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DVDs In Brief: October 6, 2010

Transferring the action from California to Shanghai, and a casting a much younger Jaden Smith in the role immortalized by Ralph Macchio, the remake of The Karate Kid (Sony) has no business working as well as it does, not least because karate isn’t commonly practiced in China. But it’s easy to see why the film connected with audiences: Smith and Jackie Chan, who plays a graver variation on Pat Morita’s handyman/mentor, have good chemistry together, and the formula, which the remake follows pretty closely, still has enormous appeal. If only it weren’t so generic… 

Finally, after its distributor bilked the public for years with separate, extended-cut versions of Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the original theatrical Grindhouse (Vivendi) experience has become whole again on a two-disc Blu-ray, complete with all the fake trailers and a bevy of extras. Of the two, Tarantino’s gearhead thriller is still stronger, with a fascinating, experimental structure and fine work by Kurt Russell and a host of lovely daredevil women. But even Rodriguez’s typically sloppy execution doesn’t spoil his energetic tribute to John Carpenter and George Romero movies…

Horror fans have three choices this week, only one of them good. That’s Splice (Warner Bros.), a sharp black comedy about genetic engineering with an uncomfortably beguiling human-animal hybrid at its center. It’s appropriately icky, it features engaged lead performances from Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, and it raises some interesting questions about what it means to be human…

There’s a little bit of human/animal hybridization going on in The Human Centipede (IFC), albeit of a much more lo-fi variety. If you don’t know the premise, feel free to Google it. We aren’t going to repeat it. If you do know the premise, just trust us: The film is pretty much as grotesque as it sounds, and not much fun, either…

But at least The Human Centipede has originality going for it. The same can’t be said for A Nightmare On Elm Street (Warner Bros.), a dull remake of Wes Craven’s ’80s classic that looks like it was run through the remake-o-matic. Avoid.