New On DVD And Blu-Ray: April 2, 2013
Pick Of The Week: New
The mystique of the knuckleball goes hand-in-glove with the stigma: It’s considered the pitch of last resort for broken-down hurlers or aging position players still clinging to the majors, yet those who master its dark magic are unhittable when it’s on. The charming documentary Knuckleball gathers knuckleballers past and present—including old-timers Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough, and modern superstars R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield—and discovers a fraternity of outsiders who have long shared secrets and cherished a pitch that’s perpetually on the verge of extinction. The disc comes with two hours’ worth of bonus interviews and features, included Wakefield’s thoughts on the 2003 American League Championship Series.
Pick Of The Week: Retro
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One — Avengers Assembled (Buena Vista)
It was inevitable. Now that Joss Whedon’s The Avengers gathered together all the Marvel heroes the company had been doling out one world-beating blockbuster after another, a complete megaset had to happen. Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk (Norton version), Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers all have their merits, but seeing them together is a fascinating lesson in brand management. It’s not just the characters that move within the same “universe,” but a unifying style, too, that transcends any individual filmmaker’s contributions. If ‘70s Hollywood was the auteur class at its most freewheeling, this is its direct opposite. The 10-disc shelf-crusher comes in a case with a glowing Tesseract, and a “top secret” bonus disc with a raft of deleted scenes and other special features.
Don’t Break The Seal
The Bible: The Epic Miniseries (History)
You’ve seen the 10-part History Channel miniseries—and by “you,” I mean the fundamentalist relatives who contributed to gaudy ratings numbers—and now you enjoy The Bible on DVD and Blu-ray, in addition to the nightstands of every hotel room in America. But Dennis Perkins, in his TV Club write-up, advises caution: “The Bible offers little more than a rote Bible course-plodding, cheap, obvious, and largely bereft of the showmanship any religious epic worth its pillar of salt should understand.” Special features include a three-part “Creation” documentary and a three-hour documentary about how Obama really is Satan. (Okay, that last part is a lie.)
John Dies At The End (Magnolia)
Don Coscarelli has been turning out pre-fab cult movies for years, including The Beastmaster, the Phantasm series, and Bubba Ho-tep, and his offbeat style and densely plotting are on full display John Dies At The End, which is alternately inspired and irritatingly aggressive.
That Thing You Do! (Fox)
Tom Hanks’ directorial debut didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was released in theaters, but it’s collected a deserved following since for its sweetly nostalgic look at the small-town band that flies and dies on the wings of a one-hit wonder.
Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO)
There was a time when director Philip Kaufman was a master of literary adaptation, bringing sterling versions of The Wanderers and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being to the screen and vividly capturing the writer’s life with Henry & June. But despite Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles, his HBO biopic Hemingway & Gellhorn is largely a disappointment, according to The A.V. Club’s Donna Bowman: “[Kaufman] can’t find a way to wrangle the star-stuffed cast into a narrative that infuses the story’s wildly bipolar themes with nuanced realism.”
The Sweeney (E1)
A big-screen version of a gritty 1975-78 British cop series sounds promising enough, especially with Ray Winstone as the head of an anti-burglary unit, but The Sweeney still seems like a relic. The A.V. Club’s Sam Adams writes, “The Sweeney plays like a forgotten ’80s action movie recently discovered in a dusty vault. A treat, perhaps, for those who prefer their cop thrillers pre-meta, but tiresomely plodding for everyone else.”
Common leads an exceptional cast— Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Clark Johnson among them—as a recently rereleased con who teaches his pre-teen nephew “how to be a man.” But Noel Murray finds LUV “split right down the middle between preposterousness and truth, and between amateurishness and confidence.”
Philip Roth: Unmasked (PBS)
Following a brief theatrical run and an airing on PBS’ American Masters series, the acclaimed documentary Philip Roth: Unmasked finds the recently retired literary bomb-thrower in a reflective mood. The A.V. Club’s Sam Adams says the film is “mostly designed as an introductory survey, taking viewers through Roth’s oeuvre in chronological order, although it isn’t too heavily pedagogical; the discussion of Roth’s novelistic alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, begins midstream, leaving newbies to glean his significance from contextual clues.”
Meet The Fokkens (Kino Lorber)
Louise and Martine are 69-year-old twin sisters who have operated in Amsterdam’s Red Light District for decades—in fact, Martine still has a window. Meet The Fokkens finds them with many colorful stories to tell. Says The A.V. Club’s Noel Murray, “Ultimately, Meet The Fokkensisn’t a documentary about elderly hookers; it’s about two women forced into a hard life by circumstance, who tried to make the best of their situation, and are trying still.