This week: Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast as the titular character in "The Great Gatsby," director Baz Luhrmann's gaudy adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel.
Also new this week is Michael Bay's darkly funny "Pain & Gain" starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, the family drama "At Any Price" with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron and the cult monster movie "Q: The Winged Serpent" on Blu-ray.
'The Great Gatsby'
Box Office: $145 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 49% Rotten
Storyline: F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great American Novel gets the flashy Baz Luhrmann treatment in this adaptation starring Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, a would-be writer who leaves the Midwest and comes to New York in the spring of 1922, an era of bootleg booze, jazz and loosening morals. Nick lives next door to the sprawling mansion of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), which is across the bay from Nick's cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her philandering husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Gatsby strikes up a friendship with Nick to get reacquainted with Daisy, and soon Nick is drawn into the dangerous and romantically complicated world of the super rich.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a making-of featurette, a backstage video of Maguire clowning around, "The Swinging Sounds of 'Gatsby,'" deleted scenes with alternate ending, "The Jazz Age," "Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the '20s," "Fitzgerald's Visual Poetry," "'Gatsby' Revealed" and a trailer for the 1926 version of "The Great Gatsby." There is also a Blu-ray 3D combo pack to replicate the theatrical 3-D experience.
We Say: "The Great Gatsby," like all of Luhrmann's pictures, is visually arresting with gorgeous costumes and dazzling sets, and its expert use of 3-D is quite beautiful at times. DiCaprio is perfectly cast as Gatsby and all the other actors shine in their roles, but in-between the dizzying Luhrmann-style quick cuts (no shot lingers for more than about five seconds) and music-video styling, the spirit of Fitzgerald's classic is lost. The surprising amount of CGI — especially for landscapes — gives a distracting artificial sheen to "Gatsby" that, coupled with the jarring decision to use contemporary hip-hop instead of the jazz music of the time, yanks you right out of the time period. Sorry, old sport, but this "Gatsby" should have sacrificed some razzle-dazzle and the obvious baiting tactics to attract young moviegoers for more of the book's heart.
'Pain & Gain'
Box Office: $50 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 46% Rotten
Storyline: This Michael Bay-directed action comedy is based on the true story of an ambitious group of bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) who kidnap a wealthy businessman and extort his money and property. As the three sink deeper into the criminal underworld, you won't believe the crackbrained ideas the trio cooks up to keep their misguided American Dream alive. Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub and Rebel Wilson co-star.
Extras!: Except for an Ultraviolet digital copy included in the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, this is a bare-bones release with no muscle.
We Say: If Bay didn't occasionally remind viewers on screen that this is a true story, one might dismiss the antics of these three meatheads as too ludicrous to believe. But since this actually happened, your jaw will drop and you'll howl with laughter as a wild-eyed Wahlberg hosts a neighborhood watch at a house he stole, Johnson battles a raging cocaine problem and gets his toe shot off, and — the capper — one of them decides that the best way to remove fingerprints from corpses is to cut off the hands and grill them … outside in view of the public. Bay disregards this annoying era of excessive sensitivity and political correctness and gleefully crafts a movie that manages to be offensive to a diverse range of groups, including women, homosexuals, the infirm, the overweight, small people and other minorities and racial groups (fun drinking game: take a shot every time an un-PC remark is made). If you're not a touchy-feely type (and why would you be if you're watching a Michael Bay movie?), you'll appreciate that the rampant crassness perfectly fits the tone of this outrageous and darkly funny movie about three guys who lost their last brain cells somewhere between all the steroids and excessive reps at the gym.
'At Any Price'
Box Office: $380,594
Rotten Tomatoes: 51% Rotten
Storyline: Ramin Bahrani directs this agricultural drama about Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid), a farmer who wants his son Dean (Zac Efron) to help expand his family's farming empire. Unfortunately for Henry, his rebellious offspring wants to be a race car driver. When a high-stakes investigation into their business is exposed, father and son face a crisis that threatens the livelihood of the entire family. Heather Graham, Kim Dickens, Clancy Brown and Chelcie Ross co-star.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain commentary with Bahrani and Quaid, a Toronto International Film Festival Q&A and rehearsal footage.
We Say: The underappreciated Quaid turns in a terrific performance here, but the movie's message is so heavy-handed that every character becomes a mouthpiece for a lecture about rural America's identity crisis in the face of corporate expansion.
'Q: The Winged Serpent' Blu-ray
Box Office: $255,000
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% Fresh
Storyline: In this 1982 cult creature feature, a dragonlike Aztec god named Quetzalcoatl is summoned by a mysterious blood cult to modern-day Manhattan, where it roosts at the top of the Chrysler Building and begins hunting window washers, construction workers and sunbathers alike. Michael Moriarty plays a petty thief who stumbles upon the beast and Richard Roundtree and David Carradine play cops hot on the serpentine tail of the winged creature.
Extras!: This Blu-ray debut has an audio commentary by writer-producer-director Larry Cohen.
We Say: Today we are spoiled by the fantastic CGI monsters from movies like "Pacific Rim," so it goes without saying that the stop-motion creature effects in "Q: The Winged Serpent" are more than a little dated. Still, there is a contagious energy that stems from the film's B-movie spirit, and it's fun to watch the monster's POV attacks on unsuspecting citizens. This Blu-ray is certainly the best "Q" has looked and sounded since its release … just don't expect it to look like "Pacific Rim" when you put it in your player. As far as grade-Q entertainment goes, "Q: The Winged Serpent" is in a class all its own.