Theatrical Review: Life of Pi

Pi Patel has led an interesting life; born to a family who runs a zoo in India, Pi has always been curious about religion and finding the soul in all things, including the animals. Financial problems start to plague his family and they’re forced to sell their animals and hope to begin a new life in Canada. Disaster strikes though as the ship that they’re traveling on is capsized. Pi manages to survive on-baord a lifeboat with one other inhabitant; an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

That is a real simplified description of the premise to Life of Pi the latest film from celebrated director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and there really is much, much more to this than that, but I don’t want to say too much more because really, Life of Pi is something that demands to be experienced in theatres- this is a terrific movie and certainly right up there with Lee’s best.

I can’t claim to have read the novel this is based off of, but I’ve heard it described as “unfilmable.” Well, Ang Lee has certainly risen to the challenge and has given us something that’s absolutely beautiful, thrilling, funny and life-affirming all at once. Visually, Life of Pi is a true masterpiece, with moments that are just indelible on the mind. Right from it’s opening credits to the very end, this is pure visual spectacle. That alone would be enough to recommend the film, but fortunately there’s so much more with it’s compelling story of survival and self-discovery and absolutely terrific performances from newcomer Suraj Sharma and veteran actor Irrfan Khan as the teenage and adult Pi.

While those two performances certainly stand out, I have to give Lee credit with his casting of Gautem Belur and Ayush Tandon as Pi at ages 5 and 11 as well. All four actors play this part seamlessly and make this quite convincing that this is one person at different ages in his life. That alone would be enough as far as good performances go, but Lee has really stepped it up with what he’s done with the tiger, Richard Parker. From what I gather, the tiger is mostly computer animated, but they’ve really created a character here that’s as much a driving force in the film as Pi himself. It’s an amazing achievement and again, it deserves to be seen on the big screen.

And when you’re seeing this on the big screen, make sure you opt to see it in 3D as well. Lee has taken the 3D and really made it very much part of the experience. It’s more than just “in your face” moments (though it does have those). It truly immerses you in Pi’s experience and just enhances the film thoroughly.

Oh there’s so much more I want to say about this, but really I think it’s best that you go and experience this first hand. I’ve given you the basics, but there’s so much more going on here that If I say anything further, I tend to think that I’m going to spoil it and I certainly do not want to do that. Life of Pi is a very special movie that’s certainly deserving of all the accolades that it’s been receiving. Don’t miss this one…


Theatrical Review: Red Dawn

In Spokane, Washington, returning Iraqi war vet Jed Eckert, is watching his impulsive young brother Matt play in a football game. There’s a little discomfort between the two brothers, but before any of it can be resolved, their town and the United States as whole finds itself being invaded by North Korean forces (with a little assistance from the Russians). Now, the two brothers begin to lead a ragtag team of other teens as a terrorist force called the Wolverines in order to free their town.

That’s the premise to Red Dawn, a remake of the 1984 film from director John Milius, and the first time effort for director Dan Bradley, who’s best known for his stunt coordination work. I have to confess, I’ve never seen the original movie- oh, I’ve always wanted to, but somehow or another I just never got around to doing it, so unfortunately, I can’t really make any comparisons to the original. As it stands though, this new version is a fairly passable time-waster that has a lot of potential, but just seems content to run everything by the numbers.

One plus that I was quite surprised about was the initial prologue to the film which basically goes into a little detail of how this is about to happen and unbelievably, it actually does set it up with the current US administration in mind. Now it doesn’t really do anything with that after the prologue, but I was quite surprised to see them actually tie this all in to current events. After that, this pretty much advances by rote- inspirational speech from the war vet, montage scene of all the training, initial successful attacks by the Wolverines, all peppered with little young adult relationship building moments in-between. There’s no big surprises here, but it’s still pretty watchable.

For the most part, the cast here is pretty good. Chris Hemsworth plays Jed Eckert, and even though this was made before Thor and The Avengers, Hemsworth already displays strong presence. Josh Hutcherson (Peeta in The Hunger Games) plays a bookish type who learns to adapt and has the big rallying moment during a Wolverine attack. Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas play the girls of the group and are mostly there to give romantic moments for both of the Eckert brothers. They’re all serviceable performances and certainly keep things moving.

Two performances that I’ll call out belong to Josh Peck and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but for different reasons. Peck plays Matt Eckert and it’s an “OK” performance, but I just have a hard time buying that he and Hemsworth are brothers- it’s more a physical thing that anything else, and this might’ve been better served had Peck and Hutcherson each played the other’s roles. Things start to spice up a little bit when Jeffrey Dean Morgan comes into play as a Marine named Tanner who’s seeking out the Wolverines for help. Even in a smaller part like this, Morgan is money in the bank and certainly brings a little more gravity to the part just by sheer presence alone.

Red Dawn isn’t a horrible movie by any means, but it doesn’t do much to really stand out either. Like I said above, I haven’t seen the original, but I certainly know of it, and actually do think that it’s a ripe film to re-make, but maybe re-making it as a feature film might not have been the best way to go. Doing this as a television series could’ve been a better route, at least on an artistic level and certainly would’ve had more opportunities to try some things that wouldn’t be just “by the numbers.” It’s a watchable movie, just as I said, but there’s other things out there right now that’s more compelling to see in theatres than this re-make of Red Dawn.

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