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Life of Pi - Blu-ray Review

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Life of Pi - Movie Review

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5 Stars

Widely regarded un-filmable with its arching themes that span three continents, two oceans, and many years, Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi gets the big screen treatment by fearless filmmaker Ang Lee. But where the Wachowski’s came up short with Cloud Atlas, and even the great Peter Jackson stumbled with The Lovely Bones (both of those also considered un-filmable), Lee scores big with his Life of Pi.

At the film’s beating heart is Martel’s inspirational story (adapted for the screen by David Magee) about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is thrust into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. But it’s what Lee does with the story that invites us to experience the film rather than simply watch it. We feel the thirst, smell the ocean, and share the desperation. One of the best uses of 3D technology to date has us marveling at the cinematic beauty with wide-eyed wonder rather than grousing about wearing the silly glasses.

The film opens with a framing device that has an older Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) being interviewed by a mind-blocked author seeking inspiration for his next novel. While sitting in his tidy Canadian home while sharing a meal, Patel tells his story that begins as a young boy in India (played by Suraj Sharma), how he got his unusual name, and how he became interested in Hinduism, Catholicism, and Islam. We learn that his family runs a zoo nestled within the Botanical Garden Park in their small town of Pondicherry, India. As India becomes shaken by sweeping changes, the family is forced to crate their animals and ship them to Canada aboard a Japanese freighter where the family will take up a new life.

But disaster strikes deep at sea somewhere over the Marianas Trench, when they encounter a severe storm that sinks the ship and leaves Pi stranded alone in a life boat with a most unexpected traveling companion – Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger whose ferocious nature was seared into Pi’s consciousness at his family’s zoo. Cast adrift, Pi begins to realize that in order to survive, he and Richard Parker must learn to co-exist within the tiny confines of the life raft.

The remainder of the film is essentially filled with Pi’s struggle to survive. And via Lee’s groundbreaking use of 3D technology, we are there by the young boy’s side, immersed in the solace of the ocean’s beauty, the fury of flying fish, and the majesty of breeching humpbacks. All the while, we pull from our own life experience, as Pi’s physical journey also becomes his toughest spiritual challenge. The relationship between boy and tiger becomes the story’s core, as Pi passes the days by writing, searching for food and tending his tiger.  Pi soon understands that his care for Richard Parker’s well-being keeps both he and the tiger alive.

Though this is certainly Pi’s story, it would all be for naught were his fang-toothed furry co-star not illustrated so well. We got our first hint that perhaps CGI artists had finally figured out how to render living beings that actually feel real and alive in last year’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. That film’s lead ape, Caesar, moved with life-like fluidity, but most importantly, didn’t have that dead-eyed, thousand-yard stare that literally saps the life from both the character and a film. And neither does Richard Parker as digitized by visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer. We see the same living, breathing desperation in the tiger’s eyes that causes Pi to question his place in God’s grand plan.

In Life of Pi’s closing segment, we’re once again back in the elder Pi’s home as he finishes his story. We learn that the 227-day journey was as hard for Pi’s eventual rescuers to believe as it was for us. His interviewers (from the freighter’s insurance company, naturally) want a more logical version of what happened, rather than the story he tells.

Life of Pi doesn’t provide many answers to life’s most puzzling questions, nor is it very succinct or concise in the many provocative messages buried within its context. But one thing is for certain; it’s difficult to watch Life of Pi without experiencing an exhilarating sense of awe and astonishment at what Lee and company have accomplished. Life of Pi is a truly spectacular achievement in filmmaking. Enjoy!

{2jtab: Film Details}

Life of Pi - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.
Runtime:
127 mins.
Director
: Ang Lee
Writer
: David Magee
Cast: Irrfan Khan; Gérard Depardieu; Suraj Sharma; Adil Hussain; Tabu
Genre: Drama | Adventure
Tagline:
Life of Pi
Memorable Movie Quote: "He said you had an amazing story."
Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: www.lifeofpimovie.com
Release Date: November 21, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 12, 2013.

Synopsis: With Life of Pi, director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) creates a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor...a fearsome Bengal tiger.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Life of Pi - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars
 
4 stars
     
Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 12, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Mandarin (Traditional), Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Turkish, Vietnamese
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; German: DTS 5.1; Czech: Dolby Digital 5.1; Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Turkish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (2 BDs, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy; BD-Live; Blu-ray 3D; D-Box

Ang Lee’s breathtaking visual effects-heavy treat arrives in a marvelous 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation from 20th Century Fox.  While not as eye-popping as its 3D production, the stunning clarity provides a depth that not so easily dismissed in spite of its three dimensional intentions.  The film was shot using the PACE Fusion 3D system and, as a result, Life of Pi has a beautiful, natural pop-out effect, from the opening “nature” shots of the zoo, right through the more CG-enhanced visual effects. In 2D, however, the transfer still looks amazing with a clean image, crisp detail, and strong contrast throughout.  While I don’t for a second believe that Claudio Miranda's cinematography deserved to knock out Roger Deakins’ work on Skyfall, there is a natural beauty to some of the images.  The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is energetic and fires up all channels with alarming immersive qualities.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Neither the 3D nor the 2D version contains a commentary.

Special Features:

If you are a supplemental die-hard, consider picking up the 3D version of the release.  There you get all the bonus material – which includes five deleted scenes and a couple of more looks at the visual effects - plus the 3D and the 2D version of the feature film.  It’s worth the dough as you get deleted scenes featuring tiger poop at the bottom of the boat.  Officially, things begin on the 2D disc.  The supplemental material found there is pretty grand and kicks off a four-part making-of documentary that pretty much informs viewers of the four long years it took to bring this film to life.  It features interviews with all the key players, with a special emphasis on Ang Lee and acting newcomer Suraj Sharma.  Up next is a featurette that looks at the visual effects of the film and includes good interviews with supervisor Bill Westerhofer and several other members of the film's effects team.  Also included is a look at working with a real tiger, a gallery of artwork, and storyboards.

  • Five Deleted Scenes (13 min)
  • VFX Progressions (15 min)
  • A Filmmaker's Epic Journey (64 min)
  • A Remarkable Vision (20 min)
  • Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright (9 min)
  • Gallery (7 min)
  • Storyboards (12 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

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