Real-life champs star in hip-hop movie ‘Born to Dance’

Born to Dance is a movie about Auckland teenagers with dreams of hip-hop dance stardom, and its shot through with dance sequences that tell the story of their desires in vivid, explosive fashion.

Director Tammy Davis, making his feature debut, says he was drawn to the script of Born to Dance because of the way it showed “young Maori and Pacific Island kids aspiring to be the best they can be”. Yet he freely admits that he didn’t know how much dance talent was in his home town, ready to take on the world.

Much of this energy comes from a dynamic young dancer-choreographer, Parris Goebel, whose credits include choreography for Janet Jackson, Cirque du Soleil and Nicki Minaj, and the development of her own ferocious dance style that she calls Polyswagg. Her talents are most recently shown in a wonderful video that she created and danced in, alongside female members of her Royal Family crew, for Justin Bieber’s Sorry. It has had more than 63 million YouTube views.

“When I first met Parris and the kids,” Davis says, “they were just amazing, and they blew me off my feet. I had no idea they even existed.” Goebel choreographed the film, and also makes an appearance leading a terrific face-off dance sequence in a club.

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Born to Dance stars Tia Maipi as Tu, dreaming of a career as a dancer, who hopes that his crew, 2PK, can make its way to the national championships. He’s also drawn to the possibilities offered by K-Crew, world champion dancers who are auditioning for new members.

His loyalties are torn. He continues to practice with his friends, yet in secret he’s taking part in the long-drawn-out auditions, and he’s attracted to Sasha (Kherington Payne) a K-Crew member who’s the girlfriend of its overbearing leader, Kane (Jordan Vaha’akolo). With all this and more, going on, something’s got to give.

The casting process for Born to Dance involved not only finding the best dancers, Davis says, but also finding people who were a good fit, dramatically, for a range of roles. To play Tu, Davis says, “We needed someone who had self-belief”. Yet he didn’t want this to be too prominent. “Tia was only 17 turning 18 when he shot the film, he was very shy. And I liked that about him, it was like he hadn’t fully realised his potential, which was so similar to the plotline of the film. So I tried to harness that, and not push him too far from what he really is.”

Working on a movie, Davis says, “I always find my relationship to the script, because that’s really important. For me, it was Tu, I’ve been that kid before, I was Tu and I still am, making this film was a dream of mine.”

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When Davis was Tu’s age, he says, he hadn’t found out what he wanted to do. “I had left school and was working on a farm, driving tractors. Then I went up the mountain putting chains on cars and snowboarding every day.” He’d had contact with the film world, however, through a family connection, his half-brother, Julian Arahanga, who played Nig in Once Were Warriors, and Apoc in The Matrix.

He went to drama school at 19, but still hadn’t really thought about acting. “My brother had friends who were gaffers and grips and I thought I’d go that way, but then I started performing on stage and I thought, oh, this is cool too.”

Davis’ film roles include Whale Rider and Black Sheep, and he’s been in a host of New Zealand TV series, most notably in the long-running Outrageous Fortune. Right now, he’s focusing on working behind the camera.

“I’ve written five one-hour dramas I’m pitching at the moment that I want to make, and then I’ve got another feature, based on Ebony Society, a short film I made.” Ebony Society, which was selected for Sundance and Berlin, is a disarming tale of two boys who find more than they bargained for when they take part in a house break-in over Christmas. There’s talk of a second Born to Dance film, he says, but his own projects are his priority right now.

“Born to Dance” opens this May 2016 in Philippine cinemas as released and distributed by Captive Cinema.

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Olympics’ triumphant underdog soars in ‘Eddie the Eagle’

Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, recently seen in an impressive lead performance in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” team up in the upcoming highly-inspirational true-to-life comedy in “Eddie The Eagle.”

Inspired by true events, “Eddie The Eagle” is a feel-good story about an underdog with a never say die attitude, Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Egerton), an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself – even as an entire nation was counting him out. With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach (played by Hugh Jackman), Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

Eddie’s story is inspirational. Although he was never athletically gifted, from an early age he dedicated his life to achieving one goal: to become an Olympian. Eddie tried his hand at various sports and disciplines, before settling on downhill skiing. Having narrowly failed to make the British team at the Winter Olympics in 1984, he recalibrated and switched to ski jumping.

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Edwards’ exploits were solitary. Largely shunned by the ski jumping community, he would either train himself or go through a string of short-lived coaches. For the film however, Vaughn and Fletcher wanted to create a character to join Eddie through every step of his journey. “We needed someone we can relate to, a participant we can imagine ourselves to be,” says Fletcher. “Our attitude towards Eddie would be that he’s mad, but we’re won over by his inspirational enthusiasm and approach.”

It actually took almost thirty years. One night, towards the end of 2014, Matthew Vaughn – director of “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “X-Men: First Class” – sat down to watch a film with his children. The film was “Cool Runnings,” the comedy about a Jamaican bobsled team that defied all the odds to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. “My kids were loving the film,” says Vaughn, “and I started thinking, ‘Why does nobody make movies like this anymore?’ I wanted to make a movie that you could watch and just come out feeling inspired. And I wanted to do a film I could show my kids!”

Perhaps spurred on by the remarkable coincidence that the Jamaican bobsledders and Eddie Edwards competed at the same Olympics, Vaughn turned his thoughts towards The Eagle. Fifteen years or so earlier, Vaughn and his then directing partner, Guy Ritchie, had been sent an Eddie The Eagle screenplay with a view to turning it into a movie. That deal hadn’t worked out, but something about it resonated with him. “I thought it was charming, and worth making. Loads of people had bought it since, but nothing had happened,” Vaughn explains. “I tracked down the script, said I wanted to buy it, and three months later we were filming.”

It now seems almost impossible for someone to replicate Eddie’s achievements. As detailed in the film, the standards required to qualify for the ski jump were almost immediately increased by the International Olympic Committee. Eddie never qualified for the event again, although he was selected as a torchbearer for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Yet the film was devised by Fletcher and Vaughn as a testament to the unshakeable faith that Edwards possessed. “He’s a hero,” says Vaughn. “Eddie literally risked his life with every jump. He was being bloody brave. The word ‘no’ is not in my vocabulary, and it wasn’t in his, either. That’s for sure. I admired Eddie.”

“Eddie The Eagle” opens April 6, 2016 in theatres nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

Po becomes teacher of Furious Five in ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

The student is now a teacher in “Kung Fu Panda 3” where Po (voiced by Jack Black), the dragon warrior had been tasked by their master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to take on the responsibility of further training the Furious Five. As Po faces the insurmountable challenge of training his idols, the “best of the best” Kung Fu warriors in all of China – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Mantis (Seth Rogen), he then meets his biological father Li Chan who made his way to the Valley of Peace looking for his long lost son.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” brings Po in full circle as he continues his evolution as a hero, leaving his comfort zone to become a teacher and finally become the Panda he was meant to be – bringing together his biological family and his kung fu family to become a master of the past and the future.

As Po attempts to instruct his idols – Tigress, Monkey, Viper, Crane and Mantis – in the finer points of kung fu, chaos reigns in the Training Hall, a place of discipline, honor and sacred practice. “The Five have become positive and optimistic about their friend Po, but they have serious doubts about his abilities as a teacher. And for good reason!” says Lucy Lui.

According to Jack Black, who once again voices the iconic role, that scene points to the fact that “Po is no Shifu, let’s be honest. He’s freaking out and doesn’t think he’s up to these new responsibilities, which are weighing him down even more than the countless dumplings he consumes.”

It is Shifu who first recognized and channeled Po’s passion for kung fu, and, now, once again pushing Po to the next level, insists he become a teacher. “Shifu knows Po must face the challenge of becoming a teacher, but he also knows it’s not going to be easy,” says producer Melissa Cobb.

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Short of stature and, sometimes, of patience, Shifu is a fun and complex character. Oscar® winner Dustin Hoffman returns to voice the role, to which he brings four decades of experience as one of the world’s great actors, as well as world-class comedy chops.

Unlike Shifu, the Furious Five have serious doubts about Po’s ability to teach kung fu. These protectors of the Valley of Peace take their art form very seriously and have always had the best-of-the-best instructor – Shifu – keep a weather eye on them. Now, they have to take instruction…from Po?

The victims of Po’s instruction are Monkey (voiced by the legendary Jackie Chan), whose mischievous and playful nature masks a cunning martial arts ability; Crane (David Cross), the pragmatist of the group; Mantis (Seth Rogen), the smallest and most temperamental of the Five; Viper (Lucy Liu), the team’s “mother hen”; and Tigress, the strongest and boldest of the Furious Five.

Po’s cluelessness as a teacher reminds us of the character we met and fell and love with in KUNG FU PANDA. Po has no bigger fans than the filmmakers who have brought him to life. Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who’s been with Po from the very beginning of his journey, notes: “The trait I love most about Po is his boundless enthusiasm. It’s a pleasure to spend time with Po, because he’s just so passionate about everything.”

“The fact that he discovers what makes him special and uses that to become the best he can be, is also something we can all identify with,” Yuh Nelson continues. “Everybody wants to learn what makes them unique and to use that information to become a better person. I think that’s great for kids and adults to hear – and it’s important for us, the filmmakers, because we certainly don’t fit into any kind of mold!”

“Kung Fu Panda’s” theme of being the best you, you can be, clearly resonates with Jolie Pitt. “It’s telling us we don’t need to emulate others; we should focus on who you are and your personal growth,” she explains. “That’s relatable to everyone. We’re always trying to find our best selves and our center.”

“Kung Fu Panda 3” opens March 9, 2016 in cinemas (2D, 3D and IMAX 3D) nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

‘Miracle from Heaven’ book now an inspiring family film

Based on the non-fiction book by Christy Beam, Columbia Pictures’ faith-affirming drama “Miracles from Heaven” brings to the screen the incredible true story of the Beam family. The film is directed by Patricia Riggen, from a screenplay by Randy Brown, and stars Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson and Queen Latifah.

When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution.

After Anna has a freak accident and falls three stories, a miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.

Knowing her daughter’s miraculous healing was too significant to keep to herself, Christy Beam decided to put Anna’s amazing story into a book. She compiled all the notes and journal entries she had written during her daughter’s recovery to help her recall important facts. The result was Miracles From Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing.

In the following interview, Christy Beam spoke about her book, her daughter’s courage, and how it has affected her family for the better.

Q: Did you believe in miracles before Anna fell from the tree and was cured?

Christy Beam: I did. I did believe in miracles. You always feel like that is something amazing and wonderful that can happen to someone else, not necessarily something that would happen to me. I believed it and I knew they happened and I knew people in our church who had experienced amazing miracles in their lives but I hadn’t necessarily thought about it applying to my life.

Q: Does she still surprise you with new details about her experience in Heaven?

Beam: Yes. I just remember sitting there and all I could say was, “Really?” All was just a silence, I was shocked. The way that she shared it so matter-of-fact. That was it, that was all she had to share at that time. Then later she would trickle in little bits of information and it would be at the most random times. It was almost when her heart was ready to share, on her terms. It was usually when I wasn’t expecting it. I had to redirect my thinking and think, “What in the world is she saying? That is amazing.”

Q: How does Anna feel about all the media attention?

Beam: She is such a humble child. She has such a sweet heart. Her desire truly is for others to gain hope and faith from her story. She just feels that God blessed her. She truly believes and says, “God blessed me with this story and I feel like I need to use my story to encourage and give others hope.” Her biggest thing she says is, even though she’s 12, she says “I want people to understand that you have to have faith and you can’t ever give up. You have to keep praying. Just because you pray today for God to take your headache away or make your stomach stop hurting, it doesn’t mean that He’s going to answer that prayer today or tomorrow, but it doesn’t mean that He’s not. We don’t ever know and that’s why you have to keep praying and have hope and be faithful.” Her biggest funny thing, the only thing she really says that is media-related, “I sure hope I meet Selena Gomez one day.”

Q: How do you feel about her story being made into film? How does Anna feel about it?

Beam: I am excited. It’s a little weird to wrap my brain around someone trying to portray all that we went through and all that I endured and to give that over and say, “Okay this is my life, this is what we did,” and trust them to do it justice. That’s a little scary, but I know that these people are amazing people. I feel strongly they’re going to do it quite well. I’m not concerned that the portrayal will not be accurate. Anna again, she thinks it’s wonderful and she hopes it changes lives, bring people closer to Christ.

Q: How has your family’s relationship with God changed since Anna’s fall and miraculous recovery?

Beam: There was just this dramatic reality who God was. But we have always been strong believers and being faithful to our relationship in Christ and how faithful Christ is to us. We were pretty fervent to begin with before it all started. But, my biggest “aha!” moment was really how I looked back and I could count the moments of faithfulness when He was faithful to us. It really challenged my heart. “How are you responding to faithfulness in Christ? Can you count the ways your faithful every day to Him?” That’s really challenged me to make those active acts of faithfulness. As opposed to just saying, “I’m praying and being faithful,” where are you physically moving forward in your life and being faithful?

Opening across the Philippines in March 16, 2016, “Miracles from Heaven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.