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Movie review: 'John Carter' quite enjoyable

Published: Friday, June 8 2012 3:46 p.m. MDT

Taylor Kitsch stars as the title character in "John Carter."

Frank Connor, Disney, Jasin Boland, universal

Quite a few recent theatrical features have been released on DVD and Blu-rary this week, led by a sci-fi epic that was a surprising box-office disappointment.

"John Carter" (Disney/Blu-ray + DVD, 2012, PG-13, two discs, $39.99). Utah substitutes for Mars in this imaginative realization of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 serial/novel "A Princess of Mars," the first live-action film by Pixar animator Andrew Stanton. Although, with all the computer-animation on hand, maybe "live-action/animation" would be more accurate.

I found this adventure, which echoes "Spartacus" in some ways, to be quite satisfying, but then I had read the book. Still, the story of weary Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finding himself whisked to Mars, or as the natives call it, Barsoom, where he encounters four-armed warriors and falls for a gorgeous princess (Lynn Collins), is filled with eye-candy and spectacle, showing off southern Utah in gorgeous high definition..

The film actually did better at the overseas box office than domestically, but in the end it lost money because it cost so darn much to make in today's ever-ballooning movie-budget marketplace. Too bad; it means there won't be any sequels. But there's still this one to enjoy, and perhaps on home video it will find its much-deserved audience.

Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers (also on four-disc 3D pack, $49.99, and single-disc DVD, $29.99)

"Safe House" (Universal/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012; R for violence, language; two discs, $34.98). Denzel Washington gives a riveting performance in this tough thriller, as a supposed CIA traitor on the run with a desk-jockey agent (Ryan Reynolds, who seems to be asleep). Good action sequences, although I am weary of the distorted color schemes and shaky camera movement that dominate such films these days.

Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; featurettes (also on single-disc DVD, $29.98)

"Journey 2 the Mysterious Island" (Warner/Blu-ray + DVD + digital, 2012, PG, two discs, $35.99). Silly fantasy comedy is a sequel of sorts to "Journey to the Center of the Earth" of a couple of years ago, this time alluding to Jules Verne's other novel, "Mysterious Island." Dwayne Johnson is top-billed but young Josh Hutcherson, repeating his role from the first film, has the lead as they battle prehistoric creatures, with Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman and, of all people, Michael Caine, who adds a touch of class.

Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted scenes, featurette, bloopers (also in Blu-ray/3D combo pack, $44.95, and single-disc DVD, $28.98)

"Act of Valor" (Fox/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012, two discs, $39.99). Routine rescue-operation yarn focuses on the heroics of Navy SEALs with rough-and-tumble action scenes but wooden performances from the cast, which includes some real-life SEALs.

Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, feturettes (also on single-disc DVD, $29.98)

"Hatfields & McCoys: Bad Blood" (Lionsgate, 2012, PG-13, $26.98). This theatrical film that went straight to DVD is not the Kevin Costner miniseries that ran on the History Channel last week but a poorly made, low-budget effort. This one stars Jeff Fahey and Perry King as the clan leaders whose kin shoot at each other a lot, and Christian Slater shows up as the hand-wringing governor of Kentucky.

Extras: widescreen, audio commentary, photo gallery

"Machine Gun Preacher" (Fox/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012; R for graphic violence, language, drugs, sex; three discs, $39.99). Based on a memoir, this uneasy blend of bloody action yarn and Christian motivational film has Gerard Butler giving a bravura performance as the title character, a real-life drug-addled thief who is born again and feels the call to head to Sudan and rescue children. Of course, he abandons his own family to do so. More disturbing than uplifting.

Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; featurettes, music video (also on single-disc DVD, $29.98)

EMAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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