News Column

New on Dvd

August 30, 2013


In stores:

THE GREAT GATSBY (2013, Warner, PG-13, $29) -- If you can get past director Baz Luhrmann's ("Moulin Rouge") determination to jazz up the action, this tragic romance will hit you hard. As narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), the latest adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic spotlights mysterious Long Island millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his efforts to win back his one great love, the now-married Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). Luhrmann is so intent on making the film move along at a fast clip that it is occasionally exhausting to watch. Eventually, though, Luhrmann allows the characters to take center stage, and then "Gatsby" -- finally -- becomes an emotional powerhouse. Extras: featurettes and deleted scenes.

PAIN & GAIN (2013, Paramount, R, $30) -- Early on, fitness guru Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) proclaims that there are no short-cuts to the American Dream. Then he proceeds to take a whopper of a short- cut by kidnapping a rich man (Tony Shalhoub) and nearly torturing him to death until he signs over his life savings. Directed by Michael Bay ("Transformers"), this bizarre caper comedy pumps up the action while managing to satirize the conspicuous consumption of the Miami elite. But it loses steam as it goes along, stretching a joke about dim-bulb thieves (Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie) to its breaking point and, more disturbingly, holding Lugo's victims up for a strange kind of ridicule. Extras: none.

AT ANY PRICE (2013, Sony, R, $30) -- The latest from the immensely talented helmer Ramin Bahrani ("Goodbye Solo") follows a smooth-talking farmer/seed seller (never-better Dennis Quaid) and his rebellious son (Zac Efron) as they try to keep their heads above water in the competitive world of modern agriculture. If that sounds dull, think again. This superb, unpredictable film works on a number of different levels at once. It's the story of a young man's ill- advised obsession with racecar driving, a tale of fathers and sons, and a look at the downside of the American Dream. "At Any Price" is built to last. Extras: featurettes and commentary by Bahrani and Quaid.

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (2013, IFC, $25) -- It's a shame that director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding") bookends this drama with scenes involving the kidnapping of an American professor because the heart of the movie, which involves could-be terrorist Changez's (Riz Ahmed) disillusionment with Wall Street, is insightful and compelling. Mentored by a shark (Kiefer Sutherland) and adored by the boss's niece (Kate Hudson), Changez seems to have the world on a string. But then 9/11 happens and the Pakistani-born financial whiz begins to question every aspect of his life. In spite of the clumsy patches, the film is worth seeing for its portrait of a good man struggling with the extremes of both capitalism and Islam. Extras: featurette.

ELEMENTARY: THE FIRST SEASON (2012, Paramount, unrated, $55) -- Sherlock Holmes is having a moment. First there was the Robert Downey Jr. movies and the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch. Now comes this terrific whodunit set in present-day New York that pairs a deliciously self-absorbed Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) with his no- nonsense sidekick, Watson (Lucy Liu). "Elementary" does a good job balancing juicy mysteries with the personal drama of its protagonists. Extras: featurettes.

SHADOW DANCER (2013, Magnolia, R, $28) -- Can you ever really trust anyone? That's the question that drives this slow-burn thriller about a British intelligence officer (Clive Owen) who asks an IRA bomb planter (Andrea Riseborough) to turn informant. Director James Marsh ("Project Nim") takes his time with this intriguing story, expertly ratcheting up the tension as the IRA leaders become suspicious of Riseborough and Owen loses his ability to keep her safe. Heavy on atmosphere and sober performances, the film is as demanding as it is intrepid. Extras: featurette.

HIGHLAND PARK (2013, Cinedigm, unrated, $27) -- This look at a cash-strapped Detroit neighborhood certainly has its heart in the right place. But the freshman effort by writer/director Andrew Meieran is hopelessly muddled and clunky. Billy Burke, Danny Glover, Kimberly Elise and John Carroll Lynch star as educators at a Detroit High School who hope to do good with the money they believe they've won in the lottery. Despite the fact that "Highland Park" has timeliness on its side, it never amounts to much thanks to underdeveloped characters and a laughably absurd ending. Extras: none.

NO ONE LIVES (2013, Anchor Bay, R, $30) -- When a pair of tourists (Luke Evans from "The Hobbit," Laura Ramsey) are kidnapped by a gang of car-jacking hillbillies, you think you know where this horror thriller is headed. But director Ryuhei Kitamura ("Midnight Meat Train") has a few surprises to spring. The tourists turn out to be scarier people than the kidnappers and things get very freaky very fast. Evans delivers an intense performance but after the first act, the movie starts to sag, eventually becoming a run-of-the-mill slasher flick. Extras: featurette.

SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF'S (2013, E1, PG-13, $25) -- With all of the depth of an infomercial, this documentary explores the world of the Fifth Avenue department store Bergdorf Goodman's. Designers Manolo Blahnik, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs and the Olsen Twins as well as celebrities Susan Lucci, Joan Rivers and Candice Bergen sing the praises of the posh emporium. Personal shoppers and salespeople share anecdotes about Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon (who bought 70 furs one Christmas Eve). It's occasionally diverting but this is the type of DVD that should be given away free with a purchase. Extras: deleted footage.

THE DRIVER (1978, Twilight Time, PG, $30) -- Ryan O'Neal doesn't speak more than a dozen or so lines of dialogue in this criminally underrated action film about an ice-cold getaway driver (O'Neal) and the hot and bothered cop (Bruce Dern) obsessed with catching him. Moody and minimalistic, the Walter Hill classic, which is new to Blu- ray, offers up jaw-dropping chases though nighttime Los Angeles as well as a pair of single-minded characters solely defined by their violent actions. It's quite a ride. Extras: deleted scene.

CHARULATA (1964, Criterion, unrated, $40) -- In one of his earliest dramas, Indian master Satyajit Ray ("The World of Apu") unreels the saga of the title character (Madhabi Mukherjee), a lonely 19th century housewife who feels so ignored by her workaholic husband that she begins to fall in love with his younger, more energetic cousin (Soumitra Chatterjee). Extras: featurettes.

SWEET REVENGE (1976, Warner Archive, PG, $20) -- After overseeing the acclaimed "Scarecrow" with Gene Hackman and Al Pacino, director Jerry Schatzberg moved on to this odd but endearing effort about a homeless grifter (Stockard Channing) who plans to use the money she makes stealing cars to buy her dream ride: a Dino Ferrari. Careening from screwball comedy to tragedy and back again, "Sweet Revenge" feels both disjointed and wildly unpredictable. It's not a great film but worth checking out for fans of '70s cinema. Extras: none.

SONS OF ANARCHY: SEASON FIVE (2012, Fox, unrated, $60) -- In one of the best seasons of the always-volatile series, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) takes over as the leader of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, finally elbowing aside his ferocious stepfather Clay (Ron Perlman). Jax's complicated mother (always-riveting Katey Sagal) falls under the sway of a suave pimp (Jimmy Smits) while the Club discovers it has a fresh enemy in an Oakland crime lord ("Lost's" Harold Perrineau) with a few surprises up his sleeve. Extras: commentaries and deleted scenes.

THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (2012, Anchor Bay, unrated, $70) -- For a series that's already on its third show- runner, "The Walking Dead" is remarkably consistent, balancing thrills, spills and zombie gore with characters capable of rubbing your emotions raw. This season, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) leads the band of human survivors to a seemingly abandoned prison where plenty of armed zombie guards and incarcerated criminals await. As for the new characters, the mysterious Governor (David Morrissey) and the sword- wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira) are welcome additions. Extras: featurettes, deleted scenes and audio commentaries.

-- Amy Longsdorf



Tuesday -- "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie," "Now You See Me," "Robert Parker's The Jesse Stone Collection," "The Shield: The Complete Series Collection," "Stories We Tell."

Sept. 10 -- "The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season," "Love Is All You Need," "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Sept. 17 -- "Bless Me, Ultima," "The Bling Ring."

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