Rio II

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All the colours of the world :: I had decided not to watch a movie until Easter, but this Saturday was always going to be a free day, and another movie and some writing was around the corner. I hope you all had a good Good Friday, and yes, this day before the Easter Sunday is at the animated Amazon for me. A sequel to the animated movie of 2011 stays alive this week too, much to my surprise, and I decided to watch it this time even as I had chosen not to go for it last weekend due to the powerful flow of too many movies. The one thing everyone was to be sure about was that the movie was to be incredibly colourful. Well, it has too many blue birds, and the other colours just support the one dominant colour, and this presence of colours is not really the Vampire Bat’s area. In fact, there is always something about colours as far as most of the animated movies are concerned. But the Vampire Bat does like birds, even as he doesn’t fly (Rio itself was about a bird who couldn’t fly). Then there is Rio de Janeiro along with the Amazon forests, as one of those dream cities which needs a visit in one life or the other. So Rio 2 is in the list.

A flashback :: When Rio released in 2011 with the tagline “from the creators of Ice Age“, it was something to be missed. It was not to be as popular as the other creature-animation stuffs like Ice Age and Madagascar, but it was to leave something good enough to bring more later in the form of Rio 2. Another successful franchise was to begin there, and continue the success that most animated movies enjoyed. It was the story of two macaws, Blu and Jewel as they struggle to escape from smugglers, making a lot of friends in the city of Rio de Janerio and also falling in love. We see that the owners of the two birds who fall for each other build a sanctuary for them at the end and the hero who was a flightless bird getting to fly by the end and saving his love, the only other bird of the same species. It had a seventy two percent in the Rotten Tomatoes and did well with the audience too, as it scored nice at the box-office. But does this movie work well enough to be a worthy successor for that movie? I did have my doubts about that.

What is it about? :: Rio 2 continues the story a few years after the incidents of the first movie. The hero birds are having a good time in the city of Rio with their three kids, who are too naughty and strangely smart to handle. The things change when they come to know that they are not the last of their kind on the planet, as more macaws are alive and can be found somewhere in the Amazon. Jewel is very interested in going into the forest and finding the others, while Blu is uncertain and kids are looking for an adenture. He finally agrees to go as the other members of the family wants it so much and his friends have also decided to join the team, except for the bulldog who gets late. Meanwhile, their old enemy Nigel notices the team and pursues them with his newfound minions, a poisonous frog who is in love with him and a hesitant ant-eater who is always looking for food. The birds soon find what they were looking for, and the leader of the macaws turn out to the father of Jewel who is rather unimpressed by Blu’s domesticated and human-loving behaviour. But as humans invade and attempt to clear the forests, they have to work together so that they can save the macaw home as well as save the environment.

The defence of Rio 2:: Rio 2 has assembled the most colourful birds with animation, and this time, there are a few animals joining the party too, not just a bulldog; but the movie remains about birds and birds only. The major colour remain blue, thanks to our star birds, then there are the red ones, all moving around in the green forests, making the whole things mostly about three colours and its variants. These creatures dominate the screen and easily entertain the kids and impress the eyes of the elders. The success of this movie will be more about how the kids and the families take all these. Other than the birds, there is the beauty of Amazon forests as well as the charm of the city of Rio de Janeiro which will stay in our minds for quite some time, especially the Christ the Redeemer statue, the mountains and the aerial shots of the Amazon river surrounded by green forests. There is nothing like a landscape so beautifully recreated through animation. There is a certain amount of joy that one can get from watching such a spectacle on the screen, and there is no denying it. As one of the jewelry ads here say, “beauty meets quality”, that meeting was something needed by the movie though.

The claws of flaw :: The movie moves through predictable lines. There is nothing too unexpected. There is nothing much that you haven’t seen before either. There is the father’s relationship with the kids and the husband’s differences in opinion with his wife. There is the misunderstood male protagonist in the centre of all these, and nothing really makes us feel that much. That makes this more of an unnecessary sequel for the regular viewers, even as the box-office collections are going to prove that it was much needed for the makers. The songs are actually less interesting, and any expectation that it was going to be something like those in Frozen is not going have a happy going. They rather affect the movie in the wrong way instead of helping it. The villain has turned Shakespearean here, as a birdy Hamlet with a skull in his hands and saying “to be or not to be” and continues to perform as if he is on a theatre, but otherwise, he is less effective. His side-kick or the new Juliet feels more like a dropped frog from Romeo and Juliet, and sings rather too much. The 3D is wasted, and that hurts the visual experience, especially if you had to pay extra for the glasses.

Soul exploration :: The movie is all about the protagonist attempting to keep both the human and animal world with him, not disheartening his wife and children who are more into the wilderness stuff. He tries his best, but both the father-in-law as well as his wife’s childhood friend seems to feel that he is a misfit and a pet of humans who will betray the birds on this day or another, and in no way does he belong with them. There is so much of family issues right there. The nature conservation theme runs all around the movie, but is mostly lost, thanks to all the attention that is given to the colourful birds and all the thinking as well as stupidity that they perform while remaining cute. The evil of deforestation could have been given more importance, and nature had to take the centre stage like in Dr. Seuss The Lorax and Epic, but this one is clearly targeting the kids from the way in which they have treated the subject. Illegal logging has to be stopped and forests are to be conserved, but this movie doesn’t really give it more importance than the issues of a group of birds. By the way, the Shakespearean speeches are adorable.

How it finishes :: I would consider this the seventh best movie from Blue Sky Studios, after all movies of the Ice Age series, Epic and Rio. With Peanuts and Ice Age 5 coming up from the same animation film studio, we surely have a lot to expect from the same studio. For now, Rio 2 has survived and is still going strong enough even at this part of the world where the regional movies have captured most of the multiplex screens. With the Hindi 2 States and the Malayalam 1 By Two released this weekend, Rio 2 is still attracting the family audiences, and there lies its strength. The kids simply can’t resist these birds, and neither can the parents who find it a safe choice to watch with their little ones. Tarzan also had the India release here, but seems to lag. We can talk about innovations and new ideas all day, but this movie will surely continue to do well with the same idea so many movies have used and its own predecessor further adjusted. Even I didn’t want to miss this movie and after delaying the procedure of watching it for a week and rushed for it. Now the next challenge is Transcendence, and its critical opinion seems to drive people off.

Happy Easter! 🙂

Release date: 11th April 2014
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Starring (voice): Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, William Adams, Rodrigo Santoro, Jake T. Austin, Tracy Morgan, Bebel Gilberto, Andy García, Kristin Chenoweth, Rita Moreno, Rachel Crow, Amandla Stenberg, Pierce Gagnon, Natalie Morales, Janelle Monáe, Philip Lawrence, Miguel Ferrer, Jeffrey Garcia, Kate Micucci, Randy Thom

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Hunger Games

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As we wait with that patience which would be intolerant in the absence of the movies like Pacific Rim for the arrival of that possible sequel of magnificent wonder and unparalleled inspiration, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and HBO Asia finding it a part of their interest to show its prequel on a number of occasions, it is only a matter of a few micro-seconds when that expected decision is taken to write on this movie which began the adventures of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire – the beautiful protagonist of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy on screen. The question would remain though, about how much of an impact these movies can create, on those undesirable factors which prevail throughout the current world, even as the movie is set in the future. On my records, this is among the best movies of 2012, sharing the honour for third place with The Cabin in the Woods, but in a perfectly assigned scoring system which I would implement when I came back from the grave, this might come fourth. But isn’t it catchy enough already with its name itself – the games of hunger, or the games for getting rid of hunger, in a future dystopia where inequality thrives with its roots going deep into the soil of human nature? Well, the games would continue in November 2013 and until now, there is this completed game.

A post-apocalyptic situation has lead to the nation of Panem consisting of a wealthy city of Capitol and twelve poor, struggling districts. As a punishment for a past rebellion and riots, each district is forced to provide a boy and a girl as tributes to compete in a virtually created environment in the form of a real world where they would have to struggle for survival, and the last man or woman standing would be rewarded. The tributes are supposed to be between the ages of 12 and 18 and are selected by the lottery method which they called the Reaping. These tournaments of magnificence are called the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her family come from District 12, a coal-mining district which is incredibly poor and less populated, having not a good record or good chance at the annual games. They struggle to survive in situations of hardship. When her sister Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is chosen to fight till death in her first Reaping, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the games. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, is chosen as the other district tribute. Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol in a luxury train and is provided with high level accommodation and the facilities which would have been unknown to them in their district.

They are accompanied by their mentor and past Games victor, an alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). They are informed that they should make them likable enough for the sponsors to send them anything helpful during the match. The find the tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who are trained to win the tournament from the early age itself, and have a big chance of murdering the rest of the participants early. Katniss and Peeta succeeds in making early good impressions with their first public appearance as well as the interviews, and the former does exceedingly well with her archery skills. Peeta’s love for Katniss is also revealed during the period of preparation. About half the tributes are killed in the beginning of the game itself, and Katniss, while on the run forms an alliance with a little girl Rue (Amandla Stenberg) from District 11 as the others come up with their own unholy alliances. After her death, Katniss joins with Peeta and tries to survive with only a few contestants left. This process is affected by a number of interventions by the tournament controllers and their plans to keep the tournament at a level which would be the most favourable.

With no surprises, this is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie, as the whole world is centred around Katniss Everdeen. This is third movie of hers that I had the opportunity to watch, after X-Men: First Class and House at the End of the Street, and doubt me not when I say that I shall also watch Silver Linings Playbook. She has set new standards for the leading character of a movie which is a deathmatch with the rules of the last man standing, something which takes a gamer back to that game mode in Unreal Tournament, and whatever followed as the other first-person shooter computer games. Even with doing nothing spectacular, she keeps her character strong, powerful and attractive. Katniss’ extraordinary display of courage is not only portrayed through her one huge life-changing decision to replace her sister and save her life, but also in her words,from the moment she is chosen as the tribute and her existence was possibly going to be a very short one: “No. You can’t. Not like when dad died. You’re all she has. No matter what you feel, you be there for her, you understand. Don’t cry. Don’t cry”. She traverses around that forest with her bow and a quiver of arrows like Artemis, the Greek Goddess of hunting. Josh Hutcherson progresses in the role of Peeta in the exact same way as the viewer would expect.

Meanwhile, Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow delivers those powerful quotes to be remembered: “I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it”. This dialogue defines the movie in a scene – what The Hunger Games is all about. As the primary antagonist of the series, and the autocratic ruler of the Capitol and all of Panem, it also defines the character and lest us know what to expect from him in the upcoming movies. There is a lot more to come from him, and one can be sure that some of those moments won’t leave one that easily. Foxface is the female tribute from District 5 played by Jacqueline Emerson is the next interesting character, even as the tribute makes very less impact on the storyline. Alexander Ludwig’s Cato and Isabelle Fuhrman’s Clove makes the skilled and heaviy trained District 2 tributes who work as the major antagonists inside the tournament.

The movie lacks in the intense action sequences and use of good special effects and CGI which could have made this one even better, and the slowness gets a little uninspiring at some moments. But what it losses in its lack of pace, action and effects is gained by some great acting and its own powerful theme. Katniss herself is a symbol of a rebellion for the twelve poor districts against the rich Capitol’s oppression, and even as this movie only begins a procedure, and Katniss has only become the shadow of what she can do later, this is one message against inequality and oppression which the movie has conveyed wonderfully. “War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child. This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future.”

What is said in these lines are the lies that the common man is forced to believe; and as the dictator himself says, it gives them hope which rises over their fear. But this is that fake hope which helps them to rule over the common man and continue to be rich at their cost. The need for rebellion is asserted, as it is the Capitol that rules them all, and it is that one city that has everything, and when the rebellion for their own basic needs is termed as treachery and the people branded traitors. The theme of self-sacrifice is there, as Katniss’ substitutes herself and becomes willing to die for her younger sister, like Jesus did for the atonement of the sins of humanity; Peeta also rises from under the stone, and the symbolism of bread prevails throughout the movie. The human battle for survival, the influence of the media and the need for freedom are also seen throughout the movie. There is the rise of the underdog, a common popular thing, and his defiance which changes the world upto an extent, and will define it further. The movie strikes, and it inspires, and Jennifer Lawrence does the rest. This is one movie which makes you think on many lines, and the most significant thought is defiance. Remember the story of the demi-god Theseus and the Minotaur, in which the Minotaur is fed with a certain number of boys and girls from the city, for there are some cycles which need to stop.

Release date: 23rd March 2012
Running time: 142 minutes
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Dayo Okeniyi, Isabelle Fuhrman, Alexander Ludwig, Paula Malcomson, Jacqueline Emerson, Leven Rambin, Dayo Okeniyi, Jack Quaid, Amandla Stenberg, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.