American Ultra (2015)

2016 #119
Nima Nourizadeh | 92 mins | streaming (HD) | 1.85:1 | USA & Switzerland / English & Mandarin | 15 / R

American UltraStoner comedies aren’t really my thing, but something about American Ultra — which is often pithily described as “Pineapple Express meets The Bourne Identity” — piqued my interest nonetheless. Partly it’s that Bourne comparison, obviously; partly it’s Jesse Eisenberg choosing to lead an action movie at this point in his career; mostly it’s the reception the film received: critics largely slagged it off, and audiences too, but there’s a noteworthy strand of people who enjoyed it. Sometimes the films with the niche fan base are the best films, and sometimes they’re the worst films. American Ultra is neither, merely settling somewhere between the two.

Max Landis’ wish-fulfilment screenplay (by which I mean Max Landis’ screenplay is about fulfilling Max Landis’ wishes) sees Jesse Eisenberg as a laggard stoner who turns out to be a CIA sleeper agent with Bourne-esque abilities, which are revealed when the director of a rival CIA programme (Topher Grace) sets out to kill him and anyone who stands in their way, including girlfriend Kristen Stewart.

Those aforementioned fans praise it for being original and different, but I don’t see where they got that from — it’s a Bourne clone with added comedy. And by comedy I don’t even Duuudereally mean it’s funny (there are two or three laughs, tops), just that it has a less serious tone. Even if you want to claim the Bourne similarities are just one facet, the film as a whole feels generally reminiscent of any number of low/medium-budget action flicks. It’s not bad, it passes the time, but original or exceptional? No.

3 out of 5

The Perfectly Adequate Monthly Update for July 2016

Another month over, another list of movies I watched during it…


#116 Zootropolis (2016), aka Zootopia
#117 Superman Returns (2006)
#118 Cold in July (2014)
#119 American Ultra (2015)
#120 Ten Little Indians (1974), aka And Then There Were None
#121 Zoolander (2001)
#122 Pride and Prejudice (1940)
#123 High-Rise (2015)
#124 The Visit (2015)
#125 The Imitation Game (2014)
#126 Sicario (2015)
#127 The Sting (1973)

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  • A total of 12 new films this month means I maintain my ten-per-month minimum for the 26th month.
  • It also easily passes my July average (6.5, by far the lowest of any month), and is equal-best July ever (with last year).
  • It’s the ‘worst’ month of 2016 to date, though.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS viewing was classic con caper The Sting, which is still enjoyable but somewhat overshadowed by the fact it’s been so influential in the four decades since its release.
  • Zootastic: watched both Zoolander and Zootropolis, aka Zootopia, this month. That signifies absolutely nothing, it’s just there aren’t that many films with titles beginning “Zoo”.

(I’ve decided to put a moratorium on the Analysis section until at least December’s update — as I wrote in June, it’s a bit pointless at the minute. That’s why relevant stats & stuff are now included in this part.)



The 14th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Although it has the shortest list of any month so far this year, it was a pretty strong one quality-wise — a ‘problem’ that afflicts both these first two categories, of course. Despite there being several strong contenders, I’m going to come down in favour of twisty, surprising neo-noir Cold in July.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There were films this month that weren’t as great as I was hoping, to one degree or another (High-Rise, The Sting), and others that lived up to my moderate-to-low expectations just fine (American Ultra, Zoolander), but none that were outright bad. So the unlucky winner is Ten Little Indians, for being a word-for-word remake (of the ’60s version) that isn’t quite as good as its predecessor.

Most Blatant Author Surrogate of the Month
Jesse Eisenberg’s lead character in American Ultra feels like it’s just screenwriter Max Landis going, “hey, what if it turned out I was Jason Bourne…”

Film Most Deserving of a TV Spin-off Series of the Month
I know I already mentioned this in my review, but I really would devote some of my precious TV-viewing time to a Zootropolis Zootopia Zootropolis spin-off… if it was one of those kids’ shows that’s so well written it works for an adult viewer too, of course. I guess the detailed animation required to realise that world is cost-prohibitive to this ever happening, though.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
A first, here: the most-viewed new post last month was the review of the month before that; i.e. The Independent Monthly Update for June 2016. Maybe it was my Brexit joke; maybe it was Deadpool; who can say?



This month: child hitmen, magical nannies, Shakespeare with big cats, and a really long walk to return some unwanted jewellery.


Summer! I hate summer. On the bright side, it means winter is coming… eventually…