Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow) *** - This is an interesting conundrum of a film for me. On the one hand, it's extremely well-made and very well-acted. Jessica Chastain is magnificent and she's backed up by a great supporting cast especially Jennifer Ehle (who, IMO, injects a lot of relatable human flavor to the proceedings). The last 40 minutes alone is simply bravura filmmaking (including the unfortunately Oscar-ignored cinematography of Greig Fraser), that only a first-rate director like Kathryn Bigelow can do. On the other hand, the film just feels a tad too clinical despite all that. As for the pro-torture criticism, I don't see it. The film does not really take a clear moral stance either way but it does depict the brutality of it. I don't think the filmmakers should be crucified for it. I think it has moments of greatness but overall, I'm sorry if I'm damning it with faint praise, it's only a very good film not a GREAT one.
Life of Pi (Ang Lee) ***1/2 - I've read and loved the book but I thought a film version would be a challenging task. It's not a perfect adaptation but it's about as close to perfect as one can get with the transfer from one medium to another. Director Ang Lee has made what really is an ambitious art film about faith and the big questions of life (like the existence of God and the meaning of it all) with a mostly unknown cast with big-budget CGI and 3D and the result is quite moving, thought-provoking and visually spectacular and exciting. The use of the 3D is among the most artful and effective that I have ever seen.