Sunday, March 31, 2013

Movie Review: “Life of Pi”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast

   Suraj Sharma plays and excellent role as the young Pi Patel, stranded on the ocean and confronted with impossible situations while having to make daily decisions of life and death. He brought Pi to life and was vividly engaging on the screen. Irrfan Khan is an actor I’m more familiar with, and has always delivered quality performances. He has not changed that trend as adult Pi Patel, looking back while narrating the story of his adventure. Though not nearly as much screen time as Sharma, or having to display such a broad range, Khan still delivers a memorable performance that compliments Sharma.

The Plot: 
   Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi), named so after a swimming pool in France, has a colorful childhood wrought with the constant struggle to free himself form ridicule due to his name. He also has the benefit of growing up around animals as his father owns a zoo. Such a unique experience is complimented by his search for God, as he decides at fourteen to practice Christianity and Islam along with his Hindu beliefs.

   All this changes when his family decides to sell the zoo and the animals and move to Canada. Traveling by Japanese freighter, the ship is beseeched by a powerful storm that sinks it, killing Pi’s family, and stranding him on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangoutang, a hyena...and a Tiger named Richard Parker. The hyena makes short work of the zebra and orangoutang, but is no match for Parker. Things get increasingly interesting from there as Pi must find a way to coexist with a Bengal Tiger.

   For 227 days, Pi must survive the tiger, the ocean, wrought with storms. be on constant vigil for dangerous sea life...and figure out how to keep from starving and dying of thirst. A huge part of this strategy depends on Richard Parker and Pi’s uneasy relationship with him that takes this film into fantastic areas.

The Verdict: 
   This film is visually stunning and I wish I had the opportunity to have seen it in 3D. Even without that, it is filled with awesome scenery and vibrant colors that are so alive that it is simply moving. The CGI is excellent and while abundant, it’s not overbearing to the point of annoyance. In fact, it often advances the story as the trials of Pi are marked in outlandish adventure.

   Despite being dazzled by the incredible special effects, the film is still story driven, with the characters firmly behind the wheel. The performances are very strong and the story is profound, filled with deeper meanings and evoking life contemplations. The pace of the film is such that it always seemed as if I were constantly in the mode of ‘“waiting for the other shoe to drop”...which I found hilarious as that happened fairly early in the film, with that feeling never going away.

   The perspective of the film is where it really breathes life into the adventure. I’m always intrigued about how a film will keep me captivated when I already know the main character will live...since he is the one telling the story of his own past. It’s not that he survives, but under what circumstances that survival took place. After all of that though, the whole story is brought into question as the characters are presented as metaphors, if you are willing to choose to do so.

   This film was better than I expected it to be, although I had heard accolades about it before viewing. It was no surprise that the effects were fantastic but coupled with profound characters and a solid story, had me dipping 4 cinnamon sticks, out of 5, in my cup of tea.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In This Corner...

   In a departure from our normal posts (whatever passes for normal here that is) I’d like to give some thought to an analysis of a match up that has sparked hours of debate and heated argument. Many may not be familiar with this niche subject matter, but I encourage all to get familiar with it and join the conversation. It starts with a simple question: Who would win in a fight between Batman and Captain America? It ends in a simple answer: Captain America. It gets complicated when trying to determine why he would win...well, complicated for some. It’s quite easy for others.

   It’s good to have at least a basic understanding of both characters. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, Captain America is the ultimate soldier. Within those titles are layers of abilities and skills that make these two heroes icons. Batman fans will cite the plethora of combat skills he is a master of...bordering on insane as he is almost just as good in areas that have been mastered by others considered to be the best. For example...he is almost as good at archery as Green Arrow. He is second only to Mister Miracle as an escape artist. One of the worlds top intellects and martial arts combatants. His skills set reads like an ingredients list for the ultimate man.

   Captain America fans will cite the Super Soldier Serum...and all the benefits it conveys. It was more of a process than just a serum, but it made Captain America the pinnacle of human development physically and in certain mental processes. He is known for being the world’s best tactician and strategist, a leader second to none...and like his opponent, one of the world’s best martial artists. His skill set is also very impressive.

So would win...and why? 

   A question like this will get you a complete list of all their skills, feats of strength, noteworthy acts in various issues...and all of it just won’t matter. Yes, that’s won’t matter. Understand, this question is no longer hypothetical and there is ample evidence (of the best kind) to definitively answer this question. All conjecture goes out the window when both companies have published both characters together...facing off.

   They have met three times in publication (four if you count the unpublished art of the first JLA/Avengers published in Avengers/JLA Compendium). There has only be an outright winner in Marvel versus DC #3, where Batman defeated Captain a fan voted outcome (so really, this should be summarily dismissed). There has since been a reprint of various compiled crossovers wherein it shows Captain America winning the fight, but this errant book is the only source showing this as the original book and all official information sources cite Batman as the winner. Only hardcore Captain America fans stand by the anomaly.

   The other two sources, “Batman & Captain America” and “JLA/Avengers #2” were done by the industry, and thus is an accurate representation of how these two would interact. In both, these characters have been shown to be absolutely equal in personal combat skill. They even share the same thoughts on the skill of each other in “Batman & Captain America” doesn’t get anymore equal than that.

   In both of these encounters, Batman is the one to suggest an alternative to continuing to fight (shown to be a lost cause since neither has skill enough to best the other) and advance the story. Had both fights continued to their conclusion...that conclusion would be a victory for Captain America, not based on a greater fighting skill (it’s already been shown his is equal to Batman), but by the factor of fatigue.

   Fatigue...the linchpin that decides the bout. Batman will get tired, Captain America will not since the Super Soldier Serum eliminates fatigue toxins from his system. There are those that will not accept this in the Batcave and say Batman is the superior fighter. There are others in Avengers Mansion that will swear by Captain America being the ultimate fighter...but in the end, the truth is when these two come together, they are consistently shown as equally skilled...and the only real edge is in which one would out last the other.

   The evidence of the publications, and the use of some well placed logic is hard to overcome...and the absence of the acknowledgment of such is hard to justify. Bias will inevitably rear it's ugly head, but at least it will be readily identifiable in the face of the facts. I’m a Batman fan, but when faced with an opponent that can match up and doesn’t get tired, it’s only a matter of time before he falls. Now...let the debates begin!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Weirdo

   Tell me if you’ve seen this person around. They are very nice and a great conversationalist...except for the fact that they contemplate the strangest things. I’m into the latest fashion, the office gossip, the most recent score of my favorite team, what happened on the newest episode of the latest reality television show...and they bring up some craziness about being able to predict someone's driving habit based on the kind of car they drive. Really? Like who really cares about stuff like that?

I do.

   I make my own fashion based off wearing whatever I like. The office gossip is just a skewed replay of events that already happened or may happen, that don’t involve me. Sports are a great diversion, but once the event is over, there’s little left to say that will have any impact on the outcome. Reality television is less “real” than people think, and has little effect on my day-to-day struggles.

   Now...knowing who is going to do what as I navigate the roads in my journey’s to and from here and there? Very useful information since my own personal driving preference is aggressive, bordering on “transporter-ish.” Yes, be very concerned when you get in my car and I ask you “How much do you weigh?” The experience will be thrilling to say the least, just don’t wet my seats.

   It seems whenever mainstream society (I say mainstream because certain thoughts seem to be at odds with the mass majority) is confronted with an idea not in-step with the current trending attitude, the proper designation for said idea is “weird.” Anyone doing this on a somewhat regular basis...a “weirdo.” I’ve come to embrace the term actually. It’s a badge of uniqueness that separates me from the herd. In the choice between being one of the sheep, or being a wolf...I choose to be an eagle, soaring above it all, metaphorically speaking.

   So yes, I’ve chosen to study driving patterns and how they relate to the mindset of an individual based on the chosen type of vehicle. This has led to a rather accurate read on how a person navigates the road, just based of the type of car they have chosen to drive. It’s useful information to me as I navigate the road, with other people on it.

   I’ve also chosen to indulge in the study of thinking patterns, to identify possibly troubling states of mind...or brilliance (depending on how you look at it). A good example of this is a story I once heard that culminates in a simple question, with a not-so-simple answer (for most). It goes like this:

   There is a woman who’s mother passes away. At the funeral of her mother, she sees a man and falls in love with him ( at first sight). She never has an opportunity during the funeral to speak with this she doesn’t have any information about him, and asking around has not produced any answers. A few days later, the woman goes to visit her sister to see how she is doing after the passing of their mother. During the visit, the woman shoots and kills her sister.


   Now...the common response to this question is “who thinks of stuff like that?” followed by the inevitable “weirdo.” The truth is, stuff like this is very telling in the exploration of the answer and careful attention should be paid to anyone that gets the correct answer. It’s the fine line between a troubled mind and a brilliant one. Of course...the wrong answer just means you’re normal, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that...unless you aspire to be an eagle.

   So the next time you see this person around...this weirdo, remember that their weirdness is simply your inability to transcend your own world bubble...and they don’t hold it against you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Missed the Meteor Shower

   When did it happen? It should have been a big news event. Perhaps it was and like a bug that makes his home under a rock, I missed it. Surely it would have been news for more than one day? I mean, meteors don’t fall from the sky everyday and certainly don’t confine themselves to a single city. Worse still, when I ask about it...nobody seems to know what I’m talking about. I mean, all these giant holes and craters just appear in the street overnight, and nobody can tell me when it happened? What happened to all the meteors for that matter? Did someone come and collect them all? Will they come back with a crane to get my car out of the hole they left behind? So many few answers. 

   I couldn’t help but notice that I missed a major event when my car upended in a gigantic hole in the road. The impact rattled my teeth and I swear I left the entire front end of my car in the middle of the road. I did...but noticed the vertical position of my car was of paramount importance. I know what you’re thinking...”What the heck was he into?” but I’m telling you...calling this phenomenon a “pothole” just doesn’t begin to describe the hell this hole was.

   As bad as my ordeal was, it pale’s in comparison to the fact that there are about fifty more holes just like this one on a two mile stretch of road! Naturally I assumed I missed a meteor shower. What else could possibly leave such craters in the road? What else could make holes so big that tow trucks line up on the side of the road...waiting for your call? Try to convince me something other than meteors caused this...I dare you.

   The ridiculousness of all of this is staggering. You’d figure after years of the same situation happening, there would be some sort of preparation for it. Instead, the road looks like a war zone, and beats your car up like Batman in a room full of vicious thugs. These things aren’t “potholes”...they’re car killers. 

   The worst one I ever saw...was the one I never saw. Getting my son ready for his road test, he came over a speed bump a hair too quickly...and seeing it was experiencing it. It happened that fast, as it was positioned right at the base of the bump. Boom!...and I was in the open air. It was like a cartoon where the car disappears, and the characters keep going forward. Granted I’m exaggerating, but busting axels, tie-rods and bending rims is no joke. These days you have to keep a crane on retainer...or at least a tow truck.

   Naturally, if meteors aren’t falling on our roadways (and I haven’t been convinced yet that they aren’t), then what causes potholes? Google this question and you’ll get many answer sites. The simplest answer I found was this:

Cold weather definitely plays a factor in pothole proliferation. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, “It's basic physics. Water collects under roadways, freezes and expands, weakening the pavement above. After the water dissipates, a void is left, and the roadway collapses under traffic.”

   I’d like to officially dispute that, given the fact that some of the holes I’ve seen couldn’t possibly be made by a vehicle, since they’re so big, the vehicle would still be in it! Perhaps they have that crane service on retainer I mentioned earlier? I think I just need to move to a warmer climate...where meteors don’t seem to fall as much on the roads.