Monday, September 19, 2011

Rio Blu-ray Review

Captured as a young bird from the wild, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network) is a domesticated spix macaw living thousands of miles away from his homeland, Brazil. When his human owner Linda (Leslie Mann, 17 Again) discovers that he is the last male of his kind, they head south to Rio de Janeiro to meet the only other female.  But it’s far from love at first sight between the socially-awkward, flight-challenged Blu and the fiercely independent, high-flying female, Jewel (Anne Hathaway, The Princess Diaries). Shortly after Blu’s arrival, the two rare birds are captured by greedy animal smugglers and find themselves lost in the Brazilian rain-forest.  Unexpectedly thrown together, they embark on a hilarious and clumsy adventure where they learn about friendship, love, courage and spreading one’s wings to fly.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

After being stolen from the rain-forest to be resold, a rare blue macaw named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is accidentally thrown out of the delivery truck only to be discovered by a young girl named Linda (Leslie Mann).  The two of them hit it off as they both are leery of the outside world and over time they develop daily pattern that doesn’t vary at all. They are both happy in their insular world they’ve built for themselves in Moose Lake, Minnesota until a klutzy Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) appears at their doorstep to let them know that Blu may be the last male of his species in the world.  He offers Linda an all expense paid trip to Rio so he can try to mate Blu with the last known female blue macaw which could save their species from extinction.  Linda at first says no since they don’t want their patterns disturbed but eventually agrees to take Blu back to his birthplace.

Upon arriving in Rio, Blu encounters a pair of birds red-crested cardinal named Pedro ( and his yellow canary friend Nico (Jamie Foxx) who offer to break him out of his cage which of course Blu refuses.  When Blu finally enters Tulios aviary and sees his intended female macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway), it’s love at first sight for him. Unfortunately for him, the last thing on Jewel’s mind is romance since she’s focused on escaping the aviary.  It isn’t long before both birds are stolen by a young boy named Fernando (Jake T. Austin) with the help of an evil sulphur-crested cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement) who is a former TV star whose life went down the drain when he was replaced by a parakeet.  Fernando and Nigel both work for an exotic animal smuggler named Marcel who also has two dim-witted henchman who are a lot less effective than Nigel.  When Fernando realizes Marcel’s plans for the pair of macaws, he switches his allegiance and tries to help the birds escape.

Once they escape, the two birds are still stuck with each other since their legs are chained together which is a problems since Jewel wants to fly away but Blu doesn’t know how.  Forced to walk, their differences become apparent and their bickering is interrupted by a toucan named Rafael (George Lopez) who offers to take them to Luiz (Tracy Morgan) who can remove the chain for them.  Their journey to find Luiz brings them closer together despite their differences as they learn new things from each other.  The path to freedom will bring them into conflict with the psychopathic Nigel and his monkey minions, the smugglers, and the difficulty of finding each other and Linda and Tulio during the massive Carnavale celebration.

Rio was a lot fun to watch for both my son and me.  Not a lot of movies hold his attention for the entire length of the film, but this one did and when it was over he asked to watch it again.  Although the plot is fairly predictable it was still enjoyable with great visuals and an excellent vocal cast.  The music was also fun and infectious and the colorful locale was so good that this movie could be used as a travel advertisement for Rio (which it probably is already). While the birds and humans look cartoony, the locations and environment were captured so realistically that now I really want to visit there.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

This superb 1080p (2.40:1) transfer is one of the most colorful I’ve seen in a long long time.  From the opening sequence with a multitude of birds of varying colors, to the lush green foliage of the rain-forest, and the gorgeous shots of Rio de Janeiro, this is one of those movies that is made to show off the Blu-ray format.  Detail is also very impressive and so good that you can see the individual feathers of the birds.  While the humans look cartoony as I mentioned earlier, the birds and the environments are absolutely gorgeous.  Black levels are deep and dark and the contrast is spot on.  I missed this movie in the theaters but I’m willing to bet that it didn’t look as good as it does on Blu-ray.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)

Rio’s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as good as its visuals.  As soon as the movie starts you know you are in for a treat as the various bird calls surround you before the rhythmic Brazilian music kicks off.  Having a fantastic sound mix is especially important for a movie like this that has so much music and ambiance and fortunately it does.  The mix has a very dynamic range and a lot of nice atmospheric touches.  There’s also some excellent effects that swirl around the room with all of the channels being run through their paces.  The music by Sergio Mendes and his musicians also sounds great and it’s been well mixed in with the rest of the effects.  All in all, this is an incredibly good lossless mix.

Special Features ( 3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

After being spoiled by the visuals and the audio mix, I have to admit that I was expecting more with the extras.  While I appreciate getting some free levels for Angry Birds and the rest of these extras, I would have liked some commentary tracks with the director and cast and a comprehensive documentary on the making of the film.  The good news is that all of the extras are in high definition.
  • Scrat’s Continental Crack-up – The best part of Ice Age has another cartoon starring him and this is funny like the previous ones.
  • Deleted Scene – Fruit Stand – A deleted scene shown through storyboards but with the recorded vocals from the cast.
  • Explore the World of Rio – An interactive feature that includes video clips, pictures, and facts that offer a surprising level of detail and appreciation for Rio.
  • Saving the Species: One Voice At A Time - This is the only somewhat comprehensive look at the behind the scenes efforts.  At almost twenty-five minutes long, it does a nice job showing the cast recording their lines but I would have liked more.
  • The Making of Hot Wings – and Jamie Foxx record a Brazilian-inspired song that was written by for the movie.
  • Boom-Boom Tish-Tish: The Sounds of Rio – A talk with Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, director Carlos Saldanha about the music for Rio.  As a fan of the music, I enjoyed hearing their thoughts about the music and how it related to the film.
  • Carnival Dance-O-Rama – An interactive extra that shows you how to dance with the characters from Rio.
  • Welcome to Rio Music Video – Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg contribute their vocals for this video.
  • Taio Cruz – Telling the World Music Video
  • Rio De Jam-Eiro Jukebox – You can create your own playlist of the musical sequences from the film.
  • Postcards from Rio – This cute BD-Java extra allows you to create your own postcard using graphics and clips from the film.
  • The Real Rio – A look at the beautiful real life location as they filmmakers try to capture it for the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Live Extras:
    • Live Lookup – Access up-to-date actor filmographies and information through the Internet Movie Database.
    • Exclusive: The Acting Animators
  • Angry Birds Rio:
    • Trailer
    • Nigel Mashup
    • Exclusive Clue Video
  • pocket BLU
  • DVD
  • Digital Copy
  • Free Angry Birds Rio Bonus Levels for PC/Mac, Tablets, and Smartphones

Final Thoughts (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Rio is a fun family film that’s filled with humor, fun music, great animation, and some absolutely fantastic visuals.  This is by far the best film that the Blue Sky Studios has made and they are quickly catching up to Pixar quality-wise.  While their story-lines may not be equal to Pixar’s standards, their visuals are almost there as some of the animation in this movie is jaw-droppingly beautiful.  I highly recommend this movie!

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