Stop fixating on the fact that Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio are the only people in that picture without hats -it’s time to celebrate this week’s new DVDs. The Great Gatsby isn’t this week’s only literary adaptation either; we’ve got Pain & Gain (adapted from a magazine article) as well as The Reluctant Fundamentalist (based on a novel). If you hate reading so much that you won’t even watch movies based on books or magazine articles, not to worry -there’s still plenty to watch. We’ve got farmers and mayors. We’ve got pawn shops and postcards. We’ve got astronauts, superheroes, and goths. We’ve even got a film about Norwegians on a raft!
The Great Gatsby
Pain & Gain
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
At Any Price
Pawn Shop Chronicles
Captain Battle: Legacy War
Black Coat Mob
One of this week’s films was nominated for an Oscar; if that floats your boat, keep reading and you’ll know which one to watch. Another one of this week’s films features Christian Slater as an astronaut and yet another showcases Brendan Fraser as an Elvis impersonator. Shockingly, neither of those films is the Oscar nominee. If you want to see them anyways, continue reading on the next page and I’ll tell you more than you ever wanted to know about them. I devote particular attention to Brendan Fraser’s crotch.
In the first sentence of his “C+” review of this, the latest adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, Vince asserts that of the actual book, most people remember ‘the title, the author, a few lines, and not much else’. This describes me perfectly. I’ve read the book for school at least twice, but in both instances I allowed my brain to purge almost any memory of the themes, messages, and even plot just as soon as my teacher moved the class on to The Old Man & The Sea (or something similar). Let me be clear: I’m not saying I was right to do this, or that the book doesn’t have its merits, but rather that I’m not the man to analyze this film in light of them. Sure, The Great Gatsby seems like an unusual source material for a 3-D, car-chasey, hip-hop soundtracked summer blockbuster, but appropriate or not, that’s the reality we have to live with. Just so, regardless of Fitzgerald’s intentions, this is destined to be the definitive version of Gatsby from here on out. So it doesn’t really matter what the book said, how it said it, or if I remembered it, for this is now The Greatest Gatsby. Nobody’s going to read the book again when they can simply watch the movie. I’ve seen it happen before with –not coincidentally- Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann’s previous work. Back when I was begrudgingly reading The Great Gatsby for the first time, Mr. Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet was the number one movie in America. As luck or lazy syllabus-creation would have it, my sophomore English class was studying the play right when the movie came out. It was an amazing time to be an academic scholar: extra-credit could be had just by going to the movies –and for seeing a movie co-starring Jamie Kennedy, no less! The movie was amazing, and we all ate it up. Rather than, you know, teach us anything, our teacher encouraged us to embrace every aspect of this bold new artistic vision. Shakespeare’s words were all well and good, but they were nothing without Luhrmann’s soundtrack and visuals. Essays –yes, essays plural- were written about the power of The Cardigans’ Lovefool and how the song did more to express the sweet sting of young, forbidden love than anything Shakespeare contributed to the film, and those essays were given ‘A’ grades. And this is as it should be because Luhrmann has always been a great adapter of literature. Before Romeo + Juliet he gave us Strictly Ballroom –now firmly cemented in history as the definitive version of The Epic Of Gilgamesh, and of course after R+J there was Moulin Rouge!, a bold take on Of Mice & Men. If –and that’s a big if- Luhrmann has had a misstep, it would be with Australia, his version of James Joyce’s A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, but as no one really knows what that book is about, who can truly say? My long-winded point is this: it doesn’t matter what the book was about or what the author was trying to say because the preeminent literary artist of our time has improved upon it. Yes, Fitzgerald gave Luhrmann the starting point, but Luhrmann gave him dazzling visuals and the music of Lana Del Rey and Will.I.Am, whose beats beat on, like boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne ‘I’m A Serious Actor So Don’t Call Me The Rock Right Now’ Johnson headline this Michael Bay-directed true story about bodybuilders attempting to extort money from a kidnapped man. Like most reasonable people, I had no interest in seeing this movie. Call me a purist, but if Michael Bay is directing and there aren’t giant talking robots, asteroids headed toward earth, or at least Will Smith and Martin Lawrence being bad, I’m not really compelled to check the film out. But all that changed when I saw the trailer. It looks like they turned this horrifically true story into a comedy. In fact, IMDb lists it as one. If you haven’t already, take an hour or so and read the actual story. Seriously. It’s terrifying and sad and totally disturbing in its true-life depiction of how greed drives people to commit evil. It seems like the least likely inspiration for a comedy ever. (Unless it was made by the Coen Brothers, but Michael Bay is about as far from them as you can get.) So call me crass, but having read the original article and then seeing the trailer made me so prettyg damn curious to see how they could possibly make this funny. Granted, not curious enough to actually go to the theater, but now that it’s on DVD, I’m actually quite eager to see it. Especially because –for no reason I can begin to understand- Dove opted to review this film, and it is a doozy. I was all set to give this week’s Dove love to a Christian indie about the dangers of computers and how they tempt men to jerk off instead of honoring their wives, but (despite the Dove seal of approval on the box) Dove didn’t actually review the film. Some things don’t need reviewing to be declared as wholesome, I guess. For real though, this is so much better. Without further ado, I give you Dove’s 0-Star Worldview: