BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: RESURGENCE NO RESURRECTION

DON’T EXPECT AN INDEPENDENCE DAY 3 AFTER RESURGENCE’S DISMAL OPENING WEEKEND

Any plans 20th Century Fox had for an Independence Day movie trilogy are probably getting put on ice as studio number crunchers perform a post mortem on what can only be described as a depressing opening weekend for Independence Day Resurgence.

The long awaited sequel to the 1996 science fiction blockbuster Independence Day, Resurgence wasn’t only intended to be a summer tent pole release for Fox, but a renewal of the franchise as well. Resurgence (clumsily) sets up another would be blockbuster in the series, but a poor box office performance may kill any hopes for a third round between Earth and Roland Emmerich’s CGI aliens.

A two-decade wait and a year of hype should have generated a voracious audience appetite for Resurgence, especially when it opened against the little known (and also poorly performing) historical action movie Free State of Jones. Yet Resurgence, with an estimated 165 million dollar production budget, opened with just 41 million over the weekend, a distant second to Finding Dory, which came in at number one the second weekend in a row adding an extra 73 million plus domestically. Pixar’s sequel to it’s 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo has grossed over 286 million domestically since being released on Father’s Day weekend, and has topped 396 million globally. Last weekend was the twelfth weekend this year that a Disney property has been number one at the box office (and it’s only June). With titles like The BFG, Pete’s Dragon, Dr. Strange, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all scheduled for release later this year, we should get used to seeing Mickey perched at the top of the box office food chain (Disney has three billion dollar properties under it’s belt since January).

Even if Resurgence proves to have serious box office legs (a long shot considering the competition being released over the next few weeks) and it somehow manages to triple its opening numbers over the course of the summer, it will still fall well short of equaling its production budget and would need to have a ridiculous overseas performance to break even let alone post a profit big enough to justify a sequel.

Central Intelligence fell from second to third, adding an additional 18.7 million to it’s domestic total, and the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart action comedy continues to perform relatively strong despite a humble opening opposite Finding Dory. The low budget horror movie The Shallows was this weekend’s surprise, opening in fourth place and nearly recouping its entire seventeen million dollar budget (it missed by a few hundred thousand). The Free State of Jones dismal 7.7 million dollar opening was good enough for fifth.

Sequels rounded out the rest of the top ten. The Conjuring 2 continued to surprise by capturing sixth place (7.7 million), Now You See Me 2 continued to underperform in seventh (5.6 million), X-Men Apocalypse trundled along, with it’s 2.475 million narrowly edging out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows 2.4 million for eighth. Alice Through The Looking Glass finished tenth during its fifth weekend with just over 2.1 million. While The Conjuring’s latest horror chapter is exceeding expectations (inspiring Warner Bros. to green light a stand alone movie for the demonic antagonist the same way the original Conjuring launched Annabelle) the other sequels in spots seven through ten range from mild to severely disappointing.

It’s also worth noting that in just it’s third weekend, Warcraft has tumbled out of the North American top ten, though it’s incredible oversea performance means it may break-even. Still, it’s horrible domestic performance may threaten future co-operation between gaming giant Blizzard and any other movie studios.

Next weekend should prove very interesting as three sizeable titles are slated for release on a giant holiday weekend (Canada Day north of the border and July Fourth for the U.S of A) and it will be interesting to see if either The BFG or Tarzan can slow the tsunami that is Finding Dory (and how Dory and BFG, both Disney properties, share the family movie dollars). And what kind of niche can the uber-violent Purge 3 carve for itself? Will America’s polarized political climate help or harm its bottom box office line?

Shayne Kempton

 

 

NOT WORTH THE WAIT

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE FAILS TO ADAPT TO MODERN MOVIE AUDIENCES OR EXPLOIT ITS OWN NOSTALGIA VALUE

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Judd Hirsch, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sela Ward, Patrick St. Esprit, Vivica A. Fox and Brent Spiner

Rated: PG

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Running Time: 2 Hrs.

There’s been a pretty strong wave of high priced nostalgia running through Hollywood lately. Last year we got Jurassic World over two decades after the original blockbuster as well as Poltergeist and Point Break remakes. Nostalgia was behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles renewal and most likely the culprit behind the new Ghostbusters (which Sony desperately hopes to turn into a lucrative new franchise). The fond childhood memories of an entire generation were the biggest engine to pull the new Star Wars gravy train out of the station. And now we have Independence Day: Resurgence, released almost twenty years to the day that the original Independence Day conquered theatres in 1996.

Video: 20th Century Fox

Resurgence’s story picks up on the eve of the celebration commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Earth’s victory over the invading aliens. The nations of the world have since come together, uniting for the singular purpose of preparing Earth for future alien attacks (there is a strong belief, especially among the survivors of the first invasion, that the aliens will inevitably return). David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) spends his time hopping across the globe and integrating alien technology into powerful new weapons. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is also on hand for the celebrations, although the retired Commander-in-Chief now wrestles with a variety of psychological problems as a result of his telepathic connection to the aliens twenty years earlier. His daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe) meanwhile is all grown up and an aide to current President Lanford (Sela Ward).

But as the world prepares to celebrate the anniversary (which includes the opening of a new defensive base on the moon), a number of ominous events take place. People who had telepathic contact with the aliens the first time around begin experiencing troubling visions, alien prisoners who have been dormant for twenty years awake in hysterical excitement and there are troubling signs in the distant stars. Before the world can celebrate its victory, it’s plunged into a battle for survival once again, but this time the aliens are bigger, meaner and a little pissed off. Humanity finds itself relying once more on the heroes who saved it two decades ago as well as a generation of new ones.

When Independence Day captured the world’s imagination in the summer of 1996, everyone thought a sequel was inevitable. It broke new ground, not only with the sophistication of its special effects but with the sheer scale of them was well. Independence Day was also key in launching Will Smith, one of the hottest celebrities on the planet for years, into stardom. How could there not be a sequel? So when Resurgence was announced expectations were justifiably high.

Unfortunately, it misses the mark.

Make no mistake, the special effects are still great but other than the final battle scene with the alien queen, there’s not much we haven’t seen before. The first Independence Day didn’t really invest in story telling (aliens invade Earth in really big spaceships and are narrowly beaten by the courage and resourcefulness of our heroes while lots of stuff blows up in the meantime), relying on its mind-blowing special effects and the performance of its cast to carry it. But Resurgence’s story feels recycled and arguably stale (although it resolves itself with a little more intelligence then having a Mac power book bring a near omnipotent space faring civilization to its knees), failing to understand that it’s visual effects can no longer be counted on to carry the entire film.

Jeff Goldblum lacks the same kind of restrained, anxious energy that endeared him to audiences twenty years ago and he sorely misses Will Smith’s presence. He and Smith enjoyed great chemistry in the original, as Smith was the perfect balance for Goldblum’s focused neurosis. But not only is Smith and his charisma absent (a big strike against the film), but director Roland Emmerich and Resurgence’s producers fail to find anyone to pick up that slack and partner opposite Goldblum. While Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth may share a lot of screen time together, they share zero chemistry, denying Resurgence one of the biggest things Independence Day had going for it.

The movie offers little to no insight into it’s new characters, failing to give audiences reason to make any emotional investment and spoiling any attempts to generate tension. You wanted the President’s plane to escape the destruction of Washington D.C. in the original and you were rooting for the heroes to make it back from outer space. Now, you really don’t care. When you saw Independence Day for the first time, you probably had goose bumps; this time around there’s a good chance you might be bored.

Outside of the returning Goldblum, Pullman and Brent Spiner, the golden oldies are either given insultingly tiny nods of acknowledgement or ignored altogether. Vivica A. Fox is given a handful of lines before being shoved aside and while Will Smith is given a single line of dialogue and a portrait of remembrance, at least he is given some sort of acknowledgement. Other important characters from the original are completely forgotten. Randy Quaid and Margaret Colin’s characters, who played significant roles in the original, aren’t even mentioned.

Resurgence fails to understand that the audience has changed since 1996. Twenty years ago a movie could not only succeed as a result of imaginative, groundbreaking special effects, it could rule the box office. But these days, audiences want a compelling story and interesting characters to go with their visual effects. It’s obvious that Resurgence was also hoping to ride that aforementioned wave of Hollywood nostalgia, but it’s own disregard for some of it’s most important past is likely to alienate a sizeable share of its fan base. It’s as underwhelming as it is disappointing. In the end, Independence Day: Resurgence fails to adapt to the present and judging by it’s weak weekend box office, it’s going to be an expensive lesson.

Shayne Kempton

 

 

 

NORTHERN DRAFT 2016

MY FEARLESS (AND LIKELY WRONG) PREDICTIONS FOR CANADA’S NHL TEAMS AT THIS YEAR’S NHL ENTRY DRAFT

Finally, the 2016 NHL Entry Draft is here. Months of speculation and waiting are over and the new date on the NHL’s calendar for change and upheaval is upon us. I’ve made predictions who the Canadian teams would (or should draft) the past two years, to varying degrees of success (last year I went one for seven-only correctly predicting that the Edmonton Oilers would draft phenom Connor McDavid first overall-a prediction a blind man could have made). So the question is will my take on this year’s crop of new NHLers turn out any better, especially in a year when all the Canadian teams are drafting in the top twelve?

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs rebuild took a giant step forward last April when they won the Draft Lottery and kicking off Draft weekend by calling out Auston Matthews name first overall tonight will herald a new era for Leafs Nation. Don’t let their last place finish fool you; since the Leafs began their rebuild in earnest a little over a year ago, they’ve done an outstanding job collecting quality prospects and picks and Mathews will be the crown jewel in their budding collection. Matthews is a total package of size, skill and smarts and there’s a reason he’s been the consensus No. 1 pick all season. And while many feel that Finnish left winger Patrick Laine may have just as strong a case to go first overall, when all things are equal, you choose the franchise center over the winger.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have a growing wealth of young talent as well, and adding Patrick Laine to their already embarrassing riches could provide some much needed comfort to Jets fans after a disappointing 2015-16 season. Finland had a huge season in international play and Laine was a big reason why. He was an important part of their gold winning World Junior Team, their silver medal World Championship team (where he was named the best forward in the entire tournament) and he’ll be one of their top forwards at next September’s World Cup. Coming into this season, most scouts had him ranked the third highest prospect available; he’s now in a lot of conversations for the first overall pick. A super talented power forward who can play either wing, Laine has drawn a lot of comparisons to Alexander Ovechkin, arguably the greatest goal scorer of our generation. Winnipeg would do well to drape a Jets jersey on the future franchise forward’s shoulders for as long as they can.

Edmonton Oilers: Speaking of disappointing seasons . . . Despite winning the lottery of a lifetime last season by nabbing Next One Connor McDavid first overall, the 2015-16 season was one nightmare after another for the Oilers and their new team brass. Whether it was the broken collarbone that forced McDavid to miss three months (suffered just as he was heating up), any of the team’s other endless barrage of injuries or their second last place finish, nothing went the way Oilers management or fans had hoped. Drafting London Knights defenseman Olli Juolevi could prove to be a suitable painkiller for their suffering. There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding Edmonton’s pick and of all the selections owned by Canadian teams this year, the fourth overall has the highest odds of being moved. And if the Oilers elect to keep it there will be plenty of attractive options at forward left on the board. But the Oilers need D big time, and the best way to get an elite defenseman in today’s NHL is to draft and develop one. Like Laine, Juolevi was an integral part of Finland’s WJC gold medal last January and he overtook Jacob Chychrun to become the top rated blue liner on most scouting reports this year. Juolevi isn’t elite at any one particular thing, but he’s excellent at everything and he conducts himself with poise and confidence. Exactly what the Oilers blue line called for.

Vancouver Canucks: Whether they want to admit it or not, the Canucks’ window of Stanley Cup opportunity has closed shut and they are a far cry from the team that went all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2011. The fact that 2016 was the second time in the past three seasons they failed to qualify for the post season is evidence of that and that the Sedins (who have carried this team offensively for the better part of two decades) are past their prime doesn’t help. When the eventual rebuild does come, already having a few useful building blocks on defence gets you out of the gate faster (just ask Edmonton). That’s why when Canucks GM Jim Benning steps to the podium to announce who Vancouver’s selecting with the fifth overall pick, he should call Windsor Spitfires defenceman Mikhail Sergachev’s name. Big and already plenty strong, Sergachev has lots of offence in his game and can handle business in his own end. He could one day be an ideal power play quarterback to an attack featuring the likes of Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser.

Calgary Flames: Odds are slim that Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Pierre Luc Dubois will still be available when Calgary drafts sixth, but if he’s still on the board they should waste zero time making him Flames property. Dubois is big, he can score (42 goals and 99 points in 62 games) and he plays a physical, complete game. He can play all three forward positions, he loves the game and has a compete level that ends somewhere in the stratosphere (he was suspended twice last season). He would be a perfect compliment to Calgary’s other stable of young forwards (Gaudreau, Monahan and Bennett) and is the kind of player that makes Brian Burke drool like he needs a bib.

Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price’s lengthy injury exposed plenty of weaknesses in Montreal’s game last season, and since you can’t draft a new coach, they can come away from this weekend with a solution to their next biggest problem; a skilled power forward. And Windsor Spitfires centre Logan Brown is just what the doctor ordered for a diminutive Habs attack. Brown isn’t just big-at 6’6 he’s practically goliath-but he’s an accomplished playmaker as well. With an NHL pedigree (his father is defenseman Jeff Brown), Brown probably needs some seasoning before becoming a full time NHLer, but within a few years he could emerge as one of the most physically dominant pivots. Just imagine a one two punch down the middle consisting of Brown and Alexander Galchenyuk . . .

Ottawa Senators: Beyond having one of the best hockey players in the world in Erik Karlsson and a very solid Dion Phaneuf on their blue line, the Ottawa Senators are desperate for quality defensive depth. Beyond the aforementioned duo and young blue liner Cody Ceci, the Sens have little to offer on their backend and a significant injury to Karlsson would spell certain disaster for this team. Penticton blue liner Dante Fabro could be a long-term solution to that problem and should be available when the Sens draft twelfth. Considered one of the safest picks in this season’s draft and with his immediate future committed to Boston University (a school notorious for producing quality professional defensemen), Fabro has been compared to Brent Seabrook; a smart player who can help you at both ends of the ice. Now imagine Fabro tutoring beneath Karlsson in a few years (when the slick Swede is still in his prime). Worse things could happen to your blue line.

Shayne Kempton

ZOO CRITICS

If You Wanted Animated Super-Hit Zootopia To Be Complex Enough to Solve All The World’s Problems You Forgot That Its Target Audience Still Sleeps With A Light On

You may have noticed that Disney released an animated movie a little while ago and it was a wee bit of a success. In fact, said movie, titled Zootopia, kicked both box office and critical ass. How much? As of last weekend, Disney’s tale of a mega city in a world populated by sentient animals had grossed over 338 million dollars (it captured 75 million during it’s opening weekend at the beginning of March) and has passed a billion dollars worldwide, making it only the fourth animated movie in history to pass the coveted billion dollar mark (Zootopia is still playing in hundreds of theatres even though its DVD/Blu-Ray dropped two weeks ago) and last weekend it was ranked the fifteenth highest grossing movie in North America after spending months in the top ten. It’s success has helped cement Disney’s in house animation division-which has also given us the likes of Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, Big Hero 6 and the animated uber-tale Frozen over the last few years-as an equal to their Pixar brand.

Unlike previous Disney fare though, Zootopia has a fairly poignant political message built into it. The House of the Mouse used its newest animated blockbuster to tackle issues of prejudice, racism, bigotry and discrimination, wrapped in a CGI candy wrapper. It’s especially relevant considering how successful Donald Trump’s talk of border walls, mass deportations and minorities wearing ID badges is south of the border.

Long story short, in Zootopia’s world mammals forsook their predator-prey relationship and evolved beyond their biological limitations. They all came together to create a thriving civilization, the pinnacle of which is the mega city of Zootopia. But Zootopias veneer of equality and diversity is skin deep and its society is built on layer after layer of stereotypes and social barriers. Protagonist Judy Bunny is a bright-eyed idealist whose been dreaming of escaping her home town Bunny Burrows and becoming a police officer her entire life, but its a far fetched dream and everyone (parents included) keep reminding her that a bunny has never been a police officer, a job reserved for larger animals like elephants, rhinos and hunting cats (Zooptopia’s chief of police is a wildebeest voiced brilliantly by Idris Elba). Judy manages to make it with no shortage of determination and conviction (and by taking advantage of Zootopia’s “mammal inclusion program”) but she quickly runs headfirst into real life and her values are quickly put to the test.

The movie’s central narrative conceit is that, despite what the brochures tell you, Zootopia is a very regimented society. Your species determines what you can or can’t be as well as how you’re perceived by the greater whole. Institutionalized stereotypes are the foundation of Zootopia’s society, and its passive discrimination is an accepted part of day-to-day life. When Judy first stumbles upon her eventual (and reluctant) partner, streetwise fox Nick Wild, he’s being thrown out of an ice cream parlour that refuses to serve foxes. We find out later that Nick encountered that discrimination as a child and allowed it to shape the person he would become, further perpetuating Zootopia’s cycle of bigotry.

For the most part, Zootopia was lauded by critics and audiences alike. It was pretty rare to see an animated movie, by Disney or any other studio, tackle such heavy concepts and weave them so skillfully into an animated movie with a simple, straight-forward storyline. It was a brave move during a time when the United States, still home to most of the world’s movie-goers, is so polarized over issues of race and discrimination. You could tell audiences loved it from its longevity and enormous financial success the world over. And yet, there were still some critics who pointed fingers its way, accusing it of not going far enough, of not addressing more or all forms of discrimination or prejudice and of failing to be the magic bullet to cure all America’s social ills in the 21st century.

Somewhere along the way, these pundits forgot that, no matter what the movie’s message, Zootopia’s primary audience are kids who are currently fixated on summer vacation and in a few months will be trick or treating and staying up late to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus.

Much has been made of Zootopia’s use of anthropomorphized animals to deliver its message of diversity and tolerance. Even protagonist Judy is forced to confront her own prejudices, ones she never knew she had until they bubble to the surface and inflame the growing crisis in Zootopia further. Zootopia flirts with a lot of issues, all of them relating to discrimination, and it does so as cleverly as possible without being preachy or boring. It’s crafted in a way that kids can relate to, adults can appreciate and everyone can enjoy. It’s bright, shiny, funny and remarkably self aware for an animated movie. Which just doesn’t seem to be enough for some people.

It’s amazing to see how many people are taking themselves seriously when they begin talking about how Zootopoia’s metaphor breaks down when you begin to unravel it and look at it from different perspectives. Somehow, these people forgot that the target audience are kindergarteners who have zero interest in breaking down metaphors and looking at anything from a different perspective except their fruit roll ups.

At the end of the day Zootopia accomplished its first job-make Disney a lot of money and keep the stockholders happy-and if it makes a few kids a little smarter about tolerance along the way, well that’s a bonus. Looking at their bottom line, Zootopia’s enormous success (the DVD and Blu-Ray is flying off the shelves) may convince Disney to continue making socially conscious movies. Besides, if you’re pinning your hopes for an antidote to Donald Trump on a Walt Disney animated movie, your expectations of reality need a serious adjustment.

Shayne Kempton

SMART CHEMISTRY

GREAT CHEMISTRY BETWEEN IT’S LEADS MAKES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE THIS SUMMER’S BEST BUDDY MOVIE

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurper

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 1 Hr, 47 Mins

Summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one good buddy movie. Buddy movies have been around longer than super hero epics and romantic comedies for a reason-the good ones embody everything enjoyable about going to the movies between May and September while the bad ones quickly fall off the radar and are forgotten. And the best part about successful buddy flicks? It’s the chemistry between the leads that make them stand out, and Central Intelligence is that move for 2016.

In 1996, Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart) graduates at the top of his class. An award wining athlete, an honour student adored and worshipped by the entire student body whose destined to marry the most beautiful girl in school, his fairy tale life has success written all over it. The world is his oyster and everyone expects big things once The Jet escapes the confines of high school. Robbie Weirdich (Dwayne Johnson) is the polar opposite. Mercilessly bullied because of his name, looks and weight, he disappears from sight after one final, horrible humiliation during his senior year.

Twenty years later Calvin is stuck in a dead end job and disappointed with his station in life. With his graduating class reunion looming, he wrestles with a sense of failure and can’t escape the shadow his promising teenage self cast. The day before the reunion, Calvin is mysteriously contacted by Robbie, who nobody’s seen since high school. Not only does Robbie have a new name (Bob Stone), but a new body as well, transforming his flab into rock hard muscle. But despite his new body, Bob retains the emotional and social maturity of a teenage outcast and continues to idolize Calvin (Calvin was one of the few who showed Bob any kindness in high school). It also turns out that Bob is a CIA agent wanted for treason and the murder of his partner (Aaron Paul) and Calvin soon finds himself tangled up with Bob while he’s being hunted by the entire CIA, lead by the relentless, no nonsense agent Harris (Amy Ryan).

The thing that makes Central Intelligence works is the chemistry Johnson and Hart share. The contrast between their screen characters is highlighted by the drastic difference in physical size and style between the two actors. Hart’s diminutive stature and restrained yet borderline hyperactive slapstick is as far as you can get from Johnson’s imposing, primal physicality. They’re the most lopsided bookends in movie history. And yet they have a great give and take relationship on screen. Nowhere is this more obvious then the scene in the therapist’s office (if you don’t shed at least one tear crying during that scene you probably don’t have a pulse).

Hart delivers exactly what is expected of him and his performance offers no surprises (it doesn’t have to, he contributes everything he was cast for), but Johnson steals the show. Not only does the former wrestling superstar kill his action scenes and match Hart joke for joke, he sells his misfit of a character perfectly, making his vulnerability and extraordinary social awkwardness perfectly believable.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurper realizes that the relationship between his two leads is the heart beat of this movie and clears everything else out of the way. The action is so-so, the story little more the a clothesline to hang jokes and sight gags on and there’s little else to really talk about, so he keeps everything focused on his two leading men, wisely allowing them to carry the movie. And if you doubt how much Hart and Johnson successfully play off each other, make sure you stick around for the blooper real during the credits. Some of its funnier then the actual stuff that made it into the final cut.

Central Intelligence probably won’t be a big blockbuster and likely won’t find it’s way into this year’s Top Ten Grossing Mega Movies, but it’s an amusing little action comedy that sells itself on the strength of it’s two leads. And it’s a nice diversion from the billion-dollar special effects extravaganzas that have become the hallmark of the summer movie season.

Shayne Kempton

THE BEST GIFT MY FATHER EVER GAVE ME

PROOF I GOT MY GREATEST ASSET-MY IMAGINATION-FROM MY FATHER

Last Father’s Day I did the mushy thing, extolling not only my father’s extensive virtues but also the near infinite patience he demonstrated putting up with me over the course of my life. But this year I thought I’d take another route and get something that’s bothered me for a while off my chest. An annoyance that marches hand in hand with a little bit of gratitude. And what better time than Father’s Day?

I’ve never made a secret of the hyperactive imagination I had growing up and the fact that I began weaving the geek banner I proudly fly as an adult during my formative years. If a movie or TV show had the slightest thing to do with fantasy, science fiction, super heroes or horror, I was all over it. My father and I shared some of those experiences (he took me to see all the original Star Wars movies) but for the most part we were miles apart on what we considered entertaining.

While he was watching an All Creatures Great And Small marathon on PBS, I was waiting for the next episode of Star Trek. While he was waiting for the evening news, I was devouring an episode of Transformers or G.I. Joe or He-Man or whatever after school cartoon was my obsession at the moment. While he was watching Olympic diving I was plotting how to hijack the boob tube to watch Batman for the 113th time. While he was reading the newspaper, I was eyeballs deep in Stephen King or Robert Jordan or Arthur C. Clarke. And so it went. The fact that we had one TV in the house made for some interesting bargaining sessions as well as a few occasional groundings.

For the most part he put up with my nerdiness with patient, good humour. But there were times when he couldn’t hide his thinly stretched tolerance and one memory distinctly stands out from all the rest. One night, while racing towards the house after completing my nightly chores, he asked me what my big rush was. There was a TV movie I wanted to watch about a vampire who was a cop (I think it was the precursor to the Nick at Night television show). Jesus Shayne, he replied, his voice thick with irritated disapproval, why do you watch stuff like that? I can’t remember if I bothered with an answer and in all honesty I didn’t really care (I had long since given up trying to justify my tastes to either one of my parents or my teachers-it was a small town) but that memory has always bugged me. Not for any psychological reason, but because my father watched just as much weird stuff as I did, he just labeled it differently.

A TV show my father never missed was Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. It was a sequel to the seventies show Kung-Fu, it ran exclusively in syndication (that should tell you everything you need to know about its quality) and starred David Carradine as a descendant of the character he originally played in Kung-Fu (trust me, don’t ask). A few of the handy little life hacks Carradine’s monk had picked up along the way included supernatural senses, superhuman strength, a healing factor, the ability to talk to animals, the power to cure cancer through touch, communicate to the dead, ferry souls to the afterlife and I’m pretty sure in one episode he went all Marty McFly and travelled through time-without a time machine. Yet according to my father, all the stuff I watched as “unrealistic.”

When I was a kid I ate professional wrestling up like it was going out of style. Couldn’t get enough of it. The Ultimate Warrior, The Road Warriors, Sting and The Undertaker were among my personal favourites (you’ll notice a pattern) and as you probably guessed, good old Dad was never shy about his disdain for the circus that happened in the squared circle. He was always curious how I could spend so much time (if me and my small circle of friends invested just a fraction of the time we spent obsessing over wrestling on our studies we’d, probably own both Apple AND Google right now) on something that was fake (because a Shaolin monk dodging bullets while fighting demons was the height of reality). But that never stopped him from cheering on the baby faces when they were on the verge of pinning the heel or summoning me to the TV whenever it looked like two of the top names of the day were going to throw down unexpectedly. But, he’d always tell me afterward, he never really liked it.

He refused to watch The Matrix and X-Men because “they had no logic” but he loved Lost and could often be heard trying to explain confusing plot points to unconvinced family and friends every week (even after it was apparent the writers themselves had no idea what they were doing). And just like Kung-Fu, he claimed to never take it seriously because “it was just a show” (and like Kung-Fu, one he never missed). And don’t even get me started on Coronation Street (yes, you heard me right, Coronation Freaking Street).

In the end though, between both my parents I come by my geek credentials and my knack as a storyteller quite honestly. Last Mother’s Day I wrote how my mother was responsible for a good deal of what little creative talent I have, partly because of her understanding but mostly because of her quiet nurturing. And at the end of the day, despite all the differences and complaints, I have Dad to thank for my geek tastes as. We rarely agree on the same stuff, but I think I inherited the seed that would grow into my imagination from my Dad. And of all the presents he’s ever given me, that may be the best one.

Shayne Kempton

 

 

NO QUITE LOST, NOT QUITE FOUND

FINDING DORY IS A FUN THROWBACK TO AN EARLY CLASSIC, BUT LIKE OTHER SEQUELS, PIXAR’S LATEST EFFORT DOESN’T EQUAL THE ORIGINAL

Director: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Kaitlin Olson, Ed O’Neil, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Ty Burrell and Sigourney Weaver

Studio: Disney/Pixar

Rated: G

Running Time: 1 Hr, 37 Mins

Pixar’s recent habit of mining some of their older material for new releases has met with varying degrees of success. While the two Toy Story sequels were well received by both audiences and critics alike, sequels to Cars and Monsters Inc. met with lukewarm receptions. They were well liked by audiences (success that was reflected by their strong box office) but it was also widely accepted that they fell short of the original movies that inspired them. While there is a lot to like about Pixar’s newest release, Finding Dory (a sequel to the 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo), it falls into the same trap. It’s good but it also fails to grow beyond the shadow of its predecessor.

Finding Dory opens with a quick look at a painfully adorable baby Dory and her family. Dory’s parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) are dealing with her memory problems with patience and care and it’s obvious how much love and happiness the fish family shared before they were separated, most likely as a result of Dory’s inability to remember anything. Fast-forward a year after the events of Finding Nemo and Dory (Ellen Degeneres), Marvin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) have formed an informal little family on their corner of the reef. But Dory is soon haunted by memories of her parents and as the fragments of her childhood memories persist, Dory grows increasingly obsessed with finding her family. She soon sets off on a quest across the ocean to find her missing parents, a supportive Nemo and reluctant Marvin in tow.

Armed only with her companions and vague memories, Dory faces not only new dangers and an uncertain future, but self-doubt and insecurity as well. Dory soon realizes that if she wants to be reunited with her family, she has to rise above the challenges that face her and the limitations she’s always accepted. She stumbles across no shortage of forgotten friends along the way as well as plenty of new ones, and all of them turn out to be instrumental in helping Dory reach her goal.

It’s been thirteen years since we last saw Dory, Nemo and Pixar’s vibrant underwater world and you can tell that the animated juggernaut hasn’t rested on its laurels. In 2003, the quality of animation was definitely top shelf but looks a touch antiquated now. With a new coat of paint and some new tricks, Pixar continues to remind movie goers why they’re at the top of animation’s quality food chain. Dory and company continue to look fantastic today and marine landscapes really allow Pixar to stretch its creative legs. And as usual, the voice casting is a perfect compliment to the beautiful animation. Idris Elba and Dominic Cooper as a pair of lazy yet territorial sea lions are Finding Dory’s comedic stars and are this movie’s version of Nemo’s greedy sea gulls. Ed O’Neil voicing Hank, a cranky octopus who is afraid of the ocean is equally inspired and Katilin Olson as the near sighted whale shark Destiny and Ty Burrell as the hypochondriac beluga Bailey round out a great new supporting cast.

There are a lot of laughs in Finding Dory, it looks great and your kids will instantly fall in love with baby Dory during the flashbacks (expect lots of Finding Dory themed merchandise on Christmas lists in a few months). And it is well worth the price of admission (especially if you catch it in 3D), but like many of the sequels Pixar has done, it falls noticeably short of the original. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except it seems to happen with all of Pixar’s sequels with the possible exception of the Toy Story movies (and let’s be honest, the nostalgia hurt from Toy Story 3 is what makes it stand out in our emotional memory). This should probably inspire some concern considering that sequels make up nearly everything Pixar has on their scheduled slate over the next few years (Cars 3 next year, Toy Story 4 in 2018 and The Incredibles 2 in 2019, with one lone original property, Coco, scheduled for release in November of 2017). Even the pre film short Piper, while cute in its own way, feels a little less then many of the other shorts Pixar is renown for.

Now might be the best time for parent company Disney to ask what’s preventing their coveted animation brand from returning to the drawing board to pursue original ideas, especially while Pixar is raking in mad cash. As it stands now, many (myself included) would argue that Disney’s own in house animation studio, which gave us the billion dollar mega hit Zootopia a few months ago, may have passed the house that Toy Story built in terms of fresh, bold ideas (Zootopia tackled ideas of discrimination while Disney’s November scheduled Moana will be the first animated feature to concentrate on Hawaiian culture).

Regardless, Finding Dory is an entertaining spectacle for movie fans of all ages. If you can, catch in 3D to really appreciate the quality of the animation, which really lends itself to underwater environments. And you definitely want to stick around for the post credit scene. Even though it doesn’t live up to the original, its full of laughs and the story was reasonably well done. It’s the perfect summer movie for families.

Shayne Kempton