Blu-ray: ‘Alien: Covenant’

You may recall Prometheus with both awe and astonishment, a film with astounding moments of beauty and horror and brilliance bumping up against stupidity and sloppiness and half-baked ideas. Alien: Covenant (2017), the second film in the Alien prequel series, takes place a decade after the events of Prometheus (2012) and continues writing the xenomorph origin story with a new cast of potential hosts (a colony ship with a population on ice waiting to wake on a new world) put through a plot that borrows elements from both Prometheus and the original films. It’s a smarter film, and if it never quite matches the conceptual and visual genius of Prometheus at its best, neither does it slip into the foolishness of its worst moments.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

This is the sixth official film (we’re ignoring the Alien vs. Predator films) in what is becoming a galaxy-spanning franchise, the second film in the prequel story, and the third directed by Ridley Scott, director of the original film. It opens with the skeleton crew awakening early, just as it did in Scott’s original Alien, and sending a search party down to a nearby planet sending out a distress signal, which this time is a verdant world teaming with plant life but, eerily, no animals or insects or birds. What it does have are the insidious spores of Prometheus (also directed by Scott) which colonize the unlikely humans as hosts for this alien life form, and a lone humanoid living in the ruins of a dead civilization: David (Michael Fassbender), the android of Prometheus who walks the wasteland like a rogue prophet and makes contact with the human team.

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Videophiled TVD: The American ‘The Bridge’

The Bridge: The Complete First Season (US) (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD) – The U.S. has a long and complicated history of remaking foreign shows, with a lot of failures but also a lot of success stories. The Bridge is one of the more natural imports. The original show, a dark murder mystery procedural from Denmark, throws a cross-border complication into a case where the victim is found lying across the borderline on a bridge between Sweden and Denmark, just the first of many twists. The American reworking drops the premise into the border crossing between El Paso and Juarez, the Mexican side being the murder capital of cartel-dominated territories along the border, and comes ready-made with political, social, cultural, and personal issues to complicate the investigation of what appears to be the murder of an American judge with an anti-immigration record but turns out to be part of a serial killing spree.

The volatile culture of the setting enriches the procedural but it’s the partnership of American homicide detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), an obsessive, brilliant, by-the-book cop with borderline Asperger’s symptoms, and Chihauhau State Police detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), a moral cop in an amoral system who latches on to this cross-jurisdictional case because it may allow him to do real police work unencumbered by corrupt bosses, that defines the show. They are a great team, with his ability to charm, cajole, and put people at ease teaching her a thing or two about the human side of the job and her genius putting together disparate clues into a pattern that eludes everyone else.

I also appreciate how the show doesn’t keep playing games with the identity of the killer and even solves the case before the season is over. Because the show, with its diverse cast and multiple storylines intertwining, is about more than this one case. As we get pulled into the characters and the tension between the cultures on either side of the border crossing, it reminds us that there is far more wrong here than a serial killer targeting a few victims and leaving the clues out for the detectives. There are hundreds of murders and missing women on the Mexican side that Americans never confront because that problem belongs to another country. Except that the relationship between the territories is much more complex than that and the series explores the way the cultures and economies and criminal enterprises are intertwined. Ted Levine, one of my favorite character actors, plays Sonya’s protective commanding officer, Annabeth Gish is the widow of a landowner who discovers her husband’s underworld activities after his death, Matthew Lillard and Emily Rios are reporters, and Catalina Sandino Moreno is Marco’s wife, who plays a more central role in the story as it unfolds.

13 episodes on four discs on DVD, with commentary on the pilot episodes, two featurettes and deleted scenes. Also available to stream from Hulu Plus.

This is a good time to remind you that The Bridge: Season One (Denmark) (MHz, DVD), the original Scandinavian series, is also now available. The show opens with a murder victim found in the middle of a bridge between Sweden and Denmark, but that’s only the beginning of the complications. Police from both countries discover that it’s actually two bodies cut in half and stitched together into a single corpse, and have to work together across borders. 10 episodes on four discs on DVD, all in Swedish and Danish with English subtitles, with cast and crew interviews.

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