S02E21: Assassination Nation, Upgrade, Blackkklansman, & Slenderman

Reviews of all 4 of these popular films. Full show notes:

Assassination Nation (2018)
Dressing a LOT like “The Purge,” this film shows America what could be the natural outcome of our current situation of no internet privacy and guns. If information is leaked publicly about an individual it could be their undoing by a mob mentality. This is a scary reality we live in today.

Assassination Nation (2018) R | 1h 50min | Action, Comedy, Crime | 21 September 2018 (USA) After a malicious data hack exposes the secrets of the perpetually American town of Salem, chaos decends and four girls must fight to survive, while coping with the hack themselves. Director: Sam Levinson Writer: Sam Levinson Stars: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse

When something is leaked, it doesn’t matter if the deed is acceptable or not. What matters is that the perception is acceptable. In the case of mob mentality, leaks give way to gossip and gossip can give way to lynch mobs.

I like the idea of this film which is why I saw it. It is slower than I would like until it builds to a crescendo. At that point, it feels like it knows what it wants to be and that is something worth seeing. It’s an important message that no American should be seen as “The Undesirable.” Every accused citizen deserves her/his “day in court.” It’s against all forms of discrimination which I liked. Not everyone will like or agree with this film. I think free thinkers will love it, just as long as they can get through the first 1/3 or so.


Upgrade (2018)
This film is pleasing to the eyes. It presents a futuristic look at American caste systems. One might be called “educated bitches” another might be called “uneducated trash.” These are terms used in the movie, not my appraisals. While it took about half the movie to get going, the action is there and its revenge horror at its best. I wouldn’t call it an example of “body horror” but Wikipedia does so I guess I should too right?

R | 1h 40min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi | 1 June 2018 (USA)
Watch Now
From $4.99 (SD) on Prime Video
Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Steve Danielsen

Leigh Whannell is the director and writer here. He is known for being the one who collaborated with James Wan to create “Saw.” It is a great film but I wouldn’t rank it as highly as with Saw. It takes a long time to get going and once it does, the revenge scenes are strewn here and there only and that left me wanting. This should have been a straight revenge horror but it gets caught up in a muddy storyline that is quite implausible. Still, it’s a horror/sci-fi and I’m in for that any day.

Logan Marshall Green plays a mechanic who does some custom work for a billionaire and hence gets invited to his house. He brings his girlfriend. After a terrible accident occurs and some street thugs attack them, his girlfriend dies and Marshal Green’s character becomes a quadriplegic. The billionaire offers him an “upgrade” to get his strength restored and amplified but he is expected to only follow the agenda of the billionaire. Marshall Green has something else on his mind, revenge.

I’m surprised Wikipedia labeled this body horror because there is very little of that here. In fact, I was shocked to see very little of anything relating to bionic surgeries and the like. It all occurs in one small chip inserted in his neck. It’s a futuristic sci-film that really would have been perfect had it focused on the revenge piece. Unfortunately it tries to have an over-arching story that is just too under-developed to get into. I did enjoy it, I give it a 6/10.

Some historical fiction films keep your interest based on the cast, writing, and vision of the director. Then there are the actual “based on true story” films. They need less of that magic because their factual connection is so huge for an audience. I can’t remember a “based on a true story” film that didn’t do well. I guess when you consider that, this film has a lot going for it before you even start analyzing it.

Now that we’ve established the strength of “based on true story” films, let’s real quick look at the power of a great director: Spike Lee. Just after high school, I watched his masterpiece on racial tensions in the big city: “Do the Right Thing.” With all the recent films coming out on these tensions, “The First Purge,” “Detroit,” “Get Out,” I still find Spike Lee’s “Do the Right THing” to be the most astute and wise of all. Spike Lee is the director here but I don’t feel that influence as strongly as some of his previous films.

The previews are a good indicator of this movie’s pace. They look really slow and in truth, the film is just as slow as the preview. It has its moments but the humor is understated and it takes a long time for the plot to advance. Ultimately, the based on a true story “story” is what kept this one afloat for me. But even that after a while sort of went dull. Adam Driver has very little comic script to work with. It gives no history of the Klan which will leave younger viewers a bit confused I fear.

I think at this day in age when some blacks don’t feel understood and the landscape basically sees whites as murderers with no conscience we need more movies that show global human racism as a disease we can recover from. I learned from Spike Lee years ago that racism is a temptation for all colors to be wary of. To quote James Baldwin, “If we don’t see the problem, I fear for the future of our country.” This film isn’t bad it’s just mediocre. I hate when reviewers promote films that just aren’t good because I am one who reads, I am one who listens. I give it a 6/10. Spike: Where is the next “Do the Right Thing?”

Slender Man: Pseudo Film
If you don’t use IMDB much when looking for films to watch, let me help you out: scores rarely go below 5/10. It’s a user based rating system that is usually a lot kinder to the films than other places, like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes. Slender Man has a 3/10 currently on IMDB. That’s a telling score. My score? 1/10. Let me tell you why.
Slender Man (2018)PG-13 | 1h 33min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 10 August 2018 (USA)In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing.Director: Sylvain WhiteWriters: David Birke, Victor Surge (based on a character by)Stars: Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair
Slenderman is a mysterious dreamlike “shadow person” of library lore that bored teens like to summon through handing over their teddy bears and missing kid posters. Yes, he apparently likes that stuff so much he will appear if they are brought to the forest. He’s like 8 feet tall, has no face, and uses scary tentacle fingers to abduct people. You don’t see him much.
What you do see is the effect he has on these teen girls. They are starting to lose interest in tack and school and life in general because Slenderman has taken over their minds. The film borrows from so many horror films. Blair Witch was a heavy influence it would seem. The dream sequences seem like they were directly spliced out of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Too bad there weren’t more borrowings because this director has give the world nothing good in horror or otherwise.
I tweeted last night this film looks like a Disney Channel Halloween special. 13 year olds at a sleepover would do better to look up Slenderman stories online rather than watch this film. With the stabbing in the Slenderman crime that almost killed one teen and put the other two in life mental prison sentences, I was shocked someone had the nerve to make this. After that I am surprised to see how truly bad the movie they made is. This is not a film, it’s like a tv special maybe. It misses the mark for each. It could have been made much better as possibly a found footage horror or more development of the villain and why he kills. As it is, I’m giving it the lowest score I possibly can. Don’t pay a dime to see this drivel. 1/10

Author: Damien Riley

I'm an old school blogger who went full movie blogger and podcaster! Now, I post short reviews about movies I see. This is my podcast, I hope you enjoy listening.

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