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DVDs In Brief: December 14, 2011


DVD round-up

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When the summer movie season started, expectations were low for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox): It had an August release, removed from the blockbuster fray; the last attempt at a modern Apes movie was the weak Tim Burton-directed remake Planet Of The Apes; and the enterprise in general had offering diminishing returns since Charlton Heston first crash-landed in 1968. Yet Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes turned out to be the summer’s best studio movie, a brainy and exciting critique of mankind’s hubristic notions of progress, featuring incredible special effects and another nuanced motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis as “Caesar,” leader of the evolved chimps… 

Given that 2011’s Pixar feature, Cars 2, was such a critical disappointment, DreamWorks had a rare chance to step up to bat and hit the home run that would make it the new MVP of CGI. Instead, it whiffed twice, with the pretty-but-insubstantial Puss In Boots and the flat-out disappointment of Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks). The first Kung Fu Panda was surprisingly adept and exciting, but the sequel plays up the funny-group-of-animals character business at the expense of the none-too-convincing plot, and it starts by giving away the ending. Only Gary Oldman as the villain, an ambitious, empire-building peacock, improves on the original film in any way…

DVD may be the right medium for Fright Night (DreamWorks), a mildly entertaining remake of the ’80s horror-comedy that made such poor use of 3D effects that the few who paid money for it in theaters likely felt ripped off. But on TV, the film’s clever riffs on vampire mythology—courtesy of writer Marti Noxon, of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame—should score a little easier, aided by lively performances by Doctor Who star David Tennant as a Criss Angel-like magician/fraud and especially Colin Farrell as the deranged vampire next door… 

In the late ’60s, a group of Swedish filmmakers came to America to document the burgeoning Black Power movement, and some of its major, radicalized leaders, like Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton. Göran Olsson’s documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (Magnolia) is built around a treasure-trove of footage found in the Swedish television archives and uses it to understand the combustible emotion (and shrewd strategy) that was driving the movement…