LICORICE PIZZA movie poster

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LICORICE PIZZA is the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Phantom Thread), Licorice Pizza tracks the treacherous navigation of first love.

 

Raised in the San Fernando Valley, Alana Kane (played by Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) have never met before picture-taking day at Gary’s high school. Alana is no longer a student but is a young woman seeking to find and define herself beyond her uninspiring job as a photographer’s aide. Gary has already established himself as a working actor — and is quick to tell Alana this in an attempt to impress her. She is amused and intrigued by his preternatural confidence and they strike up a heartfelt, if awkward, rapport. Seeking to strengthen this connection with Alana, Gary wangles an opportunity for her to be his chaperone during a New York television appearance; on impulse, she agrees.

 

The TV appearance does not go exactly as planned and once back in California, each of them questions their future. Over time and as their friendship grows Gary pursues career opportunities outside of acting, and becomes a budding entrepreneur selling waterbeds and opening a pinball arcade; and Alana gives serious consideration to her future (including a foray into acting). On their own or side by side, both Gary and Alana experience a series of epiphanies that are both uproarious and bittersweet: close encounters with a famous actor (portrayed by Sean Penn), a Hollywood producer (Bradley Cooper), and a local politician (Benny Safdie). Both self-aware and at loose ends, Alana and Gary blaze through a time and place that carry for them the thrill of first love, entering adulthood, and the discovery of newfound potential — perhaps, most of all, in each other.

 

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Summer Night Movie Review

‘Summer Night’ is the directorial debut of actor Joseph Cross. Learning this made me want to like it more than I did but unfortunately, as I watched all I saw was a film that wanted to be as good as the 1995 ensemble classic, ‘Empire Records’ and desperately longed to be seen as second coming of 1993’s ‘Dazed and Confused.’ Read more

Mid90s Movie Review

The movie “Mid90s” is a backward glance a time where growing up in L.A. was full of adventure and pain. Both written and directed by Jonah Hill, this is not a 1990’s celebration of nostalgia, but more a look back full of retrospection and subtle comment. The main story line is a basic ‘coming-of-age’ story, placed out in the streets of L.A. full of the skateboard wizards and loud rap music of that time. This is not a sweet replay of a bygone era, such as “American Graffiti”. It is more like a dirty, gritty review of that selected mid-decade – sort of an “L.A. Tagging”.

Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is a thirteen-year-old living in a lower middle class area in Los Angeles. His older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) often beats up on Stevie. His single mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) is rarely around and sometimes brings home guys – but they only stay the night. Stevie thinks that his time needs to be spent outside the house, and he decides to find new friends. He finds them at a local skate shop on the main road near his home. He first meets Ruben (Gio Galicia), who is only few years older than Stevie. He later meets the other guys in that group, who are all good skaters. There is the somewhat slow guy named ‘Fourth Grade’ (Ryder McLaughlin), and the awkwardly named ‘Fuckshit’ (Olan Prenatt). But the best skater in the group is Ray (Na-kel Smith), who nicknames Stevie ‘Sunburn’.

Stevie hangs around and learns to skate (a little bit), but he mostly wants to hang out with these cool guys. They all trash talk to each other and to anyone around that they meet. It’s like locker room talk, but without the lockers. They teach Stevie to skate, but they also teach him the best places to hang out, how to smoke, how to drink, and basically how to deal with troubles at home. Ray always keeps in practice, and even when the others want to party and find liquor – Ray still practices his skating skills. Someday he wants to be a Pro, and skate in tournaments.

 

Stevie’s mother Dabney does not like the fact that he is spending too much time with his skating friends. Stevie is gaining too many bad habits to go along with his friendships. Stevie is now smoking, and drinking, and sometimes stealing money. He is taking risks, and he is getting some friendly time with girls. But because Stevie is feeling invincible, he even is starting to put down his best friend Ruben. One night when there are confrontations between Ray and Fuckshit, there are also troubles between Ruben and Stevie. But because too many of them are a little too drunk, there are some bad choices which lead to a terrible and tragic event.

 

Jonah Hill has done an excellent job at portraying a particular place and time. His eye for dialog is really spot on, and the supporting music fits in with certain flair. He has gathered a group of really new actors (who can also skate pretty well) and gotten a very meaning performance out of each one. The few ‘name’ actors are used quite well, also. The only major argument that I have with the story is that there is pretty big disastrous event right at the end, but nobody is held accountable. That strikes me as wrong…

“Mid90s” is reflective of the high ranking that many of the critics will be giving this movie. It is a work of passion for Jonah Hill, and he makes it come to life. Even for a short while, you feel that you know that decade and a few of those people.