Cinematical's Spin-ematical: New on DVD and Blu-ray for 6/29

The Crazies
Admittedly, I hold a minority view on Breck Eisner's remake of George A. Romero's 70s tale of a town whose inhabitants lose their minds and start killing one another after a biological agent is accidentally unleashed. I felt like it played right into all the stereotypes of horror movies without adding much that was fresh and new. But Cinematical's Perri Nemiroff mounts a very fine defense of the film, and I'm inclined to give it another go. Rent it.

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Hot Tub Time Machine
With such a great, simple premise -- good friends who happen to be losers are transported back to the time of their greatest triumph in the 1980s -- why was the film only fitfully successful? Oh, it has some big yucks, but with the combined talents of John Cusack, Rob Corddry, and Craig Robinson, I hoped for more. As Dawn Taylor opined in her Cinematical review, it's "anecdotal, disjointed, and slapdash," yet is "often very, very funny." Which probably makes it a perfect pick if you haven't caught it yet. Rent it.

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Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
The very popular young adult book series didn't transfer very well to the silver screen. In his review for Cinematical, my colleague Peter Hall observed that kids who "don't know any better" might be distracted "by digital hydras and lightning flashes, but the parents or older siblings who had to escort them to the theater for such a privilege will be wishing for sweet release from its lifeless grip." That's an official ouch. Skip it.

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After the jump: Indies on DVD, more Blu-ray picks, and Collector's Corner!

'The White Ribbon'The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke's latest work, filmed in black and white, strips a wartime drama to its essence. Set in rural Germany in the year before the outbreak of the first World War, the picture observes the inhabitants of a small village who are beholden to the landowners, a couple who run, well, everything. And then the rhythm of life is disturbed by a series of unusual events.

Our own Eugene Novikov was suitably impressed: "This is one of the year's best films: a tense, foreboding creeper with devastating insight into human nature and why ordinary people sometimes do (or acquiesce to) some very bad things."

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Also out, in this incredibly rich week for indie releases: Everlasting Moments, When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors, Creation, The Eclipse, Don McKay, The Warlords, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, It Came From Kuchar, Stolen.

'Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition'Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition
Super-charged macho action defined the brawny blockbusters of the 1980s, and while Predator is definitely not the equal-opportunity thriller that director John McTiernan made as a follow-up (Die Hard), it's very clear that it doesn't care about twists and turns and marriages on the rocks.

No, Predator is a primal beast. At its core, it's a clever, unofficial update of Richard Connell's 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, adapted in various guises every couple of years. Mighty hunters discover that they are the prey, only this time it's an alien hunter come to claim a human trophy or two. But the commando group headed up by Arnold Schwarzenegger is an all-star group of bad asses: Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, and Shane Black (screenwriter turned tough soldier). Their attitude when they realize they're up against something not from this world? "If it bleeds, we can kill it." McTiernan keeps the action moving at a furious pace, and it's impossible not to root for the macho blowhards.

The blu-ray features an audio commentary by McTiernan, behind the scenes documentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, special effects shorts, trailers and photo galleries.

Also out: Ryuhei Kitamura's cult classic Versus, in which yakuza must fight zombies in a forest. Hmm, humans vs. supernatural creatures, a wooded setting, plenty of action ... what does that remind me of?

'The Leopard: The Criterion Collection'The Leopard
Directed by Luchino Visconti, Dave Kehr of The New York Times says the "melancholy epic" was "grievously misused" when it opened in 1963, dubbed into English and shorn of 24 minutes of its 185-minute running time. Oh, and the color and print suffered indignities as well.

Kehr notes that the Criterion Collection has issued a new Blu-ray edition that is an upgrade of its 2004 transfer, and has not added any extras. But he says it's "hard to imagine" The Leopard looking any better than it does in its new high definition version. And then he digs into the film itself, "a near-perfect balance of personal drama and historical perspective" starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale.

David Hudson at Mubi rounds up more coverage on the release.

Also out: Night Train to Munich, Bonnie's Kids, Teenage Hitchhikers.