Check out the Richard Crouse Show NewsTalk 1010 podcast for January 2, 2016! Today Richard welcomes Timothy Caulfield, professor, lawyer, writer, health policy expert and author of “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?”
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Richard sits in with CP24 anchor Nneka Elliott to review the “legendary adventures of awesomeness” of “Kung Fu Panda 3,” the watery historical drama “The Finest Hours” and “JeruZalem’s” found footage thrills.
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien chat about the found footage thrills of “JeruZalem,” the “legendary adventures of awesomeness” of “Kung Fu Panda 3” and the watery historical drama “The Finest Hours.”
Those only familiar with Holliday Grainger from her high profile appearance as the 1930s gangster Bonnie Parker in the much-hyped A&E miniseries Bonnie & Clyde could be forgiven for thinking she was born and raised on American soil. A perfect Texas drawl disguised her natural English accent.
“I’m from Manchester,” she said in our recent sit down, “northwest England.”
“Home of the Stone Roses,” I replied, mentioning the Mancunian hit makers of Love Spreads.
“I’m a bit too young for that but it’s a small town so the Stone Roses are never too far away,” she replied with a wicked laugh.
This weekend the twenty-seven year old brings a new accent to the maritime drama The Finest Hours. She plays Massachusetts native Miriam, a bride-to-be anxiously awaiting the return of her Coast Guard fiancée (Chris Pine) from a life and death mission during a brutal New England nor’easter.
“I think I’m quite good at adopting accents,” she says. “Once I started the Bonnie and Clyde Texas accent it was very easy. Within a day I was speaking in the accent all the time and I found it quite comfortable.”
She was so secure with the twang she’d often keep the accent going even when not on camera. The Finest Hours presented more of a challenge.
“I found this much harder. I actually stayed in my own accent on set for the first week or two because I didn’t feel comfortable enough in the accent to stay in it.”
To master the 1950s coastal Massachusetts brogue she worked with a dialect coach and tried, unsuccessfully, to get some real life input.
“I went to Chatham (Massachusetts] and spent an afternoon trying to record people but Chatham is now so affluent and touristy. I was going into bars and restaurants and talking to people. ‘Where are you from? Oh, you’re from New York. You’ve just moved here. Which pubs have young girls working in them who are from around here?’ I’d go and record some of them and they’d sound like they were from bloody Manhattan. Like bloody Valley Girls or something. It was not like the 1950s accent I needed to hear.”
Her character’s real life daughter Patty ended up helping out, introducing Grainger to a contemporary of Miriam’s who “had the right way of talking. The resonance.”
The actress nailed the New England burr and then refined it during production.
“In the middle of shooting the producers would say, ‘It’s too strong, bring it back.’ In my mind [I was thinking] has she been at work where she speaks quite well or is she angry? It’s fluid. People change their accents all the time.”
Ironically after all that work it’s likely Miriam didn’t have the usual regional accent.
“In actual fact Miriam’s first language wasn’t even English,” says Grainger, who will next be seen starring opposite Alicia Vikander and Judi Dench in Tulip Fever. “She was brought up speaking Finnish so she didn’t actually have the traditional accent but for the purposes of our movie we’re not going to play around with that. It’s too complicated.”
As for her own Mancunian lilt, don’t expect to hear it every time she opens her mouth.
“I change my accent all the time depending on whom I’m talking too,” she says. “If anyone had to characterise me they’d be bloody lost.”
THE FINEST HOURS SIDEBAR WITH JODY THOMAS, CANADIAN COAST GUARD COMMISSIONER
“We work very closely with the American Coast Guard, there is no mile of our coast line that we don’t share along the lower parallel. We do the same work they do. I’m watching them but I could be watching my own people. I feel enormous pride in what a Coast Guard does. To have a movie like this produced that talks about the kind of work we do, even if it’s not the Canadian Coast Guard is quite extraordinary.”
When I ask Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson how she feels about being one of the highest grossing female directors of all time, she demurs and gives all the credit to her star.
“I think it is a testament to how much people like Po and like these films. There is such a huge fan base it is really flattering to have been helming something that huge.”
Alessandro Carloni, her directing partner on Kung Fu Panda 3, adds, “I think it will be fair to assume this will be the highest grossing movie ever to be directed by a Korean woman and an Italian man.”
For the uninitiated, Po is the clumsy giant panda that became an improbable hero, dumpling-eating champion and kung fu master in the first two movies. Voiced by Jack Black, in the new film he is reunited with his biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) who takes his son back to the Panda Village so the youngster can learn about himself, become a Chi master and do battle with Kai, a supernatural bull villain played by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons.
Both directors have great affection for Po and understand why audiences have fallen in love with the character.
“We love how enthusiastic he is, how geeky he is, how much passion he has,” says Alessandro. “One thing I have heard someone say is often there are movies where the side cast steals the show because they are the most fun while the central character is the straight guy. But we made a movie around a goofball and everybody else are the straight characters. He is the one who steals the show. When Po is on screen you will love him.”
“He has got so much enthusiasm and is basically wishing for something that is bigger than him,” says Yuh. “Something he is not able to achieve and yet he perseveres. That’s why we root for him because we’ve been there. Everyone has been there where there is something you wish you could do but don’t have the means to do it and yet you keep on going. You have to root for that.”
The pair have been with Po for a long time. Yuh was head of story and the action sequence supervisor on Kung Fu Panda before taking over the reins for the second film. Carloni worked on the first film as animation supervisor and story artist on part two.
Their almost 10-year journey with Po has been shared with Jack Black, who was the model for the character.
“He’s very unique in that he’s so funny but underneath the funny he’s got so much heart,” says Yuh of Black.
“He’s not somebody you laugh at, you laugh with him. You root for him and that is very rare. Usually you have these more jaded guys that are funny and you laugh at them when they fall on their face. But you feel bad for this guy when he falls on his face. I think that just leaks out of his performance.”
In “Kung Fu Panda 3,” Po (voice of Jack Black), the Warrior of Black-and-White, continues his “legendary adventures of awesomeness” when his long-lost panda father suddenly reappears. The movie reunites the stars from the first two films, Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman, and ups the marquee value with the addition of Bryan Cranston as Po’s dad and J.K. Simmons as Kai, a supernatural bull villain but will it deliver the same kind of Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique fun of the first two?
A quick catch-up: Over the course of two films dating back to 2008, a clumsy, giant panda named Po became an improbable hero, dumpling eating champion and kung fu master. Raised by a noodle-making goose named Mr. Ping (James Hong), he becomes the leader of the Furious Five—Angelina Jolie Pitt as Tigress, Jackie Chan as Monkey, Seth Rogen as Mantis, Lucy Liu as Viper and David Cross as Crane—a celebrated band of warriors with prodigious fighting skills.
The new film sees Po reunited with his biological father Li Shan (Cranston) who takes his son back to the Panda Village so the youngster can learn about himself and become a Chi master. Meanwhile Kai (Simmons) has returned to the mortal world after a five hundred year absence with an army of Jade Warriors. He’s been collecting the Chi—the life force—of China’s masters and only needs two more for a complete set, the ancient tortoise Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) and his protégée, who happens to be Po.
The “Kung Fu Panda” movies don’t look like anything else. State of the art 3D computer animation brings the characters to life, but the gorgeous hand drawn animation in the action sequences is uncommonly sumptuous and gives the movie real character. High tech and traditional art collide to create a beautiful backdrop for the slapstick of Po and company.
Simmons and Cranston are welcome additions to the cast, bringing distinctive voices and humour to their characters.
The visuals are captivating but the star here, the reason to return for a third time to the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise, is Po. He’s a classic character, an underdog (underbear?) unsure of his abilities, going up against great challenges. He’s lovable, aspirational and audiences like to laugh with him, rather than at him. He is us… only in panda form and he—along with Jack Black’s voice work—is worth the price of admission.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” is the rare sequel that holds up to the original. It’s respectful to the story but more importantly it’s respectful to the audiences who have grown to love these characters.
A new movie based on the book “The Finest Hours: The True Story Behind the US Coast Guard’s Most Daring Rescue,” is the kind of thriller that tries to get the audience excited by constantly reminding them that what we’re seeing is impossible.
“There’s no way they can get over that sandbar!” “This [insert hopeless situation] is a hopeless situation!” “We’ll never make it back to shore!”
Of course in this tale of greatest generation gumption most everything is going to work out well and that lack of any real stakes sucks much of the tension out of “The Finest Hours.”
Set in 1952 against the backdrop of a brutal New England nor’easter, the action begins when an oil tanker is ripped in half, stranding thirty soldiers in a floating coffin. As it fills with water their chances of survival reduce by the minute. On board engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) makes desperate attempts to stay afloat, hoping against hope that someone will brave the vicious 70-foot waves to rescue them.
Luckily for them a four-man Coast Guard crew led by Boatswains Mate First Class Bernie Webber (Chris Pine along with Ben Foster, John Magaro and Kyle Gallner) in a small motor lifeboat CG 36500 are willing to brave the waves and bring the men back home.
The bulk of the film takes place on the water—imagine the H2O budget!—but while the men are battling the elements their families—most notably Bernie’s fiancée Miriam (Holliday Granger)—anxiously await the return of their loved ones from the grip of the storm.
“The Finest Hours” is a big, handsome movie with stern jawed heroes and plucky dames. It’s a story about the men who go to sea in ships, weather bombs and Hollywood heroism. It’s also a tad dull. Director Craig Gillespie doesn’t skimp on the action—there are waves a plenty—and the men are thrown into one precarious situation after the next but beyond the most cursory character work it never feels like a great deal of thought was put into the people populating the screen. Pine turns Bernie into a shy, insecure man who finds his heroic side but the charisma the actor usually brings to his roles is missing. The other actors hand in competent performances but the characters are so underwritten it feels as if they stumbled out of Central Casting before Gillespie shanghaied them for this film.
With few compelling characters the movie drifts along, hoping to reel you in with big, splashy (literally) visuals, but it’s all for naught. Filling the screen with action might entertain the eye but if you don’t care about the characters, how can you care about the action?
“The Finest Hours” has its heart in the right place but is sunk by earnestness and mannered presentation.
The movies are full of stories about people who travel to distance themselves from tragedy. There’s nothing like a good trip abroad to take your mind off your problems. In “JeruZalem,” the first Israeli teen supernatural thriller, American girls Sarah (Yael Grobglas) and Rachel (Danielle Jadelyn) head to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to help Sarah get over her brother’s death. If the scenery and the history don’t do the trick, perhaps the open gate to hell and subsequent zombie apocalypse will.
“Hell has three gates: One in the desert, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem.” Not exactly the stuff Sarah and Rachel read about in the tourist brochures. It’s actually an ominous quote from the Talmud that not-so-subtly foretells what is to come. Before all hell breaks loose—literally—the girls meet Kevin (Yon Tumarkin) an archaeologist they playfully nickname Indiana. Almost as soon as they touch down he has a bad feeling about the place but it’s Yom Kippur, the city is shut down and they can’t leave.
“Everything will be fine,” says Sarah to a frenzied Kevin. “We’ll go to Tel Aviv tomorrow night.”
“There’s not going top be a tomorrow night!” he pants. “Something bad is happening here!”
People don’t take his rantings seriously—“This happens here all the time,” they’re told—until it becomes apparent that Judgment Day has come and the dead are walking the streets.
Sibling director the Paz Brothers (Doron and Yoav Paz) take their time setting up the action. “JeruZalem” begins with the dark vision of archival footage of a failed exorcism but then allows us forty-five minutes to get to know the characters. Frankly, there isn’t much to know and the pre-apocalypse scenes drag somewhat.
The Pazi try to keep thing interesting by shooting the entire film in Sarah’s point of view. Just before the trip her father gives her Google Glasses, which, of course she never takes off—except during a brief sex scene—because they’re not just for show, they’re her prescription eyewear. So everything is bumpy-jumpy which is quite exciting when giant winged gargoyles are plaguing them, less so when they are sitting by the pool.
Shot on location in and amongst the monuments of Jerusalem’s Old City the film has gothic production value to spare, some good creature design, some humour—“Sounds like a plan,” says a soldier. “A stupid one, but a plan.”—and the odd jump scare, but with the exception of a rock ‘n roll final shot, the low-budget herky-jerky found footage technique is even less cool than the clunky Google Glasses used to film it.