Contagion (Warner, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 106 min.). Director Steven Soderbergh presents a rather clinical look at the introduction of a new virus and its rapid spread and the societal aftermath, which is mostly looting and rioting as panic sets in over lack of food and other necessities. The ensemble piece has a large cast including Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff, whose coughing we first hear over a black screen. Beth has been to Hong Kong, where she contracted the disease (she is Patient Zero, it turns out). Within days of returning home (and in less than 10 minutes screen time), she is dead. Her son soon follows, but husband/stepfather Mitch (Matt Damon) is apparently immune.

Laurence Fishburne plays Dr. Ellis Cheever at the Center for Disease Control. We also follow a couple of his co-workers who go out into the field. One uses film from a Hong Kong casino, where Beth spent time, to trace the spreading of the disease. We also see the efforts to come up with a vaccine; here the film is true to science. Following Mitch and his own surviving daughter, we see society breaking down. By day 21, there are 2.5 million dead in the United States. Jude Law plays a would-be journalist Internet blogger who pretends to have the disease and be cured by a herbal remedy so he can profit from sales of the remedy which, of course, does not work.

As in other Soderbergh films, the audience is not really given the opportunity to connect with any of the characters. The film is too bloodless for that, but Cliff Martinez’s electronic score provides the pulse. Extras are a bit meager: 11:29 on the film’s reality with disease experts and the film’s stars; 4:57 on medical detectives; and a 2:01 infomercial on how a virus changes the world. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 2 stars

The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 106 min.). This is the sequel to “Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior,” which was the prequel to “The Scorpion King,” which was a prequel to “The Mummy Returns,” which was a sequel to “The Mummy.” The film looks more expensive than its limited budget, although the colors, especially at the beginning, are washed out. It is poorly written, but it does have some nice martial arts-style fighting and a delightfully roguish performance by Billy Zane as bad guy Talus.

Talus is King Horus’ (a subdued performance by Ron Pearlman) brother and he feels he should have been the king. Horus hires now-mercenary Mathayus (Victor Webster) — the Acadian not only has lost his kingdom, but also his bride — to thwart Talus’ planned conquest of King Ramusan’s (Temuera Morrison) castle to seize the Book of the Dead. Mathayus is given a huge sidekick (Bostin Christopher as Olaf) and they carry on like The Three Stooges, even though there are only two of them — even to continue fighting each other while bandits steal all their belongings. The pair initially succeed, but then Horus asks them to rescue his daughter Silda (Krystal Vee), promising her hand in marriage to Mathayus, although he is more interested in the pendent around her neck. While they go off to rescue her, Talus’ men overtake Rasmusan and get the book, which Talus uses to release three ghost warriors to do his bidding. They are Argonmael (six-time WWE champ Dave Bautista), Zulu Kondo (UFC star Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson) and the witch Tsukai (Selina Lo).

The settings appear to be like Burma or Cambodia, except for the chariot race that looks like it was shot in a park next to a mansion, but Talus’ men look a bit more Roman. Extras include six deleted/extended scenes (12:58; not much added); a montage of deleted shots; a gag reel; a making-of feature; a look at the combat with actor Webster; and audio commentary with director Roel Reine. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Additional reviews are available online at and include “Shark Night” and “Name of the King 2.”