Blu Tuesday: The Great Gatsby, Pain & Gain and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“The Great Gatsby”

WHAT: Bond salesman Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) gets pulled into the extravagant world of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) when he rents a small house on Long Island next to the reclusive millionaire’s lavish mansion. But Gatsby has ulterior motives for befriending Nick – he’s in love with his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who’s currently trapped in a loveless marriage with wealthy socialite Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).

WHY: If you ever wondered what a bad movie starring good actors looks like, then you’ll want to check out this disastrous adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Though Warner Bros. tried to put a positive spin on the film’s delay, it’s pretty clear why they decided not to release it during awards season like originally planned: it’s a boring mess. The only thing worse than a dull movie is one that tries to disguise it with razzle-dazzle, and director Baz Luhrman’s kitschy vision of the Roaring 20s is so oversaturated in style and off-the-wall choices (like the use of a contemporary, mostly hip-hop soundtrack) that he completely ignores the many nuances of Fitzgerald’s novel. The whole thing is executed so poorly that I came up with a drinking game just to keep myself entertained. Take a sip every time DiCaprio says “old sport,” and take a shot every time someone slicks back their hair. You’ll be plastered within the hour, but at least the film will be a lot easier to watch.

EXTRAS: Sadly, there’s no audio commentary by director Baz Luhrmann, but there are a number of featurettes on things like pre-production, costume design and the soundtrack, as well as on-set video diaries by Tobey Maguire, an in-depth look at five sequences and some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Pain & Gain”

WHAT: Based on an unbelievably true story, physical trainer Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and recently paroled born-again Christian Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) to kidnap a Miami businessman (Tony Shaloub) and force him to sign over all his assets.

WHY: After three “Transformers” films, it’s nice to see Michael Bay challenging himself with something on a much smaller scale – one that doesn’t involve blowing shit up every 10 minutes – although it may not necessarily look like it due to the director’s trademark ramped-up style. Bay’s movies can be pretty grueling to watch at times between the relentless high energy intensity and overlong runtimes, and “Pain & Gain” is no exception. But whereas a film like “Bad Boys II” had the added annoyance level of Martin Lawrence (to the point that it gave me a headache), this movie actually benefits from its cast. Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie all deliver enjoyable performances as the amateur criminals, and though no amount charm makes them come across any less idiotic, that’s part of the fun. “Pain & Gain” is a lot like “Raising Arizona” in many respects – if that film was shot up with a potent cocktail of steroids and speed – and though it’s fairly entertaining at times, it eventually becomes too crazy for its own good.

EXTRAS: Surprisingly, there’s no bonus material available. Nothing, nada, zilch.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to April

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April has always been an odd month for new releases, particularly now that the spring movie season doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in the minds of studios. Instead, everything seems to be split into two groups: films that fit the summer mold and those that don’t. But while moviegoers will be pretty limited with their options this month, it’s definitely one of the more promising Aprils in recent memory.

“EVIL DEAD”

Who: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas and Lou Taylor Pucci
What: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.
When: April 5th
Why: Remakes are always a worrying proposition, especially for fans of the original film, but when it was announced that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert were behind the modern-day update of “Evil Dead,” there was a collective sigh of relief. After all, who better to trust then the trio responsible for the 1981 cult original? It’s also nice to know that the film isn’t just a rehashing of Raimi’s first movie, but rather a whole new story with new characters in an otherwise familiar setting, and if the early buzz from the film’s world premiere at last month’s SXSW festival is any indication, Fede Alvarez’s remake/reboot/sequel (whatever you want to call it) has everything horror fans could possibly want – namely, the gooey red stuff, and plenty of it.

“TRANCE”

Who: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel and Danny Sapani
What: An art auctioneer mixed up with a group of criminals teams up with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
When: April 5th
Why: Danny Boyle’s follow-up to “127 Hours” can’t get here quick enough, especially after being delayed by the director’s other engagements on stage (the National Theatre production of “Frankenstein”) and for his country (the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony). His new movie is a return to roots of sorts, reteaming with frequent collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”) for the kind of gritty, edgy crime thriller that he cut his teeth making in the mid-90s. It’ll be interesting to see what Boyle brings to the genre now that he’s a more mature and wiser filmmaker, because “Trance” looks a lot more experimental than his recent work, and despite its “Inception”-like premise, that’s probably the most exciting thing of all.

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