The past summer has been very tough on comedies, with a number of films failing at the box office after premiering to strong buzz. In a summer where only a handful of major releases truly broke the bank, it’s sign of how the movie landscape has shifted.

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The Art of Self-Defense Interview

During the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, /Film had the opportunity to sit down with writer/director Riley Stearns and cast members Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, and Alessandro Nivola to discuss the upcoming Bleecker Street release, The Art of Self-Defense.

Given that this funny dark comedy is set in the world of martial arts dojo gyms, it only made sense that the press junket would be held at a dojo gym in Austin. As such, the rules were strict, including no shoes on the mat. Since the film itself is obsessed with the rules and idiosyncrasies of the karate world, it was only appropriate. 

Bleecker Street will open The Art of Self-Defense on July 12, 2019.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Hollywood needs to get better about transgender representation.)

When the 2019 GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index was released in May 2019, the most disappointing news was that not a single major studio film featured a transgender actor.

While it’s true that there was transgender representation in mid-major releases, the same could not be said of the studios.  The report examines the output of the following studios: 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers, and four of their subsidiaries.  Additional distributors include A24, Annapurna Pictures, Bleecker Street, FilmRise, Gunpowder & Sky, IFC Films, Magnolia Pictures, The Orchard, Orion Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Strand Releasing, and Wolfe Releasing.

While it’s admirable to mention those films from the smaller distributors, their releases just don’t have the reach as the mainstream studio films.  Strangely enough, the blurbs on Annapurna nor Bleecker Street mention the casting of transgender actors in The Sisters Brothers and Colette, respectively.  GLAAD rightly takes Colette to task for the casting of a cisgender woman as a transgender man let alone not using the preferred name.

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Wild Rose Interview

Following last fall’s world premiere at Toronto, Wild Rose made its US premiere this March during SXSW.  The US premiere came on the heels of actress Jessie Buckley being among the five finalists for the BAFTA Rising Star Award.  While she did not win, that’s a name you need to remember.

I sat down to chat with Buckley and director Tom Harper during SXSW to talk about their movie. Now, several months later, Wild Rose has hit theaters. Enjoy our conversation about making this gem of a movie how country music has gotten so popular in Scotland.

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Booksmart Cast and Crew Interview

Booksmart is the film about female friendship for a new generation.  What sets this film apart from Bridesmaids is that rather than focus on women in their 30s, the film chooses to focus on a pair of women on the eve of graduating high school.

I spoke with a number of cast and crew on the red carpet before the world premiere of SXSW.  During the post-premiere Q&A and even during an event at the Twitter House earlier that day, director Olivia Wilde spoke about those films that she looked to for influence.  Not surprisingly, two of the films mentioned were Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless.  Both of these films are set in high school and were directed by Amy Heckerling.  The influences weren’t just limited to high school comedies but also buddy cop films in the comedy and drama genres, such as Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, and Training Day.

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When I first watched Booksmart during its world premiere at SXSW, I fell in love with this high school comedy in an instant. When we talk about the films that we wished we had while growing up, this is one of them. It feels like an instant classic. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are both phenomenal in the film and I couldn’t stop laughing at every ridiculous and wonderful joke.

Booksmart screenwriter Katie Silberman (she shares screenplay credit with Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Susanna Fogel) spoke with /Film over the phone this week to discuss the writing process as well as favorite high school comedies. Before the world premiere, I chatted with Katie Silberman on the red carpet. Some of that conversation has been edited into the transcript of our phone conversation.

Annapurna opens Booksmart in theaters on May 24, 2019.

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apollo 11 trailer

During the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, I sat down with Apollo 11 director Todd Douglas Miller and space historian Robert Pearlman.

This is a film that I fell in love with from the moment that I saw it during the world premiere at the Ray during Sundance.  While I regret that I was unable to see the film on an IMAX screen, Apollo 11 is one of those films that you must experience on the biggest screen you can find. It’s not often that a documentary crosses over into the editing category during awards ceremonies, Apollo 11 is one of those films that I hope people strongly consider for Best Editing.

Here’s my interview with Miller and Pearlman, where we dig into how this massive undertaking came together.

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star wars resistance elijah wood

Fans attending the Star Wars: Resistance panel at Star Wars Celebration were the first to get a sneak peak at the first episode of the second season.

Executive producers Justin Ridge, Athena Portillo, and Brandon Auman were joined by cast members Christopher Sean, Suzie McGrath, Scott Lawrence, Myrna Velasco, Donald Faison, and Bobby Moynihan. The early portion of the panel was devoted to the roots of the series, the look, and the timeline.

During the panel, cast members shared some thoughts on their character,s but also what it means to be a part of the Star Wars universe. With SNL alumni Bobby Moynihan being in the cast, it also meant a reference or two to Drunk Uncle.

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Creator/executive producer Dave Filoni joined Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, and Tiya Sircar to discuss Star Wars Rebels during Star Wars Celebration. Naturally, major spoilers were discussed.

When Star Wars Rebels ended in March 2018, Ezra Bridger and Grand Admiral Thrawn vanished without a trace.  While fans have speculated as to what might have happened, Filoni was tight-lipped during Saturday afternoon’s panel.  While there was less dancing around other elements of the conclusion, what happened to Ezra is unlikely to be answered anytime soon, nor did we get any major announcement of a new animated series that picks up where Star Wars Rebels left off.

Filoni did however announce that The Art of Star Wars Rebels would be available this October. Here’s what else we learned.

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Star Wars The Clone Wars Season 7 Trailer

Fans attending Star Wars Celebration got a sneak peak of the new season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars with showrunner Dave Filoni and the cast on hand to share details.

While the announcement of the new season took place at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, the fans in attendance at Star Wars Celebration were the first to see clips and a trailer of the new season. In addition to the introduction, the trailer especially had the audience standing on their feet. It was so popular that it was shown twice on screen.  It’s very electrifying, to say the least.

Initially, Dave Filoni was joined by cast members Ashley Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, and Sam Witwer to discuss the new season. Later on, other cast members came out on the stage, including Matt Lanter, Catherine Taber, Tom Kane, Matthew Wood, and James Arnold Taylor.

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