‘American Ultra’ Review

american_ultra_ver5

Dir: Nima Nourizadeh

Writer(s): Max Landis

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman

Synopsis: A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

When you think of movies with stoner leads you don’t really imagine there is going to be any action in it, or at least hardcore action. That is not the case with American Ultra, in fact, it works almost the opposite. It’s an action film with stoners in it. It’s a rather odd mix considering the action in the film is very heighten at times and albeit a bit shocking at times, but it always makes sense when you see the events of the film and how the movie operates.

 

American Ultra follows Mike Powell (Eisenberg), a stoner working in a convenience store in Liman, West Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart). The two are happily in love, however Mike was part of a failed CIA operation called “Wise Man” and ambitious upstart CIA agent Adrian Yates (Grace) plans on wiping away everyone in the program, which includes Mike. When the program’s former head Victoria Lasseter (Britton) goes against the agency and actives him, the town is put into lockdown and Mike’s programming starts to go into effect, making him a lethal and trained killer. Now with Yates and his own program assets try to kill Mike, he must protect himself and Phoebe from getting killed.

 

I wasn’t really expecting much from this to be honest. I thought it would be a dumb fun action comedy, and while it is that for the most part, there is something about it that sets it apart from other action comedies. The other reason I wasn’t looking forward to it that much was I’m a little tired of Jesse Eisenberg playing the stoner/deadbeat-like character. Thankfully, here it isn’t too distracting. Sure he goes on some stereotypical-like dialogue, but Eisenberg’s deadpan and rapid delivery make it work, especially with the great chemistry he has with Stewart. I will say though, that his rambling does get a bit old during some points.

 

03

 

The rest of the cast works too and all have their shared moments to shine. Kristen Stewart – who is still probably shaking off the Twilight hate from fans – is pretty good here, playing Mike’s girlfriend Phoebe, who loves and supports him and thankfully there is more to her character than that, but is hurt a bit by becoming a de-factor-o damsel in distress in the last act of the movie. Topher Grace is weirdly miscast as the films villain. Although it makes some sense, as he’s trying to prove himself, there is a weird disconnect since because he’s more humorous than bossy.

 

american-ultra-gogg

 

It’s actually Walton Goggins, who is as reliable as always, that plays more of the villain role as the asset Laugher, for reasons you can probably imagine. Connie Britton looks to be having some fun playing her serious CIA agent, but at the same time has a protective side of her as she tries to help Mike get through everything. John Leguizamo plays Mike’s drug dealer Rose and has some funny moments, but is nothing more than a minor character, and the same can be said for Tony Hale who plays another CIA agent, Petey, caught in the middle of the power struggle between Britton’s Lasseter and Grace’s Yates. Finally, Bill Pullman pops up in a cameo performance that doesn’t really serve too much purpose other than being another government official.

 

While the film is highly enjoyable, American Ultra does take a hit early on as it does something that kind takes away from the enjoyment of the film as it “rewinds” everything. In some cases it works in films, but only if they do it as a final ta-da moment in the final few minutes, but not the very start of the film. Also, the film’s tone is a bit scattered. The film goes from action-comedy to spy espionage film, and the flip flop is a bit jarring at times, especially with the heighten and hyperactive violence in the film.

 

As for the action, the scenes are great to watch unfold. Yes, they might be a bit violent or jarring for some people, but considering what the movie is, I’m not surprised by how the violence is approached. A highlight is definitely the final act supermarket sequence.

 

wpid-jesse-eisenberg-is-stoned-cold-killer-in-american-ultra-trailer-600x330

 

All in all, American Ultra isn’t that bad of a film. Yes, there are some jarring things about it tone wise, and while the rewind aspect hurts the film, the enjoyment of watching the events unfold in real time is enough to make you forget that to some extent. If anything, the chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is enough to keep you entertained.

 

American Ultra

4 out of 5

‘Interstellar’ Review

interstellar_ver2

Dir: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

Christopher Nolan is back behind the director’s chair and he didn’t take the easy. Nolan decided to tackle doing about a movie about wormhole travel and finding a new home for the human race in a different galaxy. It’s really heavy stuff and maybe a bit too much. Interstellar has some great things about but sometimes the movie should have slowed down to allow us to catch up with some of the scientifically information.

 

Let’s try to put Interstellar in simple terms. Cooper (McConaughey) is a former pilot and engineer who now farms corn, which is Earth’s last sustainable crop. All the other crops have been hit with “The Blight”, which has killed every crop around and has caused massive dust storms. During one of the storms, Cooper’s daughter Murph (Foy) gets a message from her supposed “ghost” trying to talk to her, but it ends being something else. The message eventually leads them to a secret base and find out there is a mission to save humanity and find a new home, in a different galaxy. Cooper eventually joins scientist Amelia Brand (Hathaway), Doyle (Bentley), and Romilly (Gyasi) to travel through a wormhole near Saturn and find their new home.

 

Simple right? Wrong. The major obstacle is the theory of relativity. If they spend too much time in one world it could equal years back on Earth. Time is not on their side, so they have to work fast or their will be no one on Earth left to save.

 

MandM

Young Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey)

 

As I mentioned, Interstellar is cramped with a lot of stuff. The world that Nolan has made puts us in an undated future where farmers are the most important job in American and the military is basically no more and replaced with cool looking robots. And I can’t even begin to describe all the science material and theory, but I will say the movie does a great job of making sure you know what’s going on and doesn’t lose you when it starts going on its long exposition.

 

It’s also one of those movies that you should go into not really knowing much about, especially with the final act. The film is a tad long but is engaging enough that you stick with it and want to know if the mission will end well and see where they go. It’s really exciting stuff and could leave you asking questions about the possibility of this happening and what would you do.

 

MandA

Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and Cooper (McConaughey)

 

The acting is great here, which is no surprise since Nolan has a way getting performances from his actors. McConaughey, even though he was a pilot and engineer, his Cooper character is kind of like the everyman in this situation, but he does know what he’s talking about on some occasions. Anne Hathaway gets some standout sequences at the middle of the movie while her father character Michael Caine playing Professor Brand is always great but doesn’t do much here.

 

Mackenzie Foy plays young Murph, and does a tremendous job even though most of her screen time is limited to the first half hour/forty-five minutes of the movie, but she leaves her mark. Jessica Chastain plays the older Murph in the last half of the movie and does pretty well with what she’s given. Older Murph ends up as Professor Brand’s assistant and helps him with his work.

 

JinInt

Jessica Chastain as (Older) Murphy

 

The rest of cast is hit-or-miss but feel like they are there so that McConaughey and Hathaway can play off of. Wes Bentley and David Gyasi as the other two scientists chew up scenery as they delve into all the material. John Lithgow plays Cooper’s father-in-law and Topher Grace pops up as Chastain’s helper but doesn’t bring much to the role. Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart voice the two robot helpers that bring some surprising humor to the film in TARS and CASE. Finally, Matt Damon shows up right before the final act as one of the scientists and explores that have done through before Cooper’s team. His character adds an element to the film that will probably make question some of the events of the film and what the whole mission is about.

 

The special effects however are something to see. Nolan and the special effects department really bought their A-game to the film. The overall look of the film is great and the wormhole stuff is unique to see. Even the worlds that are created like world of mountain waves that have been promoted in every ad or the ice world that is seen in the trailers as well, everything feels real and makes the viewing even more enjoyable.

 

All in all, Interstellar isn’t perfect and does lose a bit of steam in the third act, which also might even cause some viewers to tune out and lose them completely. However, overall it is a quality film with great performances and special effects. I happen to see the film in IMAX and I honestly think that is the best way to watch it.

 

 

Interstellar

4.5 out of 5

interstellar_ver7