‘Death Race 3,’ Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘End of Watch’ and Nicole Kidman’s ‘The Paperboy’ Premiere in HD

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing this week, churning out buzz and hype for some of the films that mainstream audiences will hopefully not just be seeing later this year but celebrating with the same sort of passion and intensity that drove 2012 alum Beasts of the Southern Wild to multiple Academy Award nominations.

Only one of this week’s Blu-ray releases first appeared at Sundance, the wonderful documentary Searching For Sugar Man, but its release is a welcome reminder that films come in all sizes, and satisfy just the same, even without multimillion-dollar budgets or A-list movie stars.

Meanwhile, this week’s Buzz on Blu features a handful of films with some of those stars in smaller, more substantial roles, alongside releases that start their journey on home video en route to moviegoers’ hearts.

Death Race 3: Inferno (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

The One-Liner: After Death Race 2 proved to be a pretty terrific follow-up to Paul W.S. Anderson’s remake, Luke Goss, Danny Trejo and Fred Koehler return for another adventure, this time set in South Africa, where Frankenstein is forced to do battle with an all-new slate of adversaries.

Picture Perfect? Shot digitally with director Roel Reine behind many of the cameras himself, the film looks terrific, and needs no adjustment on its journey to the smaller screen, offering a stylish, saturated visual landscape that lives up to anything theatrical.

What Else Is There? Several featurettes explore the South African locations and the shooting style of Reine, while the actors offer insights on how smartly they continue to explore their characters – even when they’re just holding on for dear life behind the wheel.

How Badly Do I Want It? As a threequel, your enjoyment may be mostly reliant on how familiar you are with the first two films, but it’s a worthy rental at the very least as it offers plenty of visceral thrills and some solid performances.


End of Watch (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

The One-Liner: Jake Gyllenhaal takes a break from blockbusters and star vehicles for this gritty cop drama, co-starring Michael Pena.

Picture Perfect: Shot using a lot of handheld cameras in a found-footage style, the film exudes a sort of scruffy, improvised feel, which looks good on the small screen.

What Else Is There? Featurettes explore the creation of the world within the film, but David Ayer’s commentary track is the most revelatory, explaining how he constructed the film, and how he excluded as many clichés or contradictory ideas as possible.

How Badly Do I Want It? Another film worth renting, End of Watch made a lot of best-of lists for 2012, but it may not be one you’ll want or need to revisit often.


The Paperboy (Millenium Media)

The One-Liner: Lee Daniels’ follow-up to Precious is a sprawling decadent tale of sex and betrayal, featuring performances by John Cusack, Zac Efron, and an Oscar-nominated Nicole Kidman among others.

Picture Perfect? A solid transfer maintains Daniels’ oversaturated cinematography, giving the whole film an appropriately sweaty, decadent look.

What Else Is There? A featurette, interview with Daniels and behind-the-scenes materials explores how the filmmaker recruited so many talented people.

How Badly Do I Want It? An over the top, melodramatic little thriller, this movie certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth watching at least once, if only to gawk in disbelief.


Searching For Sugar Man (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The One-Liner: Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary follows a trail of breadcrumbs all the way to South Africa – and back — for this story of a failed ‘70s musician whose work is long overdue for rediscovery.

Picture Perfect? The transfer is great, but Bendjelloul’s visuals are mostly straightforward, requiring little but a sense of clarity and vividness; in other words, you won’t be disappointed.

What Else Is There? A commentary track featuring Bendjelloul and Rodriguez essentially gives away the mystery of whether or not the musician is still alive, but a pair of featurettes explores the back story beyond the filmmaker’s search, and showcases a recent Rodriguez performance.

How Badly Do I Want It? A tearjerking tale of artistry finally finding the recognition it deserves, this is an inspirational tale that will pep up any aspiring performer or creative type, so it might be good to have around permanently on those days when rejection notices come in the mail.


Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The One-Liner: Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren return for yet another installment in this interminable franchise, this time starring up-and-comer Scott Adkins as the victim of a home invasion who discovers he’s part of a bigger conspiracy than he ever imagined – and we quite frankly can understand.

Picture Perfect? Although the film was presented in 3D at fantastic Fest in 2012, it’s only a 2D Blu-ray, but the picture quality is terrific, preserving director John Hyams’ ambitious if not fully successful visual style.

What Else Is There? Three making-of featurettes dig into the production, while a commentary track featuring Hyams and Lundgren offering an ongoing discussion of its conceptual complexities, although perhaps not necessarily answering all of the logistical obstacles that keep the film from, well, making total sense.

How Badly Do I Want It? By all accounts this is a marked improvement from its predecessor, so if you’re a fan of the series this one’s a must-see, but otherwise it might be a good second feature after Death Race 3, if for no other reason than as a reminder that some direct-to-DVD releases are not as good as others.

Watch Celebuzz’ exclusive interview with Death Race 3 star Luke Goss, and then let us know in the comments below — which of these films are you most excited to get on Blu-ray?

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