On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 27, 2013

Like almost every American who has been through high school I read The Great Gatsby and like most high schoolers likely didn't appreciate the novel that first time around. Though the more accurate word is probably that I didn't comprehend all of what it was trying to say I still have yet to re-visit the novel since my sophomore year, but as I sat down to experience the latest film adaptation of the novel by the often flamboyant and always stylish director Baz Luhrman the parts of the story that I vaguely recalled seemed to escape me completely and I was then able to completely embrace the extravagant world in which Luhrman and his team had created for the audience to dig into and become all the better acquainted with the specific time period, the social climate, and the characters that it is necessary to care about before we become entranced with their melodramatic lives. It is to be understood that through the glitz and the glamour of the roaring twenties that this is essentially what F. Scott Fitzgerald's great American novel was if not a high form of it wrapped in commentary for the societal issues of the changing culture during that time. Though it would be easy to dismiss the film as a case of style over substance I was completely on board from the very beginning as the caliber of the cast here was able to elevate what might have been an otherwise overlooked aspect of the production. The depth each actor brings to his or her character lend an emphasis to the themes Fitzgerald touched upon and they are only embellished by Luhrman's preference to have everything as big and excessive as possible. It is a film that entices by the fantasy of the world it exists in and it holds our attention by being consistently stylish and letting it's cast bring their A-game that in turn creates a combination that captures the essence of everything I expected and wanted this film to be. B

I've never been on the Michael Bay bashing train and certainly don't plan to start now as his latest, "smaller" film is likely the most interesting piece of work he will ever put to film. Interesting being the key word here as the story Bay has chosen to recount is one of the most outlandish and absurd truths that has also likely even been put to film. I was highly anticipating Pain & Gain if not for the chance to see the now solidified movie star of Mark Wahlberg make his next move as well as watching Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson continue to skyrocket towards superstar status, but for the opportunity to see Bay stretch his visual (and maybe even storytelling) muscles with something other than big CGI robots. It has been nearly six years since the first Transformers film and in the time that Bay has delivered two sequels he has also had the growing ambition for this kind of passion project and that comes through in the execution and style with which Pain & Gain is delivered. There were some pretty heavy accusations and criticisms of the film thrown out when the film was initially released in theaters and while I can understand where some of those came from in regards to the family of the deceased feeling it was making light of their family members deaths, the film certainly isn't glorifying the main characters and if anything, the source of the comedy comes from how stupid and incompetent these lead protagonists are in their dim-witted schemes. There are plenty of words being thrown around like homophobic or misogynistic to describe the director and his film yet it has always been clear the world these characters lived in was a world of strippers and bodybuilders who'd do anything for their physique yet likely oppose anything even the least bit gay. Those complaints are rendered mute by the fact those attributes are what create the atmosphere. Besides, the actions of the characters are so off-putting and the story so strange that it inevitably becomes extremely engaging. B-

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