Mid90s (2018)


13 year old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) has set his mind on skateboarding.


It would come as no surprise to me if there were many parts of Mid90s that are based off of events from Jonah Hill growing up. He was born in 1983, making him near the same age as the films protagonist, but it goes deeper than just that. The movie is not about a set of performances (all great), but on mood and setting. From super soakers to Walkman CD players (which I doubt I am the only one who does not miss) to Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”, Mid90s is indeed its own form of period piece.

The protagonist is 13-year-old Stevie (newcomer Sunny Suljic). He lives at home with his mom (Katherine Waterston) and older brother Ian (Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges). We see Stevie in that stage of life where what is “cool” isn’t anymore, and new interests must be found. He decides on skateboarding, and discovers a group of (mostly) older kids to hang out with.

The leader is Ray (Na-kel Smith), also easily the best skater of the bunch (and one of the best in town). His best friend is F***S*** (Olan Prenatt), called so due to his tendency to say that phrase followed by “That is Crazy!”. The youngest in the group (closest to Stevie in age) is Ruben (Gio Galicia), who is no longer the runt of the litter. The final member is Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), so-called because it represents his IQ (or lack there of).

There are many things that work so well in Mid90s. Take for example the time it takes for Stevie to be excepted. There is clearly a care for the characters that Hill (who also wrote the film, his first ever directed) shows us in how he takes his time for them to develop. Stevie is clearly a nice kid, even trying to give his older brother a thoughtful birthday gift despite the fact that Ian lets out all his frustrations on his kid brother. Yet the movie is smart enough to know that Ian (who clearly has a thing for orange juice) does love his brother deep down, but has no one else to turn his anger on.

Parents, this far from a kids movie. There is clearly a lot of swearing, some violence and many thematic elements. There is also one of the most uncomfortable sexual content scenes I have witnessed in a long time, which involves Stevie at a party with an older girl. Nothing is really shown, but the atmosphere is very unsettling (and he describes what happens afterwards.) The R rating is more than justified.

Mid90s packs a lot into the short runtime of 85 minutes, but that does not at all take away from it. There are many clichés that could have occurred in the film, but are (for the most part) avoided. I urge my fellow millennials to search this film out like one may search out an old yearbook.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Hail, Caesar! (2016)


Hail Caesar

George Clooney in “Hail, Caesar!”

When you see a lot of trailers like I do, you know the name of the director(s) can make or break the perception you will have of the film. Seeing a name like Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino, Eastwood, Nolan, or Inarritu will give a sigh of relief, while names like Bay or Shamalyn make you lose all faith in the movie. Joel and Ethan Coen obviously belong in the first catagory. Whenever a trailer for a Coen brothers film is released, a voice in my head seems to say “Oh boy, what have they got for me this time?” with a smile.

Their newest film, Hail, Caesar!, is another Coen classic. It tells the story of a film studio in the 1950s called Capitol Pictures. The film centers around Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). He is in charge of making sure all the stars stay in lie and behave. To say Mannix is a workaholic is an understatement. One day, his biggest star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, and life seems to go downhill from there.

We also get a Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who is the new star of a period piece by director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), whose name pronunciation is never fully clear. Their rehearsal scene is sure to garner big laughs. Other stars in the film include Scarlett Johansson as another troubled star, Tilda Swinton as (twin) sister reporters, Frances McDormand (real life wife of Joel Coen) as an editor, Jonah Hill as a reliable go to man (I won’t say how), and Channing Tatum as a musical star (no kidding).

What I loved most about the film is it seemed to be the Coens’ personal love letter to the movies. We get scenes that seem to cover almost every genre. There is a little bit of Western, Film Noir, and even some musical (a dancer scene is in the film that I may consider buying on Itunes).

Parents, the movie is PG-13, which I feel is because it is a Coen brothers film. There is no sex or nudity (some mild innuendo), some smoking (it is 1950s Hollywood after all!), and some swearing (probably the least amount of swearing in a Coen brothers film I can remember). Middle School and up would be ok.

The film has some mild flaws (I was a little confused why Tilda Swinton, a fine actress, had to be twins), and some scenes tended to run a little long. Still, this is another Coen brothers film to be remembered for a long time. It is one of the best movies about movies made in some time.

Overall: Four Stars ****