American Ultra (2015)

cyz1mvnhma54ho3dpqx9Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a stoner, convenience store clerk, deeply in love with his long time girlfriend, Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart). So in love; he is ready to make it official. Although when a planned trip to Hawaii is derailed by one of Mike’s uncontrollable panic attacks, he has to reconsider when to pop the question and if to pop the question at all. Having lived his life burdened by his anxiety, he worries that he is holding Phoebe back and if marriage would only hit the nail in the proverbial coffin. This all changes when a strange lady visits him at his convenience store, and utters what can only be deciphered as song lyrics at first interpretation. Little does he know, he is a sleeper agent, being activated in anticipation of an attack against his life.

American Ultra gives you exactly what you expect to get. A stoner romance with a secret agent backdrop. The trailers and promotional materials tell us that it’s a film that isn’t meant to be taken seriously. We know to go into it prepared for a pretty crazy romp, that has enough weed and bullets to last us ten Harold and Kumar films. Does it succeed? Absolutely. For a film of its scale, it delivers enough explosions and mayhem, to give the Michael Bay’s of this world, raging hard-ons. You might be thinking, “Jesse Eisenberg? An action star?”, and you would be right in thinking that, but that is exactly the point. This is a dude who is completely oblivious of the fact that he is a secret agent. So when he inevitably kills two guys, with only a cup of noodles and a spoon at his disposal; it becomes quite fitting that he is just as shocked as we are. I mean, he’s basically the stoner version of Jason Bourne… and with that thought in mind; imagine a Jason Bourne, Mike Howell crossover. I can see it now. Two best friends, fighting corrupt government agents with a spliff in their mouths, contemplating existence and humanity… isn’t it absolutely delightful. Although we wouldn’t want Aaron Cross getting jealous would we?

Even though the film hits on every level we want in terms of action, I just wish it was filmed with a bit more style. After watching Kingsman this year, it really opened up my mind about how unique an action sequence can look, and how much more it can add to a film. A lot of American Ultra is by the books, with exception of that frying pan ricochet shot. That was actually pretty badass! If it possessed a bit more of that ingenuity, this film could have hit the cult heights of John Wick of last year.

Nevertheless, beneath all that mindless action, is actually some heart. Within two minutes of the film, I bought into the relationship between Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Their love, although kinda dysfunctional, totally works. Phoebe almost possesses this unconditional love towards Mike, as she evidently plays the mother role as well as being the girlfriend. Despite all of his fuck ups, she still loves him for who he is, and that connection is felt throughout the film. As well as their relationship, there is a brilliant moment at the end of the film between Mike and one of the CIA agents trying to kill him, (Laugher). With all that has happened, you instantly enter the psyche of someone who has been experimented on and then used as an expendable entity. Admittedly, it sounds a lot deeper than it was, and most of the praise could probably go to Eisenberg and Goggins for selling those emotions. Regardless, I really enjoyed that moment. Man, I’m sensitive… That being said, it would have been interesting to explore that a bit more, just to give the film something extra to chew on.

Ultimately, with a couple of twists here and there, and enough comedy to inspire laughs, this film strays away from becoming a snooze-fest as we so often see with films like this. American Ultra is true to what it is on the surface. A fun, action-packed, stoner flick, with an endearing romance at its core.

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Skyfall (2012)

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Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

This time round the story is centred round James Bond and his loyalty towards M, forcing him to come out of hiding after a failed mission. MI6 is under attack by a mysterious villain who has managed to get his hands on extremely sensitive data which could put British intelligence agents in danger. The more they find out about the villain, the more they realise that he has a strange interest in M, which could put the agency and her life in danger. James Bond meets his match as he tries his best to get one step ahead of his enemy.

The newest edition of the Bond franchise brings a gritty, dark and incredibly polished film, making it one of the best made Bond films ever. It may be technically better than its predecessors, but it still seems to fall short to Casino Royale, but only by a bit. The location shots were incredible and remained incredible throughout the film. You could tell a lot of work went towards finding those perfect locations and the attention to detail aided the success in making them look stunning and extremely sexy. It’s definitely one of those films you have to watch in HD and would make a perfect addition to anyone’s Blu-ray collection. It’s hard not to appreciate the polished aesthetics which you will notice from the traditional music introduction, which will stand as one of the best music intro’s for a bond film to date. It was clean, innovative and really nice to look at, I was literally in a state of awe.

Skyfall totally triumphs in terms of the dialogue, bringing it back to its British roots, exuding sarcasm and good old British wit. This is what Quantum Of Solace missed out on. M and Bond had genuine chemistry in this film, which is what I haven’t seen explored before in the Bond films I’ve watched. They’re both snappy with their replies making for a humorous and fun listen.

The plot is smart and interesting, aided by Bond’s antagonist who is a lot more memorable than past villains. Bond definitely found his match in Silva (Javier Bardem) who is always a step ahead. The villain is one of the major highlights of the film because Javier Bardem puts in an amazing performance playing this insane character who has an obsession with making things right with M. It’s such an unusual and crazy character that it’s actually brilliant. James Bond is of course gritter and darker than ever, which shows in his rusty attitude towards missions. It seems that due to the ending of Casino Royale, the Bond character has been moulded to a specific tone, a dark, gritty, no nonsense James Bond, and it totally works for Daniel Craig. There’s a certain vulnerability that I’ve not seen from past Bond characters and that makes him a more compelling character, and you realise that he is actually human sometimes driven by his feelings. Props to Daniel Craig who has, in my opinion, played this character to perfection making the character his own. There’s some pretty cool appearances as well by Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris and Ben Whishaw, which are worth watching for, and make for a promising sequel as they all seem to be sticking around for future films.

The action scenes were realistic and engaging and were stylish at times, continuing the polished aesthetics of the film. But that’s what Daniel Craig has brought to the films from the start, a more believable character with realistic fighting scenes showing true brutality with his kills. Despite that, I think that’s where the film was a let down. It lacked proper iconic, large scale action sequences which Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace had. There were some big explosions here and there but it needed more in my opinion, and then it would have been a perfect film. Luckily everything else about the film compensated for the lack of action and still makes for an incredible watch.

I just hope that Daniel Craig has the capacity for at least another two films, because this character is truly one of my favourites at the moment, and he just seems to fit the role so perfectly. Although, I do think the next films need to be a lot more light hearted and fun, we’ve already had three fairly dark films and I think it’s time for a film filled with gadgets, over the top action and a freaking creepy villain wanting to destroy the world. Thanks to the introduction of Q and Eve I reckon the sequel will give us those gadgets we’ve missed and some sexual innuendo, WOOP.