“Life of Pi”: Ang Lee Academy Awards winning adaptation of Yan Martel’s meditation on the nature of faith as seen through the eyes of a young man (Suraj Sharma) trapped in the middle of the ocean with a vicious Bengal tiger. As high-minded literary adaptations go, “Pi” is a vibrant, fascinating film but it does lose some vitality in trying to bring a work of intellectual interiorly to the big screen. Absolutely worth watching for cinematographer Claudio Miranda’s stunning imagery alone. Also starring Ifrran Khan, Rafe Spall, and Gautum Belur. Read my full review here.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, a 3D presentation of the film, deleted scenes, three featurettes in 3D, less standard featurettes, an image gallery, and storyboards.
“Rise of the Guardians”: Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) must team with other fairy tale heroes to defeat the evil Nightmare King (Jude Law) and in the process, decimating the DreamWorks Animations labor force. While DreamWorks has found a lot of success being the okay substitute teacher to Pixar’s backwards cap and tattoo sleeved regular professor of Eternally Recurring Self Discover 101, the studio hasn’t produced a film that’s failed to turn a profit since 2003’s “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas,” a film that foolishly posited that audiences like Brad Pitt because of his voice. It’s hard to say why the film failed whereas “How to Train Your Dragon” was a smash. The more recent film cost more which certainly part of the problem but I bet that the vaguely hacky air of the whole enterprise – a bulky Santa Clause rocks gauntlets with “Naughty” and “Nice” printed on them – sunk the film with audiences hungry for something with a bit of wonder and a bit less obvious toyetic ambition. It’s just a shame that 50 animators had to pay the price for nobody standing up and saying that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy don’t work as superheroes. Also featuring the voices of Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, and Isla Fisher.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, commentary with director Peter Ramsey and producers Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein, a preview of the upcoming film “Turbo,” two featurettes, two on disc games and two small toys.
“Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away”: Essentially, a made especially for the screen version of a Cirque du Soleil show. If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil stage performance, this film is probably won’t replicate the experience, not because it won’t look amazing but because a forces a perspective on the action instead of allowing the viewer to choose their own point of interest. Still, it’s sure to look great on HD and sometimes it nice to be reminded that cinema is primarily a visual medium.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, a 3D presentation of the film, and two featurettes.
“Hitchcock”: Anthony Hopkins plays the great director as he films “Psycho.” While the 1960 film is one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces and the circumstances around its production are interesting, using those behind the scenes tidbits as the narrative spine for a deeply conventional bio-pic is terrible idea. Making of movies are generally terrible and doing the hero with feet of clay thing with Hitchcock is insultingly reductive and ultimately not that interesting. Nobody wants to see how the magician saws the lady in half. Also starring Scarlett Johansson, Kurtwood Smith, and James D’Arcy.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, commentary with director Sacha Gervasi and Stephen Rebello who wrote the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” on which the film is based, deleted scenes, and nine features.
“This Must Be the Place”: Sean Penn plays an aging rock star who swears to track down the Auschwitz guard that brutalized his recently deceased father. While co-writer/directors Paolo Sorrentino’s tone and pacing leaves a lot to be desired, it’s hard to figure out what tone could have been affected to make The Cure’s Robert Smith hunting down Nazi war criminal into a successive movie. However, there is one absolutely perfect musical sequence in film that justifies its shaggy existence. Also starring Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsh, and Harry Dean Stanton.
Special features: None.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com