Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some rude humor
Profanity: Schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic peril and violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 19, 2017
Date Released to DVD: August 7, 2017

Copyright 2017 20th Century Fox
Copyright 2017 20th Century Fox
Ah, the family car trip. Often excruciating, frequently tedious, always unforgettable. For this third in the “Wimpy Kid” movie series, based on the wildly popular books by Jeff Kinney, the story moves from the schoolyard to the highway as Greg and the Heffley family leave home for his great-grandmother’s birthday party. The kid actors from the first movie have grown up. Remember, one of the characters was played by Chloe Grace Moretz, recently in “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.” And if that doesn’t make you feel old, consider this: the entire cast has been replaced, with “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone now playing the mom. Tom Everett Scott takes over the dad role from his “That Thing You Do” co-star Steve Zahn.

The Wimpy Kid stories are funny and reassuring for kids and tweens because they can laugh at and with Greg Heffley (now played by Jason Drucker) as he careens from one excruciatingly disgusting encounter to another, many involving human and animal bodily functions and the products thereof. “I like my family and all,” Greg explains, “I’m just not sure we were meant to live together.”

Greg has a dim older brother named Roderick (Charlie Wright), who mistakes the motel safe for a microwave, subjects Greg to an endless stream of demeaning comments, and explains his secret: “I spent years lowering Mom’s and Dad’s expectations.” He has a toddler younger brother who becomes a rage monster without the pacifier Dad has left behind because what better time to wean him than the road trip? Eventually, they will be joined by another passenger, a baby pig, won by the toddler at a county fair.

Along the way, the family encounters filthy motels, a rude bully Greg terms “Beardo,” and the worst horror of all — a Mom-demanded relinquishment of all devices. “This is an unplugged road trip,” she smiles at the boys. “The only connecting we’re going to do is with each other.” She even forces them to listen to dreadful music like — wait for it — the Spice Girls. And Greg has a secret goal. Trying to overcome public humiliation that has gone viral (“Now I’m a meme!”), he is determined to meet and create a video with his gaming idol at a Comic-Con-style gathering just “two inches on the map” from the party.

The kids in the audience, mostly fans of the book series, enjoyed it very much, but adults are likely to find it a very long haul indeed.

Parents should know that this film includes slapstick comic peril and violence (no one hurt), bodily function humor, and some schoolyard language.

Family discussion: Why do the worst parts of the trip make the family feel closer together? What was your favorite road trip with the family and why?

If you like this, try: the other “Wimpy Kid” movies and the books and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

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Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Family Issues Series/Sequel Stories About Kids

Interview: Barry Watson on “Date My Dad”

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 9:06 am

It was a lot of fun to talk to actor Barry Watson about his new television series, “Date My Dad,” a one-hour dramedy on the UP channel about a widower with three daughters — and a mother-in-law played by Raquel Welch! The show is something of a real-life family affair, as Watson’s wife, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and his father-in-law, Robert Wagner (“Hart to Hart,” “It Takes a Thief”) have guest-starred on the series, which premieres June 2, 2017.

Tell me about the character you play.

Well my character is Ricky Cooper, and Ricky is a widower with three daughters. We start the show off on Ricky’s fortieth birthday where it’s been three and a half years since his wife Isabella passed away and his daughters have decided to get him out in the dating world again because he’s sort of been in a groove just kind of focused on raising his girls. And on top of that his mother-in-law who has been helping out, who’s played by Raquel Welch, decided that she’s moving out of the house so, Ricky thinks his life is just turned upside down. It is obviously a challenge for him that can be messy at times and it is a challenge for me as well as an actor because I’ve got three kids myself and I’ve gone through a period of time where I was a single father so I can bring some of that to the role as well.

I think having a daughter really prepared me in a different way to play the father of three daughters because I don’t think that I would be able to bring the depth that I brought to the character without having my daughter come into this world. Ricky’s a very simple guy, he doesn’t really put a lot of effort into I think what his wardrobe is, he wears a lot of flannels, a lot of jeans, a lot of boots and that become a storyline with his daughters because they’re always telling me I wear dad jeans and I tuck my shirt in too much and it should be untucked and all that. It’s like my real life. My daughter is only five, but she tells me when she thinks my clothes aren’t right.

Ricky is not just a dad in a family of girls but he comes from kind of a macho environment. He was a professional athlete.

This guy was a professional baseball player so he went from city to city and hung out with his ballplayer friends and his teammates, but the one thing that he did have in his life was his love of his wife Isabella who he had been with since high school. So it wasn’t like he was out playing the field like you know you hear all these baseball players in sports athletes do. I think Ricky is a pretty dedicated guy to his wife and his three daughters.

So, basically, he has not dated for more than 20 years.

Yes, in over 20 years, his whole adult life he was with one person and so he doesn’t even know what that dating world is like or even how to do it. So, he needs the help of his daughters, his mother-in-law, and his work-family. They are there to kind of push him along and kind of get him out of this groove he has been in.

But it’s not a sitcom, right?

This is a single camera one hour dramedy. It’s not a drama, but I think most comedy comes from dramatic situations, just like in real life. My nine-year-old son said a few years ago, “I just wish that there is something that you could work on that I could watch.” In households nowadays if they have two TVs, one TV has some sort of Nickelodeon or Disney thing on and the parents are watching some procedural show that’s basically the same show that is on the other networks and nobody is really sharing that time together and I think it’s great that this show came about because it really has a little bit of everything for everybody.

What was it like to work with your famous father-in-law, Robert Wagner?

He’s my father-in-law now so I’ve known him for quite a while and so we have a relationship that’s obviously our personal relationship but it was just great to kind of see how he goes about his work and to share the screen time with him. He’s a pro, and there is no drama with him. He prepares for his work and he shows up on time and he is a true professional. And it was just on honor to be able to work with him.

What kind of role does he have?

He plays a possible love interest for Raquel Welch’s character. So, if we end up getting a season two then hopefully he’ll get to come and do more episodes.

And what kind of role did Natasha play?

Natasha plays this character, Page, who is kind of the first woman that Ricky’s taken any sort of interest in since Isabella passed away. I mean he has had some dates before but it’s always like the dates set up by his brother, Bill or somebody from the gym or his daughters or his mother-in-law and so it was kind of the first woman he’s really taken more serious interest in I think.

Ricky must have some challenges both in dating and in raising his daughters when it comes to technology.

We do, we touch on that quite a bit. We actually have really nice episode that deals with cyber bullying, which is something I obviously worry about in my own life with my own kids happening at some point. They’re too young now but eventually they are going to be into that whole social media world. So it was nice to be able to deal with that topic. That’s what’s so great about the show, being able to tackle these different issues that are happening with kids nowadays. I can relate to some of it because bullying is with every generation but now it’s done in such a different way.

And we did have an episode where Ricky tries an online dating service. But not every episode is going to have Ricky on a date. It’s called “Date My Dad” so obviously Ricky would be going on many dates hopefully to try to find the right one at some point but so far what we’ve tackled in the first season was basically about a handful of dates and most of them were set up by relatives or work friends or his mother-in-law, Rosa. Everybody thinks they know, just like real life, but hopefully Ricky won’t find that person for many, many seasons.

What kind of personality does Raquel Welch’s character have?

The Rosa character really pops off the pages. She’s such a memorable character. Raquel Welch was the first person that we went to. She hasn’t had a role like this that she could actually sink her teeth into and show everybody what she can do. So she was very, very excited to get the offer for it. And obviously, it all worked out.

What was your first paid job as an actor?

I had just moved out to LA, I was very young, I can’t remember what year it was but it was a recurring role on “Days Of Our Lives.” I played Randy, a bad boy with a leather jacket. Yes, you’re shooting one episode in one day, so I learned a lot because I got to see how the regulars on that show would go about their process. Some of them had their stuff memorized and knew everything and some of them would use cue cards. So, I got to see who I wanted to be as an actor.

Working with kids is always a challenge for an actor. How did you make your young co-stars feel like a family?

That’s always like the key to any show. You can have a great written show but if you don’t have chemistry with the cast then it doesn’t really matter. And so I was there during the whole casting process with the girls and I actually thought it was going to be a lot harder than it was. Audrey who plays Gigi, the youngest one, her character is a little bit of a brainiac and I’ll never forget Audrey coming in with a blazer on and these glasses and she didn’t even say any lines. She said, “Hi everybody, how are you doing? These are my new transition lenses.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s Gigi.” None of them have really worked that much and so I just tried to take them underneath my wing and try to guide them in the right direction when it comes to how to be a professional and do your job and then when it comes to kind of chemistry, you know that is something I think that’s kind of built throughout the season. The pilot is great. We definitely have chemistry there. But as the series goes on a chemistry develops within that so I think by the end we were such a fine-tuned machine. I love those girls. I hope I get the chance to keep working with them more.

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Actors Interview Television

Bond Villains at the Spy Museum

Posted on May 16, 2017 at 11:05 pm

I had a lot of fun visiting the Spy Museum to see their fabulous exhibit about the villains in the series of James Bond films based on the books by Ian Fleming. Aptly titled “Exquisitely Evil,” the exhibit includes props and costumes and fascinating behind-the-scenes details about the films and the culture they reflected and influenced over half a century.

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Trailer: Battle of the Sexes — Emma Stone and Steve Carell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs

Posted on May 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in “Battle of the Sexes,” the true story of the famous 1972 tennis match between women’s champion Billie Jean King and middle-ranked, middle-aged men’s player Bobby Riggs, who bragged that even someone at his level could beat any woman. Riggs, a publicity-savvy showman, had already beat Margaret Court and ramped up the intensity of his challenge with sexist comments, at the height of the Equal Rights Amendment era of the women’s movement. The movie is directed by “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Ilya Tovbis on the Washington Jewish Film Festival 2017

Posted on May 15, 2017 at 3:07 pm

It was great to catch up with Ilya Tovbis to hear about this year’s Washington Jewish Film Festival. I will be hosting “A Classy Broad” and interviewing its subject, trailblazing Hollywood executive Marcia Nasatir and filmmaker Anne Goursaud following the film. The schedule includes a screening of “Clueless” with writer/director Amy Heckerling, and a 45th anniversary screening of “Cabaret.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxTI7Yg-D5Y

Once again, Tovbis found a theme emerging from the films selected, despite the wide variety of genres and countries of origin. “I think the most timely theme that we have identified, very much reflecting the current political moment both nationally and also globally is our Mechanism of Extremism series which is looking at extremism and governments and societies from 1899 through to today. We have also continued a theme from last year which we actually intend to make an annual one, our Rated LGBTQ series. And then lastly on a much lighter side we found a whole lot of comedies of various sorts so we have bundled them together in a series called Laugh Track.

Special guests this year include two Visionary Award winners that Tovbis says he is “thrilled about, Barry Levinson, who based films like “Diner” and “Liberty Heights” on his own experiences. “The other winner is Agnieszka Holland who was Oscar-nominated twice, most recently with ‘In Darkness.’ We’ll be doing a repertory screening of her rarely shown 1985 film ‘Angry Harvest.'”

The films will be of interest to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. “I think we view ourselves first and foremost as a cultural artistic festival that has a Jewish interest. These films will appeal to a large audience that’s interested in great independent cinema. We do outreach to a whole host of organizations including arts organizations, nonprofits, issue driven organizations, different constituencies. As you dive deeper into the films you have this range of 136 events, with something for everyone. We have as always a lot of films on minority and Arab citizens of Israel and then we have some fun partnerships. We’re working with the local version of Comic Con, Awesome Con for our sci-fi films.

Tovbis has scheduled question and answer sessions following many of the films, with the filmmakers or with local experts. “We have a great partnership this year with the US Holocaust Museum and so many of the Holocaust films feature incredible experts from their museum which range from music historians and cultural historians and others dealing with issues of euthanasia and Romany treatment during the Holocaust.”

Many of the films are being shown for the first time in the US or in the area, and some of the older films are rare or recently restored. “And we hope that being in the festival will get distribution for some of the films that are not scheduled for theatrical release,” Tovbis said.

Another highlight is an evening celebrating Yiddish culture across artistic media. “We are starting out with ‘A Letter To Mother,’ which is a fabulous and also a really timely Polish film. It was filmed shortly before the Blitzkrieg and was the highest in this film in the American theaters a couple of weeks after the Blitzkrieg and it was the highest grossing Yiddish film in American theaters when it was released a couple of weeks after the Blitzkrieg. It is a really interesting historical document. The film itself, while it was shot then, takes place shortly before World War I and talks a lot about Jewish displacement for economic reasons from Europe to America and there’s a lot of relevance to the current refugee crisis.” The film will be followed by a live performance of Yiddish songs from a Dutch band called Nikitov.

Tovbis says, “I think one film that could fly under the radar is ‘People That Are Not Me,’ which is filmed by an Israeli woman named Hadas Ben Aroya who is really the entire force behind the film.” He compares it to critically acclaimed independent films like “Frances Ha” and Lena Dunham’s “Girls.” “It is very current, part of a new Israeli cinema of a kind don’t think I’ve seen come out of that country before, very sexually forward feminist, sort of wears its beliefs on its sleeve. It is not apologetic, it’s not tidy, it has this kind of really interesting take on modern romance or lack thereof or trying to find meaning for someone in their 20s or 30s but is very innovative in the way it’s shot. So I’m really excited about her as a new voice.”

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