Blackfish

tiko and shark

Much of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is more of the same from Ron Burgundy and the gang. As the lead character, Will Ferrell does the news, does some ladies and has a few meltdowns. Brick says idiotic things, Champ says inappropriate things and Brian Fantana has a special cabinet alluding to his assumed sexual prowess. Oh, and Veronica Corningstone is back and mad at Ron again. There is even another cameo-filled brawl. But there are a few things added in that we didn’t see in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, like Ferrell wrestling with a shark that calls to mind scenes with a cougar and a bear in Talladega Nights and Semi-Pro, respectively. The sequel reminded me of some other movies besides those in the filmography of its star. Sometimes this was the intention of the filmmakers via a direct reference. Other times it was just the usual wandering of my brain making relevant associations. Occasionally the reminders came externally from another writer’s comparison. Regardless of where this week’s list of recommendations came from, I’ve wound up with a nice variety of titles about broadcast journalism and keeping sharks as pets plus selections highlighting some of the cast’s other work worth checking out. Queue them up for your holiday week, why don’t you. As always, the following may involve SPOILERS as some of the titles below are linked to specific plot points of the movie.

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shamu

It’s not too hard to understand why people love going to killer whale shows. Killer whales are gorgeous animals, prettier than some super models, they’re bigger than Andre the Giant, and you can train them to do all sorts of jumps and flips, like Jackie Chan. They’re basically the coolest animals ever. And it isn’t hard to understand why parents like to take their kids to SeaWorld either. Have you ever seen a kid at SeaWorld? They get absolutely geeked to the gills at that place, to the point where you start to think smoke might come out of their ears. “Look! Over there! A dolphin! A penguin! Ice cream! Oh my god, a shark! A roller coaster! What’s that strange man doing behind that garbage can?” The place is so much fun for kids that family vacations to SeaWorld have become an established bit of Americana. Load the family up in the car, laugh as Shamu sprays everyone with disgusting whale tank water, buy everyone SeaWorld sun visors, and call it a day. It’s like letting a pie cool on a windowsill or getting a sunburn at a baseball game—but it’s a tradition that might become a thing of the past thanks to that anti-SeaWorld documentary you’ve been hearing so much about.

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2013review_missed (1)

The 13 movies below range from the very good to the great (while the 6.5 that follow are just mostly bad), but the one thing they all share is that they each failed to find an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you of course, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now to atone for your sins. But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 75 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault, I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid in general. These are only films that could have had a real chance of making a lot more money than they did, so while I wish more people saw the Jared Leto-led Mr. Nobody, I’m not surprised that it only made $3,600. Finally, I’m also sharing the wealth a bit by skipping movies that will be making our Best Films of the Year list next week. So here are 13 great movies that failed to catch on at the box office but should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever… and 6.5 relatively terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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extinction soup 1

With the success of both Blackfish and The Cove, don’t be surprised if the marine life issue films keep coming. They’ve actually been around for a while, as I pointed out in a post last month about the ten-year-old documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. But now they’re increasingly better quality and therefore have been garnering more attention at bigger festivals and through more prominent distributors and ultimately from larger audiences. That means greater awareness and influence, of course. The Cove even won an Oscar and now Blackfish is on the shortlist for the same award. So, what aquatic animal in need is set to follow dolphins and orcas onto the big screen? Sea lions? Manatees? Humpback whales? Well, this time it’s actually a trickier creature to get people to care about: sharks. There’s a new documentary in the works called Extinction Soup, and its focus is on the problem of a particular delicacy in Asia known literally as shark fin soup. Apparently it used to be less of an issue that sharks were killed solely for their appendages because only the wealthy afforded and enjoyed the luxury dish. However, now it’s popularly found all over China as a staple of the country’s cuisine, and so naturally the animals are becoming endangered as a result of more than 70 million sharks of various species being slaughtered every year. Because audiences are less likely to worry about creatures that aren’t so cute and cuddly as the sea mammals who do tricks at […]

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lauradekker_silhouette

We’re all aware of and used to the blockbuster knockoffs from The Asylum. Maybe you were reminded this past week by coming across their 2011 movie Almighty Thor while looking up Marvel’s own Thor: The Dark World. Well, they haven’t taken on documentaries yet, but there are comparably cheap versions of hit nonfiction films to be found around the web. We can’t call them all knockoffs or ripoffs or copycats or anything of that responsive nature, though, because most of the time they are produced earlier and are actually the ones being overshadowed by the new, better-known features. Last week I was going through the latest documentary additions to Netflix Watch Instantly, as I regularly do for my home viewing picks for our sister site Nonfics, and one title stood out to me: Wild Eyes: The Abby Sunderland Story. The synopsis told me simply that it was about a teen girl who “dares try to become the youngest person to sail around the globe solo.” That sounded awfully familiar. I’d known about the SXSW audience award winner Maidentrip, which also is about a teen girl who set out to sail around the globe solo. But I didn’t know that film’s subject’s name and thought maybe it was Sunderland. After all, how many teen girls are there who attempt such a dangerous adventure? Apparently at least two, because the girl’s name in Maidentrip, I quickly learned, is Laura Dekker.

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discs header i declare war

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. I Declare War A group of pre-teen boys (and one girl), some friends and some not, gather for a game of war in the back woods. Using sticks, a simple set of rules, and their endless imagination, the battle grows to include M-16s, grenades, bazookas, and more, but while all of those are allowed things soon take a dark turn. Jealousy and insecurity fuel one boy’s rage to the point where the war stops being a game. This Canadian import starts off like the perfect encapsulation of a day in the life of a twelve year old boy with its mix of physical activity and imagination-fueled violence. It becomes something more though as one of the boys begins to crack, and some of the kids enter a Lord of the Flies-like scenario built on fear and peer pressure. It’s a bit rough around the edges at times, particularly with some of the child actors, but it never lets go of its sense of fun. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, trailer]

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escape-bench

Yesterday a fight broke out over who is killing movie theaters. Throwing the first punch was Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who gave a keynote address at the Film Independent Forum in L.A. “I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies,” he said regarding the industry’s protest of VOD releases being day-and-date with theatrical openings. Soon after, National Association of Theatre Owners president/CEO John Fithian countered with a weak blow of: “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well.” As a former longtime employee of the movie theater industry, I can say with some certainty that the most lethal enemy of cinemas is cinemas themselves. Sure, there is a lot to say about the convenience of lazily staying home and clicking the remote on our cable box or Roku or Xbox or using our smarthphones or tablets to watch a brand new movie in our beds with no pants on. But at some point Fithian and the rest of NATO’s scapegoating curmudgeons need to realize that going to the movies isn’t necessarily about the movie on screen. It hardly has been for the better part of a century, in fact. Moviegoing is an experience. That’s what NATO should be focused on, and much of that focus will always be on pressuring its theater chain partners to maintain a better quality experience […]

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blackfishmovie

Welcome to my 6th annual list of halloween costume ideas. These are mostly original, yet also mostly unlikely suggestions. One thing a lot of them have in common is the fact that you’ll need to explain exactly what you are, even if there is some mainstream-recognized foundation. For example, if this was a list of costume ideas based on movies that haven’t come out yet, one might be “Justin Bieber as Robin in Batman vs. Superman.” The basic Robin uniform would probably be easily understood, but the fact that the colors have been changed to purple, white and black, and why you’ve got a mop top will require the clarification that it’s based on a casting rumor the singer made up. I’d like to preface this year’s list by saying that I feel the past 12 months have either been uninspiring compared to other years — and/or I haven’t seen the hip movies of 2013. And I didn’t bother with much from the last quarter (as in post-Halloween) titles from 2012, because they all just feel like they’re from a century ago. Seriously, if you see anyone dressed as Abraham Lincoln and mention Spielberg’s movie, you’re sure to get a reaction of “oh yeah, there was that movie.” Feel free to borrow any of the following ideas for your Halloween festivities, especially if you want something that’s a conversation starter. But you must send us pictures. And if you don’t like my suggesions but you come up with your own very […]

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Finding Nemo 3D

Well, I guess it’s really true that Dory the fish really does speak whale, because an insider at Pixar has revealed that the animation studio has decided to alter the ending to the script for 2015’s Finding Dory after viewing the documentary Blackfish. Blackfish focuses on the plight of orca whales kept in captivity, and skewers SeaWorld for keeping the majestic sea creatures in bathtub-like habitats. Though the overall plot line of Finding Dory, starring the voice talents of Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks, is still for the most part a mystery, early reports stated that the ending had the characters wind up at a marine park, happy as can be. Naturally, with the Blackfish controversy and the ongoing publicity battle the real-life SeaWorld is currently waging, Pixar decided to do some recon and restructure the ending so that the characters do travel to the marine park, but like any totally normal situation that would definitely happen, they have the option of leaving and going back out to the ocean if they choose. When you wish upon a star, etc. Granted, Pixar movie scripts change all the time while in production; this is nothing new. But in this case, the studio is making alterations in direct response to the documentary’s message – good for director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and writer Eli B. Despres.

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Sundance: Blackfish

Editor’s note: Our review of Blackfish originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the movie opens in limited theatrical release. If Orca taught us anything it’s that killer whales enjoy the taste of Republican lady gams. If it taught us anything else though it’s that some animals are best left alone. If we have to cage something (which we don’t) make it something small, manageable and stupid, and exclude creatures that fall outside those parameters. Animals that weigh 12,000 pounds for example… Tilikum is just such a beast, but ever since his capture off the coast of Iceland in 1983 he’s been performing (or being milked for sperm) in parks like SeaLand and Sea World. Want two more facts about Tilikum’s sad life? He’s directly linked to three human deaths. And he’s still performing at Sea World.

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Blackfish

CNN Films has released a new full-length trailer for the documentary Blackfish, the Sundance-debuting film about killer whales in captivity and their propensity for living up to their namesake. The haunting footage seems to revolve mostly around one whale, Tilikum, responsible for the very public and very horrifying death of a Sea World trainer in 2010. Are these animals truly killers, or did we make them into killers when we stuck them inside a tank and made them perform for Big Gulp-slurping crowds? That seems to be the essential question at the heart of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s unsettling documentary.

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