Assassination Nation Review

Lily and her 3 best friends navigate the perils of high school in Assassination Nation. At the beginning they announce that their crew might not survive the film, and somehow the entire town will be out to kill them. The girls talk about who is sexting who and go to parties. Then a hacker reveals the mayor’s deepest darkest secret which gets everyone talking. The hacker doesn’t stop there though and no one is safe. The girls get involved as some of their secrets are revealed and the entire town rallies against them.

Assassination Nation is a slight exaggeration of how women are treated in America, but if you have been paying attention, it is not too far off from the truth. It is an interesting social commentary filled with teen angst. It also attacks the rage that many people express on the internet based on accusations that have no basis in fact. It shows how people can be driven to do crazy things when they are scared. It also shows how people who are victims can be treated just as harshly as those who are guilty or those who are proven to be hypocrites. Even though the film feels like a low budget action/survival/mystery film, it leaves you with a lot to think about. The 4 main characters can be quite stylish with some clever 1 liners thrown in, but they all have the awkward teen aura that suggests bad decisions are coming. That teen awkwardness also makes the movie feel more realistic even with the over the top/in your face messaging sprinkled throughout.

While Assassination Nation is not the best film from a production standpoint, it manages to still be entertaining. The script covers a wide range of social subjects that aren’t commonly seen on the big screen which is kind of refreshing even with the teenaged ranting thrown in. If you are anti-feminist or are anti-LGBTQ+ then you should watch this film, but you probably won’t like it even though it has a lot of guns and shooting once the town turns into a mob. Assassination Nation is as entertaining as a B-movie can be with the large amount of social commentary that is packed into it.

A Simple Favor Review

Stephanie is a single mother who has poured all her energy into being the perfect mom to her son. She volunteers for nearly everything at school. Her son makes a friend whose mother never volunteers for anything, until both of the children beg for a play date together. The other mother, Emily, relents and invites Stephanie for a drink while the kids play. They become unlikely friends and Stephanie begins to do favors for Emily as she has an important job. One day Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son from school as she has a work emergency that she can’t get out of. Emily disappears after that. As Stephanie digs into the mystery she finds that she never really knew her friend at all.

All of the performances in this film are fantastic, but I have to give a special mention to one of my favorite actresses, Anna Kendrick. If only she could rap along to Mobb Deep while driving in every movie. This movie is a slow burn thriller that is similar to Gone Girl or The Usual Suspects. You get bits and pieces as part of the cat and mouse game that the two main characters play. The movie does have some pacing issues as the editor let it run on a bit long in the early parts of the film. It does help to set up the story, but could have been shaved down just a bit. Still, what makes this film spark is the chemistry between Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. I would love to see them work together again.

A Simple Favor is a fantastic slow burn thriller in the same vein as some of the classics that have come before it. The thing that sets it apart from movies like Gone Girl is the chemistry between the two leads with much of the film relying on it. The cat and mouse exchanges between the two can be quite engaging. This definitely ranks among one of my favorite movies of the year thus far.

White Boy Rick Review

White Boy Rick follows the true story of Rick Wershe who grew up in the mean streets of New York in the 1980’s. He began as a gun hustler with his father who was a licensed dealer. They sold guns and silencers that they built to drug dealers to get by. After selling some AK-47s to some local drug dealers he becomes friends with some of them. Eventually he becomes a drug dealer himself and an informant for the FBI.

This could have been a heartbreaking story of how a boy got corrupted by his circumstances, but it doesn’t try to sympathize too much with the main characters. The characters are still criminals. Richie Merritt does a great job of portraying an awkward teen trying to do the best he can even though he’s a bit of a knucklehead that makes bad decisions. His performance alone makes the movie feel real even though it hasn’t been polished as much as Matthew McConaughey. It’s the rough edges that make it special.

The movie is an entertaining piece of drug and crime history during the crack epidemic in the 80’s. It isn’t any better or worse than the drug movies we have seen previously. The performance by Merritt is stellar, which is good because mich of the movie depends on it.

The Predator Review

A spaceship is fired upon by another. It jumps through a rip in space/time to escape. It crashes on Earth. Some soldiers were on a mission in the area and they take a few bits of the Predator’s armor. It wakes up and starts chasing them. Yep, they should have worn their brown pants. Some scientists call up Olivia Munn because someone decided she should star in this and she has to study alien parts. The other spaceship shows up and another larger Predator shows up to hunt down the first Predator. The plot thickens.

The Predator tries really hard to summon the look and feel of the first 2 Predator movies and the Predators revival, but falls a bit short. It feels more like a crappy 3rd movie in a trilogy, kind of like Spiderman 3 or X-Men The Last Stand. It is still better than both of the AvP movies that were both massive squandered opportunities. The characters are mismatched with most of the film following a bunch of ex-military mental patients. I must say that Thomas Jane’s performance helps make several of the best parts of the film. This introduces a campiness that was a hallmark of 80’s action films. The Predator franchise has always been somber and serious, and that is patently missing from this film. I also could have gone without an introduction to Predadogs. Seriously…  wtf.

The Predator is still worth seeing if you are a fan of the franchise. It is entertaining, but not as good as it could have been. Some questionable decisions in the script have detracted from the usual tone of the franchise, and ultimately makes this one of the lesser entries into the series.

Peppermint Review

Jennifer Garner plays a woman who works a day job while balancing a life with a daughter and husband. She’s basically already a superhero. A friend of her husband’s tries to get him into some kind of shady deal. He refuses to participate, but the bad guys get wind of the plan. It is her daughter’s birthday and none of the other kids showed up to the party because kids are cruel. Doing the superhero thing Garner decides to try making it the best birthday ever in spite of this. They go to a carnival. Then the bad guys gun them down. She survives and wants revenge.

Jennifer Garner is back! She still has the star power to be a great lead in an action flick like this. This is just as fun as any other action flick you have seen. It balances some of the action of John Wick with some of the iconic one liners of 80’s action films. The lines never feel forced, but the script isn’t really anything special. Everything in this movie is something you have seen before over and over in a recycled heap of action movies for the past 20+ years.

I get why the critics have panned this movie, and they are right that this film basically just rehashed tropes we have seen over and over. Crazy Rich Asians does the same, but is universally loved. What the critics get wrong is that if those tropes are done well then the film can still be entertaining. Peppermint doesn’t fill those tropes nearly as well as Crazy Rich Asians did in the romcom genre, but it is still an entertaining film. If you are craving action then you could do worse. In the end Peppermint is a decent action film. If you like revenge action films then you should enjoy this.

The Nun Review

A nun accompanies another nun who goes into a locked room in hopes of saving a fellow nun that is trapped with something terrible. Screams follow once the door closes behind her. She crawls back to the door to entrust the nun watching the door with a key and an ominous message that the terrible being will now come after her. To avoid the terrible she jumps out of a window. The body is discovered by a local who delivers supplies to the convent. The Vatican sends a priest to investigate the strange death.

The Nun piles on the horror clichés. As good as the special effects are they can’t save this film from those clichés. The creepy effects have been seen so many times in other movies that they lose their creepiness, and some are overused within the film itself. There are a few scares, but the jump scares are marred by poor execution. The best parts are near the beginning before the monster becomes more directly involved. Compared to other horror films that have come out lately The Nun is decent, but within The Conjuring universe it is rather average, which is a shame because the other films in the series show the clear potential that was squandered here.

The Nun is a mild horror movie that is only entertaining in spots. The movie suffers from a script that overdoses on the same tropes that have been used relentlessly in other movies that came before it. As being part of The Conjuring series, The Nun ends up as a disappointment.

Kin Review

Elijah just got suspended from school for fighting. He has also been collecting metals from abandoned buildings to sell, so he can get some new shoes. While exploring an abandoned building he finds some dead bodies and an advanced weapon. His brother Jimmy just got out of jail and is staying with Elijah and their father. What they don’t know is that Jimmy owes money to a local gangster, and that gangster wants his money immediately.

For a SciFi action flick the story is pretty simple and disappointing. Some of the special effects are pretty cool, but nothing we haven’t seen before even though they are done better here than in most other movies. The real shining star is a wasted performance by Franco as the gangster Taylor Bolek. He does some of his finest work in this film, yet the rest of the movie is so blatantly average that it overshadows the performance.

Kin ends up being a missed opportunity. With a decent cast and some good special effects, it could have been a summer blockbuster type of film. Instead the overly simple storyline and poor script bog it down. The movie ends with a suggestion that there could be more in the form of a sequel, but I doubt there will be much interest.

Searching Review

Searching follows David Kim who is trying to find his missing daughter. His wife passed away from cancer a while ago and he and his daughter are having problems coping. His daughter leaves to go to a study group, but she never makes it back home. David freaks out and gets the police involved. As the movie goes one he finds that his daughter has a secret life that he has no clue about.

John Cho is fantastic in this, and his performance as David Kim might be the best of his career. Searching is a thriller with a ton of delicious twists and turns within its script. There aren’t many flaws within this film. The only complaint I have is the way the reveals are done. It feels like the filmmakers aren’t giving the audience enough credit, but the way the twists are done don’t lessen the impact of the revelations.

Searching is a bit of magic that rivals my love for Christopher Robin, and it is currently my favorite movie that is in theaters right now. If you have any interest at all in going to see this, love movies with twists, or like thrillers then this is a must see film. Even though Searching can seem low budget at times, this fantastic movie is well worth going to see in theaters.

Operation Finale Review

Operation Finale follows the hunt for Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann is the man who helped organize and implement the final solution the Nazis are most infamous for. Eichmann had escaped from the allied offensive on Germany and ended up in South America. Now Israel wants to capture him, extradite him, and make him stand trial for war crimes.

Ben Kingsley is a fantastic actor and plays the monster Eichmann. He does his best to manipulate his captors. In part he was successful by establishing contact and manipulating one of his captors. Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin who is one of the people that captures Eichmann and also the one being manipulated. The cat and mouse between the two main characters is the most interesting part of the film, but it is given too little screen time. The rest of the film lacks the tension needed to build this into something more.

Ultimately this is a very interesting historical movie, but the lulls hold it back from being something greater. Still, killing Nazis is almost always a positive when it comes to movies. If you are interested in historical World War II movies about hunting down Nazis then you might enjoy this.

Papillon Review

Papillon is about the real life story of Henri Charriere who was wrongly imprisoned for murder and then shipped off to a labor prison. The prison is located on a remote island in French Guiana. His first day in prison he meets a forger who has money that could help them both escape. He just has to keep them both alive.

Papillon is an interesting tale based on true events. There is some debate on whether the tale is entirely factual, but many of the main points are true. The movie does tend to drag in spots and could have been trimmed to less than 2 hours. Also the way the film was made failed to capitalize on what could have been some intense scenes. The chemistry between the two main characters was missing in action. Charlie Hunnam was very good in some scenes, but was taking up space for no reason in others. Rami Malek is just along for the ride for most of the film, and in some scenes it feels like he forgot that they weren’t filming for Mr. Robot.

For me, Papillon was a missed opportunity. The source material is interesting enough to build a great movie out of, but this isn’t it. I haven’t seen the original film with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, but I am more interested in checking it out now. Even with all of its faults the movie is interesting and Hunnam absolutely nails his performance in some scenes. It is just enough to make the film enjoyable, but not anything special.