New movies this week in Vancouver: ratings and reviews
RIO: Another good animated film, not up there with Rango but far above Hop. Jesse Eisenberg brings his fidgety vocal mannerisms to a rare macaw named Blu who is grabbed by wildlife smugglers in Brazil, accidentally becomes the pet of a bookstore owner in Minnesota and is lured back to Rio to mate with the only other surviving member of his species. He’s a softie who’s never learned to fly. She’s a feisty one (voiced by Anne Hathaway) who doesn’t need him but in true romantic comedy fashion warms to him as they bumble their way through a series of dangerous adventures, much of the time chained to each other. They’ve fallen into the hands of smugglers again, are caged and loaded on a plane while their masters are atop a float in the carnival parade looking for them. Lots of color, samba music and sparkling animation in this one. The director, Carlos Saldanha, taking a break from his Ice Age movies, is a Brazilian so I suppose the local flavor is close to accurate. I do wonder though, about the comic side characters. Some of them talk like ghetto dudes from L.A. (Scotiabank, Oakridge, Dolphin and many suburban theatres)
3 ½ out of 5
DAYDREAM NATION: Small-town high school life as it probably really is. Kat Dennings plays a self-assured teen who’s brought by her father to an unidentified burg (played photogenically by Fort Langley). She finds “the most drugged-out high school in the country” where the kids are forever getting high “to kill the boredom”. There’s an ongoing industrial fire filling the air with smoke and a serial killer roaming about. That’s overloading the plot, I’d say, because there’s already enough in just her challenges to adjust. When she mentions Adam Egoyan films, she gets back “Who?”
Her peers are no match for her intellectually, so she seduces a teacher (Josh Lucas) and later switches to a less complicated (she thinks) affair with a stoner boy in her class (Reece Thompson). She’s not fazed at all when she’s called a slut but decries what she calls the normal life arc of people in towns like this, spending the first half of their life planning a wedding and the second half regretting it. The straight-talking, wise-acre also has a vulnerable side and Dennings manages to bring out both in her character. It’s an entirely believable performance in a well-written, good-looking film which is dressed up with lots of music from the likes of Emily Haines and Sonic Youth. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 3 out of 5
IN A BETTER WORLD: The difficulties of turning the other cheek have rarely been as well demonstrated than in this Danish film which was named best foreign language film at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. My only complaint is that it makes its points much too obviously, with set ups and interconnections that lead directly to every point. A Danish doctor working in an African refugee camp is struggling with a steady arrival of people injured by a local warlord. On a trip home, he finds his wife resents his long abscences and his son is a victim to a local bully. Then, when he stops two boys fighting, an irate father loudly threatens him and does so again when the doctor visits him at work and tries to demonstrate the power of reason. (Part of the issue is purely local. Apparently Danes are prejudiced against Swedes like him).