Movie Review: American Ultra (2015)

Running time: 96 minutes

Director: Nourizadeh Nima

american_ultra_movie_2-wideReteaming after 2009’s Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart play a couple of stoners from West Virginia in the last movie by Project X’s director. Mike works at the local convenience store and is head-over-heels in love with his girlfriend Phoebe. He surprises her with a trip to Hawaii where he is planning to propose to her. However, every time he tries to leave town, Mike gets sick with panick attacks and this time is no exception, forcing the young couple to return home and miss their holidays, which, despite the amazing chemistry between Stewart and Eisenberg, raises the question to what is Phoebe doing with a guy like this.

It turns out that this is all due to the fact that Mike is actually a sleeping agent, programmed to get sick whenever he tries to leave town. Now, CIA agent, Adrien Yates (Topher Grace) is planning to shut down the program and eliminate Mike. Against this measure, Victoria (Connie Britton), the head of the Ultra program, visits Mike at his work station and speaks to him in code making no apparent impact on Mike. What he doesn’t know is that Victoria’s random words have activated him and to his surprise he is able to take down the two agents sent by Yates to kill him using just a spoon and the soup he was about to eat.

trailerA freaked-out Mike, calls Phoebe to tell her the extraordinary and horrifying thing that has just happened and when she arrives to the crime scene, they are both arrested. From here they have to keep finding unimaginable ways to survive as Yates is still determinate to kill Mike. It is strange to see Jesse Eisenberg in a role where he is not the smartest person in the room but somehow Mike seems to be a perfect fit for him. I know not everyone is a fan of him but he actually brings a lot of charm to the role. As for Kristen Stewart, we can’t keep bringing up Twilight and Snow White because in the last few years she has proved to be above that and has been really good in her recent work. I didn’t think the twist with her character entirely worked though, but that had nothing to do with her portrayal.

American Ultra is a messy movie that embraces the weirdness and doesn’t expect to be taken seriously. It starts very strong, balancing well the comedy and the extreme violence, and has some great moments throughout but unfortunately deflates as the movie progresses. We spend the whole movie waiting to see Mike’s full potential and when he finally does, the movie ends and is replaced by a cartoon, so we never get to see him being a 100% badass, which is a wasted opportunity.


Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Running time: 120 minutes

Director: George Miller

2015_mad_max_fury_road-wideIn 1985 the last installment in the Mad Max trilogy, Thunderdome, was released. But, though 30 years later, George Miller is sitting again in the director’s chair for the sequel, Mel Gibson is not. Taking his place as the face of the franchise is Tom Hardy. Sadly, Mad Max: Fury Road seems to be following the steps of last year’s Edge of Tomorrow. A great action movie that everyone loves, has huge word of mouth but for some reason, no-one goes to the cinema to watch. This and given how much the movie cost to make, makes very unlikely that the studio will greenlight a sequel, at least with the same budget.

In an apocalyptic future where all the landscape has become desert and water and gasoline are precious elements, the prisoner Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself tied to the front of a car as the “blood-bag” of Nux (Nicholas Hoult) when Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) discovers that Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has gone rogue and has stolen something very dear to him and is planning to cross the harsh wasteland to return to her homeland.

maxresdefaultI am one of those weird people who never saw the Mad Max trilogy so I can’t say if this movie is better or how much justice does Tom Hardy do to the character that made Mel Gibson a star in 1979. I can only say, he was great. He doesn’t have much dialogue but he manages to portray a lot just through body language. And if it is funny to see Tom Hardy wearing again a mask and talking weird like in his iconic role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, as his companion Nux, we have Nicholas Hoult hiding once more behind a lot of make-up just as he did in the X-Men movies as Beast and in Warm Bodies.

As for the film and given the trailers, I was expecting a non-stop action movie and that is partly what Mad Max is, but I was delightfully surprise that it is also an homage to the power and independence of women. This is mainly because even though Max is the title character, and Tom Hardy is fantastic, this is really Furiosa’s movie and Charlize Theron, with the guide of George Miller, has given us one of the best action heroes in years. Furiosa’s ferocity and determination never overshadows her tenderness and it is great not only seeing women fighting together but also fighting for each other. The five wives could have easily been mere damsels in distress but each one played an active role in trying to regain their freedom, with fierceness and yes, also a lot of glamour.

FURY ROADBut the true star of Mad Max: Fury Road is actually behind the camera. George Miller, at 70 and after so many delays in the production of the film, has made a spectacle using mostly practical effects. The design of the world and the characters is so grotesque that it becomes in some twisted way quite beautiful.

Really, the best word to describe Mad Max is insane. The characters are crazy, the action is crazy, even the story in itself. The action is chaotic but unlike many other action movies (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay), you can always tell what is going on. This is a great advantage since the movie is basically a big relentless action sequence and therefore, doesn’t have too much character development or even plot. There is some narrative here and there when the action stops that comes across a bit cheap and feels too much like exposition. However, and even though other things could have had¬† more explanation, in the end Mad Max doesn’t really need any of that to be an exhilarating film.