With Disney and Steve Carell around, Alexander might not have such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, after all. Deadline is reporting that Disney has picked up the long-in-the-works (since 2010, to be exact) big screen version of Judith Viorst's beloved children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
The project — which has Carell (whose kid-friendly Despicable Me earned an impressive $251.5 million at the box office) attached to play Alexander's dad —was initially supposed to be made by 20th Century Fox, but was put in turnaround in September. But their loss is Disney's game as the live-action adaption has, in addition to Carell, Shawn Levy and Dan Levine producing and Oscar-nominated scribe Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) with Rob Lieber taking on the script. There is no director attached to the movie yet. Over the years, Disney has been responsible for bringing other famous children's fiction to life, including The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Bridge To Terabithia, and 2010's Alice in Wonderland. Since the scope of Alexander's tale is much smaller than those sagas, it will be interesting to see if Disney chooses to keep the movie as simple and sweet as the classic story itself, or turn it into a spectacle. Either way, hang in there, Alexander. It looks like you are finally getting one step closer to being on the big screen. [Photo credit: DailyCeleb.com]
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Shawn Levy is in the news twice today. First, with a possible lead actor for his upcoming film Fantastic Voyage, but also regarding another one of his production company's developing properties. Variety reports that he's close to locking Oscar nominee Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) into the director's chair for the adaptation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
He's producing the family film, based on Judith Viorst's beloved children's novel, through his 20th Century Fox-based 21 Laps banner. There's already a script in place from Rob Lieber and the Henson Company will co-produce as well. For all those who missed out on childhood staples, the story follows the titular character as he and his family collectively have a record-breaking crummy day, which starts with him waking to find gum in his hair and ends with him threatening to move to Australia. Other characters that would be cast include Alex's two older brothers and parents.
If successful, this could be the start of a whole new franchise for Fox, much like it's Diary of a Wimpy Kid films. Who better to shepherd the series than the guy responsible for the Night at the Museum, (recent) Pink Panther and (recent) Cheaper By The Dozen films? My only concern: Cholodenko. She's an artist, not a hit maker. Though she explored the at-times comic tribulations that families face in her last film, I don't think this is material suited for her hi-brow sensibilities. Alexander's story could skew a bit more mature (perhaps like Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are) despite its young protagonist, but something just doesn't feel right here. More as this one develops...
Variety reports that director-producer Shawn Levy is set to develop and produce an adaptation of Judith Viorst's beloved children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" with his Fox-based 21 Laps production company. The Jim Henson Company currently holds the rights to the story but is assigning them to Fox.
The book, which I'm going to abbreviate AATHNGVBD - well, that's no better, we'll just call it "the book" - tells the story of young Alexander, whose day gets off to a bad start with some gum stuck in his hair, and just stays generally bad until he goes to sleep again. So it's really a sort of Kafka-esque tragedy, a parable for life's absurdity and senselessness. No, just kidding, in the end Alexander's mother tells him everyone has bad days, and we all learn an important lesson about sucking it up and dealing with it.
Viorst's book was adapted for HBO in 1990 as a single half-hour animated show, but has never been the subject of a feature film. No word yet on whether Levy and co. are planning a computer-animated or live action feature, but Rob Lieber is attached to write the screenplay.
Variety notes that Levy won't necessarily direct the film adaptation, but that Henson Co. brought the project to him based on his experience helming similar family-oriented features like Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen.
Charlie (Michael Douglas) has been a mess for quite a while. A jazz musician who has battled schizophrenia and manic depression for years has spent the last couple living in a mental hospital. His 16-year-old daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) has been living on her own in the family home (mom is long gone) having quit school and gone to work at McDonald’s to make ends meet. When Charlie is released and comes home the pair begins to tentatively rebuild their relationship. The good news is that Charlie is taking his meds and handling the real world reasonably well; the bad is that he’s developed an obsession with a legendary cache of Spanish gold doubloons reportedly buried near their dusty California home. When Charlie begins to convince Miranda that he really isn’t crazy--at least when it comes to the treasure--together they begin a Don Quixote-like journey that cements their fractured relationship back together. Forget Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko the ultra-smooth Wall Street guy or as dashing Jack Colton of Romancing the Stone fame. These days Douglas now 62 has said he needs a really good reason to leave his family so this role where he can play a scraggly bearded wild-eyed edge-of-nuts guy is just the ticket. Douglas gives one of his best performances ever as Charlie striking just the right balance of intellect insanity and inherent love for his no-longer-little girl. Plus the man whose on-screen persona has often been all about male vanity is anything but that in King of California. He’s a scrawny whippet of a guy rather than a hunky leading man and it’s a transformation that just may get him another Academy Award nomination. Meanwhile 20-year-old Evan Rachel Wood proves that she really is an acting force to be reckoned with giving a gently nuanced performance as a girl who has had to grow up way too soon yet still completely loves the father who has struggled to care for her as he struggles with his personal demons. First-time writer/director Mike Cahill has done a first-rate job of bringing this quirky funny and slightly poignant story to the screen. Perhaps the reason he’s been so successful is in the company he keeps. A film-school friend of Oscar-winner Alexander Payne (Sideways About Schmidt) Cahill enlisted his producing help for his film along with Payne’s Sideways partner Michael London. King of California bears Cahill’s own stamp however--a combination of terrific visuals that often make wry satiric statements deftly melded with an assortment of memorable characters and situations. Perhaps his biggest strength is in the casting of the film in his choice of the two talented actors who bring a believability and sense of real family ties to their roles. With King of California Cahill begins what looks to be a long and beautiful friendship with moviegoers who love to be transported to interesting and funny places.