Notable New Releases
John Carter (Disney)
Release Date: Mar 09, 2012
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church. Full cast + crew
Verdict: Buy Me
Available On: 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD
Special Features: Commentary with Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins, Disney's Second Screen, Deleted Scenes (19 minutes), 100 Years in the Making (10 minutes), 360 Degrees of John Carter (35 Minutes), Bloopers
Additional Thoughts: Chalk it up to bad marketing, bad timing, or just plain bad luck-- whatever the case, John Carter got a raw deal in theaters. It's not a grand slam, but it is a grand scale, highly ambitious fantasy overflowing with inspired design and special effects work. Taylor Kitsch is a bit dry, but thankfully he's surrounded on all sides by supporting players that really give it their all, particularly Lynn Collins. If you missed this in theater, please don't miss it on Blu-ray or DVD. It's much better than the box office implies.
Safe House (Universal)
Release Date: Feb 10, 2012
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast:Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga,Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard. Full cast + crew
Verdict: Rent Me
Available On: Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD
Special Features: U-Control PiP interviews, Making Safe House (11 minutes), Hand-to-Hand Action (8 minutes), Shooting the Safe House Attack (5 minutes), Building the Rooftop Chase (4 minutes), Behind the Action (8 minutes), Inside the CIA (6 minutes), Safe Harbor: Cape Town (9 minutes)
Additional Thoughts: Safe House is a safe thriller, then again that describes most of Denzel Washington's movies these days. It's got just enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, but not enough to make it truly memorable. The same can be said of Daniel Espinosa's style, which is as kinetic but not quite as frantic as Tony Scott's rapid editing. Hardly a Must See, but certainly a decent rent when you get around to it (and there shouldn't be any rush on that front).
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Bros.)
Release Date: Feb 10, 2012
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson,Luis Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens. Full cast + crew
Verdict: Forget Me
Available On: Blu-ray Combo Pack
Special Features: Are You Strong Enough to Survive Mysterious Island (21 minutes), an interactive map to learn about the island's creatures and pitfalls, Deleted Scenes (6 minutes), Gag Reel (1 minute)
Additional Thoughts: Somewhere along the way the buzz had me under the impression that Journey 2 was better than the Brendan Fraiser-led first film. Whoever convinced me of that is either a liar or has an incredibly short term memory. I never thought I'd defend Journey to the Center of the Earth, but at least its silliness is brisk and fleeting. Journey 2, on the other hand, takes itself way too seriously despite its equally silly material, and takes way too long to work through it all. Some of the visual effects, like on the giant lizard, are impressive, but overall this is a Saturday night Disney Channel movie that doesn't want to admit it.
Other New Releases
Notable Catalog Releases
A handful of Blu-rays of quality, ripe-for-presents films hit the HD format for the first time this week ahead of Father's Day. My picks for favorites in the batch would include two of Clint Eastwood's tighter films as a director, the 2002 Eastwood vs. serial killer mystery Blood Work and A Perfect World, the 1993 Eastwood vs. affable escaped convict/kidnapper Kevin Costner. Both still hold up today, particularly on the acting front, and feature crisp transfers and a convenient porting of features from past releases.
Then there's the John Wayne-led Hondo, which is worth a watch thanks to its admirable depiction of Native Americans as complex characters, unlike most Wayne films where they're either simple caricatures or background fodder. And from one man's man to another, we find Tommy Lee Jones in U.S. Marshals. It's essentially just an encore of everything The Fugitive had to offer (minus Harrison Ford), but it's still entertaining despite its repetitive nature. And if dead serious men-on-the-run movies isn't your thing, there's also a new Blu-ray out for the Burt Reynolds classic action comedy Smokey and the Bandit.