DVD releases: 'Hemingway & Gellhorn,' 'Knuckleball,' 'The Sweeney'
“Hemingway & Gellhorn” (2012, NR, 155 min., $19.97). Largely known for series like “The Sopranos,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Game of Thrones,” HBO has provided lots of scintillating content. The network also does remarkable work with exclusive films, and “Hemingway & Gellhorn” is the latest example. Nominated for two Golden Globes and 15 Emmy Awards, the picture is driven by the memorable performances of its two leads, Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, and a fascinating storyline that brings the viewer in on a classic relationship between legendary author Ernest Hemingway and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Directed by talented filmmaker Philip Kaufman, the film is really worth grabbing if you missed it on HBO. The chemistry between Kidman and Owen is electric, and the relationship they portray plays out in front of backdrops that include the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Hemingway divorced his second wife to marry Gellhorn, a woman he credits as his inspiration for his 1940 novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Extras in the package are good for Blu-ray buyers. A making-of featurette and a look behind the visual effects are exclusive to Blu-ray. Commentary is on both platforms. 3 stars
“Knuckleball” (2012, NR, 85 min., $24.98). Documentary filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, the women behind terrific pictures like “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” and “The Devil Came on Horseback,” settled on one of baseball's most interesting topics for their latest movie. The knuckleball has been thrown by a select group of major-league pitchers over the years, and for the ones that have done it well — Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro and R.A. Dickey — it's been a great career. The documentary does a fine job of touching on all aspects of the pitch, from its history and its users, to the many methods of throwing it. To tell the story of the knuckleball, Sundberg and Stern gathered up all the usual suspects, and interviews with those pitchers tell the story. It's not only the pitchers doing the talking, though. It's also the batters who have struggled in hitting these dancing pitches. The film jumps around a bit, and feels disjointed in some instances, but it covers all the bases. It's an enjoyable documentary for those that enjoy the nuances of baseball. With “Knuckleball,” there are lots of special features. A few featurettes, some deleted scenes and additional interviews beef up the standard DVD package. 3 stars
“The Sweeney” (2012, R, 112 min., $19.98). Every year, there's an assortment of bad cop pics that end up going straight to DVD or spending maybe two weeks in the theater. “The Sweeney” has a lot going for it, including a strong cast that includes Ray Winstone and Damian Lewis, but it's just another poor police drama. Directed by Nick Love, this one follows a special unit of the police in London. The crew's lead by a gritty detective named Jack Regan (Winstone) who has a burning passion for busting burglars. Jack has no problem stepping over authority to get his man. Eventually, it gets him in trouble in “The Sweeney,” as the detective leads his group of crime fighters into a battle against a crew of veteran bank robbers. Asked to pull back and take a different approach to getting these bad guys behind bars, Jack doesn't listen, and it costs him the career he absolutely loves, and something even more important. Love's picture is packed with the usual pack of cliches found in these action dramas, and the film just falls apart in the final act. The picture has lots of potential, but it goes unfulfilled. There are lots of extras to be had here. Featurettes, interviews with cast and crew and commentary are also available. 2 stars
“Luv” (2012, R, 94 min., $19.97). A youngster gets some unexpected life lessons, when his uncle — recently released from an eight-year stint in jail — decides to give him a tutorial on how a man gets things done. Sheldon Candis directs, and Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Meagan Good and Danny Glover star.
“Tormented” (2011, NR, 83 min., $24.98). A young girl is forced to look after her brother, who's been experiencing difficulties at home and in school, with little help from a missing father. When the brother gets trapped in a world of nightmares, the sister has to delve deep to save him. Takashi Shimizu, the filmmaker behind “The Grudge,” directs.
"Earth's Final Hours” (2012, PG-13, 84 min., $24.99). Director David Hogan apocalyptic picture made its debut on the Syfy channel in 2012. The film follows a group of government agents trying to hold back the destruction of Earth after a series of bizarre radiation storms erupt all over the planet.
“13 Eerie” (2013, NR, 87 min., $19.98). Zombies are on the loose again in a horror film from the producers behind “Silent Hill” and “Resident Evil 4.” The picture puts six forensic undergrads on a remote island — working toward earning a training position — discovering that their not alone in their scientific expedition.