Baz Luhrmann possesses flair.
Movie fans only have to look to Moulin Rouge for that. But whether he possessed heft was another question. The answer comes with The Great Gatsby (Rated PG-13, Warner Bros., $14.99 to $45.99 depending on version and format, 4-of-5 stars), his luscious relevant take on The Jazz Age, which debuted this week on various home video formats.
The fact that it’s gorgeous to look at should surprise few. Luhrmann creates a film that’s filled with a color palette that screams the optimism of the time – for some.
Because that golden tint that permeates some parts of Gatsby betray a rather stark reality: not all things were equal in that day and age. In fact, some had to come to their cash by rather shady means. Such is the case of the Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man desperate for acceptance in NYC society. He throws slammin’ parties, can have any woman , but he focuses his gaze steadily on Daisy (Carey Mulligan), a beautiful young woman married to a lout who loves to flaunt his “old money” and take stabs at Gatsby’s new wealth.
Gatsby has an ally in Daisy’s cousin, Nick (Tobey Maguire), and he watches as Gatsby’s tragic saga plays out. It’s not fair to spoil it here, but suffice it to say, in this day and age when the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and who the hell knows what will happen to the middle class, Gatsby asks pertinent questions. That Luhrmann does so in a film that blends the classic with the new to create something wholly original – check out his use of music in the film – and you have an engaging cinematic experience.
Extras: Luhrmann, as he normally does, provides a boatload of extras depending on which version of the film purchased. For the blu-ray combo pack he includes a cornucopia, all of them worthy additions, but the best: The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby, which explores the process of creating and adding music to the film and features Luhrmann along with Jay-Z and Roxy Music legend Bryan Ferry. Few directors put as much into a film’s soundtrack as Luhrmann does and his joy in the process, of working with a very talented group of musicians, comes through.
Lastly the combo pack also includes an UltraViolet and iTunes digital copy.
Let’s stay in the 1920s for now and the world that bootlegger Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) inhabits in Boardwalk Empire: the Complete Third Season (TV-MA, HBO, $59.99 to $79.99 depending on format, 4-of-5 stars).
For fans of the series, season three represented the most violent and emotionally nuanced of all thus far as Thompson, a former politician who turns to crime full-time in his hamlet of Atlantic City. He owns it. He runs it and though he tries benevolence, those folks wanting some of his action insist upon challenging him.
For season three, that’s Gyp Rosetti (a wonderfully menacing Bobby Canale), a NYC hood who’s come to take over Thompson’s territory.
The challenge forces Thompson to repair relationships while others go to hell and in the process we all get to see just how wonderful and talented an actor Buscemi is.
Canale is fun to watch chew the scenery and Michael Kenneth Williams takes the role of Chalky White, Buscemi’s African-American partner and turns him into Thompson’s equal and opposite.
Extras: The highlight goodie: Empire’s executive producer and one of its directors, Mr. Martin Scorsese giving his take on season three. Others are included, but that’s the gem. The box set also includes digital copies for Apple and non-Apple users.
There’s but one more release to look at this week: Pain & Gain (Rated R, Paramount, $12.99 to $29.99 depending on version and format, 3.5-of-5 stars), a film that comes from an unlikely source.
Director Michael Bay is known more for blowing stuff up with robots that transform themselves rather than putting together films that show wit, intelligence and feature fantastic performances.
He does so with Pain, a comedic crime flick about three dim bulb body builders who followed their version of the American Dream. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) comes up with the idea to kidnap and kill one of his clients (Tony Shalhoub) at the dive health club where he works. He enlists the aid of Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), a former convict whom he befriends and Adrian (Anthony Mackie).
Needless to say with this hapless lot, their plan goes incredibly awry. Bay lets the material, which is based on a true (though weird) story, speak for itself and it’s ultimately hilarious. Wahlberg is reliable and Johnson shows another layer. Watch Aussie Rebel Wilson steal every scene she’s in.
Extras: Only a digital copy for iTunes, Android devices and PCs is included. That’s a big disappointment considering the material they could have used from the real-life story here.