Richard has a look at Jack “o’-lantern” Black in “The House With A Clock In Its Walls,” the birth of Trump in “Fahrenheit 11/9,” and the tear-inducing (but not for the reason you think) “Life Itself” and the fist-in-your-face stylings of “Assassination Nation” with the CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
You can’t say you weren’t warned. “Assassination Nation,” the new film from writer-director Sam Levinson, comes complete with a long list of trigger warnings. Fragile Male Egos. Torture. Swearing. The list goes on. All, and more, are contained within this lurid look at life in a small town vexed by a computer hacker.
When Salem, Massachusetts high school seniors Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef) and Em (Abra) aren’t in class they spend their time partying, chasing boys, sexting and sending thousands of Facebook, Instagram and twitter posts. When a computer hacker reveals the sexual peccadilloes of their town’s mayor and school principal it wakes up the sleepy suburb’s townsfolk. When the hacking continues, uncovering Lily’s cyber affair with an older man, and the deepest darkest secrets of many others, the town’s men band together to find the hacker. “The media is complicit,” they say. “People are laughing at us. We can no longer be helpless. If the government can’t save our law and order, we will do it ourselves!”
Most every hot button woes of modern life are either literally or metaphorically covered in “Assassination Nation.” Toxic masculinity, privacy concerns, desensitization to violence, mob rule, homophobia and racism for a start. It’s a Pandora’s Box of social ills, told through the prism of a satire that feels both exploitative and timely.
As the story goes on, shifting from edgy teen sex comedy to a manifesto of female empowerment it echoes back to the events of 300 years previous when rumours led to the demise of twenty of the town’s women. Blamed for their sexuality and treated as objects, the four women at the center of the story react against the righteousness and hypocrisy they say has become their town’s sickness.
“Assassination Nation” is in-your-face stuff, a movie that is part slasher flick, part call for revolution. “You may kill us,” says Lily after all hell has broken loose, “but you can’t kill us all.” It’s not always pleasant but it is never less than interesting.
“Blended” reunites “cinematic soul mates” Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Of course, this is a romantic comedy, so even though they hate one another in the first couple of reels, they end up thrown together on an exotic vacation to Africa. From the first time they mention the journey you know it is just a matter of time until they put their acrimonious feelings aside and someone says, “It’s great we came on this trip.”
So how do Sandler and Co. spice up a predictable story? Easy, they add a dash of “The Brady Bunch,” some beautiful scenery and an all monkey show band.
Sandler is Jim, a widower with three girls (Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind) who manages a sporting goods store when he’s not missing his late wife. He’s a guy’s guy who named one of his daughters after his favorite network, ESPN.
Barrymore is Lauren, a single mom with two rambunctious boys (Braxton Beckham and Kyle Red Silverstein) who miss their deadbeat dad (Joel McHale). She’s the buttoned-down owner of a closet reorganization company called Closet Queens.
A blind date brings them together but is so disastrous it almost keeps them apart forever. That is until circumstances conspire—it’s too “meet cute” to detail here—to place them both at a ritzy African resort for a Blended Family retreat.
“Is this a sick dream?” Jim says when he first sees Lauren. “What is happening here?”
“We’re here for the zero romance package,” she informs anyone who’ll listen.
Feelings of disgust and hate between the two melt away as their kids do cute things and they learn not to rely on first impressions.
“Blended” is one of Sandler’s sweet family comedies. Well, it’s as sweet as a comedy with Tampax gags can be, but it is a step up from the gross out tone of “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy.”
A small step up, but a step nonetheless.
It’s a heartfelt dose of humor with slightly less vulgarity than Sandler’s recent movies. Add in a few wide-eyed kids with mommy and daddy issues and you have a slightly off-kilter version of “With Six You Get Egg Roll” filtered through Sandler’s juvenile sensibility. He’s a bigger kid than the children in the film and never met a bathroom joke he didn’t like, but he has good chemistry with Barrymore and “Wedding Singer” fans—I’m still trying to expel “50 First Dates” out of my memory—will enjoy seeing them reunited.
The usual Sandler crowed also appears. Shaquille O’Neal brings some awkward charm to lines like, “When she gets flappin’, things happen,” and Kevin Nealon does some enjoyable double-speak, but the scene stealer here is Terry Crews as the leader of a singing group who acts as the Greek Chorus at the resort. His performance lends new meaning to the term over-the-top, but his brand of unbridled silliness is an antidote to the sentimentality the movie occasionally finds itself moving toward.
Sandler has been hit-and-miss lately—mostly missing with big laugh-free comedies—but the goodwill he and Barrymore bring to “Blended” puts it a notch above his recent work. Although much of the humor is Sandler boilerplate stuff but a musical montage when Sandler realizes his daughter isn’t just a tomboy anymore is funny and worth a look.