Watch the whole thing HERE!
Posts Tagged ‘Disneynature’
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.”
Listen to thew whole thing HERE!
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.”
Listen to thew whole thing HERE!
“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.”
There is something elemental about “Elephant,” the new Disneynature’s new documentary premiering this week on Disney+. Narrated by Meghan Markle (billed as Meghan the Duchess of Sussex), who donated her fee to the Elephants Without Borders conservation charity in Botswana, the doc is a story about an unbroken chain of knowledge stretching back for millennia and an elephant’s ability to connect to its community and ancestors, wrapped up in Disneynature’s slick presentation.
The film focusses on 50-year-old matriarch Gaia, her younger sister and heir apparent Shani, baby nephew Jomo, and their migration, with their herd, across hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert in search of water at the Zambezi and Victoria Falls. It is an epic journey, a quest their ancestors have taken for thousands of years. The key to the trip’s success is Gaia’s elephant memory, an instinct that will point them in the right direction, from watering hole to watering hole until they reach their destination. As well as leading the herd, Gaia, we’re told, senses the presence of water through her feet.
The film’s drama comes in several forms. First are the natural problems, like persistent predators i.e. lions and hungry crocodiles, Gaia’s rescue of a drowning calf and a lack of water. On an interpersonal level, Gaia’s health is at risk. She is on her sixth and final set of teeth are worn and it is difficult for her to eat and she is fading.
Like all the Disneynature docs Gaia, Shani and Jomo are anthropomorphized. They don’t speak à la “The Lion King” but Markle’s narration often puts words and thoughts into their heads that forward the story but sometimes step over the line of documentary and into the world of speculation. For instance, when Markle suggests “Gaia remembers these birds leading her mother to the water,” it feels unnecessary. There is enough drama with predators and rival elephant herds without amping up the experience with supposition.
That aside, “Elephant” directors Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz and Alastair Fothergill do a wonderful job of allowing the visuals to tell the tale. Beautiful aerial shots and on-the-ground photography is both sweeping and intimate, providing an exciting, if deliberately paced, glimpse into a little seen world.
“Monkey Kingdom,” the new film from Disneynature, begins with “(Theme from) The Monkees” on the soundtrack. The actual monkeys in the film—a tribe of toque macaques—however, don’t sing, but they do monkey around.
This time Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill, the co-directors of Disneynature’s “Earth” and “Chimpanzee” show us a family of monkeys living in ancient ruins in the jungles of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. It’s a complex society built around the hierarchy of the stone structure and a tree. Those at the top, like alpha male Raja, enjoy blazing sunlight and all the ripe fruit they can eat. Like a feudal lord Raja carefully guards his place and the rank of the other “high-borns” from interlopers.
Under him are “the sisterhood,” red-faced (not embarrassed monkeys, they are literally red-faced) moms and aunties who are the next in charge. “These ladies get what they want,” says narrator Tina Fey. They are brutal and uncompromising. Think “The Walking Dead’s” Carol and you get the idea.
In this world a jackfruit isn’t just food, it’s a political tool used to assert prominence and humiliate underlings.
Born at the bottom of the tree, figuratively and literally, is Maya, a “low-born” toque macaque and single mom of Kip. Like a simian Kitty Foyle all she wants is to make a better life for herself and move up the social ladder. When a warring clan overruns their home Raja and company are forced to leave and relocate in a nearby city. Urban life stands in stark contrast to the rural kingdom they left behind, but it is here Maya thrives and improves her standing in the macaque community.
A mix of education and entertainment, “Monkey Kingdom” is filled with useful information, beautiful imagery and ape anecdotes. Fey’s narration blends learning with light-hearted joshing—like a parent reading a picture book to a child—and images guaranteed to appeal to up younger viewers. Is there anything cuter than a snoring monkey? I’ll answer that for you. No there isn’t, and I’m sure your kids will agree. The voice over occasionally tries a bit too hard—describing Maya’s mate as “fifteen pounds of hunky monkey” is too cute by half—but as a vocal tour guide to the story Fey is an agreeable presence.
“Monkey Kingdom” does feature some mild “circle of life” scenes but focuses most of its kid-friendly 77 minute running time on the familial lifestyle and complicated relationships of these fascinating creatures.