Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including “James Vs His Future Self,” the Disneynature docs “Dolphin Reef” and “Elephant” and the drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the weekend’s VOD and streaming releases including the time travel romance “James Vs His Future Self,” the Disneynature docs “Dolphin Reef” and “Elephant” and the drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”
“Flipper,” the lovable dolphin of 1960’s television, as the song goes, lived “in a world full of wonder, flying thereunder, under the sea.” For a new generation, who want their underwater shows in glistening Technicolor comes Echo, a bottlenose Pacific dolphin and star of “Dolphin Reef,” Disneynature’s new documentary premiering this week on Disney+.
Narrated by Natalie Portman and populated by underwater creatures that look as though they sprung from the imaginations of Disney’s animators by way of H.P. Lovecraft, “Dolphin Reef” is the educational but cutesy story of life on a Pacific Ocean coral reef.
The star, Echo, is a rambunctious youngster learning the ropes of life on the reef from mother Kumu. The high-spirited calf, however, is more interested in adventures and exploring his world full of wonder than learning how to stay safe and contribute to the pod. It’s easy to see how Echo’s eye could wander down there. Director Keith Scholey captures the vivid beauty and otherworldly weirdness of life in Echo’s ecosystem. There are the deadly cuttlefish whose skin strobes different colours as they attack and the phenomenon of “sand poop,” whixh is exactly what you think it is. “Given enough time,” Oscar winner Portman says, “Parrot Fish can poop entire tropical beaches.”
A close-call or two, however, gives Echo the push he needs to become an adult. “Being locked in an ocean at night gives you a whole new appreciation for your mother,” Portman says. “It has been a huge wakeup call for Echo. Time has run out. He can simply not rely on Kumu to protect him anymore. He must learn to take care of himself, once and for all.”
Along the way are lessons in how dolphins build communities and use their unique physiologies to protect their pods. We learn about synchronized sleeping—one hemisphere of the brain sleeps while the other hemisphere remains awake—and their skin’s antibacterial properties, which may help stop infections in open wounds. It’s an interesting, accessible nature lesson wrapped in an aquatic coming-of-age story, although one or two of Echo’s close scraps with mortality may be too intense for very young children.
Portman’s narration runs from folksy—”Here’s how the whole reef thing works in a nutshell…”—to serious and sympathetic as the tone of the film changes.
“Dolphin Reef” may not be as action packed as an episode of “Flipper”—Echo does not help solve crimes or do a “tail walk”—but its beautiful cinematography and engaging storytelling make its message of interconnected community—whether marine or human—resonate. “They rely on their extended family for comfort, safety and survival,” Portman says in the film’s final moments, “and now they need to rely on us as well. Their world is our world.”
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Elle Fanning’s “Teen Spirit,” the Disneynature doc “Penguins” and the spacey drama “High Life.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan have a look at the weekend’s big releases including Elle Fanning’s “Teen Spirit,” the Disneynature doc “Penguins” and the spacey drama “High Life.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk the new movies coming to theatres including Elle Fanning’s “Teen Spirit,” the Disneynature doc “Penguins” and the spacey drama “High Life.”
There is an undeniable joy that comes with watching hundreds of thousands of Adélie penguins waddling, à la Charlie Chaplin, toward their Antarctic nesting grounds. “Penguins,” a new Disneynature documentary directed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, plays up the cute factor but maintains the educational component.
Antarctica. Half the year of the sun does not rise. It is the coldest, windiest place on the planet and it’s here the story takes place. Every spring hordes of Adélie penguins make their way across the frozen landscape seeking dryland to start families. We follow the story of Steve, a five-year-old penguin making his first solo trip across the tundra to find a mate and establish a home to raise chicks. The journey is dangerous and obstacle filled but with dogged (and yes, cute) determination Steve makes it to the breeding ground, takes part in turf wars for a prime spot and searches for dry rocks necessary to build a proper nest.
Nest constructed, Steve meets his intended, a female penguin named Adeline. Serenaded by 1980s soft rock on the soundtrack the pair get to know one another. We learn they memorize one another’s voice for easy identification later because, let’s face it, they all look pretty much the same. It’s not “Romeo and Juliet” but they do make an adorable couple and soon babies are born. We’re then given penguin parenting tips, Antarctica Adélie style, like how the chicks eat regurgitated fish directly from their parent’s mouths.
There is a hint of the circle-of-life as predatory birds and leopard seals prey on the penguins but there is nothing as shocking as walruses falling off cliffs in the Netflix doc “Our Planet.” It’s very kid friendly topped with amiable, light-hearted narration courtesy of comedic actor Ed Helms.
The film’s main strength—aside from the penguins—is the beautiful photography. Fothergill and Wilson capture the icy vastness of Antarctica, giving us gorgeous landscape views and up-close-and-personal shots of the penguins. Visuals of Steve and thousands of his penguin pals swimming like dolphins in the icy water are eye-popping, almost like synchronized swimming.
“Penguins” misses the chance to make a statement about global warming. Instead it focusses on the resilience of these remarkable, and cute, don’t forget cute, creatures.