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(1995) ** R
108 min. MGM/UA. Director: Roger Donaldson. Cast: Natasha Henstridge, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina.

/content/films/5205/1.jpgRoger Donaldson's 1995 hit Species typifies middling Hollywood schlock: a pulpy, sleazy sci-fi/horror creature feature destined to cycle endlessly through cable airings and, now, to pad out streaming platforms. In a blunt way, it works, but more so as the kind of movie one half-pays attention to, only grabbing focus when action kicks in or Natasha Henstridge gets naked again. Woe betide you if you try to search for deep ideas in it or take it remotely seriously. It ain’t that kind of party.

Dennis Feldman's script functions as a fugitive narrative with a team of "experts" (Michael Madsen's trained killer, Marg Helgenberger's molecular biologist, Alfred Molina's cultural anthropologist, and Forest Whitaker's empath, all assembled by Ben Kingsley's scientist) tracking an alien-human hybrid succubus that first looks like teenage Michelle Williams before rapidly growing into a leggy, busty, often-naked blonde supermodel (Henstridge as "Sil").

The characters can only be described as "silly" ("Sil"-y?), with Kingsley doing an unconvincing American dialect and unable to reconcile his angry barking and ruthless manner with a supposed sadness about having to kill the beast, Madsen and Helgenberger striking up a quick romance, and Molina giving one of his not-so-subtle performances (to be fair, his stage training and giant-sized facial features seldom work to his advantage on screen, supervillain Dr. Octopus being a notable exception). The only one who escapes this movie scot-free, Whitaker again proves incapable of hitting a false note (even when playing a socially awkward Deanna Troi knockoff).

H.R. Giger’s trippy designs go some way to giving the movie some semblance of artistic weight; Donaldson employs them well in head-trip montages, while the practical effects and even the special effects hold up well until the iffy early-CGI necessarily employed in the film's climax. The action's decent if generic, and there is some fun in the sexual threat of a female creature that's hellbent on mating poor saps to death, but Species is decidedly meh, as evidenced by a CinemaScore (always inflated) of B-. All the same, the curious lookiloos that made Species a hit also guaranteed a sequel...

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Aspect ratios: Native 4K (2160p)

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; DTS-HD Master Audio 52.0

Street date: 7/26/2022

Distributor: Scream Factory

Scream Factory's clean and tight new 4K scan (from the original negative) provides a detailed and naturally filmic look with fine grain, deep blacks and nuanced, true color. Sound comes in an effective DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Both the 4K UHD disc and the first of two Blu-ray discs include two audio commentaries (one with Henstridge, Madsen, and Donaldson; the other with Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr.). The second Blu-ray Disc includes all legacy bonus features from Scream Factory's 2017 Blu-ray Collector's Edition, including multiple interviews and featurettes, a 49-minute making-of, an alternate ending, still galleries, and the trailer.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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