Chasing Mavericks

Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) is transfixed by the ocean’s waves near Santa Clara, California. As a boy, he studies the tides and can predict when the best swells will occur for surfing. When he is 15, he steals a ride with his neighbor, Frosty (Gerard Butler), and finds out about the mythical mavericks—gigantic waves that pound the northern California shore near his home. He asks the taciturn Frosty to teach him to surf the big waves.

Frosty eventually agrees but lays out a training course that will test both of them. Frosty’s character-building program has four pillars for a solid human foundation: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. In between the grueling training, Frosty assigns essays for Jay to write.

Confronting inner fears is tough for Jay, as he is dealing with a missing father and a mother addicted to alcohol. The majesty of the waves crashing along rocky cliffs parallels the challenges both men face in their lives.

Chasing Mavericks is a master/disciple, father/son story where both characters learn transforming lessons from the other. The camera action is visceral and breathtaking. Both Butler and Weston do their own surfing, which gives the film an authentic feel.

The real Jay Moriarity, who died in 2001 after a diving accident, was a “soul surfer.” Directors Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson, and writer Kario Salem, respect the life and achievements of this brave young man whose life continues to inspire surfers and athletes everywhere with the motto, “Live Like Jay,” which is displayed in his hometown.
A-2, PG Peril, domestic violence, bullying.

Life of Pi

It’s 1977, and Pi (Irrfan Kahn), who lives in Winnipeg, Canada, tells an unbelievable story. He has studied theology and zoology and, as he tells it, the tale is enough to make someone believe in God.

When Pi was young, he lived in Pondicherry, India, a former French colony. Pi’s real name is Piscine Molitor, after a Parisian swimming pool beloved by an honorary uncle. Pi is a Hindu, but, at 14, he is baptized a Catholic and soon after he becomes a Muslim. He practices all three faiths on his journey toward understanding the universe and his place in it.

His father (Adil Hussain) buys a zoo and then, for political reasons, decides to move the animals and his family to Canada by cargo ship. A couple of days outside Manila, a ferocious storm sinks the ship. Pi escapes on a lifeboat and is soon joined by a female orangutan, a zebra, a Bengal tiger, and a hyena. Pi and the tiger, named Richard Parker, struggle to survive on their own in a tenuous coexistence.

After 277 days at sea, they wash up on the west coast of Mexico. And this is where things get more complicated. No one believes Pi’s story. Should he tell them the facts? What will they believe?

Some may think Life of Pi, directed by Academy Award-winner Ang Lee, is a parable showing that all religions are the same, but I think it is more of an allegory about faith and one man’s epic journey to discover what matters in life. His story is a pilgrim’s progress toward human and spiritual maturity.

Life of Pi is a film that encourages long talks with family and friends to discover what it really means.
Not yet rated, PG Peril.

A Royal Affair

In 1766, the little sister of Britain’s King George III, Princess Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), is betrothed to her cousin, King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) of Denmark. The king, a mentally ill philanderer, has to be coaxed into fathering a child.

The king’s ministers are concerned about the monarch’s instability, so they hire a German doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), to be at his side. The king comes to trust the doctor. But when they return to court after a tour of Europe, the queen and Struensee are attracted to each other.

Denmark is simmering in the late 18th century. The alliance between the ruling class and the Evangelical Church is facing off against the professional classes and the poor, who are influenced by the secular values of the Enlightenment. Struensee and the queen influence the king to make laws that favor the poor. The king fires his ministers, and he and Struensee rule Denmark briefly.

A Royal Affair is an excellent historical drama about a place and time about which we know little. It provides a rare glimpse into how the Enlightenment influenced countries. The film also shows how difficult it is to introduce authentic social change based on human dignity.
Not yet rated, R Mature themes, language, and violence.