Mid90s – Film Review


The film Mid90s accurately captured the adolescent sentiment that many people grow up with, the feeling that parents don’t understand our feelings, and the undeniable urge to seek out fun and excitement on our own terms, like I did when I was a teenager. I must have been 17 or 18 when I gave my 13-year-old cousin my World IndustriesWet Willy skateboard because to be totally honest, I sucked at skateboarding. From there he ran with it and fell in love with the sport. We would watch Shorty’s, Zero, Toy Machine, and Birdhouse videos on loop, to name a few. I would take him to our local community college, by trolley of course, to try to land some tricks and he failed most of the time, but it was still fun to go and mess around. Skateboarding is a rite of passage for a lot of people, especially those that don’t feel they fit in anywhere else. He was trying to find a niche or a tribe for himself, unfortunately he ended up giving up skateboarding and fell in with some other people and at 18, he was tragically killed. I will never forget those years we spent together, being young and free, bonding over skateboarding we became super close. Mid90s took me back to those days.

M905Jonah Hill makes his directorial debut and spent years working on making this film historically accurate in every way. He went straight to skateboard companies like Chocolate and Girl for old school 90’s gear and decks, and it worked. The film was also shot on Super 16 mm, which adds to the grittiness, giving it texture. The digital photoshopped feeling of recent movies isn’t felt here.

The film centers around Stevie (Sunny Suljic) or “Sunburn” as they call him, who is a regular lower-class kid living in Los Angeles with his single mom (Katherine Waterson) and older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He happens into a skate shop and ends up bonding with all the guys, they give him a skateboard and he becomes part of their crew. There is an instant bond there for him and he is eager to fit in.

He drinks forties with ease and takes puffs of marijuana like a seasoned pro, but the reality is that he is not an expert, he is just pretending to be one. I guess like most young people are, when they are trying to fit in and be accepted by their peers. It would be mortifying to ever admit that you never smoked weed or cigarettes, or that you never even tasted beer. Stuff like that could get you ousted from a group, so Stevie does what he thinks every normal kid does, he pretends he knows what he’s doing and feels like he is part of something. He smiles shyly when he knows he got it right with them.

M904New actor and real life professional Supreme skater, Na-Kel Smith plays Ray, who appears to be the voice of reason in the group. He wants more to life than just smoking and drinking, he wants to be a professional skater. He watches over Stevie and we can feel that he wants to make good decisions, but doesn’t always know how. He is the soul of the film, and one to watch.

Mid90s is reminiscent of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 classic Kids, and I am sure Hill took cues from it. The rawness that we felt in Kids, can be seen in this film as well, except it is not at the same level, where the camera was in the faces of teenagers making out and bashing other guys heads into the pavement and hearing the skull crush. I used to have to turn my head every time that scene came on. But a similar sentiment is felt in this film. 

The skaters are chased by cops, disrespected by their parents, and even each other. When one of the other kids Ruben (Gio Galicia), starts to notice that Sunburn is being favored by the older skaters, he picks a fight with him, and Stevie gives him back equal hard punches.

At home Stevie must contend with his older brother, who is the opposite of a skater, but also a figure of the 90’s. Dressed in Polo and baggy jeans and stud earrings to match, he was most likely someone influenced by the rap culture of the time. He seems angry and pissed off, they are two boys without a father figure in their life, and Ian proceeds to constantly beat the living hell out of his younger brother. Hedges is impressive in this role of the bitter older brother, the one who had to watch guys go in and out of his mother’s bedroom growing up, while Stevie did not. I think we might be seeing a possible Oscar nomination for him in this role.

Hill stepped it up and did a remarkable job at directing his first movie. I think people will be impressed that he didn’t imbue his film with Superbad raunchy teenage jokes or his sarcastic humor. Instead this movie felt real and I think it will strike a chord with a lot of people. Especially those like myself who grew up in the era where iPhones and Google didn’t exist. We figured things out on our own and we didn’t stare at phone screens, and these kids do the same with their life. They are just trying to make sense of it all and find their place in the world. All while hanging out with friends and listening to good music; and isn’t that what ever teenager is always trying to do.

Mid90s posterStarring: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie
Directed by: Jonah Hill
Written by: Jonah Hill
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 85 minutes
Rating: 4

Sausage Party – Film Review

SP7As a child, getting up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons was the highlight of my day. Cartoons or animated movies were one of the few outlets of entertainment that seemed to understand a child’s mind. They were silly, outlandish, and outright eccentric, reflections of who we were as children. As adults, we still enjoy them and the few jokes thrown in there that only we would understand.

The animated feature Sausage Party takes the PG out and gives adults a cartoon film just for them. The movie is raunchy, hilarious and filled with sexual innuendos (the sausages want to hook up with buns), stereotype (the Sauerkraut bottles are Nazis), and food related joke (the Horseradish jars literally turn into horses) in the book. A film of this magnitude and content could only be co-written by one of the few duo’s in Hollywood that could pull this off, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, the stoner minds behind Superbad and Pineapple Express.

SP4The film is about the lives of the food in a supermarket called Shopwell, they each believe that when they are chosen by a shopper they will be taken to the “great beyond,” or the outside world, where all their wildest dreams will come true. Every day for them starts off with a musical number led off by Corn, a happy song they play for the Gods. Firewater (Bill Hader), an Indian can of lighter fluid, has every food in the store believing that the great beyond is a wonderful and magical place.

Frank (Seth Rogen) the sausage and the rest of his wiener pals, specifically loud mouthed Carl (Jonah Hill) and Barry (Michael Cera), the awkwardly shaped sausage in the package, wait for the fateful day that they will be chosen. They hope to be picked next to their counterparts, the bun gals, who will one day be mated with a sausage. A jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned and Honey Mustard proclaims to everyone that the outside world is filled with monsters who will eat them.

SP2Frank and Brenda’s packages are finally chosen and they are super excited to be in the supermarket cart together. A bottle of Douche (Nick Kroll) is also chosen, who is literally the representation of a “douche.” He talks with a Jersey Shore accent and is super obnoxious. Then the unthinkable happens, a huge accident causes many of the items to fall on the floor. Frank and Brenda are thrown from the cart along with Douche who is now bent, broken and angry that he is no longer whole. Douche is hell bent on revenge and wants to kill Frank. 

Along the way, Frank and Brenda run into Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton) and Lavash (David Krumholtz) who are also lost and looking for their way back to their aisle. Together the four of them join forces and encounter a random array of characters, there is Teresa the Taco (Salma Hayek), Grits (Craig Robinson), Gum (Scott Underwood) who is in a wheelchair and talks like Stephen Hawking, Tequila (Bill Hader) who cannot be trusted, and even a crazy guy on bath salts (James Franco).

SP8The film is hilarious from beginning to end and I really have never seen anything like this before. I mean there are some funny and out there cartoons on Adult Swim from the Cartoon Network, and then there is Family Guy, which throws out some pretty raunchy jokes itself, but this movie takes everything and amps it up about a thousand notches.

At some points, I even found myself cringing a bit, but what can you expect from a movie with talking sausages. I think the creators knew they had to go there with this format, otherwise I think they would have been criticized for not pushing the envelope enough. The story faults a bit here and there where it starts off strong in the first half and towards the second loses some of its focus, but overall I think the film worked.

SP6I thought Rogen killed it, his voice is perfect for this type of movie and Wiig, despite being just a voice was phenomenal and her humor resonated even as a cartoon character. I can guarantee she will be doing more animated voices soon. Cera was also funny and his voice was perfect for the abnormal hot dog. My favorite character had to be Gum, he was the smart one of the bunch who can never die because gum just doesn’t ever go away. Just seeing a piece of gum in a wheelchair with glasses was just too funny.

This is a perfect movie to see with friends or just for a night of laughter. I bet this movie will be a hit when it is released on DVD because I am sure it only gets funnier after watching it a few times. But I have to warn you after watching this movie, you will never feel the same way about picking out your produce and condiments at the supermarket again.


Starring:  Seth RogenKristen WiigJonah Hill, Salma Hayek, James Franco

Directed by: Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon

Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 89 

Rating: 4/5




Hail, Cesar! – Film Review


HC7In Joel and Ethan Coens’ new film Hail Cesar!, they bring to life the reality of movie making in the 1950’s and the great lengths studios went to in order to keep up decorum and create the illusion of Hollywood magic. Hollywood was a well-oiled and composed machine that spun out hit after hit. Movies did not have to be of that soulful pensive nature (think The Revenant) or one with guns and plenty of blood (think Hateful Eight); instead they were elaborate tales that showcased grandeur and elegance. Usually the movie screen was filled with the grandness of a fake set with tons of extras and the films seemed so magnificently grand. It was a time when actors were the face of studios and many had to know how to sing and dance and be all around performers. Studios created stars and directors were treated like royalty.

HC5The film is about Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) the Hollywood fixer, similar to a modern day Olivia Pope, he works for Capitol Studios and is in charge of keeping the actors in line and fixing any issues that could make the studio look bad. He is a Catholic family man who enjoys confessing his sins (even the Priest tells him he comes too often), an occasional cigarette despite his wife’s protests and knows how to give an old-fashioned slap around to any Hollywood actor or actress who goes awry.

HC2When one of the studios most famous and handsome actors go missing, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), he is in charge of finding and bringing him back to the set. Whitlock is in the middle of filming Hail Cesar!, obviously a nod to the epic Ben Hur, and is taken fresh off the set in Roman regalia, sandals, armor, fake sword, and all. I am sure that in looking back at old films, the Coen brothers realized the ridiculousness of some of the over acted expressions that were used back then and they were smartly put into the film. Clooney smiles like a nitwit who barely knows his lines, yet exudes charm that can fill a room.

Whitlock it turns out is captured by a group of screenwriters who are part of the Communist Party. They want $100, 000 dollars in exchange for the actor. They hold him up in a beautiful Malibu home and feed him cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and indulge him in Communist theories. Being that he is so dim, he falls for everything they say and starts to think they are actually really smart.

HC8We see that Mannix has a lot on his plate at all times. He places a Western movies actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), who can sing country tunes and lasso a pony like no other, similar to Gene Autry, in a more serious film Merrily We Dance. Doyle has a pretty face and Mannix knows he would look great up on the poster, but the problem is as director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) realizes is that he can’t act to save his life. His southern drawl gets in the way of his lines and they both interact in one of the funniest scenes in the movie, going back and forth trying to say the line right.

Another side story is that of the beautiful screen starlet DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johanssen) who Mannix has to go visit on the set of her Busby Berkeley-inspired movie filled with synchronized swimmers and a grand orchestra. He has to figure out a way for her to adopt her fatherless child, so that she doesn’t look bad in the press.

HC6One of my favorite scenes was the musical number by Hollywood heartthrob Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), who performs a tap dance routine straight out of a Gene Kelly movie. Clad as sailors, Gurney and his fellow men, sing a tune and dance that turns a bit homoerotic as scenes often did back in the day.

Clooney was fantastically funny and played the part to perfection. Tatum was rightly cast as the dancer of the group and his scenes literally had me cracking up. The way he looked at the camera, he was definitely playing into a Gloria Swanson type persona. Yes, Mr. Deville, Tatum is ready for his close-up.

My favorite performance was from Ehrenreich, who stole the film with his ability to act so naïve, yet, debonair at the same time. I look forward to seeing him in more films. Brolin carried the film from start to finish and exuded the grit necessary for the part.

Overall the movie had a lot of different stories and actors running through it. I didn’t even mention them all, but together brings about an ensemble cast that leaves us wanting more. Some actors were underused and I wanted to see them on screen more, but with so much going on that was virtually impossible. This was not my favorite Coen brothers’ film, as I am a huge fan of Fargo, The Big Lebowski and Inside Llewyn Davis, but it was pleasantly good. I felt it was missing something from the end and left wanting a little more. The film had a lot of funny moments and great dialogue and it is a must watch if you’re a fan of the Coen brothers. However, it’s unlike many of their other movies yet at the same time, it is completely a Coen brothers’ film in the dialogue and the jovial hijinks aspect to it.

Hail, Caesar! PosterStarring: Josh Brolin,  George Clooney,  Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Veronica Osorio, Heather Goldenhersh

Directed by: Ethan Coen,  Joel Coen

Written by: Joel Coen,  Ethan Coen

MPAA rating: PG-13

Running time: 106 min

Rating: 4/5


True Story – When Two Wrongs Don’t Create A Right


True Story tells the, well, true story of ex New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) and killer Christian Longo (James Franco). Finkel begins visiting Longo in jail when he gets a call telling him that Longo one of FBI’s most wanted was found using his name as an Alias in Mexico.

True Story 3

The story begins with Finkel, a star in the journalism world, whose stories have graced 10 covers at the New York Times. We see him in action in Africa interviewing the subjects for his tenth cover story. When he gets frustrated he becomes extremely obnoxious and tells one of the young boys that he will give him $20 after the interview is over if he gives him everything that he’s asking for. He also keeps telling them that he’s “Michael Finkel of The New York Times” as if that should mean anything to these children whose everyday lives include unfathomable atrocities. Giving them a voice and sharing their story is crucial but Finkel seems more concerned with getting out of there and having the interview over with. After its publication, the story is found to contain several “holes” by a non-profit working in the region. Finkel’s argument with his editor is that he combined several stories to be one boy’s perspective and doesn’t correctly identify the boy in his photographs because he felt like it’s the right thing to do to get the most compelling story. He deservedly gets fired.

True Story 4

We see him trying to pitch stories to his connections and hear the dismissal in his voice when they turn him down because of the “incident”. He seems to feel that his falsifying information is something everyone should just get over because he wasn’t questioned in any of his other “hit” stories. He gets a phone call one day asking him if he’d like to provide an opinion on the capture of Michael Longo. Confused, he asks why and is told that Longo has been telling people he was Finkel while hiding away in Mexico.

Finkel decides that this might be his chance to get his name back out there. His narcissism elevates, as he’s also flattered that someone would impersonate him. After a few meetings he gets the idea to pitch a book about their encounters and it’s given a green light by publisher Harper Collins.  The rest of the movie is focused on Finkel’s and Longo’s conversations along with flashbacks.

Longo is accused of killing his wife and three children. He goes back and forth with showing remorse, and is seemingly detached from what happened. The doubt about his innocence is what makes Finkel and the audience hooked throughout. Longo even gives the impression that he is “willing” to admit guilt only to protect someone. Finkel is salivating at the thought of vindicating Longo. However, Longo never states whether or not he did it prior to the court case. They talk about mundane stuff, writing techniques, and their lives. The bromance gets exhausting to watch.

True Story2

It’s finally revealed whether he did it or not and it feels like Finkel is infuriated that his story won’t end with him throwing back drinks with Longo in a bar somewhere. We’re provided details of the horrific murders and re-created photos and videos are shown on screen. These moments are hard to watch unless you forgot that these were real victims being depicted.

It’s hard to say what the expected feelings of this film were. There’s nothing extraordinary or fascinating about the fact that these two got close. If you read up on who Longo was as a person he had always been a charming liar and Finkel, well, who knows since he had the luxury of not having his previous stories speculated. He says in interviews that he feels remorse about the “incident”. In an NPR interview he stated, “It was a story that broke some of the rules of journalism in The New York Times and a very foolish decision.” Personally, I thought it broke the rules for journalism in general. It sounds like he’s still making excuses for himself.

In the end Finkel got what he wanted, published again with a nice sum attached. Longo got a writing mentor and someone who seems to need him. The audience is provided updates after the movie ends and it turns out that they still speak to each other when Longo calls Finkel on the first Sunday of every month. Longo began to write and has contributed articles to several publications including The New York Times from prison.

Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones

Directed by: Rupert Goold

Written by: Michael Finkel (memoir), Rupert Goold (screenplay), David Kajganich

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 100 min

Rating: 3/5

NPR story referenced: http://www.npr.org/