Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (Cert PG, 113 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Family, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £28.99)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Abel, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin McKidd, Sean Bean, Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Joe Pantoliano.
PERCY Jackson (Lerman) is struggling at high school and rowing constantly with his mother Sally (Keener), who has married a loser called Gabe (Pantoliano).
During a visit to a museum, the troubled teenager learns a shocking secret: he is the son of Poseidon (McKidd), god of the sea, and a war is brewing because Zeus (Bean) believes – quite wrongly – that Percy has stolen his lightning bolt. Moreover, best friend Grover (Jackson) is a satyr, charged with protecting Percy from evil. Spirited away to Camp Half Blood, Percy begins his training with centaur Chiron (Brosnan) and the other demi-god children including Annabeth (Daddario), daughter of Athena, and Luke (Abel), son of Hermes. When Hades (Coogan) enslaves Percy’s mother and promises her safe return in exchange for the stolen lightning bolt, the teenager embarks on a quest to the underworld accompanied by Grover and Annabeth. This is an all-action adventure inspired by Greek mythology, which seamlessly melds live action and computer trickery. Lerman is an engaging and sympathetic hero, tormented by his dyslexia which turns out to be a preference for ancient Greek. Daddario catalyses pleasing on-screen chemistry and Jackson quips energetically. Columbus doesn’t let the effects overwhelm the storytelling, although it’s more of a stretch than a squeeze to fill the rollicking two hours.
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
(Cert U, 89 mins, Entertainment In Video, Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)
Starring: Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Jason Alexander, Sarah Roemer, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.
IN A Buddhist temple, a monk packages up a little Akita puppy and sends it via airmail to America. By chance, the puppy wriggles free from its crate at a small-town station, just as Parker Wilson (Gere) is coming home.
The music professor has promised his wife Cate (Allen) that he won’t get another dog, and she is not happy when he sneaks Hachi into their beautiful, picket-fenced home. The bond between Parker and Hachi deepens, despite the family’s attempts to find the animal’s real owners.
The pup grows up and it’s not long before he’s digging his way under the garden fence to follow Parker to the station. This quickly turns into a routine: Hachi walks Parker to the station each morning and returns to greet his master at the same time every evening.
He becomes a familiar sight among the local shopkeepers and the station master (Alexander), pulling together the small community with his unswerving loyalty. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is the English language retelling of the true story of a loyal Japanese Akita pup, which waited each day for his master at Shibuya station in Tokyo, keeping to the routine for 10 years after his owner had passed away.
Gere and Allen deliver convincing performances as the devoted couple but the true stars of the film are the dogs which play Hachi and the trainers who entice them to perform the variety of tricks.
While many animal films are slathered in schmaltz, director Lasse Hallstrom keeps his meditation on unerring love just the right side of sentimental.