No one can doubt the technical brilliance of director Ang Lee’s fable LIFE OF PI (PG: Twentieth Century Fox), which picked up four Oscars - more than any other film - at this year’s awards ceremony.
The effects are stunning, yet despite some lovely images, it’s a shallow and self-important shaggy-dog story - or shaggy-tiger story.
A spiritual journey at sea is the basis of this movie, based on Yann Martel’s prize-winning novel, in which a writer interviews a man about the extraordinary events of his life.
Thankfully, there’s a good dose of humour and an endearing performance by newcomer Suraj Sharma, who plays Pi, an Indian boy whose zoo-owning father packs the family and animals onto a ship bound for Canada.
After the vessel is wrecked during a storm, Pi is left adrift in a lifeboat and his only companion is a Bengal tiger that he has feared ever since his dad tried to teach him a lesson about Darwinism.
As well as seeking safe passage, Pi is also looking for God. There are no easy answers, of course, but there are too many platitudes in the script that some will find patronising.
The film’s real strength is in its eye-popping imagery, which evokes the mysteries of the universe and stirs great tension as Pi and a truly life-like CGI tiger pussyfoot around each other on the way to enlightenment.
> Robert De Niro keeps churning ‘em out and his latest DVD offering is BEING FLYNN (15: Universal), based on writer Nick Flynn’s memoir, entitled Another Bulls**t Night In Suck City, of his difficult early life.
With his conman father Jonathan (De Niro) having disappeared when he was a child and his mother Jody (Julianne Moore) subsequently committing suicide, struggling author Nick (Paul Dano) finds it hard to get back on track.
Things are complicated further when, after a break of 18 years, an alcoholic and delusional Jonathan turns up at the homeless shelter where Nick now works, looking for a place to sleep.
Over the coming weeks, Nick wrestles with his demons as he tries to make sense of everything life has thrown at him so far.
> In romantic comedy drama THE ORANGES (15: Paramount) a long-standing friendship between two families is tested by an unexpected turn of events.
The film details the emotional impact on these New Jersey households when 40-something David Walling (Hugh Laurie) begins an affair with Nina (Leighton Meester), the 20-something daughter of his old friends and near neighbours Carol and Terry Ostroff (Allison Janney and Oliver Platt).
The relationship causes disbelief and consternation, ultimately forcing everyone involved to re-evaluate their own lives.
> A group of tsunami survivors face a desperate fight for their lives in Australian action horror flick BAIT (15: Studio Canal). Shoppers at an underground supermarket on Queensland’s Gold Coast find themselves trapped inside with waters rising around them.
Led by a former lifeguard, they catch sight of two great white sharks cruising the submerged aisles searching for their next meal.