On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 8, 2019


Honestly, and unfortunately, this might have benefited from being the debut feature of a previously unknown filmmaker rather than that of the writing and directing debut of someone who has worked with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Bennett Miller.

That being said, Jonah Hill's directorial debut is very much his own style, his own thing, which is better than him having tried to ape the style of one of his previous directors. Shot entirely on 16mm and utilizing a 4:3 aspect ratio, one truly feels as if they're experiencing a video made in the era from which the film takes its name. This goes for the spotty ADR in portions as well though I can't tell if this was fully intentional.

What is great about Hill's restrained screenplay and promiscuous style of filmmaking though, is that it does ultimately result in this genuine portrait of his subjects which is all Mid90s is really trying to do: provide an authentic representation not only of life two decades ago that feels like yesterday and so long ago simultaneously, but of this time in life in which innocence dissolves into experience. As the father of an almost four-year-old and someone who has a soft spot for nineties nostalgia (I was born in '87) the loss of innocence pains me to a greater extent these days. The ability to capture specific and brutally honest instances that depict this transition is where Hill's film flourishes.

The shortcoming of Mid90s is that, while the character work is fantastic and the non-actors Hill has cast generate a true bond between one another, there isn't much else going on. The strained relationship between best friends Ray (Na-kel Smith) and Olan Prenatt's hilariously nicknamed Fuckshit is a highlight as is thirteen-year-old Sunny Suljic's lead performance that carries the feature to some extent. It's near impossible to walk away from Mid90s and not feel the camaraderie between the core group of kids, but at a mere 84-minutes Hill could have had his cake and ate it too by fleshing his characters out further with a little more plotting.

Still, the music is great and Mid90s is intriguing enough that I'm anxious to see what Hill does next. C+

The absurd comedy, An Evening with Beverly Luff Lin, from writer/director Jim Hosking (The Greasy Strangler) follows Aubrey Plaza's Lulu Danger as her unsatisfying marriage takes a turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called "An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn; For One Magical Night Only." Having not yet seen The Greasy Strangler I was unaware what I was getting myself into the night I sat down to screen Hosking's latest, but I found myself very much in tune with the brand of comedy the man was pedaling and was surprised to see how well all of his players seemed to be in tune with what he was going for as well. Craig Robinson and Jemaine Clement are especially good, but it is Emile Hirsch who steals Lin's show if you ask me. B- 

Veteran Blumhouse editor Gregory Plotkin (Get Out, Happy Death Day) makes his feature directorial debut (as well as remaining in the role of editor) with Hell Fest, a film where a masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show. It's a fun premise and I was keen to check the flick out prior to Halloween last year, but the time in the schedule never opened up and so it looks as if Hell Fest will be one of the first films to screen on a rental night with the wife this weekend. Looking forward to some (hopefully) schlocky fun. 

John David Washington (BlackKklansman) and Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born) star in Monsters and Men, a drama about the aftermath of a police killing of a black man as told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, an African-American police officer and a high-school baseball phenom inspired to take a stand. Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green, the film received positive buzz off the festival circuit, but after being picked up by NEON it never seemed poised to take off in the way Washington's other racially charged film did. Still, I've heard enough good things and am interested in seeing Washington in other roles after his turn in Spike Lee's film to look into what others might be missing out on with Monsters and Men.