Note: To order any of the following films, click on the poster.
If you were skeptical of the new Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby, a director not exactly known for displaying a sense of visual restraint, then his extravagant version of the now classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel may come as a surprise. The flourishes are there in abundance – the first half hour is a hallucinatory trip where every current CGI trick in the book is thrown in – but once the dust settles and the performances are allowed to filter through the non-stop mayhem, a real film takes over. That’s not to say Luhrmann’s signature style slows down, it’s just that his need to display an excessive montage of cinematic trickery doesn’t always get in the way. This is no great film, but it’s not the disaster I feared, either. Like Lurmann’s Moulin Rouge, the overblown style of story-telling in The Great Gatsby may be too much for some. Exaggeration and artificiality can become boring very quickly, particularly if it masks moments that don’t always require them, but there’s also a lot to like. If director Ken Russell was still alive this is the Gatsby he might have made. Available onDVD and Blu-Ray.
If there’s one true-life adventure that almost every European school child knows it’s the story of Norwegian’s Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon Tiki Express, the name given to the 1947 trip across the Pacific on a raft. In1950, Thor Heyerdahl made an Academy Award winning documentary about the journey, but now Norway has finally made an adventurous dramatization of the trip. The film had its Arizona premiere at the recent 2013 Phoenix Film Festival and was a huge success with its festival audience, and with good cause; the film is a rousing, colorful, widescreen adventure, the kind of clean cut, family escapade that used to support a Walt Disney animated feature during the sixties. Norwegian critics have complained that the film fictionalizes a lot of what really happened, but real life doesn’t always transfer well to a big screen adventure. Perhaps the film isn’t a real reflection of everything that happened, and events are condensed in order to heighten the more dramatic elements, but it’s close enough. Reading books and watching documentaries are good for understanding academically what happened, but old-fashioned, adventurous films deliver the emotional impact, and Kon Tiki is as as rousing as a sea-faring exploit gets. Available onDVD and Blu-Ray.
Special DVD Mentions:
I recently received this e-mail from KEZ listener Claudia of Gilbert who wrote to let me know how much she enjoyed films and reading about films but pointed out that the majority of releases these days never seem to be aimed at someone with her tastes. “There used to be more movies that inspired and never insulted,” was her biggest complaint. She was also disturbed with the overuse of bad language, pointing out that, “… Not everyone in America talks like that.” E-mails, like the one from Claudia, are not uncommon. If this sounds like you, consider the following two new releases. Both are inspirational adventures and both are based on true stories.
Camp is a new film now available on DVD inspired by the true stories of ordinary people who provide extraordinary help for abused and neglected kids. As Julie Gumm, adoptive mom and best-selling author of “Adopt Without Debt” said: “Camp does more than entertain… it inspires.” The DVD, released today, contains a Behind the Scenes documentary and a director’s commentary from Jacob Roebuck who also wrote the screenplay.
Season of a Lifetime is an inspiring story of head football coach, Jeremy Williams, who, terminally ill with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) refuses to retire, deciding instead to coach for one last season. The film is about faith, family and football and has been praised by others in the industry, including documentarian Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me, who said that the film was “… One of the most uplifting and inspirational sports films you’ll ever see.” Plus, writer of both Hoosiers and Rudy, Angelo Pizzo, said of Season of a Lifetime, “One of the most emotionally powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen.”