New on DVD and Blu-ray: Denzel, ‘John Carter’ and More
This week's new DVD's, Blu-Rays and Video On Demand offerings include the better-than-its-reputation 'John Carter,' the gritty thriller 'Safe House,' 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' for sci-fi/fantasy family fun and the classic con cinema of 'The Sting' …
With critics and naysayers waiting with knives drawn before it even came out, 'John Carter' got a bad rap. No, it didn't work as an instant classic of the kind that director Andrew Stanton was hoping for it to be, up in the pantheon with 'Star Wars' or 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' -- but, at the same time, i'd watch 'John Carter' again before any of Lucas' prequels, or 'Indy IV' or 'Transformers,' in a heartbeat. Taylor Kitsch is the title hero, whipped form 19th-century Earth to Mars by high-tech hoodoo, where he gets caught up in political struggle and a planet-spanning conspiracy. The effects and technical filmmaking are amazing, and the extras -- including full commentary, deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, picture-in-picture explanations of the moviemaking process, production material and much more -- are a great guide into a film whose ambitions were noble, even if the end result didn't set the box office aflame.
The thriller equivalent of comfort food, you'd be excused for thinking that 'Safe House' is a Tony Scott film -- it stars Denzel Washington, it has that gritty, grainy beige-and-brown look to it, and the action is muscular and methodically shot. It isn't, of course -- it's actually directed by Daniel Espinosa -- but with its plot, where Washington's rogue CIA agent kept in confinement by Ryan Reynolds becomes Reynold's only chance to survive when the 'Safe House' that was holding Washington captive is attacked-- is full of the kind of conspiracy-thriller action and Washington smoothness that makes it a pleasure to watch, even as you can't escape the feeling you've seen it a thousand times before. ...
'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island'
Less a sequel to the 3D, Brendan Frasier-led 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' than a side-quel, this 3D CGI-enhanced Jules Verne tale sees Josh Hutcherson return, while Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine and Vanessa Hudgens are newly along for the ride to an, uh, bizarre landmass surrounded by water where some quirk of science makes the bugs and beasts and flora and fauna gigantic, with unimaginable perils and wonders in store. The Blu-ray is also available in 3D, but between the charisma of all the leads, you'll think the movie's leaping off the screen even if you're not watching it with the 3D glasses on; a near-perfect family adventure film for younger teens and older tweens, 'Journey 2' is full of action, charm and showy-but-spectacular effects.
It seems hard to believe that this 1973 con comedy actually won the Oscar for Best Picture -- but if you watch this newly-released and freshly-restored Blu-ray of this classic, you'll understand why. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are old-pro con artists who team up to try and take down the dreaded gangster Robert Shaw -- and considering that Shaw's murder of a mutual friend is what kicked off Redford and Newman's uneasy alliance, the stakes are as high as the stolen rewards in a comedy of lies and larceny that some people argue is one of the most perfect films Hollywood's ever made.