Blu-ray Highlights of Mars – June 5th, 2012

Well, look at that. Hey, Disney, you see how easy it is to include the words “of Mars” in a title? That’s not very difficult at all, just seven little characters (including the space) that might help your potential audience to have a vague idea of what your content is about. I bet that’s a lesson that you wish you could have learned a few months ago.

I want to try something a little different with the formatting of today’s Blu-ray post. I’ve listed out the week’s release titles in poll form, so that you can vote on which ones interest you. (Vote for as many as you’d like.) We’ll see how well this works out, to determine whether I’ll continue doing it this way in the future. It’s important to me to include links, but that might make the font hard to read on some browsers. Is this a big problem for anyone?

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (6/5/12)?

View Results

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New Releases

Disney’s wannabe-blockbuster ‘John Carter‘ is officially one of the biggest bombs of the year, if not all time. There are a great many reasons for that, not the least of which is the generic title that failed to capture viewer interest. Who is John Carter and why should we care about him? Wasn’t that Noah Wiley’s character on ‘ER’? Why’s he in a sci-fi movie now? And why do the trailers make it look like a poor carbon copy of ‘Attack of the Clones’? Word-of-mouth from those who bothered to see it mostly called the movie neither great nor terrible. It probably didn’t deserve to be such a flop, but nor is it as good as it could have been. If you (like most people) skipped it in theaters, but still have some interest, the film is now available in both 2D and (post-converted) 3D options on Blu-ray.

Also in 3D is ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island‘, the tenuously-linked sequel to 2008’s crappy ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth‘. This one trades Brendan Fraser for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which may be an upgrade, but the movie otherwise still looks like lame kiddie fodder.

Safe House‘ is the latest generic action movie in which Denzel Washington does his Denzel Washington wiseass schtick. It looks exactly like the last twenty or so movies that the actor has made. The only difference is that, instead of being directed by Tony Scott, this one’s directed by someone who has painstakingly imitated the Tony Scott style. This time, Denzel’s a CIA agent who goes rogue, or something. If you haven’t gotten tired of this sort of thing yet, here’s another one.

Act of Valor‘ became a surprise hit earlier this year based solely on the fact that it stars actual Navy SEALs playing Navy SEALs, and was promoted as being more realistic than most military movies. Unfortunately, Navy SEALs are not actors, nor can the Navy PR hacks who cobbled together the screenplay be considered writers. Set your expectations really, really low when you rent this one.

Having failed to establish himself as a leading man with the disappointing ‘Machete‘, grizzled Mexican character actor Danny Trejo tries again in the vigilante thriller ‘Bad Ass‘. The fact that you’ve probably never heard of this says a lot.

Gerard Butler stars in the true story of a former drug-dealing biker who turns into a gun-totin’ crusader for the Lord in ‘Machine Gun Preacher‘. As I recall, this was laughed off of screens at the Toronto Film Festival a couple years ago, and was widely ignored during its limited theatrical release this year.

Catalog Titles

Warner rolls out a couple of lesser-known Clint Eastwood titles this week, the better of which would be the underrated ‘A Perfect World‘. (For as much grief as Kevin Costner takes as an actor, he’s actually capable of delivering good performances in movies like this.) The other would be the forgettable thriller ‘Blood Work‘.

Meanwhile, Disney gives us two late ’80s flicks starring Tom Cruise, one that’s pretty respectable (‘The Color of Money‘) and one not so much (‘Cocktail‘).

Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks his way into high definition with the trio of ‘Missing in Action‘, ‘Missing in Action 2: The Beginning‘ and ‘The Delta Force‘. I believe that these are Walmart exclusives. Why ‘Braddock: Missing in Action III’ or ‘Delta Force 2’ didn’t make the cut for this wave, I can only speculate. (Probably because they’re awful, but that didn’t stop the other three from coming.)

John Wayne fans can look forward to a freshly-remastered edition of the Duke’s classic Western ‘Hondo‘ (sadly only in 2D, despite the fact that this was originally a 3D production) or the ‘John Wayne Collection‘, which packages together six of the star’s early and lesser movies. Coming from a no-name studio at a list price of only $15, I probably wouldn’t hold out hope for better than ratty public-domain quality prints from the latter set.

As part of its continuing 100th Anniversary celebration, Universal finally ports over a batch of former HD DVD exclusives: ‘The Sting‘, ‘Erin Brockovich‘, ‘Scent of a Woman‘, ‘Sea of Love‘, Sixteen Candles and ‘Smokey and the Bandit‘. I have about half of these on HD DVD, still unwatched.

I feel like the Oscar-nominated basketball drama ‘Hoosiers‘ ought to be a highlight today, but considering that we had trouble giving away a free copy here last week, I take it that our readers aren’t so interested.

Other titles of possible interest include the classics ‘The Grapes of Wrath‘ and ‘Zorba the Greek‘, the Beatles’ oddball animated ‘Yellow Submarine‘, and a 15th Anniversary Edition of the middling Mel Gibson revenge flick ‘Ransom‘. I’ve never particularly cottoned to John Ford’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ adaptation. The way that it cuts out almost the entire last half of the book seemed to me to miss the point of the novel entirely. But I haven’t seen it since college, so maybe my opinion of it will change with another viewing.


If you’ve been holding off from buying the individual season sets of ‘The Twilight Zone‘, Image has finally bundled a super box set with all 156 episodes. Sounds daunting!

Was the first season of ‘Falling Skies‘ actually popular? I gave up on it literally halfway through the pilot episode. It got renewed for a second season, so somebody must have watched.

Finally, Sony gives us the fourth season of ‘Breaking Bad‘. I think I’ve mentioned before that this is a show that I somehow never got into, despite its numerous accolades. It seems like something I’d like. I just have never had the time to watch it properly from the beginning.

This is a pretty busy week for Blu-ray. Be sure to vote in the poll and tell us in the Comments about the titles you’ve got your eye on.


  1. Oscar

    Looking forward to “Aquarium for Your Home,” though I hear Liam Neeson is horribly miscast as Guppy #3.

        • Josh Zyber

          Ha, I read your comment out of context and thought that you were asking about Color of Money. I wrote up a whole long answer about that before I looked at the post again and realized that you were just making another joke about the Aquarium disc.

          Well, to heck with it. I’m not letting that work go to waste, so I’m posting it anyway. 🙂

          I don’t believe there’s more than one version. Scorsese doesn’t often revise his old movies. (New York, New York is the only “Director’s Cut” of his I can think of.)

          In fact, Thelma Schoonmaker gave a radio interview last year in which she talked about supervising the HD transfer for this film. She mentioned that during some scenes, the pool tables look blue due to some compromises made with the lighting and camera filters at the time of production. The video colorist asked her if she’d like to “correct” that to a proper shade of pool table green, but she declined because both she and Scorsese feel that movies should be preserved in their original state, flaws and all.

          • “The video colorist asked her if she’d like to “correct” that to a proper shade of pool table green, but she declined because both she and Scorsese feel that movies should be preserved in their original state, flaws and all.”

            Shall we write this on a Post-It and mail it to Lucas, George?

  2. DrMaustus

    You really need to sit down and watch BB, Josh. Without hyping it too much, it’s one of my favourite shows. As a point of reference, my other favourite shows are Buffy, Firefly, Terriers, BSG, and Mad Men. At any rate, Bryan Cranston, and the rest of the cast are fantastic — Giancarlo Esposito is my new favourite character actor. The writing and directing are top notch as well.

    Watch season 1 (it’s only 7 episodes!) and see if it hooks you in.

    • Agreed, Breaking Bad is phenomenal. Buffy will always be my favorite show, but BB is the only show I can honestly say has never had a less than stellar episode (upcoming season notwithstanding) Seriously, right out of the gate, the first episode feels like a fully realized feature film. It’s pretty amazing, and definitely worth catching up on before the final season starts.

    • Josh Zyber

      I noticed last night that AMC is advertising an upcoming marathon of Breaking Bad episodes in order from the beginning. I don’t know if I have time to actually sit down and watch them all, though.

  3. EM

    I tend to browse on three different computers. On the one I’m using right now, the hyperlink text is readable though a little ugly. (On the other hand, those hyperlinks also tend to crash this browser, which is very sensitive. I like the idea of the hyperlinks—I just need not to follow them while on this computer…)

    The poll style is an intriguing idea, but its simplicity ironically confuses me, mainly because I’m not sure how much interest is worth reporting. There are titles I definitely plan to buy, but there are several tiers of interest below that: I’d like to buy only at deep discount, I’m awaiting reviews, I’m in for a rental, maybe I’ll watch it sometime, the title is interesting but I need to find out what this is, etc. Depending on what you’re looking for, an indication of interest might skew results. That’s why I prefer discussions.

    • I like the poll idea, but agree that the intent should be clarified/agreed upon. I only selected Breaking Bad as that is something I intend to buy right away. I’ll probably pick up Sixteen Candles at some point, but most likely when it become available on or dirt cheap used somewhere.

    • Josh Zyber

      I see what you’re saying. I guess it will have to be up to each person to decide what criteria they want to use to vote. Of course, discussion is still encouraged in the Comments as well.

    • JM

      Since my most valuable resource is time, I selected every blu-ray I intend to watch, regardless of how I will acquire them.

      This poll does a good job of making clear the hidden demographics of this blog.

    • William Henley

      Yeah, I am picking up Dragonball Z Kai today (actually, already been delivered), but I also chose John Carter 3D because I may pick it up.

      I like the poll idea, and then people can expand on it in the comments section.

      I also finally picked up “The Woman In Black” over the weekend. Still to pick up are Earth 3D, Lord of the Dance 3D, Joyful Noise, The Muppets, and We Bought a Zoo. I would have picked up a few more this week, but just got hit with ANOTHER computer repair (had TWO harddrives fail, and a third one that is failing). Computer repairs keep eating into my entertainment budget.

    • EM

      OK, on the computer and browser I’m using now, the poll’s rendering looks perfect. R.I.P. Steve Jobs…

      Jane is right about revealing “hidden demographics”, but I stand by my claim that it’s difficult to interpret the results, since the reasons remain hidden.

        • EM

          You may have guessed that the “perfect” result was from Safari for Mac. The other two were from IE for Windows, but I’m not sure what versions they are. I’m pretty sure the good IE is a more recent version than the ugly IE, and so that fits your assessment.

          • William Henley

            Safari doesn’t render websites correctly on either Windows or Mac. Its a horrible browser. Whenever I use a Mac (more often than I like, I had one on my desk at my last job), I had to install Firefox. I think Safari has issues with CSS or something. Just like IE6, Safari REALLY needs to die (or get a complete rewrite from the ground up, which I don’t see Apple doing any time soon).

            The site renders correctly in IE8, IE9, Chrome for Windows 7 and in Vista, and Firefox in Windows 7 and on Vista and on XP.

          • EM

            A few years ago, for my work I created HTML pages with heavy reliance on CSS. My experience was that, on both Mac and Windows, Safari’s CSS rendering conformed best to the official W3C standards. On the other hand, I had to really jump through hoops for the CSS to render acceptably within IE (partly because of dichotomies between IE 7 and its predecessors). Other browsers varied in compliance but did not pose especial problems. As I said, this was a few years ago; what’s out there now might be different. And the needs of my pages may have been different from the needs of other pages.

            Of course, I paid close attention to standards and cross-platform compatibility. Many web designers don’t.

  4. Barsoom Bob

    With my Tag it is pretty obvious that I do have to speak up for John Carter. I will be as brief as possible. Who, or What, is John Carter ? Precisely right.

    100 years ago, before there were even comic books, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote these imaginative adventure tales, of romance and action, in these incredibly detailed other worldly settings, populated with fantastic beasts and villians.

    The buzz and excitment you get from modern day comic book superheros, generations of readers got from these books. These books inspired so many people’s imaginations and satisfied their needs for super heroic stories that you can draw straight lines to Superman, Dune, Star Wars, and Avatar’s world.

    Burroughs’ created Tarzan, well known because it was possible to film that story, but his Martian series, Venus series and his At the Earth’s Core or Pellucider were un filmable because of the wildness of his imagination and the limitations of cinema technology.

    As the first filmed attempt to bring one of these stories to the screen, Stanton’s movie is not trying to out Matrix the Matrix, or out do Star Wars but gives a pretty straight ahead reading of the source material. It is non ironic and wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. It is more akin to The Rocketeer and Capt. America
    than Iron Man.

    Bearing in mind that it was Disney that popped for the $250 million to realize this vision, it was never going to be the T & A, blood soaked, Frazetta inspired version of the story but it is not a Disney kiddie film either. It is intelligent, romantic, beautiful to look at and has a pretty good mix of humor, sincere sentiment and good action. It is aimed more at adults but is accessible to anyone who gives it a chance.

  5. Drew

    I love the poll! Please do it every week. It’s really intriguing to get an idea of which titles are most popular to HDD readers each week. I’d much rather have that information than which titles sold the most copies.

  6. EM

    Adding of Mars would actually expand the title by 8 characters; I think you’ve forgotten the space between Carter and of. 🙂

    • EM

      And actually, the modified title would engender some confusion, for John Carter of Mars is the title of Burroughs’ eleventh, posthumous Barsoom novel.

  7. Drew

    So call it what it was originally meant to be! ‘The Princess of Mars’! That title would have inspired a lot more intrigue and curiosity than some dude’s name.

    • EM

      I’ve always known the first novel as A Princess of Mars (though I understand that it was first serialized as Under the Moons of Mars and that ERB had a few other working titles for it). If Disney thought that the hero’s name should appear in the title, they could have compromised with something like John Carter and the Princess of Mars—sounds rather Indiana Jones- or Harry Potter-ish, doesn’t it?

      • Josh Zyber

        Disney didn’t want the word “Princess” in the title because they feared that they’d lose the teenage boy target audience. To be fair, they were probably right about that. “John Carter of Mars” could have been a compromise that includes the hero’s name for franchise recognition purposes, yet still lets the audience know that they’re in for a sci-fi story. Unfortunately, Disney freaked out about the box office failure of Mars Needs Moms and decided that audiences must hate the word “Mars.” So they reduced the title to just “John Carter,” which is so utterly generic that nobody knew (or cared) what the movie was about.

          • Barsoom Bob

            I’m in the camp where it should have been called John Carter and the Princess of Mars. It gives off that pulpy, serial vibe, which the material sort of is, and brands the series. Then follow it with “John Carter and the Gods of Mars” etc., there are 11 books to the series.

            Really, Disney so whiffed on this it isn’t funny. Disney prides it self on it’s Princess characters and here they had a movie with a smart, beautiful and strong Princess and they decide to sell it as a ‘boys” picture. JM this is one for you but Michael Sellers over at thejohncarterfiles has demographic proof that in all but one age group this plays better to women than men !

            Lynn Collins gives a very good performance in this movie and though she wears a little more, okay a lot more clothes than in the book or Frazetta’s illustrations, she is still hot and she totally sold me on her being Dejah, the princess.

            Classic case of over thinking by clueless people in the marketing department. Did it not occur to them that using “Princess” might have brought in the girls and the “of Mars” would have defined it as sci fi and brought in the boys. It would also give a clue that at it’s heart it is a love story.

          • Josh Zyber

            Teenage boys will not go to see a movie with the word “princess” in the title no matter what you tack before or after it. And teenage girls generally don’t have much interest in sci-fi, so the movie never stood a chance of recouping its investment if solely aimed at that demographic. That’s just the reality of the marketplace and the world we live in.

            I’m not saying that Disney did a good job of marketing this movie (they clearly didn’t), but there was never any possibility that the word “princess” was going to be included in the title.

          • EM

            I disagree; back when I was 13 in 1983, I would have been quite willing to see a movie entitled Star Wars: Episode VI: Princess in a Metal Bikini.

          • JM

            If ‘John Carter’ had starred Hugh Jackman, it would have made $700M.

            Girls will give any movie an A+ if the romance works.

            Boys require muscle, arrogance, and vengeance.

            There seems to be a building backlash against action stars that are girlie men.

        • William Henley

          Maybe they could have named it “John Carter 1: A Princess of Mars”. Conveys a completely different meaning – it would have gotten recognition from casual sci-fi fans (I have heard of the book, but didn’t know it was a series), it would have specified that the movie was about John Carter, and there was a Princess involved somewhere in the story. Naming it “Disney’s A Princess of Mars” would have given people the impression of Princess Diaries or something. Naming it “John Carter 1: A Princess of Mars” suddenly makes people think “Boom chicka wow wow!”

      • William Henley

        Wait, John Carter is the movie of Princess of Mars? The book series is on my to-do list (actually have it loaded on my Kindle app). I may just have to blind-buy this movie. I had no clue! I would have saw this at the theaters if I had of known that!

    • JM

      Should have called it, ‘The Princess Of Mars: Is Incredibly Hot: And Mostly Naked — In 3D — Unrated!.’

  8. Drew

    Why is ‘Sixteen Candles’ a choice? It doesn’t come out until September. Are people selecting it, just trusting the post, and believing that it comes out today?

  9. Drew

    Barsoom, I’m totally with you. All demographics would have went to see ‘John Carter and the Princess of Mars’. I love the ‘Indiana Jones’ vibe. More recent examples of film sagas that have had major success with similar titles include: ‘Narnia’, ‘Potter’, and ‘Twilight’. ‘The Hunger Games’ is even doing this. The title of the sequel was recently changed to ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’. We can also look at the latest ‘Mission Impossible’ for proof that a title like that would increased the odds for success.

    Josh, you underestimate the teenage boy desire to see hot, skimpily dressed princesses on the silver screen. Hell, teenage boys even went to ‘Avatar’ just to see a half naked alien princess.

    • Josh Zyber

      Robert Rodriguez planned to call his version of the movie ‘John Carter: Warlord of Mars’. That is precisely the right title to sell a movie like this.

      • EM

        Although it seems to blend the titles of two other Barsoom novels (John Carter of Mars and The Warlord of Mars), I have no objection. In fact, that was the title I had foremost in mind many years ago when hypothesizing a John Carter–Barsoom movie. Indeed, Marvel Comics’ 1970s Barsoom series was entitled John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

        • I’m a huge fan of the books (they’re my favourites). I agree that ‘John Carter: Warlord of Mars’ would have worked better. They could have interchanged a couple of the titles once the franchise was known, and ‘Warlord of Mars’ would have had all of the saleability required. Well, it would have if the film had been any good with it.

          I’m actually rather surprised to see how many picked John Carter as one they’ll bother buying. It was such a weak and lacklustre film. In all honesty, the only item I picked was The Twilight zone. 🙂

          • EM

            If you’re talking about the poll tallies, don’t be certain that those folks mean that they are buying John Carter; their interest may be limited to just viewing it sometime or finding out more about it before making a viewing decision. Similarly, a person interested in both Twilight Zone sets might not intend to buy both but may still be deciding which, if any, to get.

            And that’s how you beat a dead horse…in the Twilight Zone.

  10. So teenage boys don’t like movies with the word “princess” in it? How sad. I, for one, have never objected against seeing “The Princess Bride” (as a teenage boy) or “The Princess and the Frog” (as a twentysomething).

    • JM

      When the ‘John Carter’ rights sold to Disney, I swore I’d never watch it.

      I even shook my fist at the internets!

      But when the trailer came out and John Carter looked like Jason Schwartzman in a Conan the Barbarian halloween costume, I knew I’d have to rent it once.

      My only reel emotional connection to it is my love for Willem Dafoe (who is going to be in Lars von Trier’s ‘The Nymphomaniac!’).

      Plus, I already saw Lynn Collins naked in ‘True Blood’ and was not impressed.

      I don’t know when I’ll get it, the blu-ray is currently #57 on my Q.

      Fortunately, Netflix sucks, so I might get it sooner than the films I care about.

  11. The poll option is pretty damn sweet. works much better than the old forum polls which were limited to 10 options per thread. people have to decide their parameters, be it instant buy, eventually, interest, whatever, but I think it’s pretty damn sweet, and I enjoy not voting for blockbuster bullshit titles that most goons eat up. Just knowing I’m decreasing their % and raising ranks on deserving titles is all I need.

    also: LOL at ECW not having a single vote. i’m sorry, but i’m tired of shitty WWE releases, and that one is more than likely a humongous pile of crap considering source limitations. i don’t care if some hackjob shill gives it 3000 stars for video, i ain’t wasting a dollar on it.

    • William Henley

      LOL, I can’t see anyoen in these threads picking up ECW, but I can guarentee two of my friends who would pick it up if they knew it was available. These are the guys who actually pay $50 for the pay-per-views, and have wrestling posters in their bedrooms (needless to say, their wives are not thrilled about it).

      Also no love for Hawaii or Aquarium. I have picked up a few of these releases in the past, like them, and actually watch them from time to time (great background stuff when you need to relax), but I am at the point where I can say I have enough.