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article imageReview: Villains are trying to keep everyone down in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 8, 2020 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include the original woman warriors; an in-depth look at revolutionary music; a series rebooted; a new superhero with spunk; and a couple of pictures that demonstrate “violence begets violence.”
DC’s Stargirl: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The series follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) as she inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to take up the legacy of a long-lost superhero team — The Justice Society of America — and stop the super-villains of the past.
This new DC superhero show is based on Geoff Johns’ comic series, which is actually inspired by his late sister who was unfortunately killed in a plane explosion. Due to its tragic inspiration, audiences can feel the love with which Courtney’s character was conceived — she’s a passionate and spunky teen so determined to stand up for good that even after taking a beating, she just wants to get back into the fray to protect her team. Luke Wilson plays her stepdad and keeper of the Justice Society’s history and Amy Smart is her unsuspecting mom. However, for the first half of the season, the characters outside the Whitmore-Dugan house lack some depth and to some degree just fill roles on either side of the battle. Fortunately, by the latter half of the season, they’ve built up their personalities and the villains’ arcs get especially interesting.
There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Genesis II / Planet Earth — 2 Film Collection (Blu-ray)
Warner Archive Collection
“My name is Dylan Hunt. My story begins the day on which I died.” So begins this sci-fi saga from visionary creator Gene Roddenberry. Genesis II follows NASA scientist Dylan Hunt (Alex Cord), who’s buried in his own suspended-animation machine at NASA’s underground Carlsbad complex following an earthquake. Revived in the terrifying 22nd century by the pacifists of PAX, descendants of his fellow scientists, he learns of The Great Conflict, a third and final world war that destroyed everything he knew. As an agent of PAX, Dylan seeks to spread the message of science and peace throughout this savage and strange new world called Earth. In Genesis II, he encounters the Tyranians, a mutant, militaristic neighboring civilization. In Planet Earth, Dylan (now played by John Saxon) journeys to the Confederacy, where a despotic matriarchy enslaves all males.
These two movies complement each other, but they are really only loosely connected. In the first picture, Dylan spends a lot of the film becoming acquainted with this unusual future. Their ways are puzzling and he grows concerned that their pacifism isn’t all it appears to be. It also ends a bit strangely as they seem to agree on a new course of existence the suddenly cut to credits. In the sequel, Saxon replaces Cord in this equally odd narrative. In a world in which women rule, men are only kept as domestic and sexual servants. Dylan and his team arrive in search of a friend, but he’s enslaved while the only female crew member is left to gradually climb the ladder of the local hierarchy until she’s in a position to free her male colleagues. Unfortunately, unlike some of Roddenberry’s other creations, these movies haven’t aged well.
There are no special features. (Warner Archive Collection)
Ghost Ship [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Finders’ keepers. Any abandoned ship floating in international waters can be claimed and towed to port by whomever is fortunate enough to find it. Or, in the case of one team of salvage experts, unfortunate enough.
This was director Steve Beck’s unsettling follow-up to his feature debut, Thirteen Ghosts. Once again, his visual effects background lends itself to creating memorable death sequences and an eerie tale of restless of spirits. The film has one of the best opening scenes as multiple people are simultaneously murdered in a gruesomely creative manner. Later, supernatural flashbacks recall how the rest of the ship’s passengers met their grisly demises, while also revealing what’s driving the danger threatening the current salvage crew. This is a solid horror picture that harkens back to The Shining with its vengeful — and occasionally seductive — ghosts. It also has a great ending to match its stunning opening, minus the clichéd screaming as an ambulance door closes.
Special features include: commentary by director Steve Beck; “This Isn’t Real,” an interview with actor Isaiah Washington; “Dark Castle at Sea,” an interview with producer Gil Adler; “Every Body on Board,” an interview with makeup effects supervisor Jason Baird; “Max on Set”; visual effects featurette; “A Closer Look at the Gore”; “Designing the Ghost Ship”; “Secrets of the Antonia Graza” clips; Mudvayne’s “Not Falling” music video; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America (Blu-ray)
AMC Networks
Each episode of the documentary series focuses on a ground-breaking song pivotal to the evolution of American music and culture. Artists, their collaborators, and other influential musical and cultural figures deconstruct compositions, revisit the impact the song had on them personally, and dissect the socio-economic and cultural conditions that inspired the landmark work and gave voice to a generation. Some of the songs featured in the series include Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box,” Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First,” and more.
The series only consists of six episodes, but it’s one of the most informative, deep dives into this prolific music genre. While it’s understandable from a business perspective to want to begin with a contemporary artist and song, it also would’ve been nice to see some of the early innovators higher in the playlist — or at least begin the series with an artist who agreed to participate in the show. Nonetheless, each chapter is an education, revealing the artists’ origins and rise to stardom, which in turn leads to their revolutionary music contribution. Each of the creators have established careers and a lot to say about their experiences during these important moments. However, the showrunners never fall into the typical traps of talking about hip hop culture, even focusing on Outkast’s representation of the South amidst the East and West coast rap wars.
Special features include: “Barbershop”; “Rooftop Redemption”; “Sounds of the South”; and “Basement Tapes.” (AMC Networks)
The Legend of Tomiris (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
Based on historical heroine Queen Tomiris of Massagetae (Almira Tursyn) and her cadre of female warriors, the film recounts the tale of the nomadic ruler who overcame great personal tragedy to repel the powerful Persian empire and unite the Great Steppe.
Tomiris and the other woman warriors are real-life 6th century BCE Amazonians, and definite precursors for the modern-day Wonder Woman. Tomiris’ life is full of tragedy, but she refuses to let it make her bitter. In time, she builds new familial relationships, and finds value in her battle skills and life. While she seeks vengeance, she doesn’t let it cloud her judgement — she is a brilliant strategist and consistently leads her armies to victory by being smart and not rash. A later showdown is reminiscent of 300 as the Persian king underestimates the power of a trained army fighting for their way of life, regardless of their numbers. The societies depicted in this Kazakhstani film are incredibly balanced and respectful when compared to contemporary culture, creating an extra layer of interest in the narrative.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels: Season One (DVD)
Paramount Home Entertainment
1938 Los Angeles is a time and place deeply infused with social and political tension. When a grisly murder shocks the city, Detective Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) and his partner Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) become embroiled in an epic story that reflects the rich history of Los Angeles: from the building of the city's first freeways and its deep traditions of Mexican-American folklore, to the dangerous espionage actions of the Third Reich and the rise of radio evangelism. Before long, Tiago and his family are grappling with powerful forces that threaten to tear them apart.
Following the end of the original supernatural series, showrunners rebooted it with an entirely new time and location. The show is set in a very turbulent historical period and place as hostilities between the white and Mexican residents of a small town are rising. This is exasperated by the presence of an underground Nazi faction that is gradually building steam in America, while a group of Jews try to ensure they don’t gain a foothold. At the heart of all these conflicts is Magda (Natalie Dormer), a malevolent being who feeds on violence and chaos. Thus, by taking different guises, she has the ear of people of importance in each group and is enticing them to escalate the negativity of their respective situations. Vega’s family is deeply entwined in this battle between good and evil as it was decided years earlier that he would play a significant role in its outcome, which is yet to be decided.
Special features include: “Introduction to Penny Dreadful: City of Angels: Season One”; “The Many Faces of Magda”; “The Dance of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels: Season One”; and “The Devil is the Details” parts one and two. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Shadow of Violence (DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Ex-boxer Douglas “Arm” Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) has become a feared enforcer for the drug-dealing Devers family. When his ruthless employers order him to kill for the first time, his loyalties are tested.
This is one of those stories that starts at the bottom and implausibly finds ways to go lower. Rather than show Arm’s fall from grace, it begins with him already down and almost out. Beating up addicts who can’t pay their debts, he’s barely scraping by but Dympna Devers (Barry Keoghan) convinces him this is still the best life either of them can achieve. In the meantime, Arm is also trying to prove to his ex he can be a good father to their special needs son. When the Devers demand Arm cross a line, his decision has extensive repercussions for everyone. It’s not exactly unpredictable, but Jarvis’ nuanced portrayal of the typical enforcer somewhat elevates the picture.
There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Silencing (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
A reformed hunter (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and a sheriff (Annabelle Wallis) are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse when they set out to track a killer who may have kidnapped the hunter’s daughter five years ago.
This crime thriller is unusual in that the hunter is almost more law-abiding than the sheriff in some instances. Having completely turned his life around after his daughter’s disappearance, the hunter spends his days educating kids about the importance of conservation, stopping illegal hunters and posting missing person posters around town. The sheriff, who had escaped to the city and become a cop, moved back to her childhood home … but her training can’t overcome the guilt and loyalty she feels for her delinquent younger brother. The serial killer, in the meantime, has become incredibly active, leaving almost no time between victims now. Unfortunately, the narrative raises a lot of practical and character-related questions. With no good answers that don’t unravel the story, it can be an unfulfilling watch.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and “Creating a Weapon: The Silencing Spear.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
More about Hip Hop The Songs That Shook America, The Legend of Tomiris, Penny Dreadful, DCs Stargirl, stargirl
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