I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

by Ethan Alter December 13, 2011 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where apes? There apes!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
After Tim Burton's ill-fated Planet of the Apes remake belly-flopped into the marketplace a decade ago (we caught the last half-hour on cable recently and it's even worse than you remember), the Apes franchise has lain dormant, waiting for someone else to come along and figure out what the hell to do with it. In canny fashion, the makers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes don't try and reinvent the wheel -- they just go the beginning... literally. Rise functions as both a prequel to 1968's Planet of the Apes and the start of a whole new series, one that depicts exactly how those damn, dirty apes conquered mankind. As it turns out, it's all James Franco's fault (we coulda told you that). He plays a scientists who synthesizes a vaccine that ends up giving his favorite research monkey Cesar (Andy Serkis) super smarts, which he uses to lead his simian brethren in a violent uprising. Whenever the flesh-and-blood are onscreen, Rise is manifestly stupid (subplots involving John Lithgow as Franco's Alzheimer's-stricken father and Frieda Pinto as a seemingly lobotomized love interest are particularly risible), but once the apes attack, things get infinitely more entertaining. For the next movie, let's just eliminate the human cast entirely and make it all apes, all the time. It's what Rod Serling would have wanted.
Extras: A slew of deleted scenes, two audio commentaries and several featurettes, including one devoted to Serkis, who delivers yet another master class in the art of motion capture acting.

Fright Night
Yet another fondly remember '80s horror movie is remade for the 21st century and the results are, not surprisingly, fairly dire. Apart from Colin Farrell's slyly funny turn as a swaggering vampire and former Doctor Who star David Tennant's extended cameo as a Criss Angel-like magic man, very little else else about this tale of a teen boy (Anton Yelchin) and the bloodsucker-next-door works. The scary sequences aren't all that frightening and the attempts at humor largely fall flat. Plot holes abound as well, suggesting that the film had a rough trip through the editing room. Even a late-in-the-movie appearance by Chris Sarandon, who played the vamp in the '85 version, isn't worth hanging around for.
Extras: A gag reel that's funnier than the actual movie, five deleted scenes introduced by director Craig Gillespie, trivia about the film and an uncensored Kid Cudi music video.

Kung Fu Panda 2
A follow-up to the surprise 2008 animated blockbuster, Kung Fu Panda 2 features even more elaborate action sequences, but lacks some of the humor that made the original a fun family diversion. When a new threat emerges to the current rulers of China, Po the Panda (Jack Black) and the rest of the Furious Five rushes into action... and promptly get their butts handed to them by an enemy that's mastered the new art of gunpowder. Meanwhile, Po learns a secret about his origins that deeply affects kung fu skills. A mild diversion at best, Kung Fu Panda 2 suggests that Po's best fighting days are already behind him.
Extras: Kid-friendly interactive games, a "learn to speak Chinese" learning tool and in-the-recording-booth videos with the cast.

The Rocketeer: 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition
Now here's the movie parents should introduce their kids to this week. Released to much fanfare, but only modest commercial success in 1991, Joe Johnston's period comic-book adventure follows a daredevil pilot (Billy Campbell) that straps a jetpack to his back, sticks a bad-ass (and aerodynamic!) helmet on his head and blasts off to fight evil as... The Rocketeer! Only two years after relinquishing the mantle of James Bond, Timothy Dalton hams it up gloriously as the movie's designated heavy, a dashing movie star and undercover Nazi, while Jennifer Connelly was never more ravishing (and even more so in high-def) as the hero's main squeeze. A total blast and a true all-ages delight, The Rocketeer has to rank near the top of any list of the best comic book movies ever made.
Extras: Really, Disney? You released a brand-spanking new Blu-ray transfer of The Rocketeer with zero extras? We know that Johnston loves this movie as much as we do, so why no commentary track? Or retrospective documentary? Or featurette about the Rocketeer's dearly departed creator, Dave Stevens? Heck, even a trailer would be nice. Guess we'll have to wait for the 25th Anniversary edition for that stuff.

Also on DVD:
A TCM staple, Vincente Minnelli's 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis is probably Judy Garland's third most iconic film role after The Wizard of Oz and A Star is Born. This two-disc special edition includes a new introduction by her daughter, Liza, a commentary track by her biographer John Fricke and an extensive making-of documentary. If you were one of those muscleheads that emerged from Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables wishing that the damn thing was longer, then The Expendables (Extended Director's Cut) is for you. Pumped by a whopping ten minutes, this release also comes with the feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary Inferno, which details Sly's trial by fire in making the film. The movie that introduced both Peter Jackson and Kate Winslet to the international stage, Heavenly Creatures: The Uncut Version also features an additional ten minutes not in the original cut. As great as those Lord of the Rings films are, Heavenly Creatures remains Jackson's most impressive artistic accomplishment. Speaking of artistic accomplishments, City of God is widely (and deservedly) acknowledged as one of the best movies of the past decade, a terrific crime thriller that unfolds in the alleys of Rio's favelas. Finally, Blu-ray is the best way to appreciate the phantasmagorical glam rock images in Todd Hayne's sumptuous '70s era musical, Velvet Goldmine. Loosely based on the real-life relationship between glam rockers David Bowie and Iggy Pop, this edition features a highly detailed and informative new commentary track with Haynes and his producer, Christine Vachon.

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