144: Rio (2011)

Birds of Paradise.

Treacherous summer monsoon showers in Copenhagen. This is getting silly now. If only I was somewhere sunny, somewhere exotic. Somewhere like Rio. WELL I AM! Kind of.

The third of four filmic experiences today is a majestic feast for the eyes. Produced by Hollywood’s third most reputable CGI animation company Blue Sky Studios, Rio is a fish-out-of-water (or should that be bird out of nest?) ditty about a domesticated macaw named Blu (voiced by ageless Jesse Eisenberg). At risk of Blu’s breed going extinct, bumbling scientist Tulio invites he and his keeper Linda (Leslie Mann) to his native Rio de Janeiro to mate. In doing so, Blu embarks on the exotic adventure of his dreams. Sweet-sounding, right? Well, it is, until all the black market trade offs and bird snatching.

With risk of CGI-animation becoming banal, Carlos Sandanha’s Rio is another enjoyable but ultimately forgettable cinematic feast for the eyes. With a warming soundtrack and glorious colour tones that would leave a Nemo rescue team turning the cold, watery shoulder, it’s a fun ride whilst it lasts. Just don’t expect WALL-E tears here. Leave them at the door, please.

★★★☆☆☆
IMDb it.

132: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)

Which side are you on?

Along with almost everyone in Brazil, I have now seen José Padilha’s Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. Following on from it’s action heavy inception in 2007 (my review is right here, if you were wondering), the film moves on from looking at the corrupt underworld of Rio to the altogether more provocative subject matter of Brazil’s amoral police force and Capitol rule.

Tackling the nefarious subject with more gumption the second time around, with all this protest patter subjected to the cinema screen, is Padilha’s state overhaul message potent enough? It reminds me of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’. Ostensibly a protest song, it has become commercialised to the point of becoming a futile Christmas commodity. Sure, we may slip on our scratched CD copy of Now! That’s What I Call Christmas and sing it all in unison whilst stuffing mince pies in our inflated faces, but are we actually picking up on the overriding message? For all its narrative flaws, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within has so much to say, so I suggest you shut up and listen.

★★★☆☆☆
IMDb it.

PS – Yes, I now know ‘overwroughtly’ isn’t a word. Calm down, Collins.

088: Elite Squad (2007)

Another day, another film, another Mondo Movie podcast recommendation.

Elite Squad centres on the perplexing, corrupt mentality of the Rio underworld. Captain Nascimento is a superior officer within an alternative police group which attempts to eradicate the slum land streets of drug pushers and the risk they can bring to the community, considering leaving the front line, Nascimento goes on a hunt to find his replacement, bad-ass law enforcer.

Although Nascimento’s running voiceover is authoritative, you grow increasingly tired with it being used as a cheap and ineffective way of rashly contextualising an otherwise simplistic storyline. This earnestly plain narrative is also outlived by the worryingly realist subject matter, with the political issues briefly skimmed over being left dormant without more than superficial scrutiny.

With the gruelling military training regime for the captain position, parallels with the superior first half of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket training sequence are obvious. Similarly to Kubrick, Brazilian director José Padilha is able to unflinchingly illustrate the horrid nature of war in a totally graspable, even enjoyable fashion.

Controversially, the film has a broken moral compass and as an audience we don’t know whether to route for the pot-smoking students, drug pushers, domestic police force or SWAT team hunters. What is made explicitly clear that, in these harsh and dangerous conditions, violence is the only appropriate remedy to fend off more violence. This cyclical process, while not favoured, is presented as the only means of protection. Don’t trust anyone, don’t go anywhere, just sit in front of the TV and watch this entertaining crime drama instead.

★★★★

IMDb it.

PS – Before the trolls start troll-la-la-ing, the sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy from Within (2010), is on my ones to watch. Pipe down now.