On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 12, 2013

There is a calmness in the film adaptation of Yann Martel's bestseller Life of Pi. The calm of Ang Lee's beautiful film matches the lovely tone of the book that is a survival/adventure tale of a boy and a tiger for younger readers while providing intellectual questions of religion and the ideas of why there is such intolerance for religious equality to older ones. It is a lovely story, a fascinating one that is sometimes so subtle in its ideas that as an audience member I was unsure if they were alluding to a certain point or not. The main idea of Pi or, as we quickly find out, Piscine Molitor Patel's journey across the Pacific Ocean though seems to boil down to the testing of ones faith. In the story, Pi is curious as to what exactly shapes faith and what is outside the room in which he was inherently raised. This being Hinduism, Pi also embraces Christianity and Islam in his early life when looking for a path to follow. To embrace so many Gods is a sure sign that doubt will never enter the equation. This would be the easy road to take yet young Pi is keen on understanding the reasoning for the beliefs of each religion he steps into. He knows that doubt is what keeps faith strong, that if it did not exist everyone would believe with no problem. That he finds the strength of his faith once it has been tested is the central conceit of what played out in Martel's novel and feels equally explored in David Magee's screenplay. Having read the book shortly before seeing the film I was excited to see what type of translation it might become, but in a surprising turn Life of Pi is able to capture just as much the spirit of the story as it does the physical word on the page. A-

Expectations were slightly lowered for Rise of the Guardians after word of mouth began to get out, but I still held out hope for the film, not divulging in any full reviews as to why others were so disappointed. I can guess to what some of these complaints were, but overall I was pretty thrilled with the experience the movie delivered, not to mention a fine amount of escapism and isn't that what animated children's films are generally for? There is a sense of, as one character puts it, wonder about the world in which the animators have created for these events to take place in. It is in these events though that the biggest let down comes a calling. Nearly everything about the movie, from the high-wattage stars doing the voice work to the wonderfully creative character designs and their humble homes is engaging and most importantly feels fresh yet it is the adventure the writers have given them to go on that feels all the more stale due to those standout qualities. Still, I liked the film enough to recommend it. It serves its purpose and might, in any other year have been a standout for its beautiful animation and character development but in the world we live in it has the unfortunate task of following up Wreck-It Ralph and that is a tough act to follow on any year. Where Ralph took the clever elements of its concept and turned them into a full fledged story committed to that world Guardians takes its grand idea and drapes it over standard action/adventure beats that have us knowing where these icons of culture are going before we really get to know them. C+

It is with a bit of a playful attitude that Anthony Hopkins, arguably one of our greatest living actors today, takes on the role of one of our greatest directors of all time. Sometimes the fantasy is better left a lie and that is the main fear I had in walking into a film about Alfred Hitchcock, especially during the making of his most famous of films. As a person who not only enjoys watching films, but someone who always aspired to make films Hitchcock is of course a name that is immediately regarded as the best of the best and his films, whether you have seen them or not, are classic. To my shame, I have not watched all of Hitchcock's catalogue but I guess the only one that matters in speaking on this film is Psycho, and I have seen Psycho. What I have not yet seen is the other film that came out late last year about the famous director. The HBO film The Girl is about what comes after this chapter of Hitch's life yet seems to be more worthy of the Oscar talk that Hitchcock is receiving for Helen Mirren's work. That film stars Toby Jones (he has a knack for making autobiographical films at the same time as others, see Infamous) and focuses on the making of The Birds and Marnie, both of which starred Tippie Hedren and The Girl centers around the directors relationship with her and his need to impress and connect with his leading ladies. This trait is naturally a large part of Hitchcock as well and forms the backbone of the script that deals with Hitchcock's relationship with his wife, Alma (Mirren). Though Hitchcock is not the overly serious, Oscar contender many likely expected it to be it is still a fun watch with great actors and an easily engaging and interesting story for any fan of film. B-

Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems to have been around a good while. I remember seeing her plat the baddie in the wonderfully underrated Sky High in 2005 only to return the next year in that fun and fresh spin with the third entry in the Final Destination franchise. Since, she has had some high profile supporting roles (John McClanes daughter in Die Hard 4 and 5) as well as some great acting pieces in movies that flopped (Scott Pilgrim, Death Proof) while also creating a stigma around her by starring in generic horror flicks (Black Christmas, The Thing, Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Alas, she has finally seemed to arrive at a place in her career where she will be able to show why she's picked up so many roles in the first place: because she can act! In Smashed, a small intimate indie project, Winstead plays Kate a first grade school teacher who has always drank, always surrounded herself with people who drink and never found it to be that big of a deal. That is, until she throws up in front of her room full of children due to the fact she is so hungover. It is cause for an awakening within Kate, but she has trouble finding success in quitting because her husband Charlie (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) is a spoiled rich kid who writes music reviews of and does little during the day but play video games and drink just so he can go out at night to see a band and drink some more. She finds solace in a co-worker played with surprising empathy by Nick Offerman and a support system in fellow recovery alcoholic Octavia Spencer. The authenticity of everything that happens in the film is almost startling as their is no glam to any of it and helps to paint an honest picture of the struggles in dealing with a problem most people will dismiss with derogatory thoughts. Everything contributes to make this an effective film, but it is Winstead's performance that allows it to rise above the typical. B

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