Life of Pi Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Life of Pi (2012)

Starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall and Gerard Depardieu

Directed by Ang Lee

The opening credits already worried me, showing me every exotic animal with names I’ve already forgotten in the slowest pace possible. Is this the beat that Life of Pi will be flowing to?

This adaptation of novel of the same name show these animals within a zoo that’s managed by the father of the young Piscine Molitor or ‘Pi’ Patel (Sharma), the latter being an Indian boy growing up in Pondicherry, a land transforming from French colonization into joining independent India.

The adult version of Pi (Khan) lives in Montreal, his voyage between the two countries – or three, for technical purposes – is so compelling that an off-screen character named Mamaji recommended him to a man (Spall) who’s stuck on what he’s going to write. Pi is a religious professor, the writer is a North American brand of young secular atheist. Both of them aren’t smug about their intellectual backgrounds. But part of Mamaji’s recommendation of Pi is that his story will convince the writer that God exists but again, not in a smug way. I can feel some eyes rolling at such a premise.

I loved the book, its simple language evoking the energy of a boy’s growth and his lonely and one in a trillion journey that puts him in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the same lifeboat as a terrifying tiger named Richard Parker. Or at least, that’s what I remember from the novel.

It’s the opposite of the film’s approach. Again, the pacing in the first scenes, as well as its mixture of Indian and French music softening the impact of the moments when Pi takes a stand on his (religious) identity. It almost damages my experience of the entire film. Those scenes should have amped us up to the movie’s climax, its chaos building up and complementing the ocean’s disturbing quietness. The scenes in India as also have this digital, amateurish texture capturing the shallowest characters in Ang Lee’s directing career.

His time in the ocean, then, isn’t stark but a magical although scary time. Allow me to compare this another director’s work, James Cameron, who has championed the film. I’ll also say that the shipwreck scenes, when the camera occasionally follows Pi in and out of ships and lifeboats, are more audacious than its predecessor. And since Pi, Richard Parker and the rest of us are out in the ocean, we get to see every type of real marine life that evokes the fictional life forms in Avatar. I never pegged Lee as a visual director but his rural/exurban landscapes should have given me that hint, and the aesthetics are what I can give this movie its credit. It’s worth the 3D medium although it’s not necessarily worth its price.

But does watching someone with God’s creatures, or watching him in a Job-like situation make anyone feel closer to God? Not necessarily (Full disclosure: you probably all know that I’m gay but I’m also a Catholic, one of the religions that Pi adheres to). The movie dazzles and thrills but its main goal should come from a text not just about wonderment but endurance and perseverance. I never really felt those here, and knowing the movie’s ending, as well as other factors in the movie’s storytelling might have spoiled that for me. The ending also doesn’t offer any answers, and this is the kind of movie that should have done that.

Follow me on Twitter @paolocase

Prometheus Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Prometheus Blu-Ray 

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall and Charlize Theron

Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof

Directed by Ridley Scott

Audiences were not prepared for what Ridley Scott unleashed upon them this summer when Prometheus was projected on screens across the country this summer. Coming nowhere near the tone of his previous Alien film, Prometheus is very heavy on the SCI part of the equation and very light on everything else. Scott goes completely cerebral for a film clearly inspired more by 2001: A Space Odyssey. The question remains, doe s the film play better the second time around?

Prometheus begins with a sprawling montage of beautiful vistas and landscapes of a planet that may be Earth, but could also be one of many that the humanoid looking ‘Engineers’ have visited. The extremely pale white alien appears near a waterfall and we watch as he ingests a liquid that causes his demise. On the Isle of Sky in the Northern Highlands of Scotland, sometime in the future, we are introduced to doctors Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) who have made a discovery dating back generations in the caves of the isle. We board the vessel “Prometheus” where we are introduced to the only being awake (the rest of the crew is in cryostasis), the android David (Fassbender). David has spent his time alone awaiting the end of the journey and developing what may be an unnatural fascination with Shaw. Upon their arrival we meet the crew of the Prometheus: Vickers (Theron), the corporate representative, Janek (Elba), the ship’s Captain, Fifield (Harris), a geologist, and Millburn (Spall), another scientist, along with others.  The crew are then told by Shaw and Holloway that their benefactor Peter Weyland (Pearce, nearly unrecognizable) has sent them to this remote planet to meet the being they feel all humans were spawned from. Upon investigating a strange ruin on the planet’s surface the crew discovers the remains of some of these beings, while David discovers something else entirely.

Prometheus still looks beautiful on Blu-Ray. Rapace shines as the film’s central character, the sequence with an unexpected ‘visitor’ is particularly riveting and brilliant. Fassbender’s David is the perfect mix of naivety with a sinister core that makes his character the most dangerous aboard the ship. The second time around we really can see his machinations more clearly.  Theron’s performance works even less the second time around, she’s the least effective of the main characters. Elba’s basically the cigar chomping police chief from every late 80′s early 90′s cop film you can think off, but it works. And you clearly tell he’s having a blast doing it. Pearce is barley in the film and under so much makeup as to make him unrecognizable, yet he still does a good job. The rest of the supporting cast is strong in their roles, leading to one of the strongest cast performances of the year. The intricacies of the script start to shine with a second viewing, and the story plays out more satisfyingly. Having dumped the baggage of the previous Alien films due to more informed expectations we are allowed to enjoy this story in this world more. The visual effects work is unsurprisingly stunning, Ridley has been in this work before and knows exactly what he wants. The brilliant look of the ‘Engineers’ and the ever evolving Alien xenomorph are stunning.

Prometheus’ Blu-Ray comes with a truckload of special features. We get two feature length commentaries, one by Ridley Scott and another with writers Lindelof and Spaihts. A series of character developing mini movie/webisodes under the ‘Peter Weyland Files’ and a half hour worth of deleted and extended scenes including alternate opening and closing sequences. The deleted scenes are excellent and help flesh out the story even more. There is also an entire IPad/IPhone app with second screen to scour even many more hours’ worth of special features like original design art and much more.

Ultimately Prometheus works even better with multiple viewings. The sheer volume of special features combined with the gorgeous looking film itself with great performances should make the purchase decision easy for you. Prometheus on Blu-Ray is a must buy.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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