Live the 'Life'

If you are beginning to believe that film has lost the power to engage and enchant in new and astonishing ways, then do not miss the recently released "Life of Pi" by the gifted director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain)." It's wondrous.

Based on the 2003 Booker Prize-winning novel by Yann Martel, "Pi" unyieldingly adheres to the book while using all the state-of-the-art moviemaking skills that can be assembled, turning what is a very spare yet compelling story of a 17-year-old boy, Pi (Suraj Shana), into a startlingly fine and unexpected experience.

At the end of Act 1, while sailing on a cargo ship from India to Canada with his family, Pi finds himself shipwrecked on a lifeboat for more than 200 days with an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (truly). Theirs is a struggle for survival, but also a thematic and absorbing lesson in coexistence.

Feeling at times hopeless and abandoned, Pi looks to the heavens asking questions of an ecumenical God; however, he is also resourceful and tenacious, finding within himself the ability to prevail.

What is unexpected is that Lee takes this fable and fashions a film that is in so many ways a masterpiece.

And it's not a stretch to view the narrative as a metaphor, focusing on the aforementioned concept of coexistence, which becomes absolutely essential to Pi's survival. If Earth is our lifeboat, then it is at our peril that we slowly immerse ourselves in all the electronic distractions which, when taken in the aggregate, increasingly disengage us from certain elemental aspects of life on our planet. We are inextricably bound to the Earth and its species, a truth that we can ignore, though we will be oft reminded in the most catastrophic ways.

In his exile, Pi begins to understand that there is magic and wonder in a world about which he has little awareness or understanding. At night the ocean shimmers with an incandescent phosphorescence, seeming all but surreal; he is surrounded by a stunning palate of colors, from magnificent sunrises to breathtaking sunsets. In the dead of night, he looks upward to a magnificent night sky, a panorama of stars that reduce Pi and boat to insignificance, so huge is the vast canvas.

In one astonishing set piece, the boat drifts to a verdant floating island filled with meerkats — strange, large-eyed, curious animals. It is unexpected and marvelous, really; and yet their brief time there proves to be lifesaving.

Lee and his cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, manage to craft an experience that is strangely intense and lovely, filled with surprises, all in the context of a tale that resonates, one that was originally imagined by Martel and is now re-imagined through the prism of the incomparable filmmaker Lee.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Legions of fans will mourn the fact that "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" is the last of what has been a hugely successful, five-movie franchise.

The best of the series was, clearly, the first film, "Twilight," in which the characters are introduced and the true identity of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison) is so tantalizingly revealed.

Now most high school girls, looking at his alabaster face and strange demeanor, might be a bit put off. Chilled, you could say. He doesn't scream "date me!" That Bella just can't seem to take her eyes off of Edward proves that there is love at first bite (sorry).

Anyway, when you get right down to it, what the "Twilight" books and films amount to is a protracted, adolescent, romance-fantasy with the soon-tired vampire twist, using the template of the super-crushable guy, and the new kid in town, who yearns to slow dance with the remote high school hunk.

Of course, the vampire-werewolf shtick requires a huge suspension of disbelief, and yet these durable movies have earned a surprising $2 billion worldwide with book sales of at least 100 million. Who would've thought?

Of course, it's not over until it's over as this franchise has proven. To the point of exhaustion. With "Part 2," the movie ends with a fading shot of Edward and Bella, sitting in a meadow of flowers, kissing, pledging their love to one another forever. And when they say forever, they're not kidding.

— Chris Honoré

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