Film Review: Assassination Nation

Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation is an entertaining satire. The film is brash, outlandish, and a lot of fun. 

Lily and her three friends are just four ordinary teens at high school in their small town of Salem. When high-profile residents start getting their data hacked, it is only a matter of time before the secrets revealed start effecting everyone…

Skewering privacy, the impact of smartphones, and public versus private personas, Assassination Nation is a very contemporary satire. Writer-director Sam Levinson presents the film with a trigger warning at the beginning. This tongue in cheek introduction sets the tone of the movie. The unsubtle tone may be divisive, but those who buy in should have an enjoyable ride. 

The first section of the film establishes the protagonist Lily and her circle. Levinson takes his time in establishing the main characters and their relationship with one another. In doing so, another facet of the world is projected. Even before the leak takes place, the environment that Lily inhabits appears grim. The preoccupation with image and reputation, the onslaught of imagery and the need to keep up, and the disconnect from other generations seems damaging at best. 

As the narrative progresses, both viewers and the protagonists see the impact of the hack before it reaches them personally. The film takes its time to reach crisis point; the pacing is a little hit and miss. Nevertheless, this lets the film function for what it is; a modern riff of the Salem witch trials. The crescendo is achieved in the final third of the film, with action veering between chaotic and gory. 

Odessa Young actress does a great job as Lily. Her delivery is most apt. Hari Nef also decent as Bex. Bella Thorne very amusing in a minor role. Marcell Rév’s cinematography has some great flashes. Music is also used effectively.

Assassination Nation is an abrasive picture, but one that demands the viewer’s attention. It will be interesting to see what Levinson tackles next.

Assassination Nation will be screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018. The film is out on UK cinemas on 23rd November 2018.

Film Review: Midnight Sun

Scott Speer’s Midnight Sun is certainly cheesy, but is a good fix for those looking for a teen weepie.

Teenager Katie suffers from Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), a rare condition which means she cannot be exposed to sunlight. Relying on the company of her father and her best friend, Katie is flummoxed when she meets her crush one evening. Reluctant to let him know about her condition, Katie cautiously begins to date Charlie…

Directed by Scott Speer and written by Eric Kirsten, Midnight Sun is a remake of a 2006 Japanese film. This version shifts the action to small-town America, where teen Katie must spend daylight behind closed doors.

Midnight Sun seems unambiguous in its aim; the film wants to make its audience cry. It is in the same vein as The Fault in Our Stars and other teen melodramas which centre on a severe medical condition. The film combines a romance with this looming condition. Some humour is attempted, although the success of this is patchy. The narrative is predictable; there will be few surprises here for those familiar with teen melodramas.

Some of the dialogue feels hackneyed, particularly in the film’s more emotional scenes. Furthermore, there are a few plot holes in the second half of the movie. Despite this, Midnight Sun is not beyond redemption. Perhaps through persistence more than anything else, Speer’s movie has a certain charm to it. The protagonist is likeable, and viewers may find themselves rooting for her burgeoning relationship with Charlie.

Bella Thorne delivers much needed charisma as Katie. She is most amiable in this role, and receives good support from Rob Riggle as her father. Patrick Schwarzenegger may look the part of the attractive love interest, but sadly he lacks the acting chops. The music (including songs performed by Bella Thorne) is very much in keeping with the film’s tone, although does lead to a cringeworthy sequence on Katie and Charlie’s big date.

Midnight Sun requires viewers to leave their cynicism behind if they are to enjoy the movie. Often cheesy and sometimes silly, the film entertains in a TV-movie style.

Film Review: Blended

Blended

There is something about Drew Barrymore that makes casting Adam Sandler opposite her bearable. Blended does not recapture the charm of The Wedding Singer but, but fans should know what to expect.

On their first blind date for years, both Jim and Lauren decide quickly that they do not want to see each other again. However, when chance throws the pair and their families together, everyone must try to get along…

Blended is the type of film that certain cinema-going demographics will avoid like the plague. Certainly, the film is predictable. But it is not horrendous viewing.

Humour in Blended is hit and miss. There are some jokes that work. Nevertheless, director Frank Coraci returns to jokes that are not funny in the first place, which is tiresome. The one-dimensional African characters leave a bad taste. Blended would have been much more palatable to either give these characters more depth, or not to try and garner humour where there is little to be found.

The pacing in the film could have been tighter. Exploration of the different family dynamics is necessary to some extent, although some of these scenes could have been trimmed. There is some abrupt editing in the Africa scenes which is rather noticeable. In this way, Blended is a curious mix in feeling overlong at times, whilst noticing cuts in other places.

There is no doubt that Blended is loaded with schmaltz. If viewers give in to this level of sentimentality, there is no doubt they will be moved by certain moments. For those less invested, these scenes may come across as trite.

Drew Barrymore is as adorable as ever as Lauren. Adam Sandler puts in his usual performance, whilst Bella Thorne is well cast as Hilary. Kevin Nealon brings some humour as Eddy.

There will be few who go into Blended not knowing what to expect. If the film was less predictable and tasteless at times, and more humorous it would have been a much more enjoyable experience.