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Feeling the Force like never before
The Star Wars franchise returns, with the beginning of an all-new trilogy. I have to admit, after the lukewarm reception the prequel trilogy got, I was worried that this movie wouldn't be up to snuff. But boy, was I wrong.
"The Force Awakens" hit all the right buttons. It really lived up to the original series, with action, suspense, drama, and emotion. The new generation of heroes were all so dynamic and relatable; Finn, the stormtrooper with a heart, Poe Dameron, the daring pilot, BB-8, the new droid on the block, and Rey, the gutsy scavenger. But our new villains had a draw to them too, like the wicked Kylo Ren, and the enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke.
Of course, the old guard's still got it; Han and Chewy are as awesome as they were in the old days.
The climactic final battles were as epic as anything the previous trilogies had, and the next episode promises to be even better.
To put it simply, Star Wars is back on top where it belongs. May the Force always be with them...
Ooops! Noah is Gone... (2015)
Something to see on a rainy day
I don't usually watch dubbed foreign animation, but something about this film appealed to me, not to mention I had a free morning and money to spare, so I went to see it. It turned out better than I thought.
As the biblical flood nears, the father and son "Nestrian" pair Dave and Finny board Noah's ark alongside the "Grymps" Hazel and Leah. Unfortunately, Finny and Leah get left behind, and struggle to survive as the flood waters rise higher. At the same time, Dave and Hazel try their best to find their kids.
This film isn't exactly an epic tale, but it has its moments. There are a number of pop culture references, and a few jokes that genuinely made me laugh out loud. The story of the friendly Finny and the grumpy Leah going on a journey together isn't exactly a unique plot, but it at least makes the "opposites stuck together" shtick work, with additional comedy relief provided by the humongous Obesey and his chatty parasite, Stayput.
What stood out the most for me was the surprise reveal near the end. I won't spoil anything for anyone, but I will say I was genuinely impressed. It may seem a little contrived for some, but if you look back over the course of the movie, there are actually a few clues dotted about. It was actually quite clever, and not something I saw coming.
So, in short, is Two By Two a classic, blockbuster epic? No. But it has its own unique charm, and I can think of much worse ways to spend an hour and a half than watching this movie. Like the Ark itself, it manages to stay afloat.
Rio 2 (2014)
A worthy successor
After three years, the Rio franchise continues, with this wonderful sequel.
Blu and Jewel, having fallen in love during the first movie, now have three adorably rambunctious children, Bia, Carla and Tiago. Each chick has their own unique personality traits, providing an amusing balance during their opening shenanigan.
Of course, the real story kicks in after the discovery of more blue macaws in the jungle, prompting Jewel to have the family (Plus their friends Nico, Pedro and Rafael) go to the jungle to meet them, and for the kids to connect to their roots. Along the way, they're spotted by Nigel, the villain of the original, who follows, seeking revenge.
Once they get to the jungle, Blu experiences the classic "disapproving father-in-law" scenario, and suffers jealousy over Jewel's childhood friend, Roberto, both of which provide some humor and pathos.
Blu and Jewel have experienced a bit of character development since the last movie. Blu is a little more confident and outgoing this time around (especially around the kids) and Jewel is a touch sweeter, and more compassionate. Their love for each other is still going strong, as is made clear in their very first scene (and in Blu's jealousy over Roberto).
Nigel gets a couple of sidekicks in the form of mute anteater Charlie, and the poisonous frog Gabi, who happens to be totally besotted with him. Nigel and Gabi have two of (in my opinion) the best songs in the film, and, though pushed to the sidelines somewhat during the course of the film, their scenes are some of the most memorable.
As for the new characters, Eduardo plays the role of the stern father-in-law quite well (Due mostly to Andy Garcia's contribution), and Roberto is a feathered Fabio, charming and friendly, but with a secret that comes out near the end of the film. Jewel's sweet and amusingly dotty Aunt Mimi rounds out the winged characters, with such lines as "I knew you were coming back. I saw it in the droppings."
There are quite a few plot points running through the movie, and it does feel a little crowded at times. But there are some genuinely funny and touching moments along the way, and with musical accompaniment equal to that of the original.
It all builds to an action-packed climax, where Blu really steps up. The final scene is an audio/visual joy to behold, and a great way to end the film.
While it's true Rio 2 isn't exactly flawless, in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives, making it a worthy follow-up to the original.