The latest "Planet of the Apes" picture leads these new films on Blu-ray and DVD this week.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Fox/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, two discs, $39.99). Easily the best "Apes" movie since the 1968 original, this is also one of the year's most enjoyable fantasy films, retelling the origin story in a new way that should please old fans and new.
Andy Serkis, who scored as Gollum in "Lord of the Rings," again uses motion-capture animation to give an astonishing performance as Cesar, the central ape. The film itself is replete with clichés in the lab, in scientist James Franco's home and even a sort of chimps-in-prison sequence, but it builds dramatically to an exciting battle of apes vs. man on the Golden Gate Bridge.
John Lithgow also does nicely as Franco's father, slipping into dementia, and all of the various apes are well performed. But it's really Serkis' remarkable characterization that holds it all together.
Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, feaurettes, art gallery (also on single-disc DVD, $29)
"Kung Fu Panda 2" (Dreamworks/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, 2011, PG, two discs, $49.99). Jack Black leads an all-star voice cast for this animated sequel, which is just as enjoyable as the first film. Here, Po and friends are living a peaceful life when an old enemy returns with a powerful new weapon.
Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, new short cartoon: "Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters," two memberships to online game "Kung Fu Panda World," trailers; DVD-Rom applications (also on two-disc DVD, $40.99, and single-disc DVD, $29.99)
"Fright Night" (Touchstone/Blu-ray, 2011; R for violence, language, sex; two discs, $30.99). Solid remake of the campy '80s vampire spoof stars Colin Farrell as the alluring but deadly bloodsucker who moves into a suburban neighborhood and begins his rampage until a spunky high schooler (Anton Yelchin) catches on. Funny and scary with over-the-top special effects.
Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers, trailers (also on three-disc Blu-ray 3-D Combo pack, $49.99, and single disc DVD, $29.99)
"The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975" (Sundance/IFC, 2011, color and b/w, $24.98). Powerful documentary footage shot in the title time period by Swedish TV is reassembled into this feature by contemporary filmmakers. The U.S. Black Power Movement is charted in its own voice, through such activists as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, along with celebrity voices providing additional commentary. Fascinating history in a time capsule.
Extras: full frame, documentary short, featurettes, trailer
"Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" (Vivendi/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, $29.95). Action directors Tsui Hark and Sammo Hung teamed up for this startling and lavishly produced mix of Chinese martial arts and Sherlock Holmes-style observational detective work based on a series of popular novels. The result is a heady combination that should please both mystery and martial-arts fans as it takes "wire-fu" to the next level. Great fun.
Extras: widescreen, featurettes, photo/poster gallery, trailer (also on DVD, $19.97)
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