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14 • Fourth Estate • Nov. 29, 2012

REVIEWS ON EVERYTHING ENTERTAINMENT

The Rundown

Album Reviews

Suraj Sharma stars as the title character in “Life of Pi,” alongside a cast of CGI animals. / Promotional photo via Fox 2000 Pictures/MCT

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‘Life of Pi’ captivates moviegoers
DYLAN DOBSON
4Play Editor
Can one story make you believe in God? “Life of Pi,” puts forth the assumption that, despite its status as fiction, it could be that story. Based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel, “Life of Pi” has had a turbulent production history. The film faced a revolving door of directors before Ang Lee of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame was secured. The novel was, for a long time, considered to be unfilmable. This assumption was justified. A majority of the plot occurs on a single lifeboat, with action being split between flashbacks and the lead character’s struggle for survival. Much of the time Piscine “Pi” Molitor lacks companionship, other than the animals sharing his lifeboat. It was feared that this lack of human relationships could harm the film’s success. However, like the novel, the film finds humanity in Pi’s courageous actions, as well as his personification of the animals onboard his lifeboat. Richard Parker the tiger and Orange Juice the orangutan especially function here in a similar fashion to Wilson the volleyball from “Castaway.” The film begins by cataloguing the odd chain of events during Pi’s youth in India that led to him being shipwrecked. As a youth, Pi enjoys a comfortable life living amongst animals in a zoo run by his parents who seem loving and supportive despite their differing opinions with Pi on the subject of religion. He finds love at a dance studio and carries on a steady relationship. However, this is all, of course, before war and a declining economy forces his parents to sell the zoo to travel to Canada and make new lives for themselves. They travel with their animals upon a Japanese vessel populated by well-meaning Buddhist sailors as well as an unsavory and brutish French chef. Then the boat sinks, in a sequence that is more visually gut-wrenching than the final reel of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” leaving Pi alone at sea with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and tiger. Pi thinks that he’s gotten lucky. At least he has companionship in the animals he’s come to know living at the zoo. This is, however, until the hyena turns against the zebra and Orange Juice, and Richard Parker mauls the hyena. With just the two of them remaining, Richard Parker and Pi must strike a truce and find interspecies understanding in order to survive being stranded in the Pacific. Pi’s entire journey is beautifully shot and rendered with breathtaking scope. The shots are wide and artistically arranged. It’s easy to get lost in the film’s expanse and feel shipwrecked as well. The graphic work is also impressive. A majority of the settings were completely rendered digitally in post-production, but tastefully so in comparison to the gaudy landscapes of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” or the upcoming “Oz the Great and Powerful.” The biggest testament to the film’s graphical achievement, however, is that viewers will have trouble discerning the shots where live animals were used and which ones were populated by CG fauna. In addition to the physical and tangible CGI work, the film also employs the use of several psychedelic sequences of animals transforming and colorscapes reminiscent of a computer screensaver. These sequences, which take a cue from 2009’s indie-hit “Enter the Void,” were likely added to emulate the way the novel describes spiritual delusions incurred during periods of starvation at sea, and are extremely beautiful to behold. However, this attempt to inject excess spirituality to the film is also one of its biggest flaws. The film foregoes deeper plot or character development, ignoring morsels of flesh on the already dry bones that the source material provides in order to find time for such spirituality. Are mainstream audiences ready for a spiritual journey such as this? Perhaps not. Suraj Sharma’s portrayal of Pi at times comes across as robotic. However, the attention to detail in his character — the way he thins out through the film’s 127 minute run-time, the way his clothes slowly deteriorate and accumulate blood and salt and his hair grows out — adds emotional weight to Pi. This is aided by the exceptional script that, though flawed in pacing, provides several shiver-inducing moments of awe. Ang’s vision attempts to keep “Life of Pi” extremely wholesome. Much of the brutal animal violence seen in the novel is simply implied or artistically portrayed here. While this decision seems logical since the film is being marketed as a family flick, it’s also questionable. It’s doubtful that children will be able to grasp “Life of Pi’s” epic plot, or appreciate its highly spiritual center. All in all, “Life of Pi” stands as one of the most visually stunning cinematic masterpieces. Those seeing the film in 3D or Imax will be awe-struck at the film’s massive scale and impressive settings. However, those looking for above-average plot will find little more than an aesthetically mesmerizing companion to the far superior novel.

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From the creators of “24,” “Homeland” successfully portrays America in a modern, post9/11 world. “Homeland” takes viewers on a psychological roller coaster ride, asking the question, “Is America really safer than it was 11 years ago?” Hailed as one of the best new shows of 2011, “Homeland” has been riding high since its 2012 Emmy victories. The freshman show nabbed the Best Drama award as well as a pair of Outstanding Actor/Actress awards for its leads, Damian Lewis and Claire Danes. “Homeland” tells the story of U.S. soldier Nicholas Brody, who returns home after eight years of imprisonment in Iraq, and Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent who suspects Brody is involved in a plot to attack the United States. The first season of the series revolves around Carrie’s obsession with Brody after an informant in the Middle East tells her an American prisoner of war has been turned by al Qaeda. However, Carrie’s fixation on the

Marine sergeant begins to raise questions among her colleagues at the CIA, especially when it is revealed that she is bipolar. The first season of “Homeland” begins and ends with a bang, but one struggle the season faces is its pacing. In episodes like “Blind Spot,” the show shifts too much focus away from the main characters, almost making it a chore to finish the episode. But by the finale, “Marine One,” every second of the episode is more exciting than the last. Lewis and Danes are at the precipice of perfection by the conclusion of the season. The show’s supporting cast is equally top-notch. For instance, relative newcomer Morgan Saylor stars as Brody’s teenage daughter Dana, whose new relationship with her father becomes one of the most intriguing aspects of the show. The second season of “Homeland” is currently wrapping up on Showtime. Whereas the first season struggled with pacing, the series did not fail to bring the intrigue or excitement into the second. This is due by and large to the people who run

The cast of Showtime’s “Homeland” pose at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The show was nominated for nine awards. Photo by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/MCT
the show. The show’s producers take big risks every week, and each episode leaves viewers on the edge of their seats. Lewis does not miss a beat as the conflicted Brody in season two. The show leaves viewers sympathetic for the former soldier as he juggles new responsibilities as well as keeping his family safe. Danes’s return is just as solid, as Carrie finds herself in a new place after the events from the end of the first season. While Lewis and Danes remain in the forefront, supporting characters are focused on as well. Saylor’s Dana becomes more prominent. She learns more about how her father’s captivity changed him and struggles after being involved in a hit-and-run accident. All in all, the hype surrounding “Homeland” is not without merit. The first season, available on DVD and Blu-Ray, is well worth the purchase.

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