“In the Tall Grass” Premiers at Austin’s Fantastic Fest

The screen version of the 2012 novella In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and his son (Joe Hill) debuted at Austin’s Fantastic Fest last week to rapt audiences. The novella is the third work of King’s to get the big-screen treatment in 2019, making it a memorable year for his massive fanbase. 

The film kicks off with two siblings, Becky (played by Laysla De Oliveira) and Cal (Avery Whitted), on a road trip to California. The trip takes a turn as they pull over near a tall, grassy field in Kansas when Becky, who is pregnant, suffers a bout of nausea. When they hear the cries of a boy coming from the grass, Becky and Cal follow them, unknowingly embarking on a horrific venture.   

Laysla De Oliveira in the tall grass; Photo from Screen Rant

Vincenzo Natali, who directed In the Tall Grass and wrote the screenplay, is also responsible for 1997’s cult classic, sci-fi thriller Cube. In an interview with SyFy Wire, Natali talked about the challenges of working in this single-location set. “There was a lot of horticultural R&D involved in this,” said Natali. “The grass itself is an organism that we can’t control, but we had to schedule the movie around the optimal period to shoot in it. It obtains a certain height, but then after that it starts to brown and flower and do all kinds of things we don’t want. So we had this window and the whole production had to be built around this very specific time that was based on hearsay. We were basically just listening to the farmer.”

In terms of direction, Natali took the lead from King: “We begin the movie much like Stephen King writes, where you feel like this is a real place with real people that we can relate to, and then we go down the river and it’s going to get weirder and weirder and weirder, until by the end it’s utterly psychedelic. That was obviously part of the visual design and the fun of it.”

The cast of In the Tall Grass; Photo from Screen Rant

In the Tall Grass comes to Netflix on October 4. 

“Good Boys” Breaks Record in Opening Weekend

Good Boys had a stellar opening weekend, bringing in $21.4 million and blowing its $11 to $12 million projection out of the water. It’s also the first R-rated comedy to reach the coveted #1 spot in the charts since 2016’s The Boss.

The movie stars three seasoned young actors Jacob Tremblay (Max), Keith L. Williams (Lucas), and Brady Noon (Thor) as the “good boys.” Delighted audiences get to laugh along as these sixth-graders skip school to embark on mission (chock full of hijinks, of course). Over the course of their hooky day, the boys find themselves (accidentally) in possession of narcotics and being chased by girls. The sometimes-raunchy, sometimes-sweet comedy is a modern coming-of-age tale audiences are loving. Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score is sitting at 86%, with its Tomatometer at 79%.

The boys of Good Boys; Screen Rant    

The movie was directed and co-written by Gene Stupnitsky, known for his writing and producing credits on The Office and 2011’s Bad Teacher. Lee Eisenberg co-wrote the script with Stupnitsky and was also a producer on the film. 

In a review for rogerebert.com, film critic Christy Lemire praised the movie’s portrayal of adolescence, saying, “It’s a time in your life that sucks no matter who or where you are—you’re not a kid anymore and you’re not yet a teenager, but you are a jumble of confusing hormones. Stupnitsky and Eisenberg have created a trio of distinct characters to navigate this minefield, and the actors playing them bring them refreshingly to life.” 

Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon in Good Boys; Screen Rant

Heavy hitters Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and James Weaver rounded out the production team. Executive producers included John Powers Middleton, Jonah Hill, Nathan Kahane, and Josh Fagan. What will this power team produce next?

Awkwafina Shines in “The Farewell”

Following a successful film festival run, writer and director Lulu Wang’s new movie The Farewell opened in select theaters earlier this month. The movie is based on real events from Wang’s life (or, more accurately, “based on an actual lie” as we’re told in the first frames of the film). 

The story focuses on Wang’s relationship with her family after her grandmother (Nai Nai) is diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. In keeping with Chinese tradition, the family keeps the diagnosis from Nai Nai to help preserve her quality of life. As Wang’s mom character tells her daughter, Billi (played by Awkwafina), at one point early in the film, “People don’t die of cancer—they die of the fear.” (If the premise of the movie sounds familiar, it may be because Wang’s story was featured on This American Life in 2016.) 

Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell; Screen Rant

Following her breakthrough roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s Eight, critics are raving about Awkwafina’s performance in The Farewell. The New York Post proclaimed, “Awkwafina has gone from rapper to comedic powerhouse, and now, most powerfully, to indie darling in ‘The Farewell.’ It’s one of the year’s sweetest films.” 

First-time actress Zhao Shuzhen, who plays Nai Nai, was another bright spot in the dramedy. Awkwafina took to Twitter to praise her performance and thank her for her mentorship, “This amazing woman’s name is Zhao Shuzhen, but I call her Teacher Zhao. Her performance in @thefarewell is beyond incredible, and working with her was a privilege and an honor. Our movie is out today, and go see it for our incredible ensemble, helmed by the GOAT @thumbelulu.”

The cast of The Farewell; Screen Rant

Really, though: Is there anything Awkwafina can’t do? It doesn’t sound like she’s planning on slowing down anytime soon. With several films and TV shows in post-production, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Awkwafina’s brilliant range of talent in 2019 and 2020. Jumanji: The Next Level, Breaking News in Yuba County, and The Spongebob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge are just a few of her next sure-to-be-hits.