RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Kung Fu Panda 2 and Rise of Planet of the Apes

Plus, we've got a sharp remake of a cult fave, an oddball martial arts mystery, and much more.

by and | December 13, 2011 | Comments

This week in home video, we’ve got five Certified Fresh flicks, including the sequel to an animated favorite, a big franchise reboot, and a smart remake of a 1980s cult favorite. Our lineup this week: Kung Fu Panda 2, with Jack Black and Angelina Jolie; Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco and Andy Serkis; and Fright Night, featuring Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell. Plus, we’ve got a stylish civil rights documentary, an oddball martial arts mystery, a pair of B-movie classics from Japan, and a classic holiday musical. Check out the full list of new Blu-rays below!

Kung Fu Panda 2


You survived the skadoosh of Jack Black in 2008, ready for skadeux? Black returns to voice Po, the martial arts savant who must confront his past when evil peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) returns to settle some old scores. But like last time, Po won’t be going at it alone: the original cast also returns, a rank and file that includes Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, and Lucy Liu. Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t set the box office on fire like the original, but its Certified Fresh status means this might be a movie to re-discover in home release. DVD and Blu-ray extras include a sneak peek to the Kung Fu Panda tv show, commentary, trivia track, and, in some releases, an all-new Po adventure called Secrets of the Masters.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Motion capture and CGI are the antithesis of flesh-and-blood emotion, right? Well, someone forgot to tell Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a franchise reboot and special effects-fest that’s also thrilling and surprisingly poignant. James Franco stars as a brilliant scientist who’s experimenting on chimps to find a cure for Alzheimer’s; in the process, he bonds with the highly intelligent Caesar (Andy Serkis), whose rapid mastery of language and increasing frustration with captivity contribute to a rebellious streak that culminates in a coordinated ape attack on San Francisco. Serkis’ remarkable motion-captured performance is eerily virtuosic, and goes a long way toward making Apes one of the most thoughtful blockbusters of the year. The two-disc Blu-ray set includes several making-of docs, deleted scenes, and two audio commentary tracks, plus the full feature on DVD and a digital copy of the film.

Fright Night


Since every single movie from the 1980s is going to eventually get remade, future adaptors would do well to follow the example of Craig Gillespie, whose new take on Fright Night surprised the critics with its confident tone and excellent performances. Based upon the 1985 cult chiller, Fright Night stars Anton Yelchin as Charley, a too-cool-for-school teen who notices that something’s not quite right about Jerry (Colin Farrell), the guy who moved in next door. As it turns out, Jerry’s a vampire who’s preying on the neighborhood, and it’s up to Charley to stop him. The critics loved Farrell’s slyly menacing performance, and though they felt the film didn’t always match the mischievous appeal of its source material, the sharp, clever script mostly made up for the film’s missteps. A three-disc Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D/ DVD/ digital copy features deleted and extended scenes, a gag real, and some tongue-in-cheek featurettes.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975


The title says it all: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a potent blend of archival footage and contemporary interviews, all scored to new tunes by the Roots’ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Sa-Ra’s Om’Mas Keith, that provides a fascinating overview of the Black Power movement. In the late 1960s, a Swedish television crew recorded candid interviews with prominent activists like Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, and Stokely Carmichael; unfortunately, the footage languished in storage for nearly 30 years before getting a fresh, contemporaneous edit. In addition to the words of the Black Panthers and their associates, such artistic luminaries as Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and Danny Glover discuss the impact that the Black Power movement had on their lives and work.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame


Detective Dee: it’s the greatest epic martial arts mystery since Brotherhood of the Wolf! Okay, it’s maybe the only epic martial arts mystery since Brotherhood. Still, Detective Dee is the king of this peculiar subgenre, wowing critics with its compelling whodunit plot and over-the-top action sequences. The mystery at hand is that of the phantom flame, a chilling entity that is killing the men of a Chinese empress. In her desperation, she turns to infamous Dee Renjie, a man whose unparalleled wisdom is matched only by his martial arts skills. On home release, this Certified Fresh flick delivers both Mandarin and English dub, along with featurettes on the weapons, stunts, and characters that populate the world of Detective Dee.

Branded to Kill/Tokyo Drifter – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray


Even in the wild-and-crazy 1960s, nobody made movies as deliriously insane as Seijun Suzuki. One of Japan’s preeminent B-movie directors, Suzuki’s films are stylistically bold, logically jarring, and action packed. Two of his best, Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter (both at 100 percent on the Tomatometer), are getting the deluxe Blu-ray treatment from Criterion, so now’s the time to revel in some of the weirdest pulp crime thrillers in cinema history. Branded to Kill is the tale of a mafia hitman who becomes a target himself after a botched job, while Tokyo Drifter is the story of a yakuza member attempting to leave his criminal past behind. Those descriptions don’t do justice to the Suzuki’s outrageous sense of style, which has influenced the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, and Takeshi Kitano, among others. The Blu-rays include new transfers of the films, along with interviews with Suzuki and his cast and crew members.

Meet Me in St. Louis – Blu-ray


Just in time for Christmas, Meet Me in St. Louis hits shelves on blu-ray, giving you a chance to hear Judy Garland sing the bittersweet holiday standard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Actually, there’s plenty more to recommend in Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 classic; Meet Me in St. Louis is not only a top notch musical, it’s also a loving tribute to family togetherness and an a treat for the eyes. The movie follows the trials, tribulations, and heartaches of the comfortably middle class Smith family in the year leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair, though the plot is often just an excuse for showstopping musical numbers, which, in addition to “Christmas” include “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door.” The new Blu-ray comes chock full of special features, including a brief introduction to the film by Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, making-of featurettes, Bubbles, a 1930 short featuring Garland, and plenty more.

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