"Draft Day" 3 1/2 stars (out of four)
One of the biggest days of the year for the NFL is given a tantalizing, dramatic preview with "Draft Day," an expertly crafted, suspenseful sports drama by prolific director Ivan Reitman.
Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the hapless Cleveland Browns who is tasked by the team's owner (Frank Langella) to come up with a splashy No. 1 pick to get the franchise back on track. Living in the shadow of his father, the late, longtime coach of the Browns, Weaver struggles with his conscience to either trade away a boatload of future picks to obtain the biggest quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, or go with the player he thinks has the best character.
Not surprisingly, "Draft Day" is infused with lots of pro footage, and filled with cameos of NFL stars and management, which gives the film a docu-drama feel. And while in a small way the film feels like a giant commercial for the real NFL Draft Day next month, it's outweighed by Reitman's innovative filmmaking, Costner's charisma and an excellent supporting cast – including Jennifer Garner as a top Browns executive and Weaver's love interest, and Denis Leary as the Browns' new coach.
"Rio 2" 3 stars (out of 4)
Kids will no doubt want to take flight with "Rio 2," a vibrant, action- and musically-tinged sequel to the hit animated film "Rio" from 2011. The first "Rio," of course, began in Moose Lake, Minnesota, the home of Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw who travels with his owner to Rio de Janeiro in the hopes that another one of the rare birds, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), will take a liking to him so the rare bird species can be saved.
The plan was hatched, but soon enough Blu and Jewel discover 2,000 miles away in the Amazon Rainforests that there are a whole lot more of the species, including Jewel's parents. From there, "Rio 2" takes two different flight paths: The first involves the villainous British bird, Nigel (Jemaine Clement), from the first "Rio," who is looking to get revenge on Blu; and on a bigger scale the Amazon blue macaws find themselves in peril because a money-grubbing logger is threatening to mow down the species sanctuary. The message of the second plot becomes a bit preachy and heavy-handed at times, however, overshadowing what is otherwise a solid piece of family entertainment.