In Defense of ‘Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium’

September 25th, 2013 by Paul Martin

Mr. Magorium's Wonder EmporiumI’m not ashamed to say that Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of my favorite movies.  Running a website called “Walden Fans,” you might think I’m biased because I’m a fan of the company.  You’d be wrong.  I haven’t loved, or even liked, everything that they’ve released.  Far from it.  In fact, there are some films they’ve created that I’ve not even seen for myself, like How to Eat Fried Worms.

That said, there’s currently a lot of news since a character on a show called Breaking Bad ends up in a cabin which only has two DVDs, and both are copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.  Zach Helm, the writer/director of Magorium said that it’s two more copies than he allows in his own home.  I can understand that, as making a movie, you spend more time with the movie than most people ever do.  He literally spent a year watching the movie a few times a day, every day.  That’d be too much for even the greatest movie ever made.

However, the movie is not… I repeat… is not as bad as people are making it out to be.  It’s a fantastic movie about life and death, change, acceptance, dreams, letting go, and learning who you are and how to reach outside of yourself.  It’s got more depth than most summer movies and more heart than Cars 2. It also has real character development, for every major character in the film, including the store itself.

As Grail Quest Books points out in the comments, it’s also layers-deep on ‘vocation.’  That is quite true.  It features characters that are seeking out their vocations, who know characters that know their own vocations, and know who they are quite well, and those paradigms playing off of each other.


Let’s take a look at the character of Mr. Magorium, as played so every well by Dustin Hoffman.  This is a man that knows every bit of who he is.  He is comfortable being just the man that he is because he has been for quite a long time.  He’s very fond of being childlike, and playing games, and hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid.  When Magorium talks to the kids in his toy store, he talks to them like kids.  Not down to them, but at their level, and by doing so, gives them respect and earns their respect.  And that respect translates to the advice that he gives to the kids, making it sink in more.  When he tells the lead boy, Henry, at one point in the movie, that he should try to make some friends, it is the respect that Magorium has earned from Henry that makes the advice mean that much more to Henry.

And there is another side to Magorium.  He’s read and understands Shakespeare.  When he talks to other adults, he treats them as adults.  Again, he doesn’t patronize.  He talks to them with the same respect and dignity that is due to every person we talk to.  When he gives Mahoney advice about living, it is a wonderful moment between two adults about life and death, living and dying, in the midst of a children’s movie, that is both wonderfully complex and simple in the same moment.

So give Magorium a chance.  You may just be surprised.

Any questions?  Also, give your feedback, and I’ll likely add to the story.

‘The Giver’ gets a Release Date

September 25th, 2013 by Paul Martin

The GiverThe Weinstein Co. and Walden Media have scheduled Phillip Noyce‘s sci-fi epic The Giver on August 15, 2014.

Based on the dystopian YA novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver stars Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites as members of society in which there is no conflict, racism or sickness. TWC and Walden are partners on the film.

Thwaites plays a young boy who is selected for his life service as the Receiver of Memories and works with The Giver (Bridges), an old man who teaches the boy to use his unique gifts of the senses. Streep will play the society’s Chief Elder, an authoritative and antagonistic woman who assigns the young their tasks.

The Giver, with a budget of around $25 million, is being produced by Nikki Silver of Tonik Productions along with Neil Koenigsberg and Bridges. Vadim Perelman wrote the adapted script.


Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailAnschutz Film Group is restructuring its film and television activities — notably “Narnia” production company Walden Media — and will now focus on projects submitted by a third partner, the company said Thursday.

The shakeup will also impact Walden’s sister company Bristol Bay Productions, which produced “Ray.”

The company said it will continue to focus on finding “uplifting” and “inspiring” projects that are family oriented, much as it traditionally has done with projects like “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Holes.”

The company said its decision will not impact upcoming co-productions like “The Giver,” a Jeff Bridges film it is making with the Weinstein Co., and two Walden Family Theater television movies, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” and “Dear Dumb Diary.”

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The Watsons go to BirminghamHallmark Channel and Walden Media Partner with Cable in the Classroom To Offer Educators a New Framework for Teaching Students About The Civil Rights Movement

“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” is Part of “Walmart and P&G Present Walden Family Theater,” A New Series of Family Movies Presented by Walmart, P&G, Walden Media and ARC Entertainment; Skai Jackson, Wood Harris, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Pauletta Washington, Bryce Clyde Jenkins and Harrison Knight also star.

Upon the 50th anniversary of pivotal events in the Civil Rights movement, Hallmark Channel is proud to present “The Watsons Go To Birmingham,” a Hallmark Channel Original Movie World Premiere on Friday, September 20 (8p.m. ET/PT, 7C). The film, which is an adaptation of Christopher Paul Curtis’ 1996 Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor Award winning book The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963, follows an all American family on their road trip from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and their historic summer experiences give them a newfound courage to stand up for what is right and helps them grow stronger as a family in the process.

Tony(R) Award winner and Grammy(R) Award nominee Anika Noni Rose (“The Good Wife,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Princess and the Frog”) stars along with three-time Tony(R) Award nominee and Grammy(R) Award nominee David Alan Grier (“Porgy and Bess,” “PEEPLES,” “In Living Color”), Skai Jackson (“Jessie”), Wood Harris (“The Wire,” “Remember The Titans”), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“The Fighting Temptations”), Pauletta Washington (“Beloved”), Bryce Clyde Jenkins (“Easy A,” “Have A Little Faith”) and Harrison Knight (“We the Party”).

The film will be part of Hallmark Channel’s exciting new Friday night appointment viewing franchise, “Walden Family Theater,” presented in collaboration with Walmart, Procter & Gamble, award-winning family entertainment producer Walden Media (“The Chronicles Of Narnia,” “Bridge To Terabithia,” “Holes”) and fast-growing independent studio ARC Entertainment. “Walden Family Theater” is designed to further fill the void on TV for quality family entertainment.

Set in the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit family made up of Daniel and Wilona Watson, (Harris and Rose) and their three kids, 15 year-old juvenile delinquent Byron (Knight), nerdy 11 year-old Kenny (Jenkins) and eight year-old adorable sister Joetta (Jackson). When Byron’s antics go over the top, his parents realize enough is enough and they decide the family needs a dose of Grandma Sands (Richardson Jackson) no nonsense approach in Birmingham, Alabama.

So the Watsons load up the 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber outfitted with a true tone Ultra-Glide turntable and head South with plenty of comedy en route. When they finally make it to Birmingham, they meet Grandma Sands and her friend, Mr. Robert (Grier), who show them around town and the Watsons discover that life is very different there than in Flint – and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron’s antics; something that will change their lives and country forever.

Also developed by Walden Media, in partnership with Hallmark Channel and Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers and designed for students grades 4-12, “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” Cable in the Classroom Teacher Guide offers parents and educators a turnkey lesson plan, streaming video resources and archival photographs, giving fresh context to the stark injustices and boiling tensions that incited the Civil Rights Movement. Using the themes and messages explored in the movie as a narrative backdrop, the Guide is based on the Zaner-Bloser Voices Curriculum and was written in collaboration with Professor Robert Selman of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “The Watsons Go To Birmingham Teacher Guide,” which will be free of charge on a dedicated Hallmark Channel microsite and the Walden Media website, integrates social-emotional learning, literacy, writing and character education designed to reinforce critical thinking and deep comprehension skills; support the goals of Common Core State Standards; and encourage active student participation. Cable in the Classroom will promote the teacher resources as part of “Back to School” offerings.

“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” is presented by ARC Entertainment, Walden Media, Walmart and Procter & Gamble and is a ToniK Production. Louis J. Grieci III, Ben Simon, Janet M. Morrison, Aaron Tucker, Jim Bechtold, Trevor Drinkwater, Brad Liebow and Brian Wells serve as executive producers and Philip Kleinbart, Nikki Silver and Tonya Lewis Lee serve as producers. Based on the book, The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Random House Children’s Books, the teleplay is by Tonya Lewis Lee and Stephen Glantz & Caliope Brattlestreet and is directed by Kenny Leon.

Brenton ThwaitesAustralian actor Brenton Thwaites (“Maleficent”) has beat out several of his fellow rising stars for the young male lead opposite Jeff Bridges in the Weinstein Company and Walden Media’s adaptation of “The Giver,” TheWrap has learned.

Based on the bestselling book by Lois Lowry, “The Giver” is a largely introspective fantasy tale set in a colorless dystopian society that enforces Sameness and fears freedom. All memory of human history has been erased, emotion does not exist and citizens’ professions are chosen for them.

Thwaites has been chosen to play Jonas, the community’s Receiver of Memories who spends his days being mentored by the Giver (Bridges), who teaches him to confront and understand the lies that inform society. As Jonas comes to grips with living an unsheltered existence, he begins to acquire a taste for freedom and honesty, becoming an outcast in the process.

Thwaites’ competition for the coveted role included Nick Robinson (“The Kings of Summer”), Tye Sheridan (“Mud”) and Dylan Minnette (“Prisoners”).

Philip Noyce is directing the adaptation of Lowry’s celebrated 1993 children’s book. The movie has been a passion project for Bridges, who is producing with Nikki Silver of Tonik Productions, as well as TWC’s Harvey Weinstein, Dylan Sellers and Julie Rappaport. Production could begin as early as this fall in South Africa.

The GiverWe’ve been waiting for this movie for a very long time, and there was a short time that we thought the movie had been passed on by Walden Media.  Turns out, we were wrong, and we’re happy to be, as Walden is definitely moving ahead, and soon.

Among the hottest open roles in Hollywood right now is the young male lead in the Weinstein Co. and Walden Media’s “The Giver,” the long-gestating adaptation of Lois Lowry’s acclaimed novel that will star Jeff Bridges as the title character.

Over the weekend, rising stars Nick Robinson (left), Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Dylan Minnette and Brenton Thwaites were asked to test with Jeff Bridges for the role of Jonas, the young protagonist who was 12 years old in the book but will likely be aged up for the movie, according to individuals familiar with the project.

Miles Heizer (“Parenthood”) and Dylan Sprayberry (young Clark Kent in “Man of Steel”) earned callbacks from a prior casting session and read again for the coveted role on Saturday.

Long attached to play the title role, Bridges bought the rights to “The Giver” two decades ago, originally envisioning it as a vehicle for his father Lloyd. Bridges was introduced to the book, which has sold more than 10 million copies and won the 1994 Newbery Medal, by his daughter, who was reading it in high school.

Vadim Perelman (“House of Sand and Fog”) penned the most recent draft of the script and had been eyed to direct back in 2006 when Walden Media (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) and 20th Century Fox nearly greenlit the movie before deciding against taking the risk.

Times have changed and studios are now high on branded properties including “The Giver,” which also offers franchise potential. Lowry wrote two loosely-related companion novels, “Gathering Blue” and “Messenger,” while a fourth novel, “Son,” ties all three storylines together in an epic conclusion.

With casting under way, director Phillip Noyce, whose last movie “Salt” grossed $300 million worldwide, is one step closer to bringing “The Giver” to life. Production could begin as early as this fall in South Africa.

-via The Wrap

Joel and Ethan CoenLast year, Angelina Jolie signed to direct Unbroken for Universal and Walden Media.  Now the Coen brothers have been tapped to rewrite Unbroken, the adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book — which has been trying to mount a Louis Zamperini story in some form or fashion for decades.

After Jolie signed in December, she spent weeks searching for the right writers for the job, and wanted only top-flight talent.  William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese worked on previous drafts pre-Jolie.

Louis Zamperini was a Los Angeles high school track star who raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1943, his Air Force plane crashed in the Pacific. He survived without food and water for 47 days, enduring shark attacks, aerial attacks and hunger before washing ashore on a Japanese island behind enemy lines, where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years and tortured by his captors.

Jolie is producing with Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff. Walden Media will co-finance.

Among the top screenwriters in town, the Coens have been nominated five times for Academy Awards in the writing category, winning for No Country for Old Men and Fargo. The brothers usually direct and produce what they write, but they take on assignments in rare cases.


Walden Family Theater is coming to Hallmark Channel

February 25th, 2013 by Paul Martin

Walden Family TheaterA few months ago, I learned that Walden Media was hoping to bring back the family movie night.  The goal is to do something similar to the Disney’s old family movie of the week.   It’s finally been announced as Hallmark Channel is launching a new family TV-movie series.

This will be in partnership with Walmart, Proctor & Gamble, Walden Media and Arc Entertainment, the cable network will unveil Walden Family Theater as a destination for family-friendly films.

According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, there will be six new films airing on Fridays throughout the year, in addition to a slew of favorites from Hallmark Channel’s library. Walmart will sell DVDs of the new movies the Tuesday after they air.

Walden Family Theater will debut March 15 with the world premiere of the Walden/Arc-produced film Return to Nim’s Island starring Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. Walmart will sell the DVD on March 19. (The film is scheduled to hit movie theaters April 4 in Australia.)

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Return to Nim's IslandWe got an e-mail this week from Walden Media confirming details of the release of Return to Nim’s Island.

The sequel to 2008’s Nim’s Island will air on March 15, on the Hallmark Channel.

It will be broadcast at 6pm, with a repeat broadcast immediately following at 8pm.

It will then be released on DVD on March 19th in Walmart stores.

The sequel stars Bindi Irwin as Nim, alongside Toby Wallace, Matthew Lillard and John Waters.

Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie is in talks to direct the World War II drama Unbroken for Universal Pictures and Walden Media.

The film is an adaptation of the 2010 book by Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit: An American Legend) and tells the story of Olympic athlete and Air Force officer Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash during World War II and clung to life on a raft for 47 days. He was captured by the Japanese and served hard time in a POW camp.

Hillenbrand’s book spent 108 on the New York Times best-seller list, including 14 weeks at No. 1.

“I read Laura Hillenbrand’s brilliant book, and I was so moved by Louie Zamperini’s heroic story, I immediately began to fight for the opportunity to make this film,” Jolie said in a statement.  “Louie is a true hero and a man of immense humanity, faith and courage. I am deeply honored to have the chance to tell his inspiring story.”

The news was announced by Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley and Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick.

“In her life and in her work, Angelina has embraced stories and causes involving great struggle and triumph over tremendous odds and the basic human condition,” said Fogelson and Langley in a joint statement. “She has a real ability to illustrate the strength in human spirit which will be essential in telling Lou’s story of survival and great heroism.”