' Rise of the Guardians'
2 1/2 stars = Average
This holiday-driven animated adventure is loaded with storylines and characters, each of whom seems worthy of his or her own movie. In fact, each is the focus of fat, individual books by William Joyce but here function as a team.
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman are all charged with protecting the safety and innocence of children. The Man in the Moon, who calls the shots, decides to add Jack Frost to their crew 300 years after the teenager drowned and returned to life with the ability to create frost, snow and wind.
Everyone is confused by this choice, including Jack, a prankster who is invisible to children. Jack and the others join forces when the bogeyman Pitch, as in Pitch Black, turns children's dreams into nightmares.
Alec Baldwin is Nicholas St. North, a burly Cossack warrior chosen to be Santa Claus. Hugh Jackman voices the Easter Bunny, Isla Fisher is the Tooth Fairy, Chris Pine speaks for Jack Frost, Jude Law is the evil Pitch and Dakota Goyo, the boy from "Real Steel," is Jamie. The Sandman, dispenser of pure golden sand that produces happy dreams, is silent.
Longtime storyboard artist Peter Ramsey makes his feature directing debut while playwright David Lindsay-Abaire ("Oz: The Great and Powerful," "Rabbit Hole") turns William Joyce's stories into a screenplay.
The animation is splendid here, with great care and imagination taken in creating such backdrops as a manly wooden fortress for Santa and a Southeastern Asian palace for the Tooth Fairy. The downside is that where Jack should pull us, emotionally, through the story, there are so many characters that our attention is divided and then divided again.
Bonus Features include "Behind the Magic," "Dreaming Up the Look," "Naughty & Nice: Designing Memorable Characters" and "The Man Behind the Guardians." Also on the Blu-ray are two games ("Jack Frost Snowball Showdown!" and "Rock, Paper, Scissors With Sandy,") and "Sandy's Dream Guide," in which the Sandman helps interpret your dreams in this interactive guide.
3 stars = Good
Sacha Gervasi, who made "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" about the heavy metal band from Canada, directs "Hitchcock," a movie that uses "Psycho" to explore the marriage of Alfred and Alma Reville.
Anthony Hopkins is adroit and believable as Hitchcock, a director with the ability to recognize a good -- if gory -- story, to outwit the censors leery of a showering actress, to demonstrate a flair for the dramatic in marketing the movie and to wrestle with his outsize appetites for food, jealousy and an appreciation for his stable of blondes.
Alma famously was a redhead, not to mention Hitch's closest collaborator and an assistant director, screenwriter and editor in her own right, even if she wasn't always credited as such.
As played by Helen Mirren, Alma is smart and analytical, methodically buttering her toast and attacking it with crisp bites as she proposes "Psycho" kill off the leading lady after 30 minutes -- not halfway through.
John J. McLaughlin (one of the "Black Swan" writers) penned the screenplay, based on a Stephen Rebello book about the making of "Psycho."
The cast also includes Scarlett Johansson as sunny Janet Leigh, James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins and a bewigged Jessica Biel as Vera Miles.
In the weirdest, most off-putting device of the movie, Hitch occasionally imagines the figure of Ed Gein, the real-life Wisconsin murderer and grave robber who inspired "Psycho."
"Hitchcock" doesn't need the conceit, but it is nonetheless a magnet for movie lovers.
' Life of Pi'
Ang Lee's magnificent "Life of Pi" is a great movie for any age -- the story of a young man who survives a sea disaster only to find himself on a lifeboat with a hungry Bengal tiger.
Lee recently took home the best director Oscar for this adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel, which can be taken on many levels, including a spiritual one. At its simplest, though, "Pi" is an exciting, incredibly shot adventure story.
It was a major leap forward in the use of 3-D and CGI. But even if you don't have a 3-D television yet, the film remains a wondrous, surprising experience that bears numerous viewings.
-- Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News
' Sound City'
"Sound City," from longtime rocker Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, is an enjoyable documentary tribute to the famed recording studio in the San Fernando Valley, where Fleetwood Mac made a self-titled 1975 album and "Rumours" two years later. Rick Springfield recorded "Working Class Dog" there in 1981, and Nirvana -- Mr. Grohl's former group -- made the classic "Nevermind" there in 1991.
The film is not just a nostalgic look at the good old days of record making or an anti-technology screed. Mr. Grohl -- who bought the sound board from the now-defunct studio -- uses the film as a bit of a plea to keep the human touch in music-making, which he illustrates while working on a song with Paul McCartney.
-- Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away": The film uses a rather standard boy-meets-girl plot to take the audience on a fanciful journey to a land of acrobats and artists who look at gravity as more of a suggestion than a law.
• "Father Dowling Mysteries: The Third Season": Tom Bosley plays the mystery solver.
• "Jay and Silent Bob Get Irish: The Swearing O' The Green": Kevin Smith stars.
• "The Devil's in the Details": Drug cartel will go to any lengths to get what they want.
• "Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- Season 10": Vincent D'Onofrio stars in the final season of the TV series.
• "Ripper Street": Matthew Macfayden stars in this BBC detective series.
• "The Mob Doctor: The Complete Series": Jordana Spiro plays a doctor who works with the mob as a way to save her brother.
• "Doctor Who: The Ark in Space": The Tardis lands on a space station orbiting Earth.
• "Smashed": A woman battles sobriety.
n "Samson and Delilah": Cecil B. DeMille's masterpiece is being re-released.
• "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Eighth Season": Tom Kenny is the voice talent for this sea tale.
• "My Brother Jonathan": Based on the Edwardian romance book by Francis Brett Young.
n "Black Eagle": Rain stars as a demoted pilot who must save a comrade.
• "Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home": Eight individuals make a life within the homeless community.
• "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp: The Complete Season Two": Hugh O'Brian stars in the '50s TV series.
• "The Mind of a Chef": Anthony Bourdain takes viewers inside the mind of chef David Chang.
• "Pioneers of Television: Season 3": Includes Carol Burnett, Lynda Carter, Joan Collins, Larry Hagman and Adam West.
• "Curious George Swings Into Spring": George explores wonders of the season.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
First Published March 14, 2013 4:00 AM