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New on DVD – June 29, 2010 – Hot Tub Time Machine and Percy Jackson

From John Cusack’s eighties comedy Hot Tub Time Machine to the tween fantasy adventure Percy Jackson & the Olympians, here’s a look at all the good, not-so-good, and occasionally great films coming out this week on DVD and Blu-ray.

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In director Steve Pink’s “retro road movie,” a group of four friends — including John Cusack and The Office‘s Craig Robinson — get sent back in time to a rowdy weekend they had at a ski resort in the eighties. High jinks ensue, complete with period-appropriate outfits and music. Our critic wasn’t buying it, saying the film works too hard to deliver the same raw kind of humor “that grew tiresome in the late 1990s.”

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A would-be kickoff to a Harry Potter-like tween fantasy franchise, Chris Columbus’s Greek-myth adventure involves a modern-day kid who finds out (gulp) that he’s actually the son of Poseidon and that Zeus is pretty ticked off at him. We thought that this adaptation of the first in Rick Riordan’s popular young-adult book series is full of promise and some fine acting but, at times, felt “rushed and strung together.”


The latest
George A. Romero seventies film to get the modern-gloss remake, this Breck
Eisner film follows what happens after a military plane with mysterious
cargo crashes on the outskirts of a small town. The inhabitants begin to
go violently insane and turn on each other with bloody abandon, then
the army shows up to seal the area off. Our critic shrugged it off, much
preferring Romero’s post-Watergate take, which focused on “government
ineptitude and a timely ‘trust no one’ message,” while the remake “is all
tone and atmosphere, with very little dread to go around.”

Jon Amiel’s
period drama — based on a book by Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson —
stars Paul Bettany as the great evolutionary theorist himself. Haunted
by the death of his daughter, Annie, Darwin begins to question his deeply held Christian faith. Although, we thought, the film could have
aimed for greater insight into the man and his theories, it was,
nevertheless, a solid story, “well paced and sure in its tone and


A teacher
(Ciarán Hinds) living in a rain-soaked Irish coastal town mourns the recent death of his wife, whose ghost might be haunting him.
Complicating matters is the love triangle that forms when Hinds,
volunteering for a local literary festival, is attracted to a visiting
writer of ghost stories (Iben Hjejle), who’s in the midst of breaking off
an affair with an obnoxious, married novelist (Aidan Quinn). Our critic
thought that “lovers of a quieter brand of haunting tale should find
themselves unsettled in a most satisfying way.”

White Ribbon

In a
small, seemingly idyllic German village around the turn of the century,
the bucolic mood is undermined by a series of mysteriously violent,
deeply unsettling events. The adults become increasingly agitated, while
suspicion falls on the overly disciplined, robotic children. Our critic
found that the film’s “pristine aesthetic and bleak thematic palate” shaped
the story “into what already feels like a nightmare lodged in our
collective cinematic memory.”


Haden Church plays a janitor who one day receives a surprising letter
from his high-school girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue), asking him to come
visit her. On arrival, she informs him that she’s dying of cancer and
wants to spend the rest of her time with him. He buys the story, though
it quickly becomes clear there’s a second shoe to fall. We thought the Blood
-inspired plot was “lightweight and undemanding” but “little
more than that.”


In this
2008 Oscar-nominated film, Jan Troell tells a luxuriantly paced story
about a housewife in early-twentieth-century Sweden who tries to escape her
life — seven children and an abusive drunk of a husband — when she wins a
camera in a lottery. We thought the film a beautiful, “gloriously
constructed” thing to behold, even if the story was “maddeningly

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