This season starts with Maya’s obsession over Brandt (Jonah Beres), whose treatment of her is really striking in his manipulation. We see his consciousness of his power at such a young age — that’s darker than his just being a mean boy who internalizes toxic masculinity.
By Brandon Yu
July 8, 2020
Season two of Pen15 picks up shortly after the events of the season one finale and what happened between Maya, Anna and Brandt (Jonah Beres) at the dance. The saga continues between the three, and additional episodes feature the girls dabbling in wrestling, witchcraft and welcoming a new friend into their midst that really tests these BFFs.
March 7, 2019
It was the de facto haircut of every middle school bad boy — and now, thanks to ‘Pen15,’ it’s making a pop culture comeback
by Quinn Meyers
March 1, 2019
"Any word that means ugly is a shattering weapon to deploy on a middle school girl, but Pen15’s use of UGIS also shows that, for a TV show, ugliness isn’t always a bad thing."
"BALLOON" featured on YouTube "Short of the Week".
by Celine Roustan
October 7, 2018
Mutant frogs. Mutant babies. Mutant dogs. Wow! Remind me to steer clear of Duluth the next time I head north for a lake trip. Complete with a commentary about struggling small towns in America, Strange Nature is an eco-thriller of science fiction and science fact that ought to scare the hell out of you.
September 18, 2020
New York Vulture
...Maya is funneling her frustration into Brandt’s lack of acknowledgment of what even she admits — with zero self-awareness — is stalking. Like Anna’s wrestling fantasies, it’s initially played for absurdist comedy: A funny, well-edited opening sequence has Maya tailing Brandt around school like she’s in a spy thriller. In its total liberation from shame, Maya’s goofy, stop-at-nothing enthusiasm is almost admirable.
But the potential for a darker turn is there. When Maya finally gets Brandt alone in the weight room, she offers to make up for the whole three-way gossip issue any way she can. You can instantly see in Brandt’s eyes that he has something outside the typical bounds of seventh-grade sexuality in mind. (Jonah Beres is terrific in this role, perfectly capturing the above-it-all yet slightly predatory vibes of a slimy popular kid.)
February 7, 2019
PEN15 stars Konkle and Erskine as versions of themselves as 13 year old outcasts navigating middle school in the year 2000. Their peers are played by actual teens. ..How do you shoot scenes with sexual situations? Well, a technique that uses long shots of the young actors intercut with close-ups of obviously adult body doubles.
by Jean Bentley
October 15, 2019
Exclusive: "Balloon" takes aim at our obsession with superhero myths, which emphasizes strength and power as desirable masculine qualities. ...If “Joker” explores the genesis of a villain, “Balloon” in which a young boy develops superpowers to fight his bullies depicts the making of a hero.
by Jade Dry
October 15, 2019
Merry Go Round
...As such, Merrifield’s film is as much a critique on the current state of the superhero genre as it is a celebration of the medium, using impressive visual effects and a talented child actor to deliver a subversive spin on the hero narrative.
by Sergio Zaciu
November 9, 2019
What We See
The fight to combat toxic masculinity is an important one — but it’s also important to explore its causes and the environment that nurtures that toxicity. Although we know that traditional gender roles and sexism can damage everyone, we don’t often look at children in those key moments of development to see how they’re affected. But the short film “BALLOON” does this in a truly unique way.
by WWS Editors
March 30, 2015
That Awesome Theatre Blog!
World premiere Corktown ’57 at the Odyssey Theatre. Centering on the Keating family, Irish immigrants in Philadelphia in 1957. "...12 year old Jonah Beres does a fantastic job as John and Natalie’s son Johnny. He slips in and out of scenes with ease and solid comic timing."
September 8, 2020
Maya and Anna are riding high when the season begins, romantically fascinated with Brandt (Jonah Beres), a bad-boy-ish dreamboat with butt-cut hair. They're hitting the age when gossip becomes a lethal weapon, though, and soon everyone labels them "desperate sluts." It's a nasty insult — and a pointedly sexualized step up from last season, when the boys declared that Maya was UGIS (the ugliest girl in school.)
PEN15 lies in how it approaches the perspectives of all parties in a painful experience — from the bully, to the bullied, to the accidentally and purposely complicit.
by Mallika Rao
September 12, 2019
The Independent Critic
"Balloon" is One of the Best Short Films of 2019. ...Beres is simply exceptional as Sam, aching in vulnerability even as he begins to discover his unexpected strengths. It's a remarkable performance that instantly makes you want to watch anything else the young man has made.
by Richard Propes
July 19, 2019
Jonah Beres and Jeremy Merrifield of 'BALLOON' among biggest celebrities that stopped by to pose for a portrait during the Pizza Hut Lounge at 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego on July 18, 2019 in San Diego, California.
by Esquire Editors
The Movie Elite
Jonah Beres, who plays Brody in Strange Nature, talks about his beginnings playing opposite “robot cowboys”, playing Lisa Sheridan’s son in his latest film, and why Strange Nature could “really happen”.