DVD reviews: 'The Great Gatsby,' 'Pain & Gain' and 'Koch'
“The Great Gatsby” (2013, PG-13, 143 min., $28.98). The 1925 literary masterpiece from F. Scott Fitzgerald has been adapted into a feature film five times. Australian director Baz Luhrmann is the latest to tackle the book, and the epic filmmaker has provided viewers with a visually stunning film that goes overboard in trying to tell a simple tale. Luhrmann misses the opportunity to lean on a heavily talented cast — Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carrie Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clark and Isla Fisher — and a story that's hooked plenty of readers, to develop a picture that comes off like a bombastic parade of glitter and glitz that flies past two hours. The story follows a small-time writer (Maguire) who falls in with the filthy rich of New York City in the 1920s. The most interesting character he comes across is Gatsby (DiCaprio), a wealthy mystery man who wants a favor. Viewers will find plenty of special features here, but only if they're checking out the Blu-ray packages or a special edition standard DVD set. A handful of interesting featurettes — exploring every aspect of the picture — are available, along with trailers, deleted scenes and interviews with cast and crew. 2 Stars.
“Pain & Gain” (2013, R, 129 min., $30.99). With a solid cast — Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris and Tony Shalhoub — and a remarkable true story to tell, movie fans wouldn't be crazy anticipating Michael Bay's latest turn as a director. Unfortunately, it's a real letdown. Instead of focusing on a riveting plot, Bay smashes the viewer over the head with a steady diet of loud bangs, an annoying score and cranked-up camera tricks. This would've been a heck of a music video, but it's lousy as a dragged-out picture that drives past the two-hour mark. The film follows three weightlifters — Daniel (Wahlberg), Paul (Johnson) and Adrian (Mackie) — who put together a ridiculous plan to kidnap and extort a bunch of money from a millionaire (Shalhoub) in Miami. Incredibly, these meatheads get the job done, but the follow through is anything but perfect. Consider skipping this wreck of a movie. A Blu-ray combo pack and a single standard DVD don't appear to have any special features, which is another problem with this package. Perhaps, a director's cut will emerge sometime down the road with a nice collection of making-of featurettes. Nothing's been reported. 1.5 Stars.
“Koch” (2012, NR, 100 min., $29.99). As one of the most interesting fellows to run the city of New York, Ed Koch was certainly a candidate worthy of a documentary. Koch, who died earlier this year, is the focus of former Wall Street Journal reporter and first-time director Neil Barsky's film. “Koch” covers much of the controversy that surrounded the politician during his career, including his tough track record with African Americans and the AIDS movement and the many questions that surrounded his sexuality. For New Yorkers, this is a fine trip down memory lane, as it highlights the good and bad of Koch's decade long run as mayor. For everyone else, the documentary is generally boring. Barsky's picture is more of a reel of Koch happenings, and he never concentrates too long on specific moments. Most viewers with interest in “Koch” know the mayor's story, and they're looking for the inside dope. “Koch” never really gets its hands dirty. Extras for Barsky's documentary are decent, including a Koch Q&A, an interview with the filmmaker and a short motion picture that further explores the streets of New York City during Koch's time as the mayor. 2 Stars.
“At Any Price” (2012, R, 105 min., $30.99). Ramin Bahrani, one of the better independent filmmakers working today, wrote and directed this drama about the bumpy relationship between a father (Dennis Quaid) and son (Zac Efron) that's further tested when the family business hits some trouble. Heather Graham and Kim Dickens also star.
“Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's” (2013, PG-13, 93 min., $24.98). Fans of fashion will find plenty to like about this documentary from director Matthew Miele about Bergdorf Goodman, an elite department store in Manhattan. This revealing doc takes viewers behind the scenes, and it features interviews with some of fashion's biggest names.
“Kon-Tiki” (2012, PG-13, 118 min., $24.98). Filmmakers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg garnered an Academy Award nomination earlier this year for their incredible portrait of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal's 1947 expedition across the ocean that took 101 days.
“Pawn Shop Chronicles” (2013, R, 112 min., $22.98). A superb cast — Elijah Wood, Matt Dillon, Norman Reedus, Paul Walker and Thomas Jane — goes to work in a film that follows three separate tales surrounding items from a small Southern pawn shop. Directed by Wayne Kramer, the film is packed with interesting characters.
“The Painting” (2011, NR, 76 min., $29.95). Frenchman Jean-Francois Laguionie is responsible for the directing and the animation for this vivid picture that's unlike anything most viewers have ever seen. The pic centers around the story of a painted kingdom separated into three parts. When the lines are broken, a new world emerges.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (2012, R, 130 min., $24.98). Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland and Kate Hudson star in Mira Nair's picture adapted from the 2007 bestseller of the same name from Mohsin Hamid. After an academic is kidnapped, the CIA is brought in. They immediately turn their focus toward a Pakistani professor.
“A Company Man” (2012, NR, 96 min., $24.98). One of the best contract killers in the business, Hyeong-do makes a decision to leave his murderous past behind when he falls in love with a married woman. It's an effort that's met with plenty of disbelief by his employers, who immediately try to hunt Hyeong-do down and silence him for good.
“Among Friends” (2012, R, 80 min., $19.98). Danielle Harris, known as the scream queen for her multiple roles in horror movies, makes her directorial debut with “Among Friends,” a thriller about a group of friends who get together for a murder-mystery party and the night takes a few interesting turns.
“Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey” (documentary, 2012, R, 113 min., $24.95
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