DVDs In Brief: June 30, 2010

DVDs In Brief: June 30, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Fox) is a mediocre-fest all the way around: a so-so teen adventure based on a humdrum updating of Greek mythology by way of a not particularly complicated Harry Potter imitation, directed in unexceptional fashion by Chris Columbus and featuring more or less okay acting and special effects. So it seems like no big surprise that it did basically all right at the box office, failing to earn back its production costs in America, but picking up a good bit of cash worldwide. Sure, all this is perfectly acceptable as far as we’re concerned. It's just that, well, yawn…

Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (Sony) applies his unsparing eye for the darker side of human nature to a provincial German village haunted by dark doings on the eve of the First World War. It’s an unrelentingly tense film that slowly develops into a study of how morality falls apart when given the proper combination of visible hypocrisy and shared resentment. The kids, the generation whose adulthood would be spent in the Nazi era, are not all right…

DreamWorks hoped its gimmicky, amusingly titled Hot Tub Time Machine (DreamWorks/Paramount) would become a raunchy sleeper hit like Old School or The Hangover, but not even a blitzkrieg-style ad campaign and those nifty Jansport Hot Tub Time Machine backpacks sent to the A.V. Club’s Chicago office could make a blockbuster out of this intermittently amusing, thoroughly mean-spirited comedy about middle-aged men who get a second chance to experience the night of their life via the titular time-traveling contraption. For all its gay-panic and jizz jokes, Hot Tub is ultimately about the death of youth and the crushing compromises of adulthood, which may explain why it didn’t exactly set the box office afire…

A better-than-expected remake of an obscure 1973 George Romero not-quite-zombie movie, 2010’s The Crazies (Anchor Bay) doesn’t have the social metaphor that animates Romero’s best work, but it does have moments of shock and wit, and a guiding intelligence behind the camera that’s rare for horror remakes. It also has a sturdy lead in Timothy Olyphant, who stars as a small-town sheriff addressing an odd psychosis spreading through the populace. The film is a little by the numbers at times, but a few scenes, especially one funny/scary confrontation at a car wash, make it worth the rental…

Tom DiCillo’s documentary about The Doors, When You’re Strange (E1), tries its damnedest to be as insufferable as Jim Morrison at his most egregiously pretentious, but the vintage performance footage, much of it electrifying, rescues it from the brink. In between, DiCillo makes a case for the band’s cultural significance by trotting out the most clichéd ’60s imagery available, including many stock shots of Vietnam and Woodstockers. For fans only.

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