Thanksgiving is upon us and Hollywood knows we need an escape from awkward family conversations. Whether you’re stuck talking to your aunt who cares too much for family gossip or you’re trying to avoid watching 3 consecutive football games, there is always a retreat at the local movie theater. Beyond great movies like Skyfall and Lincoln released in the past few weeks, you can also check out what the new releases are. Let the girls go see Breaking Dawn again (we all know you’ve already seen it) and you can sit back and enjoy Life of Pi, The Silver Linings Playbook, and the Red Dawn remake.
In Life of Pi, Pi is telling his life story to a magazine journalist (Rafe Spall) about growing up in India, owning a zoo, and his miraculous story of survival at sea. After the boat transporting his family and every zoo animal sinks during a terrible storm, Pi finds himself on a small boat with a zebra, orangutan, hyena, and of course, a tiger by the name of Richard Parker. A great deal of this movie deals with Pi trying to survive the travails of the ocean, starvation, and being eaten alive by a tiger.
If you’ve read the book, then you know what to expect. This is a very close adaptation of the source material. It does brush over the early life of Pi and his journey to find multiple religions and his personal thoughts on animals in captivity, but it does establish him well as a character that you care about. Like the book, the majority of this film takes place at sea as Pi struggles to keep himself alive and finds that the slightest mistake can cost his life.
First off, this movie is absolutely beautiful. Every scene could be on a calendar. Ang Lee has really captured the imagination and creativity that this story provides. I often nitpick beautiful movies as being too artsy (i.e. Melancholia & Tree of Life), but even if Life of Pi does become too trippy and unbelievable, you are right along for the ride, you feel Pi’s starved hallucinogenic state right alongside him. I enjoyed the visuals so much that I’m about to make a blasphemous statement. Life of Pi is worth seeing in 3D. I felt dirty even writing that, but I stand by it.
This film is not for everyone. For much of the movie, Pi has no one to talk to except for Richard Parker (who never replies, the jerk). The benefit a slow-moving book has, is that it can pull off the description and inner monologue without coming off forced. A movie only shows a beautiful image and Pi thinking about his struggle. Certain audience members may struggle with it and think it’s Castaway 2.
I really liked this movie. I’m so happy that they didn’t shy away from the abrasive ending and they really leave everything in your hands. Great storytelling. See it.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) has recently been released from an 8 month stint in a mental health hospital following a violent act in his home. His parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) take him to their home to help him adjust to a normal life and learn to live with his bipolar issues. His ultimate goal is to be fit mentally and physically and win back his wife, who has since moved on. He then meets his socially-inept equal in Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Though it seems like these two would be a perfect match, they can’t stand to be with each other, especially because he can’t take his focus off of his wife.
I often pre-judge a movie based on the leads and its director. David O. Russell has only ever been lukewarm with me. And I have never been that impressed with the acting skills of Katniss or the smarmy guy from Hangover. I was so wrong. Though Bradley Cooper looks like himself, his mannerisms were unrecognizable. I was constantly embarrassed for what he’d say or do next. It’s natural to laugh at what he’s saying because he has no filter, but at the same time you pity him, because no person is patient enough to deal with it. Jennifer Lawrence is the moral heart in the story, even though she has no personal morals to speak of. She complements Cooper in every way. Even De Niro (I cringed when I realized he was in the movie) had a severe case of OCD sports superstition regarding his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles. After watching this movie, I was starting to feel some OCD myself about the Eagles and I even blamed Pat for the Eagles’ losses.
Though everything that I’ve explained sounds like a terrible Noah Baumbach family drama that normally I’d avoid like the plague, I must tell you…It is hilarious. There are dark moments dealing with depression and anger, but it has the greatest bouts of dialogue I have seen all year. And it’s very hard to hate a movie where the climax revolves around a football game and a ballroom dancing competition. Very original and heartfelt. A surefire addition to my top 10, even top 5 of the year. See this when it’s released locally.
We all know of the original 1984 flick, where a group of teenagers must get together and fight off the attacking Russian armies that have nearly conquered the U.S. In the remake, everything follows suit, except that instead of Russians, the enemy is an evil Asian axis, most prominently led by the North Koreans. Without warning, enemy paratroopers descend on their small town and two brothers (Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck) must gather their friends to hide out and eventually start a militia, The Wolverines, to fight back and take back their homeland.
Many people praise the original Red Dawn and decry any mention of a remake. I don’t want to judge these people, because we all have old 80’s movies that we love for nostalgic reasons, even if they don’t quite hold up. Red Dawn is that kind of movie. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I like to see this kind of a remake. I’m against remaking classics, but I’m all for remaking mediocre movies and trying to improve them.
But the feeling around the idea that when an opposing nation invades and compromises our rights, we feel the need to fight back, is still true today. I still got the same feelings of patriotism that the original movie gave. I would like to count myself as a member of the Wolverines if such a situation happened (said the lazy movie critic).
Did this movie improve on the original? Well it did update it and make it more believable. The dialogue isn’t great and I wish I could punch the lead, Josh Peck, in the face. Chris Hemsworth carries the mostly shallow movie and makes me excited to see him in movies that aren’t called “Thor.” I was very impressed that on a limited budget that they were able to crank out as much action as they did. Yes, obviously the action takes the place of character development, but I knew what to expect and I was happy with it. This movie will give you the testosterone you need this weekend. It’s a shallow but enjoyable movie. It’s a strong rental. Wolverines!!!