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The Great Gatsby DVD
Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby doesn’t pop onscreen, it roars to life in an explosion of color, sound, and lively dialogue. In the latest, he was helped by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote the beloved novel the movie is based on. The rest is all characteristically Luhrmann: loud, vibrant, and opulent.

Luhrmann has always favored the over-the-top in his work, and a story about the richest of the rich and the boredest of the bored suits his decadent sensibilities perfectly. We’ve seen this look from the director in the past. The color palate and the vibrancy Luhrmann chose for his latest theatrical endeavor is reminiscent of 2001’s Moulin Rouge, a film that comes to life via statement pieces like a vibrant windmill and an elephant boudoir that help to highlight both the period and whimsy of the characters at the same time. In Gatsby, the statement piece is Jay Gatsby’s masculine yellow automobile, a piece of innovation that mirrors Gatsby’s own rise to the top of the food chain. Like the yellow automobile, everything in Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is fast, including the film’s wit and its transitions between scenes, but it makes for a spectacle that’s all the more enjoyable because of it.

To bring the novel to life on the big screen, the director signed on an all-star cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, who shoehorns in more than his fair share of “Old Sports,” Tobey Maguire, who sort of fits as the blank canvas Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan who has the doe eyes and dispassionate voice to play none other than Daisy Buchanan. The endeavor comes together in a movie that is both similar to and wholly unlike Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel. But if you forget the source material the movie stems from, it’s certainly the most fun movie of the summer, and maybe the year.

My Blu-ray copy of the film wasn’t working, so I can’t talk about the quality of the HD picture or the extras. Per Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD copies of the film all come with the same extras, but these were all loaded onto the Blu-ray copy in my set. The extras did sound pretty cool, including an alternate ending and a featurette following the lengthy group of musicians who offered to contribute to The Great Gatsby soundtrack. You can order The Great Gatsby over at Amazon.

Other Special Features:
The Greatness of Gatsby
"Within and Without" With Tobey Maguire
The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby
The Jazz Age
Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the '20s
Fitzgerald's Visual Poetry
Gatsby Revealed
Deleted Scenes with Alternate Ending
1926: The Great Gatsby Trailer
Pain & Gain Blu-ray
Pain & Gain is based on the true story of a group of bodybuilders working for at a fitness center in Miami known as the Sun Gym. During the late nineties, a number of the employees moonlighted as kidnappers, extortionists and murderers, hoping to make a buck or five. In the film, these incapable and morally clouded individuals are played by none other than Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s Anthony Mackie.

There are enough tasteless moments of ineptitude between the three men as they hatch their schemes to kill and kidnap that Pain& Gain is occasionally cringe-worthy. Regardless, if you are a fan of hard R-rated films and movies in which comedy is interspersed with acts of random violence played for affect, than Pain & Gain might be a film worth watching.

Wahlberg’s Daniel Lugo is really the leader of this here gang, but it’s Johnson’s born-again Christian character, Paul Doyle, that really gets to continually remind the audience of how ridiculous and amusing the schemes are. Anthony Mackie’s Noel Doorbal gets a funny subplot, as well, dating a woman named Robin (Rebel Wilson) and signing on for erectile dysfunction treatments. Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie aren’t really comedians, but they are funny in an off-the-cuff manner and they are constantly putting themselves in situations that are also comedic.

This is a Michael Bay movie, and it wouldn’t be a legit Michael Bay movie without plenty of eye candy. Israeli model Bar Paly plays the stereotypical money-grubbing female in Bay’s latest endeavor. She’s wildly attractive. This has landed her a spot on the DVD box, but she’s more of a distraction than a legitimate addition to the film. Despite distractions like these, Pain & Gain is a wild R-rated romp through crime sprees in Miami. Don’t go into the film expecting a Dexter intellect, though.

You can order Pain & Gain over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: Both Blu-ray and DVD copies of Pain & Gain are noticeably absent of special features. While I would have liked to have seen a segment comparing the real-life criminals to their theatrical counterparts, at least I didn’t have to sit through one of those “Making of” featurettes that just features the actors and other crew members over-complimenting one another.
The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray
The Walking Dead: the Complete Third Season offers sixteen episodes of dark and intricate plotlines in and around a prison base. The latest season starts out well, but ends up drawing out a little slower than past endeavors. Still, if you are a fan of the series, Anchor Bay Home Entertainment’s set is nicely put together and features a slew of bonus features.

The Walking Dead has never been a comfortable program to watch and this doesn’t change during the third season of AMC’s drama, although for a brief moment during the first episode, fans get a reprieve from the violence and get to enjoy a zombie-free moment in the grass inside the walls of a prison, where our heroes and heroines enjoy a night of singing and enjoying the warmth of a fire. It turns out to be the calm before the storm, as zombies, some former prisoners, and an eery town named Woodbury enter the plot.

Fans of the graphic novels of the same name, written by Robert Kirkman, will be pleased to learn the Governor (David Morrissey) enters the plot as the major antagonist of the season. As Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Dary (Norman Reedus) and the gang try to turn a prison into a home, Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are captured by the Governor and his cronies and taken to the picturesque town of Woodbury. As the storyline moves forward, the varying plots begin to swerve closer and closer, eventually intertwining.

The Walking Dead has always reminded me a little bit of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a relentlessly depressing drama, but its studies of characters make the program worth pursuing season after season.

You can order The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: There’s no quick episode guide with the set, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you to look for most of the bonus features on the last disc, otherwise you might be looking around for the extras for several minutes. The set offers a ton of behind-the-scenes featurettes. Among these is a short extra on Michonne and The Governor and their big face off during Season 3. The story of how the show opted to take on the task of explaining the Governor’s missing eye is pretty awesome, and it’s worth a watch.

If you aren’t big on featurettes, a set of lengthy deleted scenes is also included on the disc. One scene between Carl and Beth is particularly affecting, discussing the role of God in a world filled with zombies.

Other Special Features: “Rising Son”
“Evil Eye”
“Gone, but not Forgotten”
“Heart of a Warrior”
“Safety Behind Bars”
“Making the Dead”
“Guts and Glory”
Audio Commentaries
Elementary: The First Season DVD
Man, am I a fan of Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock. As such, it was extremely difficult to head into Elementary with an open mind and heart. The good news is that CBS’ hit freshman crime drama is nothing like its British counterpart. It’s more of a reimagining than a retelling, and it follows the Holmes canon a whole lot looser, while still putting together a cast of compelling characters working together to solve crimes and make the occasional personal changes.

The biggest changes are noticeable early on. The setting in Elementary is New York City, and while our Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) is British, our Watson (Lucy Liu) is an American woman who formerly worked as a doctor and now acts as Miller’s ‘sober companion’ as he gets over a drug addiction. The series, created by Robert Doherty, is full of these associations from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon of characters, but the characters’ portrayals on CBS’ drama often bend genders and personalities to suit the modern-day narrative.

Elementary did well on CBS’ schedule during its freshman run. The drama did well enough in the ratings to nab the post-Super Bowl slot and eventually even earned an additionally episode order, bringing the episode count for the season up to 23 (24 if you count the two-part finale).

CBS’ sets aren’t exactly known for their bonus features, but the Elementary set is decently fun, although the discs are a little annoying to navigate. The bulk of the extras is a set of webisodes under the title “The Power of Observation,” which go behind-the-scenes to talk about the making of the series. What you’ll get out of all of these is that writing a character as detail-oriented as Holmes is tough, but rewarding. As exciting as the episodes are, the bonus features are quite the opposite.

You can order Elementary: The First Season over at Amazon, or you can check out some more of the August 27th releases, below. Unless otherwise noted, the upcoming releases are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Sons of Anarchy: Season 5
A Company Man
Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
And Then There Were None Blu-ray
Among Friends DVD
Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection

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