Tag Archives: Jonah Hill

Mid 90’s (2018)

30 Oct

Academy-Award nominee Jonah Hill takes a turn behind the camera with his directorial debut Mid 90’s, a nostalgia-soaked coming of age story about a group of teen skateboarders in southern California.

Sunny Suljic plays the lead Stevie, a lonely pubescent kid who befriends a group of older boys at the local skate shop. Desperate to escape the constant fighting between his 18-year-old brother (Lucas Hedges) and his fragile mom (Katherine Waterston), Stevie spends as much time as he can with his new friends, including following the group to a drunken party or two. There is the older leader Ray (Na-kel Smith), a pair who go by the nicknames of Fuckshit and Fourth Grade (Olan Prenatt and Ryder McLaughlin, respectively) and the younger Ruben (Gio Galicia) who becomes Stevie’s entry point into the world of skateboarding.

Mid 90’s never directly tells us what year the story is set, but the film is packed with a slew of references from the obvious musical choices to the costume design to the billboards strung along a Los Angeles highway.  The cinematography itself is also a sort of reference; shot on grainy 16mm and featuring a nifty 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid 90’s is a time capsule of a film that seems directly lifted from the VHS era. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross feels almost inappropriately irrelevant, given that just about every scene features some 90’s tune (everyone from Wu-Tang-Clan to Bad Brains to the Beastie Boys makes an appearance). Jonah Hill is a clever enough director to not let pure nostalgia be the focus here, and he naturally centers the story around Stevie’s emotional journey of friendship and discovery. Beautifully acted, the film’s strength comes from it’s breezy, (and at times hilarious) natural dialogue and youthful chemistry between the boys. The group of teens are all phenomenal and put just enough emotional weight into their performances to give the script a lively energy.

There is some unnecessary melodrama near the film’s end and things ultimately fail to wrap up in a satisfying way during its final moments. At a tidy 85 minutes, Mid 90’s almost feels too sleight and insufficiently empty by the time the credits roll. Still, the film marks a skilled accomplishment for Jonah Hill as both a confident director and promising screenwriter.

Bottom Line: Packed to the brim with teen angst and musical montage aplenty, Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid 90’s is a breezy, endearing portrait of 1990’s youthfulness and counterculture. 

Rating: 7.6/10 

Film Recipe: Kids + The Florida Project + Boyhood Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 

 

 

 

 

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True Story (2015 Sundance)

11 Feb

Longtime comedy duo James Franco and Jonah Hill bust out their dramatic skills in the Brad Pitt-produced True Story, a film about the grey areas between truth, journalism and fiction writing. Loosely based off the real-life events of American journalist Michael Finkel (played here by Jonah Hill), a New York Times reporter who comes accross the story of his life when confronted with Christian Longo (James Franco), a man accused of killing his wife and children and then using Michael’s identity while in custody. Michael, who is under his own charges of falsifying a recent story, becomes amused at why an alleged murderer would use his name, decides to investigate the story and ends up writing a book about the case in order to build credibility back to his journalistic name.

True Story documents Michael and Christian’s odd relationship as they get to know each other over a series of face-to-face interviews. What follows is a series of interactions that sets up a psychological game of cat-and-mouse for our two protagonists. While Michael strives to get to the Truth of what really happened, Christian is always one step ahead of the game, paying his own set of cards from inside his jail cell. Weather or not Christian actually killed his family or weather he was framed becomes the focal point of the film, and the main mystery which propels the drama forward. Felicity Jones plays Jill, Michael’s wife, and her involvement in the case, and in the life of Christian, intensifies as the film progresses.

What would be great material for someone like David Fincher or Roman Polanski to direct tragically falls short under the hands of director Rupert Goold. Mostly known for his theatre work, True Story is Goold’s first feature and it shows. The moments of possible tension in the story are tragically played down which all  adds up to a series of missed opportunities. The film is also much tamer that I would have guessed (I wouldn’t be surprised if it received a PG-13) and its tendency to play things safe and lean towards a minimalistic adaptation of a crime backfires.  The interactions and performances of Hill, Jones, and Franco however, are superb and True Story proves that the comedic duo can hold their own dramatically.

Bottom Line: Despite its missteps, True Story is definitely worth a watch as it greatly showcases Hill and Franco’s versatile talent.

Rating 6/10

Similar to: The Ghost Writer (2010), State of Play (2009), A Most Wanted Man (2014) 

22 Jump Street (2014)

15 Jun

Coming strong off their last collaboration The Lego Moviedirectors Phil Lord and Chris Miller usher in one of this summer’s most anticipated sequels. Thier first attempt at rebooting the cult 80’s TV show was a terrific success, and proved  smart enough to win over critics and silly enough to win over the masses.

It seems like Lord and Miller have somehow caught lightning in a bottle a second time with their followup 22 Jump StreetOur two undercover cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back, only this time – they are going to college.  Specifically, as undercover students on a mission to locate the dealer of a new synthetic drug that is connected to the deaths of several students. If this just sounds like a repeat of 21 Jump Streetit’s because it is. It reminds me a bit of Tod Phillip’s sequel The Hangover pt II, in that many of the same jokes and plot points from the first film are presented to us in the form of a sequel.

The second installment of Jump Street is clever enough however, in that it knows it’s repeating itself, and many of the best jokes are inside references to the film’s franchise, production, cast, and concept. Best of all, the film is genuinely hilarious; i don’t I have laughed harder in a theatre all year. Comedic elements aside, the film also contains a healthy dose of conflict, dressed up as a three-way bromance between Schmidt, Jenko, and Zook (Wyatt Russel), a football jock who is suspected of being the campus drug dealer. It’s great stuff to watch, and eventually it becomes hard to tell where the overtly homosexual farce ends and where it begins.

Watching the film is like watching your high school class clown in math class, while sitting with the wisecracking kids the back of the class making snide remarks at everybody. Somehow, the film pulls this feat off perfectly, and you end up laughing both at and with the film.

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, Anchorman 

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

19 Dec

After the 2011 release of the children’s film Hugo, directing legend Martin Scorsese is back in action and gives us a wild examination of one man’s greed and addiction. The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler and Margot Robbie is one of the last Oscar-hyped films of the year, and I’m happy to say it lives ups to its high expectations.

The story is centered around businessman Jordan Bellfort, a young, enthusiastic stockbroker who, after the market crash of 1987, is forced to move into the realm of trading penny-stock. By using his aggressive, high-energy technique to sell cheap stock to those with little understanding of the market, Jordan makes his way back on top and creates his own company – Stratton Oakmont. As the film progress we see Jordan’s  wealth grow while simultaneously seeing the resulting amounts of on-screen chaos his money buys. There are your typical white-collar hookers, parties and yachts, but there is also a scene involving midget-tossing, a gay orgy, public masturbation, mountains of cocaine and Jonah Hill swallowing a live goldfish (and this is the edited theatrical version).

Scorsese directs the action with a magnetic ferocity and the script by Terrence Winter is nothing short of brilliant. But make no mistake, this is Leo’s film and he gives one of his best leading performances of his career (Any other year and Dicaprio would have the Best Actor Oscar locked in his name, but 2013 has been incredibly competitive).

And yet, despite it being one of the most engrossing of 2013, there is a sort of shallow emptiness to the film. Maybe its because of its explosive nature, or the fact that the already-packed film had to be severely cut in order to meet a theater-friendly 3 hour running time. For whatever reason, Wall Street just doesn’t have the same smarts or character development that previous Scorsese masterpieces have unlike The Departed or Goodfellas. Despite it being so juvenile and cartoonish, The Wolf of Wall Street is easily the most entertaining thing I have seen all year.

Similar to: Goodfellas, Pain and Gain, Spring Breakers

Rating 8/10

 

This Is the End (2013)

2 Jun

So this is what you get when you take the comedic gang from Freaks and Geeks and lock them all in a room for 24 hours. Oh, and also throw in Emma Watson and the black guy from The Office. And of course you can’t forget Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. And because it’s a post-Superbad comedy Danny McBride has to make an appearance somewhere. Also there is Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, and Rihanna because – hey why not?

If they would have taken half the effort in writing the story as they did in the casting, then this film would be amazing. But the randomness and senseless progression of the scenes make it feel like you are watching a bunch of strewn-together YouTube videos. Which is OK, because This Is the End actually is kinda funny, and the film works in an unpredictably offensive way.

I was hoping for something a bit more self-aware and smart in a film where actors play themselves, but instead what I got was some half-baked morality tale about humanity and religion. It is an interesting mix, and the film definitely strayed into territory I wasn’t expecting, but I was satisfied by the time the credits rolled up. If you are a fan of the genre, then this is a must-see.

6/10 stars.

Similar to: Superbad, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder