Sunday, April 3, 2011

With Rio, Blue Sky studios is efficiently racking up impressive animated winners (The studio made the Ice Age series and Horton Hears A Who). This film about the last male blue macaw feeling out of place in his city of origin is a keeper.

Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is brought from Moose Lake, Minnesota to Rio De Janeiro to preserve the blue macaw species. Along with his owner Linda (Leslie Mann), the trip to Brazil wasn't exactly a walk in the park when the other blue macaw (Anne Hathaway) would rather go back into the jungle than stay in captivity. Things get a little too interesting for the two birds when they are captured and chained together by poachers, but then escape. Against the festive backdrop of the Rio Carnival, they meet funny characters in their journey to get separated and go back to their respective homes.

The film mixes music into the story and the result is great. It also gets extra brownie points for getting Brazilian legend Sergio Mendes to contribute music to the soundtrack! On the downside, the 3D effects in the movie are not that impressive compared to other animated films, but it's forgivable.

Rio is a feathered gem that the whole family will surely like for its music and authentic Brazilian theme. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Limitless, the films posits that we only use 20% of our brain's potential. But what if we can unlock the remaining 80%? The catch is that you can tap your unlimited brain power using an unproven drug.

Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Mora, a struggling writer who resorts to a clear pill called NZT to turn his career and life around. He soon finds out that the success he achieved has a steep price-- his life and his fiancĂ©e (played byAbbie Cornish) are jeopardized when a dangerous and powerful group wants the drug.

There's a great build-up of tension and director Neil Burger has uses pretty interesting shots to portray the effect of the drug on Eddie. While the story is an allegory to drug addiction and the pressure to excel professionally, I must say there's very little redeeming value in the end. I also felt there was an unnecessary plot break when the film abruptly stymies the tension on the physiological effect of NZT.

Limitless is a pretty enjoyable thriller that's very timely. Young professionals will be able to relate to Bradley Cooper's character, but there's very little takeaway. If you ask me Limitless squanders a good opportunity to reinforce the ill effects of drugs.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do you know someone who has the right skills and attitude, yet underachieved a whole lot? Think of How Do You Know as the film version of that person.

With a top notch cast (Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson), the film underwhelms big time. I felt the movie didn't have a clear direction one-thirds into the story, and it doesn't help that the film's running time is almost two hours. In fairness, the first forty minutes was spent building up the story, but that is just one long runway.

Reese Witherspoon takes on a more neurotic-type of role as a washed up athlete, but I've never seen her so our of her game. She had little chemistry with her co-stars and I struggled to grasp what her character's motivations are. Perhaps, the film wants us to be as confused as the lead character in her quandaries.

After watching How Do You Know, I only had a little idea what the film was really about. Yes, it's a rom-com, but the its short on mush and high on WTH. I reckon even Reese Witherspoon fans will cheer hher on in this underachieving film.

Rating: 1.5/5

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'll be honest right off the bat. My initial sense of The Adjustment Bureau's concept was of cynicism. I said to myself: "Everything's now run by a bureaucracy, even fate!" But after watching the movie, I pretty much had a change of heart.

The film stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, who are out to defy the plan that has been laid out for them. The team in charge of correcting any deviations is the eponymous Adjustment Bureau, a mysterious and powerful organization that has powers beyond human capabilities. The bureau is not perfect though-- they are still stumped by random chance, something that works in favor of the film's star-crossed lovers.

The moral of the film seems to be of controlling your own destiny. Even when things seem to be planned out for you, you have the power and free will to chart your own path. This is not something new, but given the context of an all-powerful organization, it makes for an interesting film.

The Adjustment Bureau is a high-concept film that makes some trade-offs in the story to reduce the complexity and avoid Inception-level confusion. Fans of Philip K. Dick's work will appreciate this film as one of the better movie versions of the author's works.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another great song. Also, kind of ambient. Check it out !

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trying something new, from now on I will also be putting songs that I like. Here is today's song, "Fog" by Nosaj Thing. It is great. Very ambient, great background music for philosophical thinking. Honest to god, it kind of gave me a new look on life. Check it out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rango definitely defied my expectations-- but in a not so good way.

I initially thought that this film would be one that has an appeal to a wider audience. But I was wrong. The western-themed computer generated film is a mature film dressed up as family entertainment. Gone are the clean-cut landscapes, fuzzy creatures, and likable story and in their place are surreal dreams, edgy characters, and a mature story. 

With the eponymous lead voiced by the uber-talented Johnny Depp, the film is quirky and sometimes deep. I found it has parallels to a Brothers Grimm tale called "The Valiant Little Tailor," where a little misrepresentation kicks off an adventure. But it seems director Gore Verbinski wanted to end the similarities to a fairy tale there. There are themes of self image and even economics.

If there's one huge upside to the film, it's the animation. It's just superb. The film is set in the Mojave desert and I saw the great detail put in in the animation of the sand dunes and water. The animal characters were also done great. 

Folks should be warned that Rango is too serious for kids below twelve years old. It would have been better if the over-all feel was toned down a bit.

Rating: 2/5