Blu-ray Review “The Great Gatsby”

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher
Directors: Baz Luhrmann
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Run Time: 142 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

When I read that Baz Luhrmann was making an adaption of “The Great Gatsby” I had to do a double take. This is the same guy who made the strikenly visual and over-the-top films like “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!”.  I couldn’t wait to see what he will do with his retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel.  I have to admit, I was very impressed.  The film does scream Baz Luhrmann, which for me is a good thing. Everyone on this film including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton look like they are having such a blast with this film and deliver a great ensemble. “The Great Gatsby” is a fun, visual trip with great music and equally impressive performances from the film’s cast.

Official Premise: The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Warner Bros delivered this release as combo pack including a Blu-ray + DVD and Ultraviolet digital copy. The film’s 1080p transfer really works well with the films from very dazzling visual effects and Baz’s vision for this period.  The colors stand out and the details are very sharp. The film was originally released in 3D and I have heard that that presentation is the preferred way to view this but the 2D version is still fun, though you can see very clearly where the extra dimension would have stood out.  Since music is a big part of this film, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers as well. Craig Armstrong’s score is amazing and blends well with the film’s different yet very effective hip hop soundtrack.

The special features are good like the film but I would have loved to see a commentary track, especially with all this great talent included. “The Greatness of Gatsby” features director Baz Luhrmann and cast discussing bringing Fitzgerald novel to the big screen during pre-production. “Within and Without” features Tobey Maguire with his take on the production. Gatsby Revealed” goes in-depth of five key scenes from the film including “Gatsby’s Party,” “Disconcerting Ride,” “Daisy and Gatsby Meet,” “The Plaza” and “Pool Scene”.

“The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby” is a great extra featuring Jay-Z, Beyonce, Fergie,, Lana del Rey, Bryan Ferry, Florence + the Machine, Andre 3000, The XX, Sia, Gotye and others talking about the soundtrack. “The Jazz Age” touches on the other side of the music in the film with the Jazz angle from the ’20s. “Razzle Dazzle” looks into the costume design. “Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry” talk about the visual aspect of the film. There are three deleted scenes and an alternate ending with Luhrmann intros. Lastly there is a vintage “1926 Trailer – The Great Gatsby”, silent film trailer.

The Great Gatsby is available on Blu-Ray 8/27/2013 at the WB Shop

Film Review “The Great Gatsby”

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 23 mins
Warner Brothers

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

When I was in middle/high school (mid 1970s – yes, I’m old) there were several books we were required to read, among them “The Old Man and The Sea,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Great Gatsby.” Though they had all been made into films, because there was no home video I actually had to read them in order to write a report. Not sure if it’s still required reading but a new version of “The Great Gatsby” has hit the multiplex.

1929. We meet Mr. Nick Carraway, currently under the care of a local sanitarium. His diagnosis: Morbidly Alcoholic. While speaking with his doctor Nick begins talking of the most influential person he’s ever known. A man he refers to as Gatsby. Gatsby?

Dazzlingly eye-popping, “The Great Gatsby” is everything you’d expect from the director of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge.” Beautiful people in glamorous settings with an eclectic selection of music that runs the gamut of classical to Jay-Z, all presented in numerous jump-cuts and, this time around, in 3D. Allow me to explain further, old sport.

Getting into the bond market as the country goes Dow-Jones crazy, Nick (Maguire) finds residence in the abandoned guest house next to an incredible mansion. Nick learns that his neighbor is a mysterious man named Gatsby (DiCaprio). Gatsby? (sorry. For some reason every time someone mentions Gatsby’s name for the first time someone else has to say in questioningly, which to me sounds like a perfect condition for a drinking game). Across the water is the even more opulent Buchanan estate, where Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Mulligan), now resides having married the devilishly handsome Tom (Joel Edgerton). At lunch they all gossip about Gatsby. Among the rumors: he’s a prince…a German spy…he’s killed someone. What isn’t discussed is that, five years ago, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy after a chance meeting, though he knew he could never marry her due to his financial circumstances. Now rich, and learning from Nick that he and Daisy are related, Gatsby invites the both of them to his home, which is normally filled each weekend with hundreds of people partying the night away. Add to this a background of cheating spouses, inebriation and jealousy and you’ve got yourself one heck of a ride.

The glamour on screen is matched by strong performances from the main cast. DiCaprio is sly and devious, spending most of his time on screen planting the seeds of a story he’s desperate to have known and shared. Maguire is fine as Nick. He spends some of his time narrating the film as the words of Fitzgerald are recited to us by Nick. They also appear on-screen, utilizing the 3D process that sadly doesn’t deliver what being in the hands of Baz Lurhmann promises. There is one brilliant scene here, one which features an elaborate fireworks display over the water cut to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” This one scene hints at the movie that could have been. Maybe it’s the source material or the early 20th Century setting. Either way, a lot of the magic is merely eye candy to a story that often plays like an overproduced episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” If it’s glamour you want you’ve come to the right place. If it’s story, stick to the book.