North Country
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8 items from 2015

Jeff Skoll Aims to Fix Participant’s ‘Broken’ Parts

31 March 2015 10:00 AM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Jeff Skoll had been working frenetically with epidemiologists, NGOs and diplomats for weeks last fall. The experts were racing to contain the wildfire spread of Ebola, only to have their benefactor, the California billionaire and media mogul, suddenly suffer his own collapse. An intestinal wrecking ball sent Skoll reeling. His fever spiked to 105, knocking him flat on his back. “I just had to close my eyes for eight days,” he recalls, “and hang on.”

Skoll, already slight in build, lost 10 pounds to what doctors diagnosed as yellow fever, perhaps contracted from Ebola caregivers. For the introspective Canadian, facing his own mortality on the brink of his 50th birthday, the medical crisis seemed to be a sign: The time had come to reassess his 10-year-old entertainment company, Participant Media, to ensure its sustainability for the long haul.

“This was part of my wake-up call,” Skoll says of his debilitating illness. “At Participant, »

- James Rainey

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'McFarland, USA' Director Niki Caro on Her Return to Hollywood (Exclusive)

20 February 2015 2:30 AM, PST | Moviefone | See recent Moviefone news »

Niki Caro is one of the more fascinating filmmakers working today. The New Zealand native made a splash, both literally and figuratively, with her breakout feature "Whale Rider," a tender fairy tale laced with subtext about female empowerment and the cultural subjugation of women the world over. She followed it up with a brassy Hollywood debut, with the "Norma Rae"-esque "North Country" (starring Charlize Theron), before returning to New Zealand to direct another small film.

Now she's back, with the tremendous "McFarland, USA," a Disney based-on-a-true-story sports movie starring Kevin Costner as Jim White, a coach who, in the late '80s, led a group of inexperienced Latino kids to become champion cross-country runners. It's a typical Disney sports movie -- full of grit and hardwork and determination, but with a wonderful cultural specificity and gorgeous (35 mm!) photography.

We sat down with Caro (who, it should be noted, was »

- Drew Taylor

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McFarland, USA – The Review

19 February 2015 8:44 PM, PST | | See recent news »

There was a time no too long away that the Disney company was only known for animation. But after enormous success in that arena, Uncle Walt decided he needed to branch out into live action. After dipping his toe in the water with “true-life” nature shorts, he jumped all in with several features produced and filmed in Europe. Then he went all out with 1954’s smash 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Now, as with his animated features, these films usually played to family audiences. Walt  had something of a studio staple of stars with the likes of Fred MacMurray, Hayley Mills, and Kurt Russell , He even had the top grossing film of 1968, The Love Bug. Really. After Walt passed on, the new studio heads in the 1980’s decided to branch out into more adult subject matter for new features. But these would not go out under the Disney name and so »

- Jim Batts

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McFarland, USA | Review

19 February 2015 1:00 PM, PST | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

Personal Best: Caro Returns to Studio Filmmaking with Feel-Good Adaptation

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from New Zealand director Niki Caro, who made headlines with her 2002 sophomore film, Whale Rider, before making her Hollywood debut with 2005’s North Country. After the dismal reception of her 2009 effort, A Heavenly Vintage (aka The Vinter’s Luck), she’s helmed, of all things, a Disney film, McFarland, USA. Kevin Costner, once the penultimate star of mainstream, sports themed cinema, finds himself as the figure responsible for fostering athletic careers, moving from Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day to late 1980’s cross-country coach here. Caro’s film is the second ‘based on a true story’ minority flavored studio flick this year, following Sean McNamara’s Spare Parts, which also relates the travails of a group of Hispanic students overcoming odds to succeed in an organized school events. Beat by methodical beat, »

- Nicholas Bell

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'McFarland, USA' (2015) Movie Review

19 February 2015 9:40 AM, PST | Rope of Silicon | See recent Rope Of Silicon news »

I cannot believe it has taken this long for Kevin Costner to combine two of his cinematic passions into one movie. The first is obvious: the sports film. Costner has a slate of sports films people hold in very high regard. Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, whether you like them or not, are entering "classic" territory. The other passion may not be a easily recognizable, but Costner is quite interested in race and culture relations. From his (undeserving) Best Picture winner Dances with Wolves to this year's mediocrely reviewed Black or White, Costner really wants to let people know he can coexist with people who aren't just white. So, McFarland, USA brings those two worlds together, and the result is about as cliched as you could possibly imagine. But is that really a surprisec This particular sports film comes to us courtesy of the mighty House of Mouse. They »

- Mike Shutt

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McFarland, USA Movie Review

18 February 2015 1:20 PM, PST | ShockYa | See recent ShockYa news »

Title: McFarland, USA Director: Niki Caro (‘Whale Rider,’ ‘North Country’) Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Carlos Pratts and Morgan Saylor Parents can often endure heartbreaking economic, social and emotional struggles in their determined attempts to provide a better and more fulfilling life for their children. While they take whatever means necessary to take care of their children, parents at times may not realize that the next generation wishes to achieve its own goals. But their eventual powerful understanding that their children have to follow their own path to attain their dreams is grippingly emphasized in director Niki Caro’s new sports drama, ‘McFarland, USA,’ which is set to open in theaters  [ Read More ]

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- Karen Benardello

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Film Review: ‘McFarland, USA’

4 February 2015 9:00 AM, PST | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

The stirring true story of how a scrappy Latino high-school running team beat the odds is treated as a Kevin Costner vehicle first and foremost in “McFarland, USA,” a cross-cultural cross-country drama that feels descended from a long line of minority-underdog movies like “The Blind Side,” “Stand and Deliver,” “Pride” and the Oscar-winning documentary “Undefeated.” Predictable and predictably rousing, this inspirational sports pic earns points for its big-hearted portrait of life in an impoverished California farming town, the likes of which we too rarely see on American screens. But with its overriding emphasis on how Coach Costner fits into that world, this fifth feature from director Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “North Country”) never sheds its outsider perspective, ultimately emerging a well-intentioned mix of compassion and condescension. Even if the family-friendly Disney release commands a more diverse audience than most, it remains to be seen how much long-term box-office endurance it can muster. »

- Justin Chang

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Make Time For Gloom Rockers, The Twilight Sad

4 January 2015 8:42 AM, PST | Monsters and Critics | See recent Monsters and Critics news »

Scotland knows how to do sad right; their storied history is one of many tragic turns of fate and crisis of identity. A vote for independence this past year failed to win, and the mossy high and lowlands are to remain a part of the greater United Kingdom, but the question remains, are they Scottish or can we also call them British? But what do I know, I’m just an American with a Scottish last name, insert whatever Irvine Welsh reference here.What I do know is that a lot of incredible music has come from the North Country, and not Del […] »

- Kieran MacIntyre

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