Movie Review: Rio (2011)

Hi guys!

Last weekend we had an opportunity to go see the new Dreamworks Animation movie Rio at the theater. We didn’t see it in 3D simply because it wasn’t playing in 3D at the time we wanted to go. But good old 2D CGI animation works just as well in my book, so I can’t say I was disappointed.

Rio is about Blu (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network and Zombieland), a blue macaw living in small-town Minnesota with bookstore owner Linda (Leslie Mann, Knocked Up and Funny People). When ornithologist Sylvio (Bernardo de Paula) comes from Rio de Janeiro and tells Linda that Blu is one of the last of his kind, he implores her to fly to Rio with Blu to see if Blu and the last known blue macaw female would be compatible and possibly keep the species alive.

Of course, when Linda and Blu get to Rio, things aren’t quite that cut and dried. When Blu meets Jewel (Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs and Get Smart), sparks fly but not quite in the way Sylvia and Linda might have hoped. When a boy breaks into the facility to steal the rare macaws, Blu and Jewel have to work together to survive…

Honestly, this movie was cute and probably one of the better animated features from Dreamworks. I don’t think it quite has the emotional pull of the first Ice Age movie and doesn’t come close to Pixar’s Up or Wall-E, but it was fun. The addition of Jamie Foxx (The Soloist and Dreamgirls) and Will i Am (The Black Eyed Peas) as birds Nico and Pedro was fun as they sang many of the musical scenes in the film. And George Lopez (TV’s Lopez Tonight and the George Lopez show) as the toucan Rafael and Tracy Morgan (TV’s 30 Rock) as the slobbering dog Luiz added quite a bit of humor as well.

Beyond that, though the movie was very colorful and cute, I just don’t get the fascination. That said, I don’t know that it matters. The target audience was families and my wife and daughters loved the film. So I’ll count it as a partial success.

The animation was smooth and gorgeous, so that wasn’t my problem. And the characters seemed to have good chemistry together. I just wasn’t all that sucked in by the story I guess. It was very family friendly however and had a number of positive messages.

According to IMDb, it’s already made nearly $40 million domestically in its first week, so I would expect it to quickly earn a profit on its reported $90 million budget in the next few weeks domestically and abroad.

If you have kids, Rio is a fun way to spend an hour and a half at the movie theater together. Have fun and let me know what you think!

–Fitz

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Sneak Peek: New Looney Tunes series on Cartoon Network this May!

This is simply too good not to share. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner in a ninja battle to the death in the desert…

The new Looney Tunes show already premieres on Cartoon Network on May 3rd. I think I’ll be watching if this clip is any indication of the quality of the new cartoons. The 3D CGI takes a bit of getting used to, but this cartoon made me laugh out loud – so I can hope!

Thanks to Bleeding Cool for this clip. Check out the link for more clips!

–Fitz

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Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon

Hi there!

Dreamworks Animation has had some hits and misses over the years, but their latest film – How To Train Your Dragon – manages to not only capture a great adventure on screen, but do it in a fun way with a lot of heart. Tough combination to pull off, but they managed. And the fact that the movie pulled in nearly $44 million in its opening weekend has to count for something!

We saw How to Train Your Dragon in 3D on an IMAX screen at an AMC theater in Glendale, AZ last Friday night. And though sometimes IMAX makes things too big to keep track of everything going on, I enjoyed this one. And the 3D was used to pretty good effect (as opposed to in Alice in Wonderland (2010), which IMHO used it poorly).

The movie centers around a young Viking named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel who’s having a very busy year for movies!) and his unorthodox approach to killing the dragons who have been razing his island village for seven generations. He helps out Gobber, the village blacksmith (voiced by Craig Ferguson), and creates little mechanical wonders to help him kill a dragon and take his place among the village warriors. Those warriors include Stoick, the village chief (voiced by Gerard Butler), who also happens to be Hiccup’s Dad.

During one dragon raid, Hiccup uses one of his devices and hits one of the beasties attacking the village – a fast, invisible dragon known as a Night Fury. Though no one in the village believes he hit it, Hiccup heads off into the woods to try and track down where it may have landed. And when he finds it, his experiences with the dragon change everything he believes in.

[rating:4/4]

Based on a series of books by Cressida Cowell, the story in the film has changed a bit from the novels (from what I’ve heard, people don’t ride the dragons in the series), but the author was pleased with the results. We’ll have to pick the books up and give them a read now that we’ve seen the movie version.

Is the story original? Yes and no. At the heart of the story, it’s a matter of self-discovery and proving your own worth to yourself and the people who care about you. For a movie aimed at kids, I have to say it’s a great message regardless of whether it’s been done before. But the concept of having a tale of dragons and Vikings is definitely pretty cool.

The animation was solid, the characters were fun, and flying with Hiccup and Toothless was a blast in 3D. I know the adults I was with enjoyed it just as much as the kids did. And the voice acting was very solid: Butler, Ferguson, Baruchel, America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and more. It’s tough to get a convincing Scottish accent unless you’re a Scot like Butler and Ferguson and they did it beautifully.

If you’re looking for a good movie to take the kids to, it’s tough to beat How to Train Your Dragon at the moment. I know we’ll be picking it up on DVD when it’s released, but we might have to sneak another viewing at the theater before it disappears!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up some books and other items from Amazon!

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