‘Price’ bewilders, ‘Kon-Tiki’ sets sail and ‘Pawn’ shocks on DVD

Among the movies that became available Tuesday, Aug. 27 on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley are a drama pairing Dennis Quaid with Zac Efron, an adventure flick about a 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft and a dark ensemble comedy in which Brendan Fraser plays a sad-sack Elvis impersonator.

At Any Price

Dennis Quaid plays a farmer who wants his rebellious son (Zac Efron) to help expand his family’s empire. However, said son instead has his sights set on becoming a professional race car driver. (R – 105 minutes)

Apparently, the title of “At Any Price” refers to the lengths that those in the agricultural industry will go in order to stay successful. And although said lengths may not be as far as the ones reflected in the comedic horror flick “100 Bloody Acres,” the final act of writer/director Ramin Bahrani’s new drama takes an abruptly dark turn. It almost feels as though Bahrani became puzzled about how to tie up this otherwise wholesome examination of the American Dream and decided to do something drastic, thereby leaving viewers feeling somewhat unsatisfied and just a bit bewildered. (Thumbs Down!)

The Great Gatsby

Tobey Maguire plays a would-be writer who moves from the Midwest to New York where he is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton also star. (PG-13 – 142 minutes)

“The Great Gatsby” is extraordinarily flashy but emotionally flat. Granted, all of the words are there as writer/director Baz Luhrmann goes through the motions of adapting the classic piece of literature for the silver screen with visual pomp and circumstance that was impossible to portray prior to today’s technology. However, the heart and soul of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story seems to have been sucked right out of it – or at least swallowed up in all of the style. It may encourage you to contemplate the corruption of the American Dream, but there is a difference between thinking about it and truly feeling it. (Thumbs Down!)


Pål Sverre Hagen plays an explorer who embarks on an epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in an effort prove it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. (PG-13 – 119 minutes)

“Kon-Tiki” may not be as adventurous and as exciting as some would have you believe. After all, the new biographical drama is based on a 101-day/43,000-mile expedition during which six clean-shaven men slowly grew beards that would impress even Rip Van Winkle. In other words, save for a single encounter with a shiver of sharks, not much action occurs over the course of this flick. However, what does occur is the ultimate test of faith which – paired with a convincing performance from star Pål Sverre Hagen and vitalizing visuals from cinematographer Geir Hartly Andreassen – makes this a story worth setting sail with. (Thumbs Up!)

Pain & Gain

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie play personal trainers who, in pursuit of the American Dream, get caught up in a criminal enterprise that goes horribly wrong. Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson and Ken Jeong also star. (R – 120 minutes)

“Pain & Gain” is a ripped riot – so long as you are not the kind of person who gets offended by seeing a man flip severed hands on a barbeque as if they are burgers. Oh, and as a well-timed on-screen note reminds us, this is a true story. So if that inhibits your ability to find amusement in this too-bonkers-to-believe story, you may wish to steer clear. Otherwise, you are certain to see this movie as entertainment on steroids thanks to director Michael Bay’s all-business/action-packed approach, incredibly clever narration and characters who have an abundance of brawn but no brains whatsoever. (Thumbs Up!)

Pawn Shop Chronicles

A man searching for his kidnapped wife, a couple of white-supremacist meth heads and a sad-sack Elvis impersonator pawn more than they bargain for at a Southern small-town pawn shop. Stars include Brendan Fraser, Elijah Wood, Vincent D’Onofrio, Thomas Jane, Lukas Haas, Norman Reedus, Matt Dillon and Paul Walker. (R – 112 minutes)

The phrase “off-the-wall” does not even begin to describe “Pawn Shop Chronicles.” In fact, there is little that one could actually say that would accurately relay the intensity of the insanity that director Wayne Kramer achieves in his new darkly comedic anthology. The same could be said of the resulting entertainment value, which is – at the very least – through the roof. Accentuated by an all-star cast – many members of which are practically unrecognizable – these three salacious stories will have your head spinning in circles and cause your jaw to punch a hole straight through the floor. (Thumbs Up!)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Riz Ahmed plays a young Pakistani man who, while chasing corporate success on Wall Street, finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis and the enduring call of his family’s homeland. (R – 128 minutes)

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” tells a timely and relatively tense tale about American patriotism that is rarely told or even pondered. However, director Mira Nair’s heavy-handed approach makes the message just a tad bit too hard to swallow. As she did in 2006’s “The Namesake,” Nair hammers the story’s significance into the viewer rather than tapping it in just enough to then allow author Mohsin Hamid’s narrative an opportunity to sink in on its own merits. Having said that, Declan Quinn’s cinematography speaks volumes as does star Riz Ahmed’s performance. Co-star Kate Hudson seems to be somewhat of a black sheep here, though. (Thumbs Down!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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