Ep. 20 – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Kill the Messenger, all-female Ghostbusters reboot, Marvel’s domination and the future of Spider-Man, and Joe Dirt 2 comes to Crackle.

October 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Podcast

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In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and “Kill the Messenger.” They also discussed the newly confirmed female led “Ghostbusters” reboot, the pleathora of Spider-Man rumors and the just-announced “Joe Dirt” sequel exclusively for Crackle.com.

[0:00-11:19] Intro and fast food promotion talk, for some reason.
[11:19-26:31] Ghostbusters reboot with all female cast officially confirmed.
[26:31-36:37] Marvel’s possible plans for Avengers 3 and the pleathora of Spider-Man rumors.
[36:37-44:55] Joe Dirt 2 will be produced and distributed by Crackle.com.
[44:55-1:00:06] Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
[1:00:06-1:16:03] Kill the Messenger
[1:16:03-1:25:10] Shakespeare talk, teases for next week and close.

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Miguel Arteta – Alexander and the…Very Bad Day

October 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

After directing five movies over his 17-year career, all of which could be labeled as dark comedies, filmmaker Miguel Arteta was looking for a change of pace. He found that in his first non-R-rated film “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” a PG-rated family movie adapted from a children’s book of the same name. In the film, 10-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), after having bad day and not getting the sympathy he was looking for from his family, wishes they, too, could experience what it’s like to have a day where nothing goes your way.

During an interview with Arteta, who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we talked about what specifically drew him to making a movie that is unlike anything he has ever tried before, and why he thinks a film like “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” will resonate with Latino families.

All your films in the past have had an edgier comedic tone from “Star Maps” to “Cedar Rapids.” Why did you want to try something completely different and make a family movie?

I think I’ve gotten a little happier over the years. I’ve gotten married, finally. I started to realize I didn’t appreciating my family as much as should have when I was young. The story of “Alexander” is about a kid that takes his family for granted and then realizes how lucky he is to have them. I realized I really could put my heart in this film. It was something I needed.

As a director, is it important for you to try different things like this? I mean, when you hear the word “typecast” most people just think of it as a problem for actors, but a director could just as easily fall into the same traps, right?

Yes, it’s easy for that to happen. I try to pick movies that are relevant to what’s going on with me emotionally. I think that my 20s were more turbulent, so that’s why those movies had that flavor. But I really do want to try and work in many different genres and find something personal in those genres.

So, I guess you’re saying we can expect some different things from you in the future just depending on what’s going on in your own life, yes?

I think so. To me, it’s always good to be challenged by doing something that is new to you. Really, it’s just been in the last few years where I realized that I didn’t appreciate my family and thought, “Oh my god. You’ve been such a brat, Miguel.” I really have such a good family. I am so lucky. Having that attitude is something I’ve been getting used to.

Well, I’m sure working in this industry makes it hard to balance your family and professional life. Was that part of it?

You know, I grew up in a family of four kids and I was the youngest. I think I felt misunderstood like Alexander. I left home and really didn’t look back. It took a while to realize how much my parents really did for me. They gave me an education. They were really there for me. I think I was a little too quick to leave home and not look back. Also, I don’t have kids, which is another reason I loved making this movie. I have a dog and two nieces, which is quite challenging. But I see what my friends are going through and the pandemonium it is to have a family. I grew up in a Latin family. The script really reminded me a lot of that. I wanted to get the chemistry of the family right and how it can feel so messy. I had to pay tribute to that.

Something different about you as a Latino director in comparison to others in the business has been that you don’t necessarily make movies specifically for Latino audiences or with Latino themes. Has that been a conscious decision on your part?

Not really. You know, there have been times where I’ve been able to put Latinos in roles that are not written for them. I had the chance to put the great Lupe Ontiveros in my film “Chuck and Buck.” The part was actually written for a neurotic, Jewish girl in her 20s. Lupe, at that time, was in her 50s. I had been a big fan of hers. I remember when I gave her that script, she read the character’s name, which was Beverly, and she said, “I’m in Miguel!” I love the idea of blind casting. I think that is a wonderful thing to do in this day and age, especially since it can bring Latinos to parts that are not written for Latinos. I haven’t been able to do enough of it, but I hope to do more.

Do you feel that sometimes Latino directors think they have to make Latino-themed movies just to get a chance to make something?

It used to be more so when I started in the 90s. I think we’re getting to a place where people are accepting of all sorts of ethnicities in all kinds of worlds. Right now we have a lot of Latino directors behind the camera. When I started, there were movies like “Stand and Deliver” and “American Me” and “La Bamba” that were about the Latino experience and different aspects of it. They had this theme that said, “Let me tell you what it’s like to be a Latino in the United States.” I think it was important because you hadn’t seen enough Latinos in stories. It was important to say that. I made “Star Maps” in 1997 and came out thinking, “You know, I’m going to make a movie that doesn’t necessarily have a positive theme, but I think it’s time to start moving forward and show people that Latinos don’t have to be just one thing.” I wasn’t trying to say Latino families have a monopoly on dysfunction. Everyone has it. But I wanted to show what a dysfunctional Latino family looked like. The reaction to that film was interesting. If I put “Star Maps” out today, nobody would make any comments about it.

Do you think your new film would’ve been different if the main character was named Alejandro and we were watching a Latino family going through this horrible day?

Well, I think a movie like that would make a lot of money because Latinos are a big part of the United States. But, you know, when I read the script it did remind me a lot of growing up in Puerto Rico. Even though this was an American family, I thought it would resonate with Latinos because it’s a somewhat large family – four kids, two parents. It’s something I thought Latinos might understand. Also, I think the idea of appreciating family is more important in the Latino community than it is in the American community.

Even though the family is American, you were still able to cast a couple of Latinos in one role. I saw the last name of the twins that play the baby is Vargas.

Yeah, the twins’ father is Latino. I also cast Bella Thorne (she plays Celia, the oldest son’s girlfriend), who is half-Latino. The twins (Elise and Zoey Vargas) were baby girls and they played one baby boy. They were adorable. I cast the girls even though we were looking for a boy because there was just something so undeniably present about them. Other filmmakers thought so, too. They were also the stars of the movie “Neighbors.” There’s something radiant in their eyes. I won’t be surprised if they end up in more movies.

Of course, small incidents like stubbing your toe or spilling juice on the floor can make for a bad day. Are you the kind of person that let’s those things affect the rest of your day or do you brush them off?

I tend to be a pessimist in real life and an optimist when I’m directing. I’m definitely the person that thinks destiny is pointing its finger at me and saying, “Nothing is going to go right for you today!” That’s one thing I’ve had trouble with in my life – seeing the glass half full. But my work has really helped because as a director you have to give good energy no matter what bad things happen on a film set. You have to give energy to your actors. It’s sort of a parental role I play as a director. It’s been very healthy for me.

In this film, you got the chance to work with Steve Carrell during a very interesting point in his career. He has a lot of Oscar buzz on him right now for his dramatic turn in “Foxcatcher,” which comes out later this year. You’ve worked with comedians in the past who can jump back and forth from comedy to drama like John C. Reilly and Steve Buscemi. Do you think that is an easy thing do to? What does it say about those individuals?

It’s rare that someone can do what Steve Carrell is doing. It’s very difficult for someone to make a swing like that. I’m attracted to people who can do comedy as if they were in a drama. Steve Carrell does that and helped everyone on the set [of “Alexander”] understand that. He said to me and the rest of the cast, “I never think that I’m in a comedy.” He loves the kind of comedy where he has no idea he’s in a comedy. There is no winking at the camera whatsoever. That is my favorite kind of comedy. That is why I love actors like him and John C. Reilly.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible…Very Bad Day

October 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould
Directed by: Miguel Arteta (“Cedar Rapids”)
Written by: Ron Lieber (debut)

Stretching short books meant for children to feature-length films has always been an exercise in deciding what would make for adequate filler between hitting the beats of the original short story. Few have pulled it off successfully; think 2012’s adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” a movie over-stuffed with meaningless fluff that ends up contradicting the original story’s anti-consumerist message. That film is rendered into some strange monster concocted just to sell cotton candy pancakes and leave everyone confused.

The filmmakers behind the new film version of author Judith Viorst’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” have the same hurdle to overcome—the book is only 32 pages long—but, unlike their peers, they mostly pull it off. Refocusing the story (in the book we’re centered solely on Alexander) to feature the rest of his family (namely parents Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner) makes this kids’ movie more enjoyable for adults in the crowd than most movies featuring a computer-generated kangaroo kicking a man in the face typically do.

On the day before his 12th birthday, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) experiences the worst day of his life. He wakes up with gum in his hair, spills a bowl of cereal, and opens up his computer to find a more-popular classmate is having his birthday party the same night as his, assuring that no one will be there, including Alexander’s best friend and the girl he has a crush on. When the rest of his family–wrapped up in their own concerns like a job interview, a book release, a part in a school play, and prom with their shallow, bitchy girlfriend—seem to offer Alexander no sympathy, he makes a birthday wish that they all know how it feels to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Needless to say, the wish comes true, and the next day finds the family suffering calamities like pimples, being set on fire, and a misprint in a book that leads to national treasure Dick Van Dyke telling a group of children to take a dump in the swimming pool.

With fun performances from Carell and Garner, “Alexander” manages to avoid the usual pitfalls these movies aimed at 10-year-old boys seem to suffer from: being unwatchable to anyone over 10. Strangely, though, Alexander is basically a supporting character in his own movie, watching as the chaos unfolds around him. While usually films aimed at kids overstay their welcome, this one feels oddly truncated. At barely an hour and 15 minutes long, the movie doesn’t give the story enough room to breathe at times, wrapping up in a party that somehow comes together with little effort from the frazzled family. Yeah, like I said, there’s a damn CGI kangaroo that lays out Carell in the third act, but don’t hold that against “Alexander.”