Reviews of this week’s new releases, including Life of Pi and Pitch Perfect

MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
LIFE OF PI (USA/China/PG/127mins)
Directed by Ang Lee. Starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu, Ayush Tandon, Gautam Belur, Adil Hussain, Tabu.
THE PLOT: As he prepares lunch, the humble Pi Patel (Khan) begins to tell his remarkable life story to his guest (Spall), the latter planning to turn his host’s adventures into a book. And the story is truly remarkable, charting Pi’s early life in India, where his parents ran a zoo whilst the young Hindu pre-teen (Tandon) conducted a theological exploration through other religions.
When the economic climate forces the family to emigrate to Canada, a hard rain capsizes their ship and soon Pi is floating on the Pacific in a lifeboat. With just a zebra, an orangutan and a nasty hyena for company. Or, at least, that’s what he thought. The Bengal tiger younger Pi had tried to befriend is hiding under the tarp, and over the following 227 days, the two lone survivors gradually work out a survival plan…
THE VERDICT: It may be a tad, well, preachy at times, but Life Of Pi is a stunning technical achievement – and one of those rare films that actually benefits from 3D). Undoubtedly, Ang Lee’s luscious big-screen adaptation will no doubt satisfy lovers of Yann Martel’s multi-award-winning 2001 novel.
Playing like a religious fable – a twist on Noah’s Ark here, 40 days and 40 nights in the desert there – Life Of Pi informs us that, given just how surprising life can be, we gotta have faith. And some emergency supplies.
Of course, it helps when your spiritual journey boasts some of the finest CGI known to man and Hollywood, allowing you to bask in a David Attenborough wet dream of a film. Where else are you going to witness a night ocean of glowing jellyfish, a tidal wave of flying fish, a million meerkats standing to attention…? And all in such vibrant colours – think David Chapelle meets National Geographic. 

RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

PITCH PERFECT (USA/112mins)
Directed by Jason Moore. Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp
THE PLOT: Beca, a college Freshman, is cajoled (read: bullied) into joining The Barden Bellas; an all girl acapella singing group. While Beca injects some much needed energy into the group, she unwittingly starts a rivalry with a fellow Bella, and the male group – The Treblemakers – becomes the least of her troubles.
Shown at Movie Fest in August, Pitch Perfect was a fantastic surprise film. Anna Kendrick shows us, once again, that she can take on almost any subject as she plays a cool, aloof Freshman who wants nothing to do with the silly cliques at her school. Her father, however, has different ideas. Anna Kendrick may not have a whole lot of room to grow in Pitch Perfect, but that is not the point of the film. Kendrick is fun and relatable, and she holds the ensemble together.
Rebel Wilson plays another inappropriate character, but she does it well and is actually rather amusing this time out – let’s just try and forget that she was in A Few Best Men, shall we? – Brittany Snow and Anna Camp up the perfection levels of the film as their characters refuse to even have a glimmer of a flaw throughout most of the film. Hilarity ensues, naturally.
Hana Mae Lee gets the funniest lines of the film, when she can be heard, and her overly shy, wide eyed character is a joy to watch. Adam DeVine plays a very similar role to the one he plays in Workaholics, but his overt obnoxiousness works well when contrasted against the girls’ sly bitchiness. John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Faison and Christopher Mintz-Plasse have great cameos throughout the film.
THE VERDICT: Pitch Perfect is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. TV is drowning in shows that celebrate the joy of acapella singing, but Pitch Perfect is brilliantly entertaining. The story is one we have seen before – fish out of water finds friends in unexpected place – but it is done with such charm, fun and hilarity, that this is easy to overlook. Pitch Perfect feels like a combination of Mean Girls and Glee via Drop Dead Gorgeous – minus the murders – but it works rather well.
Director Jason Moore managed to balance comedy and the human relationships in the film to hit the notes (Sorry!) that Bridesmaids never did. Yes, there are similarities here, but Moore created characters that the audience can see themselves in and gave them fantastically funny throw away lines that coaxed unexpected laughter from the audience.
Pitch Perfect may not hit all the high notes; it feels incredibly familiar in parts and the story is rather predictable, but it is also fantastically funny, slightly gross and contains some great songs. Anna Kendrick singing Titanium in the shower? Sold. 

RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

LOVE CRIME/Crime d’amour (France/ 106mins (IFI+)
Directed by Alain Corneau. Starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Ludivine Sagnier, Patrick Mille, Guillaume Marquet, Gerard Laroche, Julien Rochefort, Olivier Rabourdin.
THE PLOT: Paris, and corporation boss Christine (Scott Thomas) is more than happy to exploit her dedicated assistant Isabelle (Sagnier), and take all the credit for her good work. Naturally, something has to give, and after gaining a little confidence through impressing the corp’s visiting New York brass and sleeping with Christine’s lover (Mille), Isabelle reckons she’s got the better of her boss. But Christine has dastardly plans of her own, and they go far beyond the boardroom mindgames…
THE VERDICT: On movie database website imdb, they list the plot keywords of this French drama as Prison, Female Stockinged Legs, Corporation, Business Executive, Lesbian Subtext, Pantyhose, Paris France, Betrayal, Lawyer. I’m sure the film’s late director (Corneau passing away in 2010) would love such a summary, although the list does tell you quite a great deal about Love Crime. The fact that the two office femme fatales are played by Kristen Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier does give you some indication though that this isn’t just another hot and bothered French drama. Shame then that, by the end, it does feel like just another hot and bothered French drama.

RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne

MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
THE POOL 94mins (IFI/Blue Dolphin/Tom)
Directed by Chris Smith. Staring Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, Ayesha Mohan, Krishna Appa, Jhangir Badshah, Ganga Chavan, Parvati Chavan, Somawa Chavan.
THE PLOT: Returning from a visit to his home village, 18-year old Venkatesh (Chavan) gets back to his daily slog of cleaning hotel rooms and selling plastic bags on the streets of Panjim, Goa, along with his friend Jhangir (Badjaj). There’s a luxury home that boasts a swimming pool, and Venkatesh has become mildly obsessed with it. And the bickering father and teenage daughter who live there – Nana (Bollywood star Patekar) and Ayesha (Mohan). When he gets a job helping Nana in his garden, both Venkatesh and Jhangir become friends with Ayesha, the trio discovering that money doesn’t solve all problems…
THE VERDICT: It’s a sad reflection on the state of arthouse cinema today that a sweet little award-winner such as this can end up floating in limbo for five years before reaching our screens. Thanks to Blue Dolphin in London though, Chris Smith’s assured move away from documentaries (American Movie, The Yes Men) finally gets to see the light of a big screen here. Completed long before Slumdog Millionaire shone a bright, lucrative light on India’s street kids, The Pool takes a less flashy, more subtle approach to its poverty fable. And it’s all the more effective for it, this warm, touching story possessing a peculiar charm all of its own.

RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

BOXING DAY 91mins (IFI excl)
Directed by Bernard Rose. Starring Danny Huston, Lisa Enos, Jo Farkas, Matthew Jacobs, Julie Marcus.
THE PLOT: It’s Boxing Day, and LA-based property developer Basil Fenton (Huston) reckons he can make a quick killing, buying up foreclosure properties in Denver and selling them on before the banks reopen. Convincing a little old lady that the church restoration fund could be doubled literally overnight, Basil meets up with his driver, Nick (Jacobs) to go visit the houses in question. But the two awkward companions are soon lost in the mountains…
THE VERDICT: The third of writer/director Bernard Rose and leading man Danny Huston’s Tolstoy updates, as with Ivans XTC and The Kreutzer Sonata, the 19th century Russian writer’s story here has been updated to the present day. The sad truths about greed and virtue though remain the same. Shot digitally (which dulls the landscape beauty on offer) and on a micro-budget, unfortunately, the seemingly improvised conversations between Huston and Jacob are often as directionless here as the odd couple’s drive together.

RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne