‘‘Hitchcock’’ — The man who made ‘‘Psycho’’ was no lightweight, though he kind of comes off that way in this portrait of Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife and collaborator, Alma, the film puts a featherlight yet entertaining touch on the behind-the-scenes struggle to make the mother of all slasher films. Hitchcock’s very dark side gets superficial treatment as the film offers the cinematic equivalent of psychobabble to explore the director’s notorious gluttony, sexual repression and idolization of his leading ladies. Though shallow, the film has a playful quality that often makes it good fun, its spirit of whimsy a wink that director Sacha Gervasi and his team know they’re riffing on Hitchcock’s merrily macabre persona and not examining the man with any great depth or insight. The film centers on Hitchcock’s professional and personal struggles while filming his great suspense thriller, with Scarlett Johansson and James D'Arcy offering eerie impersonations of ‘‘Psycho’’ co-stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. Hopkins’ prosthetic makeup looks a bit fake, but the spirit of Hitchcock comes through in his sly performance, and he captures the measured cadence of the filmmaker’s speech even though he doesn’t sound much like Hitchcock. If the film ultimately feels inconsequential, it always aims to please, and for the most part, it does. As Alma says at one point, even ‘‘Psycho,’’ after all, was just a movie. With Jessica Biel, Danny Huston and Toni Collette. PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material. 98 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer
‘‘Life of Pi’’ — Author Yann Martel’s tale of a shipwrecked youth cast adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger is one of those lyrical, internalized novels that should have no business working on the screen. Quite possibly, it wouldn’t have worked if anyone but Ang Lee had adapted it. Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’’ ‘'Brokeback Mountain") has crafted one of the finest entries in his eclectic resume with this gorgeous, ruminative film that is soulfully, provocatively entertaining. The filmmaker combines a lifetime of storytelling finesse with arguably the most artful use of digital 3-D technology yet seen to bring Martel’s story to life. It’s a delicate narrative with visceral impact, told with an innovative style that’s beguiling to watch and a philosophical voice that compassionately explores how and why we tell stories. Newcomer Suraj Sharma stars as Pi, an Indian teen lost at sea with the ravenous big cat from his family’s menagerie. This could be a one-note story — please Mister Tiger, don’t eat me. Yet Lee finds rich and clever ways to translate even Pi’s stillest moments, the film unfolding through intricate flashbacks, whimsical voice-overs, harrowing sea hazards and exquisite flashes of fantasy and hallucination. The computer-animated tiger is remarkably lifelike, seamlessly blended into the live action. And as in Martin Scorsese’s ‘‘Hugo,’’ Lee’s 3-D images are tantalizing and immersive, pulling viewers deeper into Pi’s world so that the illusion of depth becomes essential to the story. PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril. 126 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer
‘‘Red Dawn’’ — The army invading the United States in this ill-advised remake of the campy 1984 original was changed in post-production from Chinese to North Korean. With a few snips here, a few re-dubs there, the filmmakers re-edited and re-shot, fearful of offending China and its increasingly important moviegoing market. The original, of course, was made at the height of Cold War paranoia and imagined a parachuting Soviet Union on American soil, with the likes of Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen (yes, truly the greatest generation) waging guerrilla warfare. Again, in director Dan Bradley’s remake, America turns to its high school football players in its darkest time of need. Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki are part of the gang who dub themselves the Wolverines. With the help of a returning Iraq veteran played by Chris Hemsworth, they mount an insurrection on the controlling North Koreans. The implausibility is dizzying all around. Real wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq go hardly mentioned, replaced by a game of toy soldiers with make-believe foes. PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language. 93 minutes. One star out of four.Continued...