Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Starring the voice talents of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway,, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santorio, and Jermaine Clement

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Release Date: March 22, 2011 (World Premiere)

Blu (Eisenber) is a blue macaw living in Minnesota with his owner Linda (Mann). He wants nothing more out of life than to hang out in Linda's bookstore, drink cocoa, and ride his skateboard; Blu has never even learned how to fly! Then, one fateful winter, a Brazilian ornithologist wants to bring the pair to Rio so that Blu can meet with a female macaw named Jewel (Hathaway) to possibly save the macaws from extinction. Will the pair hit it off? Will Linda lose her childhood friend?

In my opinion, Blue Sky animation had previously made one good film, an adaptation of Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who; I think the Ice Age trilogy is hit-or-miss and Robots was really bland. However, I can honestly say that Rio is a fun, colorful adventure that families will certainly enjoy.

First, let's talk about the good parts of the film: the visuals, the music, and the antagonist played by Jermaine Clement. Since the film is mostly set in Rio de Janiero (during the festival known as Carnival), the visuals pop and shine so that the film has a loving care put into every color, even the muted ones. I love how much energy comes from the scenes set during the Carnival parade, as elaborate floats are set against a crazy chase during the third act. The music is mostly samba, obviously, but I also was enjoying the original songs written for the film. Then, there's Nigel, the evil cockatoo played by Jermaine Clement. The character is so over-the-top, an ego-maniacal actor that you can tell Clement was enjoying this role in the studio booth.

Now, we have to discuss the film's flaws: cliched characters and an all-too familiar plot. As much as I enjoyed Nigel, many of the other main characters are archetypes we've seen before: the bohemian love interest, the orphan who wants a home, etc. There's a character, Tulio, who I really enjoyed for his goofy behavior while helping Linda look for Blu. Sadly, he's stuck in the b-plot which means we only get to see him once in a while. Also, the plot is all too familiar: mismatched pair who initially don't like each other but must work together (see The Emperor's New Groove). Sure, this is bound to happen in animated movies aimed for kids, but why is it that Pixar is the only company who wants to take risks with their stories? It's just disappointing that the writer's couldn't take a risk, because they do write a lot of humorous dialogue.

Rio is a good family film that, while offering few surprises, is still a visual treat with goofy humor.

Rating: * * * 1/2 of 5

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Drive Angry

Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, and Billy Burke

Directed by Patrick Lussier

Release Date: February 25th, 2011

A man who broke out of hell to rescue his granddaughter from Satanists. If you aren't interested by now, just stop reading.

This is a high action, slightly cheesy action movie about Nicolas Cage fighting Southern satanists and a supernatural man known as "The Accountant". If you're a fan of the TV series Supernatural  you will notice several similar styles and a familiar weapon seen in the show's early seasons. The cast is really great, particularly Fichnter as The Accountant. The character steals every scene he's in as a stranger in a strange land who plays by his own rules with a dry sense of humor. Finally, I've got to mention this movie has what may be perhaps Nicolas Cage's worst hairpiece in his career. I'm not sure if it was his idea or the costumer's: it's a bad wig and it looks goofy on him.

Drive Angry is a fun exploitation film with thrilling action, interesting characters, and a lot of goofy charm.

Rating; * * * * of 5 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Batman: Year One/ DC Showcase: Catwoman

Starring the voice talents of Bryan Cranston, Ben Mckenzie, Eliza Dushku, Jon Polito, and Katee Sackhoff

Adapted from the story line "Batman: Year One" by Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli/ Written by Paul Dini

Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery

Batman: Year One 

Adapted from the highly influential story arc that inspired Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Begins, DC animation explores the first year of not only the Batman, but Detective Jim Gordon in Gotham City. Initially, both men are adrift with how corrupt the city is: dirty cops, petty theft escalating to violence, children walking the streets and no one willing to stop it any of it. Soon, one dons a cape and cowl while the other becomes a pariah to set straight the Gotham police department. However, when evil men are threatened by change, they set their sights to kill the vigilante and the hero cop....

Sure, some people will feel that without a villain to fight, the film is too slow or that this story feels too familiar. First, this is the story of how Batman started: he wanted to fight the mob, the corrupt cops, not men in refrigerator suits. I enjoy seeing the rookie crime fighter fight the mortal man for a change. Second- yes, it's true, the story is familiar. That's because portions of the story were adapted to previous films, such as in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Begins.

Finally, as per usual, voice director Andrea Romano gets a varied and talented cast of actors, from Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon to Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle/ Catwoman

Rating: * * * * of 5

DC Showcase: Catwoman

One of the best DC shorts yet, right up there with Jonah Hex and The Spectre. Changing up Selina's costume from B: Year one  to Ed Brubaker's 2002 update, this sees Selina on the hunt for a criminal named Rough Cut. A good short with catchy dialogue, stunning action, and a little risque behaviors, this is a short more for older comic fan than for the kids.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Total: * * * * 1/2 of 5

The Amazing Spider-Man (Trailer) review

So, the teaser rubbed people the wrong way and Rhys Ifans made a spectacle of himself at SDCC last year: not exactly a great start for the Spider-Man reboot.

The full trailer? Look much more promising. Lots of great action, even a good Spidey-zinger (something desperately lacking from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy) and even some good blink-and-you miss'em moments with Dr. Curt Connors as THE LIZARD. All good. However, there's yet ANOTHER "unmasked in public" moment. Didn't we have this in Spider-Man 2? I thought the point of the reboot was to do new things with the wall-crawler. Also, I'm not digging the "emotionally disturbed" Peter Parker; couldn't we just have a socially awkward Pete, someone not comfortable with getting praise? Maybe the movie will be different, but that's what I saw.

Rating: * * * * of 5 (JUST ON THE TRAILER released 2/6/12) 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Woman in Black (2012)

Starring Daniel Radcliffe

Directed by James Watkins

Release Date(s)- February 3rd, 2012 (US)/ February 10th, 2012 (UK)

Daniel Radcliffe stars as Arthur Kipps, a London lawyer tasked with carrying out the will and property of Alice Drablow, which includes Eel Marsh House. Soon, Kipps is drawn into mystery and fear as a ghastly woman in black continues to haunt him, whose presence results in the death of a child. Arthur must now solve the mystery before his young son comes to visit him and could be in the sights of the woman in black...

First off, I must applaud Daniel Radcliffe for his strong performance so soon after finishing the Harry Potter franchise. Radcliffe does a great job of using body language and his expressive face to showcase his own terror and to make his fear translate to the audience. Also, director James Watkins does a commendable job of injecting a moody atmosphere in the visuals. Most of the time, it's what you only see in shadows or hear that becomes more terrifying rather than when the titular character shows up.

Therefore, the major problem with the film is that it relies too heavily on jump scares. 90% of the scares in the film are when something (or someone) literally jumps in front of the camera and scares the most susceptible to the cheapest of cheap tricks in horror. I know this is a ghost story, but there are actual moments in the film that are chilling, such as when Kipps has dinner with the Dailys or when Kipps has an encounter with a little girl in a fire. Good horror is when the mood and the tension builds to an event, not when a "boogeyman" jumps in front of the camera.

Rating: * * * of  5