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‘‍Rio 2’‍ 3stars

In "Rio 2," Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway) thinks her domesticated life with Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) in Rio has gone too far, with iPods, television and pancakes for breakfast. "We're not people, we're birds."

When they learn that they may not be the last of the blue macaws, they take off for the Amazon with a GPS.

Once in the Brazilian wilderness, Jewel reunites with her forceful father (a full-throated Andy Garcia) and a childhood friend, Roberto (Bruno Mars), who seems to do everything better than Blu.

Although Blu lives by the adage "Happy wife, happy life," he wants to return to Rio, and Jewel would like to stay in the jungle, even as danger lurks in all directions.

"Rio 2," also featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, Kristin Chenoweth, Rodrigo Santoro, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am and many others, has way, way too much going on. Subplots include a talent search, a poisonous frog who improbably adores the overly dramatic cockatoo Nigel, a soccer-style bird battle and the loggers with their chain saws.

The animation is bright and bold, the action never pauses, and the music includes Mars' Roberto serenading Jewel and Jemaine Clement and Ms. Chenoweth putting their stamp on Gloria Gaynor's signature "I Will Survive."

It's rated G. Extras include featurettes and a "What Is Love?" music video by Janelle Monae. Also, on Blu-ray: deleted scene and a "Music and Dance Sing-Along Machine" with 10 songs from the film.

-- Post-Gazette

‘‍Under the Skin’‍ 3stars

In this long-awaited film adaptation of Michael Farber's sci-fi thriller, Scarlett Johansson plays a seductress of unknown origin who combs the highways in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring lost souls into an otherworldly lair.

In and around Glasgow, Scotland, she has a van and an organized system of stalking and interviewing men she picks up. The guys can't believe their good luck, charging it up to their own intrinsic sex appeal.

In the book, she is sent to Earth to harvest humans to be delivered back home. In the film, you pretty much have to supply your own reason.

British director Jonathan Glazer ("Sexy Beast," 2000; "Birth," 2004), who co-wrote the screenplay, takes his time building tension and suspense with sudden short bursts of violence and very minimal dialogue.

Most visually amazing are the recurring, eerily silent seduction scenes in which our alien anti-heroine sheds her clothes, as do the men behind her, and walks on water while the men are slowly submerged.

The film owes its cryptic detachment to Ms. Johansson's erotic, unnerving performance, shifting smoothly from blank-faced alien to seductress mode. Be it a satisfying film whole or just an experience, "Under the Skin" is a stunning experiment, with innovative special effects and a new concept of ambient horror.

Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language. Extras include a making-of featurette.

-- Post-Gazette

‘‍Debbie Macomber’‍s Cedar Cove: Season One’‍ 3stars

Andie MacDowell stars in this sweet cable series based on the best-selling book series by Debbie Macomber.

MacDowell plays municipal Judge Olivia Lockhart in the small town of Cedar Cove. She brings a lot of baggage to the bench having to deal with the death of her son and a divorce. The test for Lockhart is to keep her professional career in focus while dealing with the potential of new romance.

Ms. Macomber says this series was better suited for a cable series than a movie because of her readers.

"They love the characters so much that they want me to continue writing about the same characters. And so it seems natural to make the progression, then, from ongoing characters into a TV series."

The DVD set is being released in time to get caught up before the second season opens Sunday on the Hallmark Channel.

-- Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

‘‍How the West Was Won: The Complete Second Season’‍ 3stars

There was a time when Westerns were a popular genre in feature films and on TV. This epic TV series tried to get fans of both with the 1978 broadcast based on the 1962 film of the same name.

If you like Westerns, then this is a set to own. It follows members of the Macahan family as they face daily struggles to survive and thrive in the American West. These stories are told through an impressive cast topped by James Arness ("Gunsmoke"), Eva Marie Saint ("North by Northwest") and Bruce Boxleitner ("Tron") as well as famous guest stars such as Ricardo Montalban, William Shatner, Tim Matheson and Lloyd Bridges.

This six-disc set includes all 14 parts of the 1978 season.

-- Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

ALSO THIS WEEK

“Clue: A Movie Mystery Adventure”: Young sleuths work together deciphering a series of clues.

“Time Scanners: Petra”: Team of laser-scanning experts travel to Jordan.

“Sx - Tape”: Found-footage film of lust, possession and destruction.

“Action Adventure Movie Marathon”: Four titles, including "Shake Hands With the Devil," "The Final Option."

“Open Grave”: Looks at how important memory is to a person's identity.

“I Escaped From Devil's Island”: Roger Corman feature starring Jim Brown, Christopher George.

“100 Years of WWI”: Mini-series looks at how military strategy changed through weapon development, advanced intelligence.

“Case Histories Series 2”: Jason Isaacs returns as Jackson Brodie.

“A Day Late and a Dollar Short”: Woman tries bring her family back together before time slips away.

“David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St. Paul”: BBC documentary exploring Christianity's early years.

“The Junior Spy Agency”: History assignment becomes case for young detectives.

“Wrinkles”: Animated tale of elderly characters who rebel against authority.

“Black Dynamite: Season One”: A 1970s renaissance man with a kung-fu grip is a lover and fighter.

“Labyrinth”: Two women separated by centuries are united by common quest.

“Deadly Eyes”: Rats provide the horror in this 1982 film.

“La Mujer Del Vendaval”: Univision series based on the telenovela "Un Esposo para Estela."

“Hercules: Hero, God, Warrior”: History channel specials about the hero.

-- Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

 


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