Although I had initially planned on reviewing Raid 2, having been a huge fan of the original for its breathtaking brutality and dazzling fight choreography, the ponderous follow-up left me cold. So I jumped genres and travelled halfway around the world from Indonesia to Brazil for a rather different sequel: Rio 2. Brighter and more colourful than a Tommy Bahama shirt, this popular animation series centres on a family of ultra-rare blue macaws. In the original, Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) was an insecure, domesticated bird who gradually earned the love of an independent-minded jungle macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway). The main obstacle to true love was a malevolent white cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement), who reveled in his own villainy with the hammy panache and plummy vowels of an over-reaching Shakespearean actor.
Happily, Nigel is back and thirsting for revenge, although he has to share screen time with a new villain, an unscrupulous mogul who is illegally strip-logging the Amazon rainforest. As luck – or, more properly, plot contrivance – would have it, these arboreal depredations are occurring in the same part of the rainforest where a large, previously unknown flock of blue macaws has just been discovered. And as Blu and Jewel and their three cute fledglings head north from Rio to discover their ancestral roots, they are destined to collide with the perfidious Nigel as well as a gang of murderous tree poachers. But not before the citified Blu has to confront his true nemesis: Jewel’s father, a tough old bird with no patience for Blu and his need to carry a GPS, electric toothbrush, and Tic Tacs in a fanny pack. Needless to say, lessons are learned on both sides as these noble birdbrains ultimately unite to save their wild home.
Although no one is going to mistake this for Finding Nemo, the boisterous Rio movies are notable for their fun characters and wacky sense of humour as much as the vivid set design and bold colours. Rio 2 is also a tropical musical, and a few of the many elaborate set pieces cheekily reference Carmen Miranda as well as the choreography of Busby Berkeley. The eco theme and Blu’s concerns about where he belongs in the world are handled age-appropriately for children (without being too gratingly heavy-handed for their parents). In other words, this jungle rocks!
RIO 2 ★★★
Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway
Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Primal Roots is an up and coming “red blend” from California. Very much a younger brother of the crowd-pleasing Apothic, Primal is a lush, flavour-forward combination of Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
Definitely on the sweet side, Primal ingratiates itself with your palate thanks to strong notes of black cherry, black raspberry, mocha, and spice that lead towards a long, sensuous finish.
Hedonists will love this one – especially since it is on sale for $14 (down from $16) at select LDB stores till May 3.
The Other Woman
When a woman finds out her husband has been cheating on her with two others, the three betrayed babes – Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton – join forces to metaphorically kick him where it hurts. Repeatedly and inventively. This raucous comedy is directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper).
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The reboot of this high-flying series was a delight, and this sequel has some incredible villains played by the likes of Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, and Dane DeHaan.
The latest from Victoria-raised director Atom Egoyan is a true-life look at the witch hunt that erupted in an Arkansas town when three eight-year-old boys were brutally murdered and three “goth” teenagers were soon on trial as Satanists. With Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon.
Million Dollar Arm
Jon Hamm (Mad Men) stars in a true story about a fading sports agent who travels to India to search for young cricket players with pitching arms good enough to get them a contract in major league baseball back in the States. This genial comedy-drama co-stars Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton.