Theatrical Releases: American Ultra & Sinister 2

AMERICAN ULTRA || August 21st, 2015

AmericanUltra-poster AMERICAN ULTRA || Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Topher Grace are not huge selling points to me, but the comedic style mixed with action bravado used in “American Ultra” is enough to slightly peak my interest in wanting to see this film. Eisenberg plays a stoner that is “activated” by the military, meaning he’s a Jason Bourne-esque character that was trained to be an assassin but his brain was washed of any memories of that until he’s brought back into the fold. On the run from the law, the trailer for this does make it look funny.
THEATER
Grandma-poster GRANDMA || Lily Tomlin is on fire in the trailer for “Grandma,” playing the unabashed, say-it-like-you-mean-it grandmother to a young woman who finds out she’s pregnant and needs $600. Going around to old friends and flames, she tries to help her granddaughter gather the money while attempting to apart wisdom. Her brash, off-the-cuff sense of humor is what sells this movie and with great reviews going for it, this looks like a winner.
RENT
HitmanAgent47-poster HITMAN: AGENT 47 || What a shame that “Hitman: Agent 47” isn’t better because I really enjoy Zachary Quinto’s work. Unfortunately, this action film looks like a garbled mess of action and cheesy one-liners. It doesn’t help when the central character is an expressionless hitman. Quinto plays a supporting role but looks to be the best part of this trailer at least, which uses a helicopter crashing into a high rise office building as its set piece action display. This has been dubbed, across the board, as the bottom of the barrel of summer movies.
PASS
ShesFunnyThatWay-poster SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY || With an ensemble cast to die for, including Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Rhys Ifans, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, and even Michael Shannon, who appears in the trailer for just a beat, “She’s Funny That Way” feels like it could be a Woody Allen movie, but mixes up the characters in a twisted system of overlapping relationships. With humor at the forefront, the trailer contains a few laughs, including a patented Owen Wilson freak out about an elevator.
STREAM
Sinister2-poster SINISTER 2 || What made the original “Sinister” truly phenomenal was Ethan Hawke and a well told story with some very disturbing imagery to boot. “Sinister 2,” however, looks to lack some of the key elements that made the original a standout. This time around, there is no star like Hawke to take the reins. Plus, especially made clear through reviews, the film lacks actual suspense and frightening moments and relies only on jump scares, which is often a great indicator to a weak horror film, Regardless, I’m a sucker for horror films and having seen the first one, I will likely see this one as well.
THEATER
SlowLearners-poster SLOW LEARNERS || Adam Pally is a great comedic actor and it’s really nice to see him still working after his television show “Happy Endings” was canceled. Playing a guy that has trouble getting dates and wants to have more of a wild side, he teams with his friend, played by Sarah Burns, who desires the same thing. Together, they uncover things about themselves that open them up to the world of promiscuous sex. Not sure if this a romantic comedy where they will fall in love or not, but it does look the slightest bit humorous.
STREAM

6Years-poster 6 YEARS || From executive producers The Duplass Brothers, “6 Years” is a glimpse at a young relationship that has been going on for that many years. With everyone around them telling them to branch out, experience life, and not let themselves be tied down too young, the couple themselves are enjoying their experience. There is no doubt that Taissa Farmiga is a breakout talent just in general, so it makes it hard to pass on this one. But the film feels too focused on one thing to be enjoyable. Plus Ben Rosenfield doesn’t do the best job selling this centralized couple.
PASS
AfterWords-poster AFTER WORDS || When awkward looking Marcia Gay Harden is fired as a librarian, she leaves a last will and testament and heads to Costa Rica to kill herself. But every time she tries, a handsome Spanish tour guide seems to be there to interrupt. Cue the love story. The strange part about the love story in “After Words” is that there is a 16 year age gap between Harden and Oscar Jaenada and with her playing the closed off, awkward woman, it’s hard to see what he finds in her to fall in love. Not to say Harden isn’t a lovely woman, but this one feels a little forced.
PASS
BeingEvel-poster BEING EVEL || As famous as the man was and with how many documentaries are made about anyone even the slightest bit significant, it is pretty phenomenal that it took this long to make a documentary about the death-defier, Evel Knievel. “Being Evel” tells the story of Evel before and during his rise to fame as the man that would put his life on the line continuously, upping the ante every time. Using interviews from those that knew him, as well as from admirer Johnny Knoxville, the film does pay respect to the man, but I feel like I know about as much as I’d like to know about him.
PASS
TheCurseOfDownersGrove-poster THE CURSE OF DOWNERS GROVE || How many times can you say “curse” in one trailer? “The Curse Of Downers Grove” attempts to find out, repeating the word, not only in dialogue but in copy as well. Written by Bret Easton Ellis, the writer of “American Psycho” and “The Rules Of Attraction” has seemingly been on a slow decent, with Lindsay Lohan’s “The Canyons” prior to this, and now a shlocky horror film where a senior dies every year before graduation. With zero effort put forth by any of the cast, this is at the bottom of the barrel.
PASS
DiggingForFre-poster DIGGING FOR FIRE || Having Joe Swanberg direct a dark comedy is enough to sell anything to me following his work on “Drinking Buddies” and “Happy Christmas,” but now his latest feature, “Digging For Fire” has such an impressive ensemble cast it is impossible to pass up. Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, and Mike Birbiglia are just the big names. Written by Swanberg and Johnson, this is even more dry comedy than normal, but it still looks powerful and Johnson has been proving to carry almost everything he does now.
RENT
Guidance-poster GUIDANCE || The age of the anti-hero continues to be among us and “Guidance” is an attempt at a comedy film about a man who pretends to be a guidance counselor but really all he is doing is smoking, drinking, and fighting with the students. I’m not sure where the redemption is supposed to be in this and I also have no idea how this over-the-top comedic actor got a starring role, but from what I can see, this film is far from even lower tier school films like “Bad Teacher”.
PASS
LearningToDrive-poster LEARNING TO DRIVE || Adding star power to a low concept film is usually the best way to get people to want to see it. “Learning To Drive” is a hard concept to push on its own, an aging woman is left by her husband for a younger woman and since she has never learned to drive and always relied on her husband, she decides to take lessons. But adding Paticia Clarkson and especially Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley to the cast is a huge step in the right direction, with Kingsley selling every role he’s ever taken. However, these roles are so out of their wheelhouse, it is still hard to jump aboard.
PASS
Mateo-poster2 MATEO || There’s not much to be said about this documentary following “America’s most notorious gringo mariachi on his misadventures to Cuba”. He’s got shows, he’s got recording time, and he’s got a girlfriend. Those are three big things that he should feel grateful for considering he is a strange man running around with his guitar playing mariachi music. But there is something to be said for confidence. Unfortunately, that does not sell this movie to me.
PASS
TheMend-poster THE MEND || Presented by David Gordon Green, one would hope that “The Mend,” a film about two brothers who are constantly at each other throats, would live up to one of Green’s films, but with a lack of humor, dry or not, and with far too much diving into unpleasant emotions, this film falls off even in the trailer. Touting Josh Lucas most impressive performance to-date, I still hold on to the notion that his best days are in front of him.
PASS
Shanghai-poster SHANGHAI || John Cusack, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, David Morse, and Ken Watanabe are not even enough to save this ’40s period piece about “an American expat who returns to Shanghai in the months before Pearl Harbor”. Now, most of the time, the question is why so many talented actors jump aboard such a sinking ship in the first place, but in the case of “Shanghai,” the question is why this film was not made better. With the story in the place, this should have been an Oscar contender on paper, but instead, something is lost in translation to the screen and instead, this is a film with a release date of 2010 that is just now getting released theatrically.
PASS
SomeKindOfBeautiful-poster SOME KIND OF BEAUTIFUL || With the cast of attractive women, in particular Jessica Alba and Salma Hayek, I want to say “yes” to “Some Kind Of Beautiful” but the premise and execution are simply so bad that I cannot in my right mind commit. Pierce Brosnan plays a professor that gets Alba’s character pregnant. In trying to make it work, Alba meets someone else and brings in her sister Hayek to watch her and Brosnan’s kid while she’s away. Of course, as with any romantic comedy, Brosnan and Hayek become romantically involved, causing drama to keep it secret from Alba. Alba in her underwear is nice and Hayek naked in the pool is even better, but this fails to connect on any other level. Close but no cigar.
PASS
StationToStation-poster STATION TO STATION || 62 one minute films is what makes up the documentary of “Station To Station,” spanning the country, spanning different forms of art, this becomes an exploration of not only art but of trains and transportation in general. As interested as I am in seeing what people can say in a one minute short, this feels a little too exploratory for me.
PASS

THEATER

  • American Ultra
  • Sinister 2

RENT

  • Digging For Fire
  • Grandma

STREAM

  • She’s Funny That Way
  • Slow Learners

PASS

  • 6 Years
  • After Words
  • Being Evel
  • The Curse Of Downers Grove
  • Guidance
  • Hitman: Agent 47
  • Learning To Drive
  • Mateo
  • The Mend
  • Shanghai
  • Some Kind Of Beautiful
  • Station To Station

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