With Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley on hand as a couple of hip genetic engineers, you might guess that "Splice" is a cut above the typical horror film. And it is to some degree. The pair play Clive and Elsa, who have created new organisms using the DNA of animals. They called the latest, a pair of icky masses, Fred and Ginger.
Though Clive and Elsa don't think too much about it, funding for their experiments comes from a shadowy pharmaceutical company. So when Fred and Ginger don't make it, the pair take a gamble to get back into the good graces of the moneymen.
Their creation is the humanlike Dren - played as a child by Abigail Chu and as an adult by Delphine Chan ac. At first, Elsa finds that Dren is cuddly cute. On the emotional side, the process of Dren being brought into the world by in-vitro fertilization begins to raise questions in the scientist's mind about her own relationship with Clive.
But it's the nonhuman bits that ultimately produce terror. Director Vincenzo Natali uses a blend of computer-generated effects, mechanical effects and human performances to create the monster. There are obvious references to "Frankenstein," the classic story of a scientist playing God.
"Splice" has created a memorable creature in Dren, and Brody and Polley add a level of intelligence to their roles. Like a lot of horror flicks, the film goes a bit too much for the jugular in the end, but until then it's a pretty creepy trip.
'Karate' lacks kick
The 1984 "The Karate Kid" was a feel-good "Rocky"-style movie that was a touchstone for a lot of young people growing up in that era.
The new version - with Jaden Smith as the kid and Jackie Chan as the mentor - is slicker with more convincing fight scenes, but for those of us who remember the original, it doesn't seem to have enough emotional kick.
Otherwise it's a perfectly serviceable family film.
'Tenth Inning' is a hit
As for television box sets, the best release of the week is "Baseball: The Tenth Inning" by Ken Burns. This sequel to his highly acclaimed 1994 documentary "Baseball" aired on PBS last week, and picks up where his original series left off, including segments on the players strike, the steroid scandal and the Boston Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series - the team's first title in 86 years.
Classics, new and old, on Blu-ray
Over the last two seasons "Bones" hasn't exactly jumped the shark; it's more like it's tripped over the shark. The sexual and professional tension between its two main characters - played by Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz - has gone from intriguing to too precious. And for being a crime-solver, there is really little mystery as to who did it each week. At the end of the fifth season - which will be released on DVD Tuesday - the characters went off in different directions, but have no fear, they are already back for another season.
The first season of Syfy's prequel to "Battlestar Galactica" - "Caprica" - took a little bit of time to get going but eventually started hitting the highs of its predecessor. The first season comes out on DVD this week; season two begins Tuesday.
For those who want to see the many tics of TV's favorite obsessive-compulsive detective, all eight seasons of "Monk" are now available in a box set.
There are a few older films of note that are getting the Blu-ray treatment. Most notable is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." The 1991 film is one of the gems of the studio's animation renaissance that had begun a few years earlier with "The Little Mermaid." Still one of the scariest films of all time, "The Exorcist" Blu-ray includes the extended director's cut and the original theatrical release. There are also two Humphrey Bogart classics coming out Tuesday - "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."