Rio 2
(20th Century Fox)
A rather misleading title is just one reason to be slightly suspicious of "Rio 2" an eye-popping, ear-tickling animated sequel that labors to fold a cheeky family sitcom, an earnest environmental primer, an exotic jungle tour, a broad survey of popular music and an avian remake of "Meet the Parents" into one bright and noisy package. Mining an unwieldy number of domestic and ecological dramas from the continuing saga of a rare Brazilian blue macaw, here venturing with his new family into the perilous Amazon rainforest, this hyperactive toon extravaganza has color, flair and energy to burn. But it's the sort of relentless juggling act that finally proves more exhausting than exhilarating as it lectures you about respecting Mother Nature one minute, knocks you over with a Gloria Gaynor cover the next, and squeezes in a lot of questionable comic relief in between.
-- Justin Chang
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Draft Day
(Summit Entertainment)
After spending much of his career being likened to "High Noon" star Gary Cooper, Kevin Costner gets a countdown-clock movie to call his very own in "Draft Day." Although directorIvan Reitman's sports dramedy trades the streets of the Wild West for the equally rambunctious turf of pro football, and a duel in the center of town for one in the strategy room of the Cleveland Browns, the underlying situation is the same: A weary but fundamentally decent man must decide whether to stand his ideological ground or fall into line with the cowardly herd. It's a role that fits the aging Costner to a tee in what's easily the savviest sports movie since "Moneyball" -- though you'd scarcely guess it from Summit's AARP-friendly marketing campaign and decision to hide the film from critics until the 11th hour. Opening in the mighty wake of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and opposite family tentpole "Rio 2," the pic should manage to pass the wan $30 million domestic gross of Costner's recent "3 Days to Kill," but looks to score most of its points in the home-viewing arena.
-- Scott Foundas
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Only Lovers Left Alive
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Did somebody make it a rule that every director has to do a vampire movie at some point? If so,Jim Jarmusch got the memo, and he tweaks the genre slightly in "Only Lovers Left Alive" to fit his own laid-back vibe, turning in a sweet but slight love story about world-weary hipster bloodsuckers. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston have empathic chemistry as the leads, and the pic (acquired by Sony Classics at Cannes) is a smidge more commercial than Jarmusch's meandering previous effort, "The Limits of Control." But it still feels like an in-joke intended only for select acolytes, who will probably love it with an undying passion.
-- Leslie Felperin
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Joe
(Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)
It's a dog-eat-dog world, as two ferociously snapping canines make literally clear in one of many darkly humorous asides in "Joe," David Gordon Green's bleak and brutal examination of Southern small-town masculinity and its discontents. Having shown signs of returning to his indie roots with this year's well-received "Prince Avalanche," the director extends his flight from the commercial mainstream with a patiently observed, often unsettlingly violent drama that can't help but feel overly familiar in some of its particulars, rich in rural texture but low on narrative momentum or surprise. Nicolas Cage's excellent, tightly wound performance represents the film's most lucrative angle, but it won't be enough to lure average Joes to the arthouse.
-- Justin Chang