Fantastic Fest 2018 Review – Mid90s

September 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Cody

Starring: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges
Directed by: Jonah Hill (debut)
Written by: Jonah Hill (“21 Jump Street”)

Few actors can weave in and out of genres as seamlessly as Jonah Hill has done it within the last few years. Known mostly as a comedic actor that has grown from the Judd Apatow family tree, Hill has had massive success in serious roles, nabbing 2 Oscar nominations for dramatic turns. With Mid90’s, Hill adds another facet to his nuanced repertoire, stepping behind the camera for the first time in his directorial debut.

In 1996 Los Angeles, 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) navigates a summer filled with new experiences, a questionable new group of friends, and a troubling home life.

Perhaps it’s the use of a lot of natural non-actors, but there’s a certain raw edge to the film that feels homemade and small. As a coming-of-age movie, Hill’s debut feels Linklater-esque, being more slice-of-life than narrative driven. Perhaps because of this, the film occasionally feels a little bit aimless and meandering.

What it does accomplish well is tackle and capture the feeling of angsty adolescence. Stevie is young, impressionable, and desperately seeking something new as a form of escapism. The films best moments are watching Stevie take good hearted innocence and mix it up with some very real and intense situations, along with various shenanigans.

Though his performance is good, Suljic’s casting falls victim to an issue sometimes seen in coming-of-age movie, which is that he looks really, really young. There’s a bit of dissonance watching a middle schooler do very adult things and though perhaps by design, is occasionally distracting and odd.

As a “hang out” film, Mid90’s scratches the nostalgia of its titular era, especially those who grew up in skateboarding culture. It would be nice to have a little more narrative heft, but it’s a solid if unspectacular debut for Hill as a filmmaker.


Fantastic Fest 2018 Review – Lords of Chaos

September 21, 2018 by  
Filed under Cody

Starring: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer
Directed by: Jonas Akerlund (“Horsemen”)
Written by: Dennis Magnusson (“King of Devil’s Island”) and Jonas Akerlund (debut)

For metal fans across the world, the stories about Norwegian black metal culture are infamous. Church burnings, murder, violence…and that’s not even scratching the surface of the famously abrasive music. Based on stories from the book of the same name “Lords of Chaos,” centers on the story of the band Mayhem, and how they lived up to their name.

In 1980’s Norway, a guitarist going by the name of Euronymous (Rory Culkin) forms a new sub-genre of metal dubbed Black Metal. With a focus on intensity, violence, and church burnings, Euronymous and new bandmade Varg (Emory Cohen) at first try to push the popularity of the band until they eventually disagree on just how far to take it all.

In terms of black metal folklore, “Lords of Chaos” strives for authenticity and manages to get it. Stories that have been circled around for years are told with graphic detail, something that director Jonas Akerlund does not shy from.

With as much graphic violence as there is in the film, its biggest flaw is its internal tug of war for tone. Akerlund alternates between treating his subjects as extremely violent and dangerous individuals and as Beavis and Butthead style idiots. As a result, they danger and severity of their crimes is severely undercut by the notion that they are harmless posers trying to make a name for themselves.

The tone struggle ultimately can’t be overcome, especially considering how grating and intensified the rest of the film is. It may accurately tell the story of a bizarre and wild corner of music history, but “Lords of Chaos” doesn’t ever seem to hit the right notes.