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>> ANG LEE DELIVERS A STUNNING FILM BASED ON A BEST-SELLING BOOK

November 29, 2012 12:10 am

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Don't worry. If the North Koreans ever attack, we will all be saved by the hottest high schoolers with the best abs. we1129lifeofpi1.jpg

The deflating moment when you realize your can of rations is filled with spring snakes.

"LIFE OF PI" (PG)

HHH

IRRFAN KHAN, SURAJ SHARMA

Only the ending--which will leave some moviegoers scratching their heads--takes the glow from this stunning visual achievement from director Ang Lee.

Those who worry that they'll tire of watching two hours of the protagonist, Pi, floating at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger needn't worry.

It takes the first act to get him there, and there are flashbacks that break it all up once the long ordeal begins.

And whether you see it in 3D or not, the incredibly rich images of everything from breathtaking sunrises and sunsets to an island full of meerkats are captivating.

Though the ending is true to the book, many will wish the film gave a bit more background or at least a hint at what it all means.

Regardless, filmgoers will be amazed at the action Lee manages to squeeze into the lifeboat and the small raft Pi constructs near it.

Just as fascinating is the battle of wills between this religiously curious young man and the Bengal tiger that wind up sharing a life raft after their steamer goes down in heavy seas on the way from India to Canada.

Young Suraj Sharma is achingly real as Pi. You feel his pain, his anguish and eventually, his joy at what he believes is divine intervention for him and the tiger.

From storms to wilting sun to a deadly island that has to be seen to be believed, the challenges and wonders Pi encounters make this a unique adventure.

Those who have read the book will be better able to interpret the twist that's central to the story's end, but that's a small quibble about what is otherwise a truly stunning achievement in film.

Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril. 125 min. [MC, RA, RF]

"RISE OF THE GUARDIANS" (PG)

HH

CHRIS PINE, ALEC BALDWIN, JUDE LAW, ISLA FISHER, HUGH JACKMAN

There are a few fun and inspired moments in this tale that unites Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, Jack Frost and others in an effort to save kids from the Boogie Man.

But there aren't as many bright spots as you would expect. This is a tale that lacks the childlike wonder it badly needs.

The struggle between the good-guy "Guardians" and the evil "Pitch" often feels more like a film made for adults.

It doesn't help that Santa, here called "North," is a big bully who won't fit the image many youngsters have of jolly ol' Saint Nick. Same goes for the Easter Bunny, who defies childhood expectations and does battle with a boomerang in his paw.

Better is the story of Jack Frost, a young boy who finds that fun and joy is the center that will help him battle evil. But even that is soured somewhat (especially for little ones) by the fact that he's a boy who drowned trying to save his sister while ice skating.

It all feels more grown-up and tinged with evil than necessary for a movie aimed at the young crowd, but it does help that the actors doing the voices include Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Alex Baldwin and Chris Pine.

Rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action. 97 min. [MC, RA, RF]

"RED DAWN" (PG-13)

H

CHRIS HEMSWORTH, ISABEL LUCAS, JOSH HUTCHERSON

Get 10 minutes into this tale of American occupation by the North Koreans and you'll all be asking the same question: "Why remake this film if it's this lame?"

Especially given the fact that this time out, it's the North Koreans who invade the West Coast, forcing a bunch of high school kids and an older brother into a guerilla war against the invading force.

Many moons ago, this film got made with a much better cast and the advantage of a timely, fresh idea: Could a bunch of high school kids fight back if our country was invaded?

In that first film, with a cast that included Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson, things were more rustic and, if not believable, at least not laughable.

In this remake, the young "Wolverines," led by military-trained older brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth), are immediate experts at blowing up buildings, tanks and anything that gets in their way.

It's as ridiculous as the invasion that comes with no warning but a sky suddenly full of paratroopers.

Equally silly are the car chase where the high schoolers escape and the ending where everyone suddenly has cars and trucks with missiles and machine guns mounted on them.

My rule for remakes is simple: If you can't add something significant in the filming, the story or the cast, don't do it.

This movie fails on all three counts, though Hemsworth manages not to embarrass himself.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and language. 93 min. [MC, PV, RA]




HOW WE RATE 'EM

H Don't waste your time.

HH Nothing special

HHH You'll be sorry if you miss it.

HHHH A must-see




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