This week's new DVD selections include vampires, a heroic panda, and lots of monkeys.
Fright Night (Grade A-): A teenager discovers his neighbor is a vampire.
Director Craig Gillespie opted for a different approach with his remake of the 1985 thriller Fright Night, and the new version is as much fun as the original. And, in the biggest shock of the movie, it's actually scarier because it goes a camp route.
Colin Farrell is the perfect vampire, with the dark good looks to charm victims who fail to see that the glint in his eye signals a lunatic deep inside. It would have been easy to go over the top with this character - as Chris Sarandon did in the original - but Farrell's serious commitment to the role generates an intensity that's off the spooky charts.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Grade A): Po's new life is threatened by a formidable villain.
Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson faced the daunting task of trying to make Kung Fu Panda 2 as fun and exciting as the original 2008 film. Nelson kept the superb voice work of Jack Black (as Po) and Dustin Hoffman (as Shifu), but adds to the brilliant vocal cast with Gary Oldman, Dennis Haysbert, and Victor Garber.
Sequels are notorious for being little more than pale copies of the original. There's nothing pale about the dazzling Kung Fu 2. It rocks.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Grade D): James Franco plays a scientist who creates a formula that makes monkeys and apes smarter. He never expected them to get smart enough to go from pets to protagonists.
Director Rupert Wyatt offers a slow-moving look at the events that set in motion the switch of world rule from humans to monkeys, apes, and chimpanzees.
It takes forever for the film to get to the big battle scenes, and that conflict is so pedestrian, it's not worth the wait.
The special effects are passable, but not strong enough to make either the emotional or physical scenes work.
Also new on DVD this week:
Switched at Birth: Volume 1: Cable series about two teen girls who discover they have grown up with the wrong families.
Family Guy: Volume 9: The three-disc set features 14 episodes from the eighth and ninth seasons, including the 150th episode.
Circumstance: A coming of age story about Iranian youth.
Spin City: The Complete Sixth Season: Charlie Sheen plays the New York mayor's winning top assistant.
Gunsmoke: The Fifth Season, Volume 2: Continuing story of the lawman played by James Arness.
99 & 44/100 percent Dead / The Nickel Ride: DVD includes the two action movies.
I Want to Get Married: Six days before the vote on Prop 8, a man decides he wants to get hitched.
Daktari: The Complete First Season: TV series set in Africa.
Sledge Hammer: The Complete Series: David Rasche stars in this cop comedy.
Swamp People: Season 2: Reality series about life in the swamps.
The Life & Times of Tim: The Complete Second Season: Animated series about an average guy whose instincts take him down the wrong path.
Tanner Hall: A look into the scandalous world of an all-girls boarding school.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame: Stars Hong Kong actor Andy Lau.
Frontline: The Anthrax Files: A look at the 2001 incident where envelopes carrying anthrax were delivered to U.S. Senate offices, network news divisions, and a tabloid newspaper.
Steve Jobs: One Last Thing: A look at the creative genius through interviews with colleagues and others.