RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: John Carter and Act of Valor

Plus, a so-so thriller, a so-so kid flick, and a couple of classics.

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This week on home video, we've got some middle-of-the-road stuff, some flops, and some classics. Now, there are Blu-ray reissues of Smokey and the Bandit, Hondo, and The Color of Money, as well as a giant Ultimate Collection of The Three Stooges, but we won't be talking about those here. Our choices this week are comprised of a few action flicks, a couple of epic adventures, a classic caper, and some Beatlemania. See below for the full list!

John Carter

51%

In the years to come, Hollywood marketing execs may point to John Carter as the poster boy for underperforming big budget film properties with little prior mainstream exposure. Despite being based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' serialized novels, John Carter failed to hit it big with the sci-fi tale of an American Civil War captain who is magically transported to Mars, only to be caught in the middle of the red planet's own native conflicts. This one split the critical community at 52%; though the film, directed by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E), sports appropriately stunning visuals and pulpy thrills, most critics felt it suffered from uneven pacing, some incomprehensible plot points, and poor characterization.

Act of Valor

25%

Essentially a recruiting tool for the elite military unit known as the US Navy SEALs, Act of Valor hoped to attract audiences mainly by playing up its use of real, active-duty soldiers and live ammunition in its filming. The SEALs were also enjoying a higher profile, thanks to their much-publicized involvement in the elimination of Osama bin Laden last year. Unfortunately, while the action scenes in Act of Valor were appropriately visceral, critics largely found a lot lacking in most other aspects of the film, including the clichéd anti-terrorism story, the amateurish acting, and the jingoistic tone. Though it sports a 25% Tomatometer, the upside is that a good portion of the viewers who saw it liked it (78% Audience score).

Safe House

53%

Denzel Washington isn't as big a star as he once was, but he's still more than capable of delivering a fine performance, and Ryan Reynolds hasn't quite reached his peak yet, but he's proven in the past that he can ratchet up his game. As far as those two leads of Safe House are concerned, the film benefited from their committed performances; what split critics (yet again) were a thin script and some poorly edited action sequences. While the acting and breakneck pace of the film were enough to tide over 53% of the critics, the rest were hard pressed to offer it the same allowances.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

42%

Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) just can't catch a break; first, he's swept into an adventure below the surface of the earth with his uncle, and now, he's summoned to a mysterious island with his new stepdad, Hank (Dwayne Johnson). This sequel to 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth, loosely based on the works of Jules Verne, finds Sean and Hank accompanied by a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens); together, the foursome navigate treacherous terrain and battle unique wildlife to locate the source of a coded distress signal. While the first Journey was Fresh at 61%, critics weren't as impressed this time around, calling the film a bit too intense for younger viewers and a bit too cartoonish for adults. At 42%, Journey 2 might be a diversion for a tween audience, but even for them, it probably won't be much more than that.

Machine Gun Preacher

29%

Gerard Butler hasn't starred in many critical successes (Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus, which came out on home video last week, was one of the rare gems), so Machine Gun Preacher probably seemed like a safe bet for him. It's a biopic centered on a fascinating man (Sam Childers, the gang biker-turned-African humanitarian), about a compelling topic (opposition to the infamous Lord's Resistance Army in Sudan), and directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace). Here was another case of good intentions with bad results; despite featuring a character as complex as Childers, Machine Gun Preacher simply failed to elevate the story beyond righteous machismo. It gets points for shedding light on the atrocities committed by now-famous Joseph Kony, but at 29%, don't expect an in-depth examination of Sam Childers.

The Sting - Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-Ray

93%

Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and director George Roy Hill had such success with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, they decided to try and duplicate the feat four years later. Long story short, the world got 1973's The Sting, and we're all probably better off for it. This classic stars Newman and Redford as a pair of Depression-era grifters who team up on an elaborate con to cheat a murderous racketeer (Robert Shaw). Certified Fresh at 91%, The Sting is available on Blu-Ray for the first time this week as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary push, and while the HD extras are focused more on the anniversary itself, the disc does come with three standard definition featurettes that cover the making of the film. Nice little hi-def pickup for fans.

Yellow Submarine - Blu-Ray

96%

With one more movie left on their contract with United Artists, the Beatles thought an animated film might round out their oeuvre rather nicely. Based on music from their iconic eighth album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Yellow Submarine is the third feature film starring the Fab Four, though they only provide the singing voices and a quick cameo here. Superficially, the story follows the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as they are summoned to help take back the underwater utopia Pepperland from the cruel Blue Meanies; in actuality, Yellow Submarine is a joyful, psychedelic montage of colorful scenes built around classic songs like All You Need Is Love and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. This week, it's available on Blu-ray for the first time, with extras like multiple storyboard sequences, behind-the-scene photos, and interviews with the cast.

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