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:
I have rarely been as offended by the content of a film as I was with this one. The title should be “All Pain and No Gain” because that’s what I felt 15 minutes into the film when I walked out of the theater. The beginning of this movie contained more sex, language and drug use than most of the R-rated films I have ever seen. How the MPAA didn’t rate this as an “NC-17” film may remain a mystery but frankly it ultimately doesn’t matter. The items listed in our content description is what I saw in the first 15 minutes. Needless to say, this is not a family film.
And of course I must share that content description: “EDITOR’S NOTE: The content below all happened in the first 15 minutes of the film. SEX: Man/woman have sex on the trunk of a car although there was no nudity, there were multiple gyrations; Man masturbates unsuccessfully; Nurse in clinic make sexually suggestive comments; Priest makes sexual advances toward a man. LANGUAGE: F-5; S-6; A-6; VIOLENCE: Man fights in prison with others and smashes weights into one’s face and throws a large weight at another: Man punches priest. DRUGS: Man snorts cocaine; Man injects himself with steroids. NUDITY: Women in slim and revealing clothes; Multiple strippers seen topless and in thongs. OTHER: Man accepts Jesus in prison but doesn’t live like he’s changed.” Holy shit, that is one wacky 15 minutes of film. Multiple gyrations, gay priests, cocaine, strippers, Christian conversions, and prison brawls –all in one movie and all in the first reel. Dove’s policy regarding R-rated movies is to simply not review the ones that seem to have no chance for family-friendly viewing (the Saw films, for instance). I can’t imagine what hope the reviewer had for this movie, and I’m sorry he subjected himself to 15 minutes of it (no I’m not), but even more so, I hope he gets around to watching that other movie I meant to give a Dove recap to this week; I think he needs to see it. After all, you can’t really appraise someone’s masturbation as ‘unsuccessful’ unless you’ve had some experience with it yourself. I’m praying for you, pal.
We begin in 2011 in Lahore. At an outdoor café a Pakistani man named Changez (Riz Ahmed) tells Bobby (Liev Schreiber), an American journalist, about his experiences in the United States. Roll back ten years, and we find a younger Changez fresh from Princeton, seeking fortune and glory on Wall Street. The American Dream seems well within his grasp, complete with a smart and gorgeous artist girlfriend, Erica (Kate Hudson). But when the Twin Towers are attacked, a cultural divide slowly begins to crack open between Changez and Erica. Changez’s dream soon begins to slip into nightmare: profiled, wrongfully arrested, strip-searched and interrogated, he is transformed from a well-educated, upwardly mobile businessman to a scapegoat and perceived enemy. With time, he begins to hear the call of his own homeland. Taking us through the culturally rich and beguiling worlds of New York, Lahore and Istanbul, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a story about conflicting ideologies where perception and suspicion have the power to determine life or death.
Now I don’t mean to accuse Hollywood of being morally bankrupt, but this movie hit theaters only 11 days after the Boston Marathon bombing and I for one am surprised the studio (IFC Films) didn’t attempt some sort of promotional tie-in. It would’ve been utterly tasteless, but at least more people would’ve heard of this movie before now. Actually though, it may not be as tasteless as it seems. In fact, I think it would’ve been all right because this co-stars Kiefer Sutherland, and he would never associate himself with any project that casually uses Middle Eastern characters and terrorism as cliché plot devices and easy-to-demonize villains.
Dennis Quaid is a farmer, Zac Efron is his son who wants to leave the farm to drive race cars, and Heather Graham is the struggling actress who really wishes that Paul Thomas Anderson would take another look at her spec script for Boogier Nights: Rollergirl’s Revenge in this film which –despite indications to the contrary- actually has an MSRP of $30.99
There are two New York documentaries hitting DVD today, and the decision to feature Koch –about Ed Koch, New York City’s legendary/infamous mayor from 1978-1989- was an easy one. First of all, it actually got decent reviews. Second, it coincidentally opened in theaters on the same day Ed Koch died, which doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s still kind of weird. Third, love him, hate him, or not really give a crap about him, the documentary at least looks watchable. Fourth and finally, even watching the trailer for the other documentary fills me with Midwestern, working-class rage. The ‘experts’ in the other doc hitting DVD today are the likes of Diane von Furstenberg and Karl Lagerfeld and the very fact that I knew who those people were before hearing of this film is proof that not only has society failed me, but I’ve also failed myself. If you read those names and don’t know them, seriously, good for you. If you do know them and are curious about that other film, feel free to do some research and figure out what it is and while you’re at it, get bent. Karl Lagerfeld looks like the fall-semester mid-term project from a kid minoring in mannequin design at a small community college; he should not be commenting on how anyone or anything looks. If I wanted to watch a documentary about a combative old gay dude walking around New York telling other people how to live their lives, I’d watch Koch.
Wayne Kramer, director of such films as the Oscar-nominated The Cooler, the cult-favorite Running Scared, and the Harrison Ford pay check-providing Crossing Over, now gives us this film, which the trailer likens to a redneck Pulp Fiction. The film stars Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Brendan Faser (as an Elvis impersonator!), Vincent D’Onofrio, Norman Reedus, Chi McBride, Elijah Wood, DJ Qualls, Ashlee Simpson, and Thomas Jane, so at least that’s a bunch of names you might’ve heard of. The red-band trailer (check it out below) shows some promise, assuming you define ‘promise’ as Elijah Wood having his lips pulled back from his teeth while being tortured by Matt Dillon. There are also several naked women, complete with bare boobies, if that’s how your boulder rolls. I know I’m definitely curious, if only because I swear if you look at the box cover and you zoom in on Brendan Fraser’s crotch, his fly is unzipped. I’ll be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve had my curiosity piqued by Brendan Fraser’s crotch, and Lord willing, it won’t be the last. I’m not gay or anything; the man just has a charismatic inguinal region. We should all be so lucky.
This is the previous movie made by the directors who are now directing the fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (despite clearly having English dialogue and/or dubbing in the trailer) and it is the true story about a Norwegian dude named Thor Heyerdahl who in 1947 decided to sail across the Pacific ocean on a balsa wood raft. I suspect Heyerdahl was aware that nautical technology had evolved beyond balsa wood, but he was trying to prove a point about how Polynesia was settled or something. The thing is, Heyerdahl brought along cameras and actually made a documentary about his trip, and it even won the Best Documentary Oscar for 1950. So, if this story interests you, you can either watch an Oscar-winning documentary made by the actual people who lived through the actual experience, or you can watch this, a ‘foreign language’ film with English dialogue that also happens to be an Oscar-losing remake of a documentary –let that settle in; a remake of a documentary– from the dudes who are now bringing you Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It’s like picking which kid you like more: the charming straight-A student, all-star athlete with the great personality, or the deformed, retarded clone of the straight-A all-star, who needs a translator even though he’s speaking the same language you are, and who also really likes the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies. Obviously you’re going to want to go with the original. (Unless you’re shopping for someone to molest, then you go with the clone. The whole process is much easier that way.)
Guy Pearce stars in this drama about an Australian man named Dean Randall and the Chinese orphan he has been sponsoring for years. The orphan, a girl named Mei Mei, gets the chance to travel to Australia to attend the Australian Choir Festival, and when she tracks Dean down she is shocked to discover he isn’t the well-rounded family man he claimed to be, but rather a convict in prison. From there the movie undoubtedly progresses towards the inevitable conclusion that despite Dean’s dishonesty, they are still the two people who corresponded for a decade and they really do love each other as family. I’ve got to be honest, this movie seems so cliché and obvious that (besides my incredulity that a teenage orphan on a class trip managed to find the time, money, and accommodations to track down an inmate in a foreign country and visit him) the only thing that’s really intriguing about the film is the concept of an Australian Choir Festival. I can’t be the only one who is picturing Crocodile Dundee and Yahoo Serious up on a stage playing a washboard and a didgeridoo while some Aboriginal dude stands off to the side blowing on a bloated dead wallaby like a set of bagpipes, can I? Is there even such a thing as an Australian Choir Festival? Actually, yes. In fact, there are several, and my favorite is the Australian Jewish Choral Festival because it makes me imagine Mick Dundee and Young Einstein belting out ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ from Fiddler On The Roof. Take a moment and ‘Like’ the Australian Jewish Choral Festival’s facebook page, won’t you? It only has 44 likes at the time of this writing, and I can think of nothing better than having their koala-yarmulkes blow off their heads in delighted confusion when that number inexplicably rises.
There’s a lot to be sad about with this horror film from Jamie Kennedy Entertainment (and yes, it is that Jamie Kennedy). For one, it stars Mischa Barton, Devon Sawa, and Michael Clarke Duncan, three actors whose careers have all seen better days. Will Barton ever be remembered as anything more than ‘That girl from The O.C. No, not Summer, the other one’? Will Sawa ever become well-known enough for people to look through his back-catalog and discover the legitimate classic that is Slackers? As for Michael Clarke Duncan, well, he’s dead of course. Which makes you wonder if this movie was always called A Resurrection, or if they are trying to play up the fact that their biggest star is dead and being ‘resurrected’ through the magic of cinema? If so, why release the DVD today and not wait one week until next Tuesday, which happens to be the actual first anniversary of his death? Like I said, that really is quite sad: not just that such a thing seems plausible but also because the big dude has been dead for a year already. Time really does seem to fly sometimes. I mean, I bet Ving Rhames is still getting confused looks and bewildered stares every time he walks down the street.
Christian Slater stars in this low-budget sci-fi horror film directed and co-written by Roger Christian, who is infamous for also directing Battlefield Earth. If that’s not bad enough, the film is enjoying the Bucky Larson treatment at Rotten Tomatoes, which probably should be expected, given that IMDb claims that throughout the film, the characters refer to all of the carbon monoxide they are exhaling. About the only thing that Stranded has working in its favor is that Jamie Kennedy has nothing to do with it.
Yes, it looks like a Captain America rip-off, but if you watch the minute long trailer you can see that it really isn’t. Captain America had Red Skull, a villainous Nazi with a bright red skull-like head. Captain Battle has a villainous neo-Nazi with nasty facial sunburn. Couldn’t be more different. Also important to note, this film was released on DVD in Germany under the title Captain USA Vs. Nazifighter. That’s right, for the German market they made sure to include ‘Nazi’ in the title, and deemed Captain USA Vs. Nazifighter the best choice. Captain USA Vs. Nazifighter. Is he versus a fighting Nazi or a fighter of Nazis? I leave it to you grammar, well, Nazis to sort it out.
The first two sentences of the official synopsis, as written by this film’s writer/star:
What if Columbine happened again? What if someone believed the false rumors and prejudice against “goths” enough to continue the cycle of sick-minded violence?
Huh? Buddy, everything you said is wrong. I think. I’ve watched the trailer for this and I assure you it is just as confused and confusing as those two sentences were. I’m guessing this guy is trying to advocate for goths, but his writing seems to imply a gross ignorance of current events and at best a confusion about what role ‘goths’ played in the Columbine tragedy. Does he think the Columbine assholes were targeting goths? Or maybe he believes that they were right in what they did because they were themselves picked on for being ‘goths’? While we’re at it, what’s this guy’s stance on Marilyn Manson and Doom? The level of confusion I’m experiencing from all of this reminds me of the time I had a knife pulled on me in high school because the guy who pulled the knife wanted to make sure I knew he had a knife and that he would stab me with his knife if I ever told anyone about his knife, which I wouldn’t know about if he hadn’t pulled it on me to threaten me to make sure I wouldn’t tell anyone about it in the first place. Of course that was pre-Columbine, and he wasn’t a goth. He was just an idiot. Incidentally, when the school band performed the 1812 Overture that year, they simulated the cannon fire by having this idiot fire a shotgun into a barrel backstage. Both the knife and the shotgun stories are absolutely true. Simpler times, I guess.