Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s four big releases, including “Finding Dory,” the buddy comedy “Central Intelligence” with Duane Johnson and Kevin Hart, and a duo of documentaries, “De Palma,” an unflinching look at the films of Brian De Palma and the self explanatory “Raiders! The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.”
Richard and CTV NewsChannel morning show host Todd Van der Heyden chat up the weekend’s big releases, including “Finding Dory,” the literary bio “Genius” with Jude Law and Colin Firth, and a duo of documentaries, “De Palma,” an unflinching look at the films of Brian De Palma and the self explanatory “Raiders! The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.”
Years ago my now-wife and I went to see a particularly grim horror movie. Despite “watching” the entire film through her fingers, as though she could shield her face from the gallons of blood ’n guts on display, the creepfest jangled her nerves so badly we had to go see Finding Nemo directly afterwards as a palate cleanser.
Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory’s (Ellen Degeneres) underwater road trip to find Marlin’s lost son Nemo, coupled with gorgeous animation and warm-hearted humour, calmed her and because of Pixar there were no bad dreams that night.
Roger Ebert called the family classic “a delight,” and parents snapped up so many of them it became the best-selling DVD ever. Disney is clearly hoping those good feelings have lingered over the 13 years since Nemo first made a splash. This weekend Finding Dory enters a crowded summer season, one already stuffed to the gills with sequels, reboots and reimaginings.
The original cast return (save for Alexander Gould who aged out of voicing Nemo) along with Idris Elba, Diane Keaton and Kate McKinnon. Will that be enough to mine gold when recent sequels have come up empty?
Hollywood wisdom says audiences want familiarity, characters and brands they already know and love, but this year moviegoers have rejected repackaged ideas. Zoolander 2, Ride Along 2, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse and TMNT: Out of the Shadows all under performed in what the Hollywood Reporter is calling the Summer of Sequelitis.
For the record. I think Finding Dory will do just fine. Not just because Pixar is the gold standard in animation or because it has a story audiences will connect with but because it’s good.
Do I think moviegoers are suffering from Sequelitis? No. Many of this year’s sequels have stiffed because they weren’t very good. The best thing about Zoolander 2 is that it was so unfunny it’s hard to imagine Ben Stiller and Company making a third.
Perhaps the dip in box-office returns for cinematic re-treads is just what Hollywood needs and they’ll realize a constant diet of movies with numbers and colons in the title — or worse, both, as in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — is not as appetizing to audiences as they think.
Executives are scared. Pitch Perfect 3, the planned follow up to the $287.5 million grossing Pitch Perfect 2, has been delayed while Universal waits to see whether the sequel slump is a passing phase. In the meantime, expect more than one sequel-crazed studio suit to say, “Thank you Pixar,” when Finding Dory reels in the top spot.
“Finding Nemo” hooked Roger Ebert so deeply he called the animated fish tale “a delight.” Families loved the story of clownfish Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) and forgetful blue tang Dory’s (voice of Ellen Degeneres) underwater road trip to find the wayward Nemo so much they reeled in millions of digital video discs, making it the best-selling DVD ever.
That film is held near and dear by many, including me. Years ago my now wife and I went to see a particularly grim horror movie. Despite “watching” the entire film through her fingers the creep fest rattled her so badly we had to go see “Finding Nemo” directly afterwards as a palate cleanser. It worked, the story coupled with gorgeous animation and warm-hearted humour soothed her jangled nerves and because of Pixar there were no nightmares that night.
Disney and Pixar are clearly hoping those good feelings have lingered over the thirteen years since Nemo first made a splash. This weekend “Finding Dory” enters a crowded summer season, one already stuffed to the gills with sequels, reboots and reimaginings.
As the new movie begins it’s one year after the events of the first film. Dory is still a charmingly dippy and forgetful fish—“ I suffer from short-term memory loss,” she says, “it runs in my family. At least I think it does.”—now living with her adopted family, Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence) and the overprotective Marlin inside a sea anemone in the Great Barrier Reef.
When Dory accompanies Nemo on a school trip old memories are stirred up when she sees manta rays migrate back to their homes. “I remembered something,” she squeals. “That’s not possible, is it? Okay, is it like a picture in your head and then you think I’ve seen this before?” Struck with a bad case of homesickness, she has hazy childhood memories of her folks Jenny and Charlie (voices of Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) and a place called “the jewel of Morro Bay, California.” With Nemo and Marlin at her side, she sets off to find her biological family, eventually arriving at the Marine Life Institute where a cranky octopus named Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill), Bailey the beluga whale (voice of Ty Burrell) and whale shark Destiny (voice of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Kaitlin Olson) help in her quest.
As a-Dory-ble as “Finding Dory” may be, it swims in slightly murkier water than “Finding Nemo.” Director Andrew Stanton—the mind behind two classics “WALL·E” and “Finding Nemo”—mines “Nemo” nostalgia for all its worth, occasionally relying on that movie’s goodwill to smooth the way for the new story. He has lots to fall back on, likeable characters with expressive fish faces and fun voice work from Degeneres, Brooks and franchise newcomers Keaton, Levy, O’Neill and Burrell, but it isn’t just a nostalgia fest.
Stanton skilfully weaves in many heart-tugging moments, particularly as Dory’s journey nears its end. No spoilers here, but after a familiar-feeling first half the movie carefully balances action adventure with touching family flourishes in the second half.
Visually, this may be Pixar’s most accomplished movie to date. Spectacular, imaginative 3D animation provides visual interest even when the story sporadically washes out. Stanton and his Pixar wizards create underwater, and sometimes-above sea level, worlds that immerse the viewer.
“Finding Dory” is wonderfully made all-ages entertainment with lots of heart, in fact, octopus Hank has three of them! That it somehow makes us feel real emotion for cold-blooded fish may be its greatest achievement. It suffers only in comparison to its classic predecessor.
“Richard Crouse, a critic who covers every possible medium in film criticism from television to print and online to radio, agrees. ‘Mini-reviews are often posted on Twitter before the end credits have stopped rolling, and for big critic-proof movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction, good or bad, those comments generate audience engagement…'” Read the whole thing HERE!
Can there be any more daunting an assignment for a film critic than to review a documentary about the life of one of the greatest movie reviewers of all time? “Life Itself,” is an affectionate look at the life and death of Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer and television host whose name has become synonymous with the film criticism.
Ebert lived a public life. Between television appearances—on his own show with Gene Siskel and hundreds of talk show visits—and countless words splayed across the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, his books and later his website, it seems like there might not be much left that we don’t already know about Ebert.
Director Steve James, who also made “Hoop Dreams,” one of Ebert’s favorite films, digs deep to present something that is beyond a simple biography. We learn about how the critic wrote the screenplay for the Russ Meyer’s opus “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” the legendary ego clashes with his TV partner and that he met his wife at an AA meeting but that’s just trivia. Instead, using a mix of talking head interviews, archive footage, and most importantly, interviews with Roger and wife Chaz, James crafts an intimate, revealing and moving portrait of a complex man.
Ebert passed away on April 4, 2013 during the production of the documentary. Stricken with cancer, he knew he would likely not live to see the finished film, but communicated through his laptop (with voice translation) for as long as he was able. One of his last messages to James said simply and eloquently, “I’m fading.” It’s a heartbreaking and bittersweet moment in the movie that gives life to Ebert’s theory of movies being “a machine to generate empathy.”
“Life Itself” never shies away from the difficult parts of the story. Moments of frustration and pain are included but ultimately the doc is a wake for the late film critic. Stories are shared, secrets are told and a life is celebrated.
Hollywood is full of hyphenates, the kind of people who introduce themselves as a model-actor-writer-waiter-personal-trainer-dog-walker.
Lately there is one Tinsel Town citizen, however, who has actually earned every word in his hyphenated title.
Tracy Letts is an actor-writer-producer-Pulitzer-Prize-winner who is going to have to get longer business cards if he gets any more successful. You may not recognize the name unless you pay attention to the end credits of Homeland (he plays Senator Andrew Lockhart on the popular show) or if you know who won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
He’s a multi-talent with a shelf of awards, some heavyweight acting credits and a new movie screenplay on his resume.
His latest project, the script for August: Osage County, puts words into the mouths of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The film brings together the Weston sisters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) with their pill-popping mommy-dearest Violet (Meryl Streep).
As a writer Letts says inspiration came from Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Jim Thompson, which might explain the dark vein that runs through his work.
How twisted are his plays? “Everybody in Tracy’s stories gets naked or dead,” says his mom, author Billie Letts.
Tracy jokingly says that his mother is “a liar” for saying that, pointing out that “not all of the people in my plays wind up naked or dead.”
Still there is no denying that his screenplay for Killer Joe, the 2011 Matthew McConaughey thriller, is written with what Roger Ebert called, “merciless black humor.” The story of a corrupt cop and a bad insurance claim earned critical praise even if the Women Film Critics Circle cited the film for its presentation of what they called “the worst female and male images” of the year.
According to Entertainment Weekly his script for Bug, starring Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon as a lonely woman and unhinged war veteran trapped in a bug infested Oklahoma motel room, contains an “enjoyably icky heart.”
Tracy Letts seems willing to take on any challenge to add to his hyphenate status. There’s just one thing you can’t ask him to do. “I don’t act in the stuff that I write,” he says. “I have no interest in doing that.”
Roger Ebert, the Chicago–based world’s most famous film critic, has spent a considerable amount of time in Toronto.
“I’ve spent six months there,” he wrote in a recent email exchange, “one festival at a time.”
The festival that brings him to Hogtown is the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicked off its 37th year today.
In his review of Melancholia he waxed rhapsodic about the importance of TIFF.
“Toronto announces the end of a summer of often disappointing and overinflated ‘blockbusters,’ and an autumn that feels like a springtime of the cinema.” He wrote from experience. The Pulitzer Prize winner has been attending TIFF since its inception.
In fact, he’s so familiar with TIFF he even has a nickname for the vertigo-inducing staircase at one of their premier theatres.
The “escalator of terror” he calls it.
Length of escalators aside, he is succinct when I ask about the changes he’s noticed over the years.
“It’s grown bigger and better,” he wrote.
As for any improvements he’d like to see made? “Most of the changes I’ve wished for have, in fact, been made.”
He’s more forthcoming when I ask how he would explain the importance of film festivals to someone who has never attended one.
“It’s a way to expose yourself to the best of new world filmmaking, three to four films a day, and (equally valuable) join in the conversations before and after them and while in line. You just can’t get up to speed with a couple of multiplex pictures a month.”
As for advice to a TIFF newbie?
“Avoid the movies that will be opening between now and Christmas, and seek out those that sound intriguing.”
He’s had many intriguing festival moments over the years, so I asked him to describe his most vivid TIFF memory.
“I’ve never heard a more ecstatic audience reaction than at the premiere for Jason Rietman’s Juno,” he wrote. “That’s not to say it was the best film I’ve ever seen at Toronto, although I loved it — but that I have an audience reaction to judge other reactions against.”
There are 372 features at this year’s festival, so it seemed obvious to inquire about what he was most excited to see and why.
“Oh, no. I won’t play,” he scolded. “I never, ever make lists, and especially of films I haven’t seen.”