Two heavily promoted movies that had very different box-office treatment and fates were among the new video releases Tuesday.
One was Battleship (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack). With a budget of more than $200 million, and a Transformers-recalling story of extraterrestrial machines attacking Earth, it was expected to be one of the year's blockbusters. Only it proved to be a bad film -- so bad, in fact, that it was released overseas weeks before its U.S. premiere so that some money could be gathered before bad reviews and word-of-mouth killed it.
The reviews were indeed rough -- the Rotten Tomatoes Web site found only 34 percent of the reviews were positive -- but some negatively reviewed movies have still done well at the box office. Not so for Battleship, which made a relatively tepid $65.2 million in the United States, according to Box Office Mojo. (Its overseas revenue was far, far better.)
Now, keep that figure in mind while pondering Think Like a Man (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray). Inspired by former Clevelander Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the ensemble romantic comedy with a primarily African-American cast was in far fewer theaters than Battleship and still made about $91 million in the United States. (Foreign revenue was negligible.) That figure is even more impressive considering that Think Like a Man had a reported budget of about $12 million, a fraction of what Battleship cost.
It's also a better movie, and more deserving of your rental/purchase dollars.
Aside from being inspired by a game, Battleship had a good pedigree, with Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg in charge and FNL's Taylor Kitsch in the lead role -- that of a ne'er-do-well whose attempt at salvation through a Navy career is falling apart early in the movie. But when aliens attack Hawaii, it's up to Kitsch and a small group, also including the singer Rihanna, to save the day, which, eventually and often hilariously, they do.
The film might have worked as a Big Dumb Action Movie were the early storytelling not so bad; the movie spends a great deal of time establishing character instead of blowing things up. It depends enormously both on implausible alien behavior and consequence-free human stupidity to keep going. About the best I can say for it is that Kitsch is better served than he was by his other big dud of 2012, John Carter.
DVD extras include pieces about the film working with the U.S. Navy, the cast, and what it's like to shoot a movie on the open sea. The Blu-ray adds pieces about Berg, the visual effects, the great battleship Missouri, and other topics.
Think Like a Man is a much simpler film, and at times a too obviously plotted one. But it has a good sense of humor and a solid cast, including Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, and Jenifer Lewis -- as well as Harvey playing himself and some celebrity cameos. It focuses on four couples; the frustrated women turn to Harvey's book for relationship guidance, and the men have to learn how to respond.
I got tired of the shots of Harvey's book, and Hart's performance, though sometimes funny, seemed at times like recycled and overdone Chris Tucker. But there were some good moments along the way, an excellent joke about Tyler Perry and some decent romance.
DVD extras include deleted scenes and bloopers. The Blu-ray adds several featurettes, the best of which is Comedy Behind the Scenes, with the cast joking.
On the TV side is Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season (HBO, $59.99 DVD, $79.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo). It continues the saga of Atlantic City during Prohibition, and especially the travails of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), who is both the city's political leader and a major player in its criminal underpinnings. There are matters of crime, corruption, and race, some vivid violence and sex, and a willingness to kill off important characters. It is well done, and will be back on HBO for its third season Sept. 16.
DVD extras include a 15-minute look back at aspects of the first season (for those of you tuning in late), set changes from the first season, a character dossier, and audio commentaries on six of the season's 12 episodes. The Blu-ray adds the character dossier as an interactive piece for use while watching the show, a closer look at the 11th episode and a piece about life in 1921.
Also from TV, there's Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season (ABC Video, 22 episodes, $45.99 DVD, $79.99 Blu-ray). When this fairy-tale-based drama premiered last season along with the comparable Grimm, I was far more of a Once Upon a Time fan. Yes, it is goofy and the acting can be over the top. But that is part of the appeal, along with its knowing use of storybook characters and allusions to classic Disney adaptations. (ABC is part of the Walt Disney Co.) And the Blu-ray makes its use of light, color, and visual style very impressive.
DVD extras include a piece about the making of the series, the development of the Belle character, cast members' memories of Snow White, and more. The Blu-ray adds an interactive archive about the evolution of fairy-tale characters.
Down video road
The second season of CBS' Blue Bloods comes to DVD on Sept. 11. The same date has the DVD release of the excellent British crime drama Appropriate Adult. And Copper, the impressive new BBC America series about a police investigator in 1864 New York, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Oct. 30.