*NEW* AMERICAN ULTRA REVIEW *NEW*

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Ultra-boring, more like.

A stoner (Jess Eisenberg), 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.

Eisenberg and co do their best BUT for all the promise, it fails to reach anything you could have expected.

The slow opener didn’t get things going BUT it suggested a Burn After Reading meets Pineapple Express vibe. Unfortunately it offered little on both. Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart reunite (Adventureland) and make a watchable couple. BUT it wasn’t long before I got bored of all the pot smoking and arguing. Especially when it wasn’t even funny.

The first 20 minutes was mind numbing. Connie Britton did her best to make the CIA back room melodrama seem interesting BUT it was dull as dishwater. Some waffle about a “project spring clean” and Eisenberg’s sleeper agent facing termination. This was thankfully reprieved by a fantastic turn from Topher Grace (That 70s Show). There wasn’t enough of him. He really took things up a notch and played the douchebag supervisor brilliantly.

I prayed for Eisenberg’s “activation” to come quicker. Watching the stoner smoke pot and battle his fear of flying while doodling graphic novels about a monkey astronaut was just terrible. Trust me. I’m making it sound a whole lot better than it was.

FINALLY after Britton’s funny rendezvous with a stoned Eisenberg, the film appeared to offer more of what I expected from the get go. Emphasis on the word appeared.

Eisenberg proved he can do fight sequences and do them well. I actually had doubts about the chap playing the iconic role of Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman Vs Superman movie but the supermarket shoot em up sequence reassured any anxieties I had. He looked sinister and completely bad ass as he crept out of the smoke grenade ridden mist.

Normally I’m a fan of Britton BUT her character was far too serious for its own good. Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, who played her partner in crime, was tragically unfunny and completely irrelevant by the time the credits rolled. Shame.

John Leguizamo was also incredibly annoying as Eisenberg’s dealer Rose. He had one funny exchange with Eisenberg and then went on far too long. The bullets not coming quick enough.

It felt like the writers didn’t know what tone to take with the piece and tried a dab hand at everything. The action scenes were fantastic. The kitchen ambush sequence involving a bullet and a frying pan was cool. BUT they were few and far between.

As were the gags. It wasn’t funny enough. The best gags were heavily flogged in the trailer. Stewart and Eisenberg’s relationship was put to the test BUT their bickering just hampered things terribly. There was a twist half way through the film that was so dreadfully predictable that it added nothing to the mix.

Walton Goggins’ (Justified) Smiler had the potential to be a decent little villain with his hyena-esque laugh BUT it was a wasted opportunity and the character was far too weak.

The finale did deliver some frantic fist fighting and utterly bonkers shoot em ups. BUT it felt like a case of too little, too late. And it was still light on the laughs. DISAPPOINTING.

Unfortunately, American Ultra was very much like its protagonist; messy, all over the place and annoying.

2/5

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*NEW* ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL REVIEW *NEW*

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A challenging dramedy in more ways than one. A promising cast reprieve a surprisingly patchy affair.

High schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl (RJ Cryler), finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate (Olivia Cooke) who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

I’m not going to lie. I was left wanting and a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly watchable BUT the tone and pace was all over the place.

From the strange opening sequence, I was scratching my head. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the Jesse Andrews novel. This film has certainly made me want to seek it out. Just to see if I was missing out on something.

The strange animation reminded me of a Wes Anderson pic. Never a bad thing. We watch as an animated Greg chomps spaghetti while the “hot girl from Pussy Riot” serenades him by playing the harp. In a nutshell, we were being introduced to the quirky inner workings of Greg’s mind. The social outcast. The narrator of the story.

Very strange. BUT intriguing. We watch this crafty chameleon who does his best to blend in with all the social groups; the drama people, the goths, etc. Just enough to keep everyone at bay. I could relate to Greg in more ways than one. Hiding in a film fortress with his “work colleague” Earl.

Thomas Mann was very good as Greg and delivered the role with enough wit, charm and charisma. It made for easygoing viewing as we delved into Greg’s set up. Unable to call Earl a friend with the fear he might reject the label.

Once Cryler was given the opportunity to shine, he delivered. It took a while for Earl to make a mark. Reduced to muttering the word “titties” BUT once the film got going, they made a great duo.

You may remember Olivia Cooke from the hit show, Bates Motel. She was fantastic as Rachel. She delivered a sterling performance and worked well with Mann. The pair had great chemistry.

I loved the classic film references. The nods to François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard ticked all the boxes for the cinephile in me. The funny play on titles was a nice touch. A Sockwork Orange being a particular highlight.

The film video segments reminded me very much of Be Kind Rewind. A surreal mish mesh of Gondry meets Anderson. Low budget indie madness. BUT unfortunately like it’s counterpart, it seemed to suffer from the same flaws.

The tone was very testing. Charming and funny in one instant with Greg’s verbal diarrhea inevitably putting him into more awkward situations and then dreadfully slow and dark the next. Most notably when Rachel’s condition deteriorates.

There’s no easy way to capture an illness and the effects. It was a testing cross examination as we see Rachel’s smile and health fade. Greg doing everything he can to try and keep things quirky and light.

The hour marker certainly took the easygoing pace down a notch as tempers flared and decisions were made. It was acted well and made for engaging drama in parts. BUT the pace hampered an intriguing piece.

What didn’t help was the fact that the little films took the attention away from the actual story between the three friends. I understand that the film making was Greg’s way of coping with life BUT it went on too long. And the final film the pair made for Rachel was a load of rubbish in my opinion.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon didn’t make full use of the fantastic supporting cast. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) didn’t do a bad job as the chilled history teacher. An incident involving the lads and some soup led to some funny moments.

Molly Shannon’s cougar making advances at the two young men was a mixed bag for me. I found the whole thing strangely uncomfortable. Supplying them with booze and flirting with Greg. Weird.

I wish there was more of Bobb’e J. Thompson as Earl’s brother, Derrick. And cudos to Karriem Sami who managed to make a memorable impression in 30 seconds as the limo driver. That’s all I’m saying on that one. Oh and the Hugh Jackman scene. Brilliant.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role as Greg’s Mom. I know that the parents were never to be the focal point of this piece. BUT with such talented actors portraying good characters, it would have been nice to seen more of them. She set Greg’s story in motion and then only reappeared in the final scenes.

Nick Offerman’s trippy tenured father was very hit and miss for me. Offering a cat to console Greg as he attempts to break bad news . . . Yes. Waffling on about obscure grub. NOT so much.

The closing moments made for tough viewing. Even for the cynic in me. It struck a lump in my throat as Greg struggles with school, life and the possibility of losing a friend he never expected to have.

I felt the final third got increasingly serious and killed the buzz that had helped zipped the film along. And the ending was quite abrupt for me. It just ended.

BUT luckily, good characters, great acting and good moments still make this one to watch. BUT the strange style and uneven pacing hampered something that could have been so much more.

3/5

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU REVIEW

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This is where I leave the cinema for a bit . . .

No, it’s not that bad. But not that great either considering the talent at Shawn Levy’s fingertips.

Levy’s projects have always been okay (Real Steel/ Date Night/The Internship). For some of you those titles might make you wince. The master of ground breaking comedy classics? Not even close.

The cast did their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material is not that good. In all fairness, Levy takes a stab at family dramedy. But maybe he shoudn’t have.

AND if you wanted anyone to head a dysfunctional family, it would be Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/Horrible Bosses).

So what’s it all about? When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother (Jane Fonda) and their spouses and exes.

Jason Bateman was brilliant. He carried the film in my opinion. His marriage breakdown story line was hardly original but it gave an extra something to the endless childish sibling bickering that dominated the majority of the screen time. How it was all resolved was a little predictable and terribly flat but at least there were a few dramatic moments to be had.

Tina Fey didn’t really deliver as much as I hoped. I know she’s funny. Come on, 30 Rock and Date Night proved that. It felt like she played it safe and stuck with the tame script which made her highly unmemorable, bar two little scenes. She worked well with Bateman and did her best but with her comedic prowess, you expected something a little better.

Adam Driver (What If?) was a much needed comedy injection. His lines were hardly comedy gold but his delivery and style managed to get a smile out of me. His relationship with Bateman made for an entertaining and endearing one.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role. A shame after her turn in Friday Night Lights and Nashville. A nothingy character that didn’t really add anything to the mix. Nothing more than a psychiatrist MILF that Adam Driver got to show off to the family.

Speaking of nothingy role, Timothy Olyphant come on down! Absolutely gutted after his terrific performance in Justified. His character was involved in a naff subplot that didn’t really go anywhere. This is what infuriated me with TIWILY. There were so many missed opportunities with the characters and the cast to make more drama and better story lines.

I know that this was adapted from a Jonathan Tropper novel. I can’t say how faithful the film is to its source material but it certainly hasn’t made me want to read it.

Some of the gags were just plain terrible. I mean the recurring joke of the little toddler moving his potty around to poop all over the house was just not funny. The little toddler himself actually was hilarious. His improvisation with some of the cast was brilliant. They didn’t expect him to retort back. More of that would have been perfect.

But potty-ing (I know it’s not a word. I’m not wasting any time finding another) around the house and flinging poo? Awww. No. AWWW – Are you kidding me? Put your potty in the bathroom, boy. Jeez.

Anyhoo . . . The sibling rivalry and tension wasn’t badly done. Everyone can relate to it in some capacity and the moments in which they look back and experience the old nostalgia make for some nice moments. One of the gags that should have been branded as just plain lazy actually entertained me.

A scenario involving some marijuana and a synagogue classroom actually allowed for a comical encounter between Bateman, Driver and Corey Stoll (Homeland). It was great to see Stoll have a bigger role and he doesn’t do a bad job as the stubborn older brother.

Ben Schwartz was incredibly annoying as the hyperactive Rabbi Charles Grodner or Boner to everybody else. Delightful. A guest that gets a giggle and then overstays his welcome . . . in almost every scene. Not even the (usually) hilarious Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers/We’re The Millers) could save the day with her kooky momma hell bent on getting preggers. It was weak.

And Jane Fonda . . . Apart from having fake pumped up breasts to cue inevitable breast feeding gags, she was highly unmemorable. In fact, there was a bizarre revelation that occurs nearer the end of the film which doesn’t fit in at all. It didn’t work and just completely unnecessary. It was nothing more than a lazy plot device to stop the family scrapping. The only bit of real heated drama that got me interested.

Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) played the two-timing sleazebag well. But is this the only character that he can play? And to be honest, when he was first introduced with the Howard Stern DJ spiel, it wasn’t funny. Just annoying as hell. It made a change for Abigail Spencer (Suits) to play a more meatier role as the cheating wife. But the story line was so hammy and predictable, it never really hit the heights that you’d hope.

Rose Byrne (Damages) and Bateman had good chemistry but their love subplot was so generic and corny that I really couldn’t care. Tropper left their little romance so open as a feeble attempt to prevent the predictable outcome but just made it flat and uninteresting.

To be honest, this film only did one thing. Well, two. Waste my time. And make me realise how good August: Osage County was. If you want a good family drama, then I’d invest your time in that instead.

There is the odd moment to be had. One chuckle here, one little heart plucker there. But memorable and entertaining? Quotable and re-watchable? Meh.

2/5