It’s National Pi Day today! Sure, the official celebration is all about that transcendental number 3.14 (get it? March 14? Third month, 14th day?), but here at Reel Life With Jane, it’s all about “Life of Pi,” the movie that won director Ang Lee that coveted Oscar trophy last month. The movie also won Oscars for cinematography, visual effects and music — all well deserved.
If you haven’t yet seen the movie that Melanie Votaw calls, yes, “transcendent” (did you know “pi” was a “transcendental” number when you wrote that, Mel? If so, I’m so impressed!), then now is the perfect time, because it’s out on DVD and blu-ray.
The movie, which is based on the book by Yann Martel, begins in Canada, with a writer visiting the Indian storyteller Pi Patel and asking him to tell a story. Pi tells the story of his life since he was a kid in Pondicherry, India.
He recounts that his father owned a zoo and decided one day that the business wasn’t doing well, so he would move to Canada and sell some of the animals in the United States.
While aboard a Japanese cargo ship with the animals, a storm blows up and Pi is left adrift in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a male Bengal tiger that he calls Richard Parker. The tiger ends up eating the other animals, and Pi has to figure out how to feed and live with the tiger if he’s going to survive.
But words on a screen don’t adequately describe this beautiful movie that includes magnificent ocean scenes, flying fish, a desert island populated by meerkats, and a neon whale that leaps over the boat at one point. All of that, along with Pi’s sheer will to survive and make friends with the tiger, makes “Life of Pi” a must-see.
It’s rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril, so I recommend it for kids 11 and older. The shipwreck scene is pretty frightening. Check out the trailer…
“Life of Pi” is available in several formats, including:
Fox sent me a review copy of the blu-ray version, which includes the following bonus features:
- A Filmmaker’s Epic Journey. This massive four-part making-of documentary follows the four-year creation of the film, from the adaptation of the script to the extensive post-production effects and editing. Includes interviews with all the key players, with a special emphasis on Ang Lee and newcomer Suraj Sharma, who plays Pi.
- A Remarkable Vision. Rhythm and Hues visual effects supervisor Bill Westerhofer and several other members of the film’s effects team walk us through the creation of the photorealistic effects, from the shipwreck to the meerkat island.
- Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright. Richard Parker gets his own featurette, and we learn the process of working with both a real tiger and a CGI version.
- Gallery. A gallery of pre-production artwork, which you can either auto-play or move through manually with the buttons on your remote.
- Storyboards. Complete storyboards for seven of the film’s scenes. It’s fascinating to see the structure of the film.
- DVD + Digital Copy + Ultraviolet
Note: The 3D blu-ray release — which also includes the 2D disc — features exclusive deleted scenes, visual effects progressions, and the film’s trailer. If you’re a bonus features purist, you’ll want to get this edition.
And then, there’s this video from internationally recognized American chalk/street artist Tracy Lee Stum, who drew an incredible 3D image inspired by the “Life of Pi.” Check it out, and if you’re in the L.A. area, it’ll be on display until Saturday, March 16.