Ang Lee pulls off two miracles in his impressive adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker-winning “Life of Pi.”
For starters, I’ll admit to having been underwhelmed time and time again in recent years by Hollywood’s use of 3-D. But Lee’s film joins Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” as one of the few examples that add something to the stories they are telling by using the technology.
Secondly, I’ve read Martel’s book and believed it to be nearly impossible to adapt. For those unfamiliar with the story, “Pi” follows the tale of an Indian boy who is trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.
Of course, we are introduced to Pi’s family in the scenes running up to the sinking of a ship that leaves him stranded in the lifeboat. And there’s the intercut story in which the older Pi tells his tale to a writer in search of a great yarn.
But most of Martel’s book and Lee’s film take place in that lifeboat. And both the author and the filmmaker manage to make the proceedings entirely engrossing.
Much like “The Tree of Life,” Lee’s film is also a rare picture that involves religious themes. And similar to Terrence Malick’s film, “Pi” deftly interweaves spirituality into the narrative without making it an overtly religious film.
“Life of Pi” is a movie of both visual and storytelling wonderment. Trust me, it’s better than most of the other big budget studio pictures that are currently in cinemas.
Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren make Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” worth seeing even if the film is merely a modest amusement, rather than a great bio picture.
The movie follows Hitchcock and his wife, Alma (Mirren), as they attempt to adapt Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho” to the big screen.
But the film focuses equally on Hitch and his wife’s marital struggles as it does the filmmaking process.
Its weakest moments are when it comes off as a 1960’s version of a gossip magazine: Hitchcock is portrayed as somewhat of a creep, while potshots are taken at Anthony Mann, Frank Tashlin and Orson Welles. And I believe the filmmakers have taken more than a few liberties in their portrayal of Anthony Perkins.
On the positive side, “Hitchcock” is often a breezy portrayal of the creative process and the film’s performances are all very good. There have been much better films about great artists, but Gervasi’s movie is, at least, enjoyable.
Marion Cotillard gives a strong performance in “Rust and Bone,” French director Jacques Audiard’s follow up to his gritty crime film “A Prophet.”
In “Rust,” Cotillard plays a whale trainer who loses her legs below the knees during an accident and then enters a friends-with-benefits relationship with a gruff bouncer named Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts).
To make ends meet, Ali enters a violent boxing competition and Stephanie (Cotillard), who is strangely attracted to Ali’s brutish nature, decides to follow along for the ride.
“Rust and Bone” may not be on the same level as Audiard’s previous picture, which was an Oscar foreign film contender and Cannes Film Festival winner, but it’s an intense experience all the same.
Thematically and narratively, no new ground is broken: Ali, who has a young motherless son, struggles as a father, while Stephanie tries to come to grips with her disability. But the picture works as a character study and both leads deliver gripping performances.
With his latest, Audiard has added to his resume another impressive tale of characters attempting to pull themselves out of the holes into which they have fallen.
Last and certainly least this week is Dan Bradley’s remake of John Milius’s 1984 film, “Red Dawn.” In the original, which was at least amusingly absurd, a group of all-American teens fight off the invading Russians, who literally drop out of the sky in parachutes.
In Bradley’s remake, the villains are the North Koreans, who attack the United States for nebulous reasons. Originally, the script had the Chinese as the invaders – that is, until the film’s producers likely thought it poor judgment to alienate one of the world’s largest markets.
This new version of “Red Dawn” finds a slightly more diverse group of rebellious teens than Milius’s original. However, most of the minority characters merely serve as targets to be bumped off as Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck struggle through their sibling rivalries and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”) attempts to find the courage to pull the trigger.
For an action film, the set pieces are well enough executed and the picture gains a certain amount of intensity as it plods along. But these few glimmers of entertainment hardly make up for the agonizing script, ridiculous storyline and lack of humor, which, at least, make the original bearable.
“Life of Pi” and “Red Dawn” are screening at UA Court Street 12.