Some satisfying sci-fi and admirable action

Posted: June 08, 2012

It's a big week for DVD releases, especially if you like action films and USA Network series. Here's what's coming out:

Falling Skies: The Complete First Season Grade B: The cable series, based on an idea by writer Robert Rodat and producer Steven Spielberg, is about the chaotic aftermath of an alien attack that has left most of the world in ruins. Pockets of survivors band together to wage guerrilla warfare against the invaders and to fight for survival.

Noah Wyle ( ER), Moon Bloodgood ( Terminator Salvation), Will Patton (Armageddon), and Drew Roy ( Secretariat) make this a strong offering as both sci-fi tale and family drama.

Safe House Grade B: Denzel Washington plays a dangerous CIA renegade.

Generally, action movies are either lightweight, puffed-up, macho-man vehicles or so cerebrally deep that it's almost impossible to follow the action. Despite having only a few directing jobs to his credit, Daniel Espinosa found a nice blend of chest-pounding bravado and smart storytelling to make Safe House entertaining on multiple levels.

Act of Valor Grade C-minus: A rescue mission uncovers a terrorist plot. There's not an ounce of emotion when the real-life SEALs deliver their dialogue, which drains all life out of what should be very powerful scenes.

Had this movie been shot as a documentary, they would have spoken their own words. Act of Valor is less a theatrical release than a recruiting film.

John Carter Grade C: An Earthling ends up in the middle of a war on Mars.

The script by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon mixes pieces of several Edgar Rice Burroughs books in such an awkward way that the movie neither spotlights the planet's battle nor the Earthling's adventures.

This story should have been a cosmic tale of good vs. evil, but the script keeps getting bogged down by convoluted explanations and a wedding plot line that's as dusty as the Martian surface.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Grade D-minus: Despite borrowing from multiple Jules Verne novels - and even a few other classic adventure books - Journey 2 has less plot than a Super Bowl commercial.

Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), who went on a quest with his uncle to find his dad in the first Journey, teams with his stepfather (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) to search for his missing grandfather (Michael Caine). They're joined by a quirky helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman), who has some real sexual problems, and his spunky daughter (Vanessa Hudgens).

There are some terrible moments.

Also coming to DVD this week:

Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Second Season: The mystery behind the lies begins to unfold. Troian Bellisario stars.

Fairly Legal: The Complete First Season: Sarah Shahi plays an arbitrator with an attitude.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season: Bryan Cranston's tour-de-force series continues.

Necessary Roughness: The Complete First Season: Callie Thorne is a therapist with an unusual practice.

Pawn Stars: Volume Four: The gang at the Las Vegas pawn shop continues to see odd items.

Phineas & Ferb: The Perry Files: Collection of adventures featuring the platypus secret agent.

Doc Martin: Complete Season 5: Includes eight episodes of the series starring Martin Clunes.

Washington: Behind Closed Doors: Mini-series inspired by Richard M. Nixon's presidency.

Hondo: The John Wayne film is now on Blu-ray.

In Plain Sight: Season Four: Mary McCormack stars in this series about witness protection.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Eighth Season: Offbeat comedy from Larry David.

White Collar: The Complete Third Season: An FBI agent and a super thief join forces. Matthew Bomer stars.

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