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Ink

DVD previews: Coming June 5

Denzel Washington stars in "Safe House."

Gerard Butler stars in "Machine Gun Preacher."

Taylor Kitsch stars in "John Carter."

A soldier reacts to his grenade in "Act of Valor."

Ink

‘Act of Valor’

What is it? Military reality and video-game fantasy shake hands and come out fighting in this action flick that stars actual Navy SEALs. The exercises are genuine, and so is the hardware. But the script undermines the sense of authenticity at every turn. The stiffness of the Navy men’s performances is less of a problem than the global-conspiracy plot.

In Costa Rica, a CIA agent is posing as a doctor while observing an international drug and arms smuggler. Her cover is blown, and she’s captured and tortured. Soon, the SEAL team arrives for the rescue. Like most recent action movies, “Act of Valor” is fast, loud and strenuously over-edited. The filmmakers successfully conjure a chaotic, you-are-there sensation. Exactly what’s happening, however, can be hard to follow.

Rated R for strong violence, including torture and profanity.

Time: 1 hr., 50 min.

The Star gave the film:

 1/2

Extras: Commentary and deleted scenes. On Blu-ray: Interviews with the SEALs and eight featurettes.

‘John Carter’

What is it? Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story, this adaptation gets off to such an incoherent start that it takes almost the entire, interminable running time to catch up. “John Carter” is nominally about a Civil War veteran who is somehow transported to Mars, where he can jump really high and is taken prisoner and meets a beautiful princess.

What’s supposed to be a fanciful journey in time and space is unforgivably awful-looking. The creatures that Carter befriends look like they were drawn from wadded-up sketches in George Lucas’ wastebasket.

Rated PG for intense sequences of violence and action.

Time: 2 hrs., 12 min.

The Star gave the film:

 1/2

Extras: “100 Years in the Making” on the journey from Burroughs’ pulp novel to the film adaptation and commentary with the filmmakers. On Blu-ray: A screen-in-screen that explores John Carter’s journal, making-of featurette, deleted scenes and bloopers.

‘Machine Gun Preacher’

What is it? Inspired by the true story of Sam Childers, a hell-raising biker who found religion and opened an orphanage in war-torn Sudan. The movie paints a pretty picture of Childers’ life, with Gerard Butler’s Sam as a sort of born-again bouncer for Jesus.

The Sam we meet at the beginning of the film is a violent and angry ex-con. But Sam repents and soon he’s building both a successful construction business and a no-frills church. After hearing about missionary work, Sam decides to visit Uganda and Sudan. While there, he is appalled to learn about sectarian violence that has turned thousands of children into orphans and soldiers. When a shelter he built for the kids is attacked, Sam takes up arms himself.

The problematic morality of Sam’s actions is echoed by the film, which sees things in black and white.

Rated R for violence, obscenity, sex and drug use.

Time: 2 hrs., 9 min.

The Star gave the film:

Extras: Featurette on composer Thad Spencer’s musical score. On Blu-ray: An interview with director Marc Forster and a music video, “The Keeper,” by Chris Cornell.

‘Safe House’

What is it? Denzel Washington has begun to carve out a niche as the grumpy or morally compromised foil to young, gravitas-seeking white actors (Ethan Hawke in “Training Day,” Chris Pine in “Unstoppable”). Entering “Safe House,” Ryan Reynolds needs a chance to prove himself.

Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a CIA newbie assigned to man a rarely used Cape Town, South Africa, facility. Every day he clocks in, checks the supplies and waits to see if he’ll finally get something to do. And then he does: Amid much excitement, a squad of tough agents arrives to interrogate Washington’s Tobin Frost, a top spy who went rogue nine years ago and has been selling America’s secrets ever since.

When the safe house is attacked by baddies bent on killing Frost, Weston escapes with him, trying to keep his prisoner alive on the streets until a presumably safer new hideout can be arranged.

In the field, Frost does get precious moments to play with Weston’s head, but the film doesn’t allow Reynolds enough time to move through wide-eyed self-doubt to find the intelligence his character presumably possesses.

Rated R for strong language and some violence.

Time: 1 hr., 55 min.

The Star gave the film:

Extras: An “Inside the CIA” and three making-of featurettes. On Blu-ray: An on-location featurette on Cape Town, South Africa, and two other making-of featurettes.

The Washington Post

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