (who is married to Anderson in real life) plays the captain of a United Nations unit searching for a lost patrol in the desert. They get hit by a sandstorm that sends them through a portal to another world where they encounter the missing patrol, wiped out. They soon discover this new world is populated by deadly giant monsters that start attacking them, but they find help in the form of a hunter (Tony Jaa) who knows how to fight the creatures. He survived an attack on his vessel, essentially a clipper ship that sails the sand dunes as if they were water, that left him not knowing if anyone else from his crew survived.

And the movie doesn’t get much more complicated than that. They fight a variety of monsters and come to the conclusion that the realm to Earth has to be protected lest any number of dragon-type monsters cross over.

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Anderson, a self-professed fan of the video game who has apparently been trying to make this movie for 10 years, says in the bonus materials that his primary goal was to include as many familiar elements from the game as possible. Most of the featurettes are geared toward how the production went about doing that, with the intent of making a movie that fans of the game franchise will enjoy.

The eight-minute “The Monster Hunters” showcases the film’s cast; the seven-minute “For the Players: Game to Screen,” provides a look at how closely the visual effects and design elements of the movie match the costumes, characters and creatures of the video games; and “Monstrous Arsenal” is a five-minute look at the weapons used in the film.

The Blu-ray also includes two deleted scenes running a total of three minutes. Both are one of the military officers trying to tell a bad joke.

The 4K disc includes all the same bonus materials as the regular Blu-ray disc contained in the combo pack.

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Video Game Adaptation ‘Monster Hunter’ Available Digitally Feb. 16, on Disc March 2

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Monster Hunter via digital sellthrough Feb. 16, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 2.

Based on the popular video game series, the film stars Milla Jovovich as Capt. Artemis, whose unit is caught in a sandstorm that transports them to a world ruled by dangerous and powerful monsters. As they fight to survive, they encounter the mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa) whose unique skills allow him to stay one step ahead of the powerful creatures.

The cast also includes Tip “T.I.” Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung and Ron Perlman.

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Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, Monster Hunter earned $11.1 million at the domestic box office.

Home video extras include deleted scenes and the featurettes “The Monster Hunters: Cast and Characters,” “Monstrous Arsenal: Weaponry in the Film” and “For the Players: From Game to Screen.”

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