NEW ON THE SHELF

“JOHN DIES AT THE END,” starring Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes. It’s a great week for offbeat gems, and nobody delivers that particular brand of cinematic product better than director Don Coscarelli, the man behind such beloved outliers as “The Beastmaster,” “Phantasm” and, most recently, the highly recommended “Bubba Ho-Tep.” Here, he takes on the popular novel by Cracked.com editor David Wong, a freewheeling comic/sci-fi affair that finds genial loser David (Williamson) accidentally injecting himself with “soy sauce,” a new street drug that both enables psychic abilities and opens undiscovered worlds to its unwary user. A paper-thin plot gives Coscarelli the chance to employ all manner of crazy special effects and surreal one-liners. “John” and the veteran filmmaker are a match made in B-movie heaven. Rated R. Running time: 1:39

Suggested retail price: $26.98; Blu-ray $29.98

 

“THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS,” starring Eva Longoria and Billy Bob Thornton. This unsung, would-be cult favorite has a lot more going for it than a cursory glance at the box might suggest, thanks to first-time writer-director Barry Battles’ willingness to go just a tad too far into hillbilly B-movie territory. Dirtbag assassin trio The Oodie Brothers (Daniel Cudmore, Travis Fimmel and Clayne Crawford) agree to kidnap Celeste’s (Longoria) physically challenged godson (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) from her violent ex-husband (Thornton, of course), a small-time crime lord. Gleefully violent and often quite funny, “Outlaws” packs at least five movies’ worth of entertainment into its modest running time. Rated R. Running time: 1:38

Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $29.99

 

“THE BIBLE: THE EPIC MINISERIES,” starring Diogo Morgado and Darwin Shaw. The Good Book is revealed to be not only an inspirational series of life-changing vignettes but a bang-up action movie in this well-received series from The History Channel, which dramatizes many of the most revered stories from the scriptures. Not rated. Running time: 7:20

Suggested retail price: $59.98; Blu-ray $69.99

 

“HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN,” starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen. This lush HBO production explores the eternally tumultuous relationship between journalist Martha Gellhorn (Kidman) and celebrated writer Ernest Hemingway (Owen), a relationship that began as a mutual appreciation before leading to an affair and finally an unavoidably rocky marriage. One hundred and fifty-five minutes may be more time than many viewers wish to spend with such volatile personalities, but Kidman and Owen fully embody their larger-than-life characters, and the film makes an excellent case for revisiting their brilliant works. Not rated. Running time: 2:34

Suggested retail price: $19.97; Blu-ray $24.99

 

“THE SWEENEY,” starring Ray Winstone and Ben Drew. Based on a mid-’70s British TV show, this loud and proud actioner from director Nick Love (“Outlaw”) is best viewed as a ode to the gruff, blustery charms of its star, the inimitable Winstone (“Sexy Beast”). He’s a sheer powerhouse here as the leader of the Flying Squad, a select band of cops given carte blanche to use excessive force when taking down criminal enterprises in the city. “The Sweeney” is comforting proof that not everything is tea and crumpets over there, and they like a big dumb action movie as much as we do, especially with Winstone barking and blasting his way through the screen. Rated R. Running time: 1:52

Suggested retail price: $19.98; Blu-ray $24.98

 

NEW TO BLU-RAY

“HELLO DOLLY!” starring Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau. The gloriously overblown spectacle of the old Hollywood musicals and the insanely detailed Blu-ray technology of today perennially proves a rewarding combo, and with “Dolly!” being one of the final true examples of the form, we have another winner with this gorgeous transfer. A box-office bomb at the time, “Dolly!” has since garnered legions of fans for its well over-the-top set-pieces, toe-tapping tunes and delightful interplay between the stars. Running time: 2:29

Suggested retail price: $24.99

 

“THAT THING YOU DO!” starring Tom Everett Scott and Liv Tyler. Having already won just about every accolade Hollywood has to offer, Hanks tried his hand at directing for the first time with this 1996 musical/comedy favorite, which details the rise and fall of wannabe rockers The Wonders in early ’60s-era Pennsylvania. This Blu-ray director’s cut increases the running length to an indulgent two and a half hours, but fans of the film’s goofy humor and easygoing nature are unlikely to mind. Rated PG. Running time: 2:28

Suggested retail price: $19.98

 

VIDEOPORT PICKS

“HITLER’S CHILDREN,” documentary. A strong candidate for worst human being in history, Adolf Hitler famously never had children. But what of the descendants of the Nazi regime’s top officials? Filmmaker Chanoch Ze’evi introduces and attempts to shed light on these often reclusive relatives in this unsettling yet cathartic doc, interviewing the grandchildren of such prominent Nazis as Heinrich Himmler and Amon Goth (famously portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List”). Confronting an evil legacy to which they are tied through no fault of their own, these haunted individuals make an indelible impression and offer a fresh if unavoidably disturbing perspective on the horrors of our past. Not rated. Running time: 1:20

Suggested retail price: $24.95

 

“KNUCKLEBALL!” documentary. This deceptively simple film from directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg uncovers the history behind and purveyors of the most unpredictable and misunderstood pitch in baseball. Following a couple of proven veterans (good ol’ Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox and late bloomer R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets) who continue to rely on the “circus pitch” in spite of its unpredictability and unfashionable nature, “Knuckleball!” takes what appears to be a narrow-ranging topic and expands it impressively into an affecting portrait of atypical athletes striving to stand out from their peers. Not rated. Running time: 1:25

Suggested retail price: $24.98

 

- Courtesy of Videoport