in the tall grass review

Vincenzo Natali’s In The Tall Grass (available right now on Netflix) takes a scary novella and expands it into a feature that’s filled with mind-bending twists and turns. It’s a fun piece of horror filmmaking that showcase Natali’s unique sensibilities, which often involve taking the taboo and making it frighteningly plausible and viscerally affecting (read Chris Evangelista’s review from Fantastic Fest).

I had a chance to sit down with Natali to do a feature length commentary on In the Tall Grass. We discussed his philosophy towards structuring the film, the most stressful parts of shooting the film, the joy of watching Patrick Wilson’s character lose his mind on screen, and why this new world of streaming has been a boon to his career. You can listen and download the commentary (which features instructions on how to synchronize it with the film) below.
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Erin Lee Carr is one of the most prolific creators I know. In 2019 alone, she has released two documentaries and published a memoir. Her latest film, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter, hit HBO this past summer. The film chronicles the case of Michelle Carter, who made international headlines when it was revealed that she had encouraged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to commit suicide.

As usual with all of Carr’s films, I Love You, Now Die looks beyond the headlines and gets at the deeper story behind both sides of the case. I had a chance to chat with Carr recently. We spoke about how she chooses which stories to tell, what drew her to the story of I Love You, Now Die, and the essential elements of great true crime documentaries.

The below transcript excerpt has been edited for brevity and clarity. You can also listen to our full conversation in the latest episode of my new interview podcast, Culturally Relevant.

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Bodied Trailer

Joseph Kahn‘s Bodied chronicles the misadventures of a white battle rapper, Adam Merkin (Calum Worthy) who struggles with finding where to draw the line in terms of speech. The film is offensive, hilarious, and a ton of fun, winning a slew of awards during its run on the film festival circuit. Bodied landed on YouTube Premium last fall and today it’s out on iTunes and Blu-Ray.

I had a chance to chat with Joseph about what he thinks about the value of battle rap is for our society, as well as the challenges he encountered getting Bodied out into the world. Hit the jump to read excerpts of our conversation, which have been edited and condensed for clarity. You can also listen to the whole conversation in podcast form below.
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Joseph Kahn is a legendary music video director, having created music videos for artists such as Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and (most recently) Ava Max. But his recent film, Bodied, may be his most provocative work. In Bodied, a graduate student named Adam (Calum Worthy) realizes he has a talent for battle rapping, but discovers that his words inside the ring may have consequences beyond what he’d originally imagined.

Kahn is one of the most talented visual stylists of our age, so I was pleased to have the chance to chat with him recently about how he thinks about his filmmaking technique. We recorded a video broadcast in which he breaks down the opening sequence of Bodied shot by shot. Check out our talk after the jump. You can watch Bodied right now on YouTube Premium, or buy it on Blu-Ray or iTunes VOD.
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The Farewell streaming deal

Lulu Wang‘s The Farewell tells the story of Billi, a Chinese-American artist who discovers that her grandmother is dying of cancer. Her initial distress intensifies when she realizes that her family has no intention to tell grandma about the diagnosis, although they do schedule a mock wedding so the family can have one big get-together to say goodbye.

In today’s day and age, movies like The Farewell are a miracle. When even movies based on hit franchises can’t get any traction with critics or the box officeThe Farewell, which is continuing to expand in theaters this weekend, has found its place as one of the most emotionally powerful films of year. The film has achieved this success despite taking place mostly in a different language, having no explosions or action scenes, and with a cast devoid of household names (beyond Awkwafina, who is excellent here).

I had a chance to watch The Farewell at the Seattle International Film Festival last month and was fortunate enough to chat with Wang afterward. We talked about the style of the film, the challenges of the Chinese-American experience, and how the power of “no” got the film to where it is today.
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Getting a film made is one of the most challenging experiences anyone can go through. From writing the script, to securing the financing, to picking a crew, to casting the film, to finally shooting and editing it, filmmaking requires a huge diversity of technical and creative skills.

But in today’s media-saturated world, it’s arguably just as hard to convince people to care about your small indie film. If you have a tiny movie, how do you get it out there? What strategy do you use? What elements do you prioritize?

I had a chance to chat with writer/director Megan Griffiths about how she approached these problems for her latest film, Sadiewhich is out now on home video (Disclosure: I consider Megan a friend, plus I did some behind-the-scenes photos for Sadie.). Check out the video of our interview read a transcript of the conversation. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
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A Cast of Kings – Season 8 Preview

game of thrones merchandise

Game of Thrones is returning and so is A Cast of Kings! In this episode, Joanna Robinson and David Chen discuss discuss how they’ve done their re-watches of the show and talk about the plotlines they are most looking forward to resolving in the 8th and final season of Game of Thrones. Learn more about why Game of Thrones might be the last show we watch together.

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us movie

Jordan Peele‘s Get Out was one of my favorite films of 2017. Peele’s film not only tapped into the the racial turmoil our society was experiencing (a “post-racial lie” as Peele referred to it), but it also gave us indelible imagery and ideas that have become a part of our culture.

As a result, I was really looking forward to seeing Peele’s follow-up, Us. This week, I watched the film with Peter Sciretta at the Hollywood Arclight and we recorded a video reaction about the film immediately afterwards. You can view our spoiler-free video reaction below, in which we grapple with how well we felt the movie explained certain plot elements and whether we like the film more than Get Out (we have also provided a transcription if you’d rather read it).
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prospect review

Prospect is a bold, unique indie film (read /Film editor Jacob Hall’s review of the film from SXSW). It’s a low-budget sci-fi western that relies heavily on practical effects to tell its story. In this day and age, that’s a rarity. It’s particularly impressive because when you use practical props, sets, and effects, you have to deal with a lot of inconveniences on set, like figuring how to work with actors that need to be in helmets and space suits for eight or twelve hours per day. That’s daunting on a big budget film, but the challenges are exacerbated when your budget is in the low seven figures.

On the occasion of Prospect’s March 8 VOD release, I spoke with filmmakers Zeek Earl (writer/director) and Matt Acosta (production designer) about how they overcame some of these challenges. Below, you can watch and read my interview. Matt and Zeek also shared some great behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot, which you can see in the video.

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Russian Doll Trailer

Netflix’s Russian Doll really surprised me. At first I thought it was just a warmed over Groundhog Day rehash with characters that I wasn’t really a fan of, but episodes three and four throw into focus the true arc of the series. From that point on, I was hooked and couldn’t stop until I got to the end.

Let’s discuss the themes of Russian Doll and try to interpret that crazy ending. You can also check out my video review of the series below. Naturally, major spoilers for Russian Doll season 1 follow.

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