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article imageReview: This week’s releases must dig deeper for the truth Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 12, 2017 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the latest adrenaline-fuelled chapter in a high-speed saga; a buddy comedy with future potential; a mystery series with many twists; and the continuation of a story many thought ended years ago.
The Fate of the Furious (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Now that Dom (Vin Diesel), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are married, Brian and Mia have retired from the game, and the rest of the crew has been exonerated, the globetrotting team seems to have found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) lures Dom back into the world of crime and convinces him to betray those closest to him, the crew faces new trials that will test them as never before.
The typically exaggerated plot is even more so as Theron’s character orchestrates elaborate schemes with omnipotent hacker skills, a fearless and obedient right-hand, and cold logic. She sends Dom on ridiculous missions, demanding he accomplish the impossible while his team counters the same. The use of technologically-advanced vehicles in a massive diversion is interesting and innovative, but this and other action sequences are undermined by too-fast/poor editing. While the team lives up to established expectations, bringing Jason Statham’s character onboard changes the dynamics and injects some additional humour. Unfortunately this film is primarily focused on setting up the closing trilogy, causing it to be substandard and noticeably less fun than its more recent predecessors.
Special features include: commentary by director F. Gary Gray; extended fight scenes; “The Cuban Spirit”; “In the Family”; “Car Culture”; and “All About the Stunts.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Man from Planet X (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
After a ship from a distant world lands on the moors of Scotland, intrepid reporter John Lawrence (Robert Clarke) and the brilliant Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond) set out to investigate. Their journey brings them face to face with the ship's pilot — an alien from a dying planet that pleads for their aid. But Elliot's unscrupulous colleague, Dr. Mears (William Schallert), has other plans for the interplanetary visitor — plans that could decide the fate of two worlds.
These old sci-fi pictures were being produced during some pretty unstable times, so it’s not surprising many of them had some grim stories to tell in which the humans don’t fare so well. In this case, greed and cruelty doom the human race — attributes that have been at the centre of conflicts since the beginning of time. The alien is a bit odd (and not just a little fake) in appearance, but it’s not especially aggressive. The people he encounters, on the other hand, run the gamut of humanity, which is unfortunate for Earth. The film also takes place at a time when a reporter just following a story could still be given opportunity to be a hero.
Special features include: commentary by author Tom Weaver and film historian Dr. Robert J. Kiss; image gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
The Missing: Season 2 (DVD)
Anchor Bay
The search ends. The mystery begins. In 2014, a young British woman stumbles through the streets of her German hometown and collapses. Her name is Alice Webster and she has been missing for 11 years. Alice’s return sends shockwaves through the small community. Told in dual timelines flitting between 2014 and the present day, we follow Alice’s family as they are thrown back into a turmoil that threatens to tear them apart at the seams. When a French missing-person’s detective, Julien Baptiste, races across Europe to pursue a 12-year-old case that he never let die, we begin to explore the murky morality and emotional complexity of what happens when the missing child you’ve been longing to return to you actually does come back.
This season deals with a parent’s worst nightmare… stuck on repeat. The case is similar to others that have made headlines with seemingly increased frequency in recent years — young girls kidnapped and held hostage for years by their captors. However, this mystery is far more complicated as there’s suspected military involvement, possible false identities, multiple deaths of people linked to the case and often little more than a gut feeling to go on. What this series’ creators really seems to grasp is solving a crime doesn’t immediately result in a happy ending for everyone. While the final episode doesn’t really leave any loose ends, it’s also not wrapped in a neat little bow.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay)
Once Upon a Time in Venice (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
Venice Beach P.I. Steve Ford (Bruce Willis) is a detective who’s good with the ladies, bad with the punches, and wild about his dog, Buddy. But when his beloved pet is stolen by local thugs, Steve makes a questionable alliance with their devious leader, Spyder (Jason Momoa). Teaming up with his best friend (John Goodman), Steve pulls out the big guns in search of Spyder’s stolen cocaine and cash in order to set things straight and get Buddy back where he belongs.
This is a great buddy comedy, oddly narrated by Thomas Middleditch who plays Ford’s novice assistant and P.I. in training. Willis and Goodman are a perfect team with the former generally playing the nice guy in their good cop/bad cop routine. It’s obvious Ford has generally gotten by on his charm since he knows almost everyone around Venice and they mostly seem to like him… which doesn’t mean they won’t break his legs if he doesn’t pay on time, but that they may feel bad doing it. Goodman is the straight man with hilarious deadpan line deliveries who also acts as Ford’s confidante. The film ends on a cliff-hanger so it would seem they’d like to turn the partnership into a serial, which has the potential to be quite entertaining.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (VVS Films)
Prison Break: Event Series (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
Although he was buried seven years ago, pictures from a Yemen prison reveal that Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) may still be alive, which sends shock waves through everyone he knows. Determined to rescue his brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) enlists C-Note’s (Rockmond Dunbar) help. Meanwhile, Michael’s wife Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) has remarried. And even if this biggest break-out yet is possible, is Michael the same man he was?
It’s difficult to remember all the details of the initial escape and subsequent events, so viewers will appreciate the summary montage at the start of the first episode. However, audience’s feelings for the various returning characters will resurface with ease. Life after incarceration has taken them all on very different paths, though the essence of their personalities remain unchanged. T-Bag’s (Robert Knepper) mix of Southern charm and prison brutality is still captivating, while Sucre never fails to amuse. C-Note, Sara and Lincoln also comeback to help Michael with yet another great escape along with a few more of his current cellmates. This revival answers questions raised by the original series, while producing an exciting and intact narrative as compelling as the first season 12 years ago.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Species [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
When a beautiful human-alien hybrid (Natasha Henstridge) escapes from observation, scientist Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) dispatches a crew of experts to find her before she is able to fulfill her horrific purpose: to mate with unsuspecting men and produce offspring that could destroy mankind. As her deadly biological clock ticks rapidly, Fitch and his team are hurled into a desperate battle in which the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance.
Looking back, this sci-fi movie includes a lot of familiar faces. While it put Henstridge on the map, the team of experts hunting her down is composed of a number of established actors: Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina and Marg Helgenberger. Moreover, as discussed in the bonus features, the design for the unmasked alien was created by H.R. Giger, so it displays recognizable elements of his work. The hormone-fuelled chase is compelling, though it loses some of its edge over time. The team is well casted and exhibit the appropriate chemistry/animosity towards each other, while Henstridge’s awkward/unpracticed seductions are balanced by her attractiveness. The film would spawn several sequels, but this is probably still the best of the franchise.
Special features include: commentary by Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen and director Roger Donaldson; commentary by director Roger Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund and producer Frank Mancuso Jr.; alternate ending; making-of featurette; “Afterbirth: The Evolution of Species”; “From Sil To Eve”; “Engineering Life”; “H.R. Giger At Work”; “Designing A Hybrid”; photo galleries; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Their Finest (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
1940, London, the Blitz. With England’s morale at stake, Catrin (Gemma Arterton), an untried screenwriter, works under fire with a makeshift cast and crew to make a film to lift the nation’s flagging spirits, and inspire America to join the war. Catrin and a fellow writer, Buckley (Sam Claflin), reluctantly joins forces with fading matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) on a movie to warm the hearts of the nation and capture the imagination of the American public.
One of the most interesting aspects of this picture is excluded from the above synopsis: Catrin convinces her superiors that the most inspiring story they can tell features two women and their contributions to the war effort. Although they all agree it’s rousing and relatable, they still make many efforts to minimize the women’s role in the tale. The other part of the narrative is Catrin’s determination to be treated as an equal by Buckley, particularly intellectually. Nighy brings his typical charm and experience, while Claflin’s characteristically devilish good looks are concealed beneath a more conservative/bookish appearance. Of course the war introduces its own challenges as does the untalented American actor recruited for the film, but they’re constantly revising and improvising to make it work, which creates an interesting film.
Special features include: commentary by director Lone Scherfig; and making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
More about The Fate of the Furious, Prison Break Event Series, Their Finest, The Man from Planet X, The Missing
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