American Ultra

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  • American Ultra

    A mini review. No spoilers.

    Went to an advanced screening and was pretty excited for it. Sadly it's a little on the wrong side of average.

    Despite the marketing I wouldn't call American Ultra a "stoner comedy." Yeah, there are a few pot jokes, but the film strays pretty far from even the "comedy" label. It's not that jokes fall flat, it's that AU doesn't make many, despite the intentional absurdity of the plot. That's a problem, because it's not really an action film, either. There's no spectacle to the action scenes. They're very small scale, simple, and lacking any set pieces like in the Jumpstreet movies or badass choreography like John Wick. So it felt more like an episode of TV than a movie. Plus, the only thing ever at stake is the hero's life.

    The plot was predictable/formulaic. So nothing about the movie stands out, to me. The best way to describe it would be a quirky indie drama/love story with some farcical humor and gun fire sprinkled in.

    Would have much preferred to be laughing through the action scenes, like Jumpstreet. The tone was very, very bizarre given the low laugh count.
    Twitter: @jboffer

  • #2
    Re: American Ultra

    I agree. Although I went in with lower expectations and pretty much got what I expected, so I was less disappointed.

    It was pretty mindless and forgettable, but a fun enough time. I'd give it a B-/B. More John Leguizamo would have been welcome -- more John Leguizamo always is...

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    • #3
      Re: American Ultra

      anybody know what the budget was?

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      • #4
        Re: American Ultra

        Originally posted by bjamin View Post
        anybody know what the budget was?
        $12 million

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmen...ken-pleasures/
        "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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        • #5
          Re: American Ultra

          Originally posted by UpandComing View Post

          Thanks. So it's still heavily underwater. Does anyone know if it opened first in select theaters and then went wide or just straight up went wide? 'Cos according to Box Office Mojo it's "only" raked in about 5 mil.

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          • #6
            Re: American Ultra

            Originally posted by bill the scholar
            Looks like it started with 2,778 screens on Aug. 21st.
            Cool. Thanks *Kinda ballzy on their part.
            Last edited by bjamin; 08-24-2015, 12:09 PM. Reason: *

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            • #7
              Re: American Ultra

              So what's your feeling on Max Landis?

              I listened to his appearance on the Indoor Kids podcast last week.

              He complained about the Fantastic Four adaptation and that generally the executives who work on comic book movies always feel the need to change the mythology/go against the fundamental idea of the stories. Then he went on to tell his pitch on the Fantastic Four, which greatly shifted the mythology/went against the fundamental idea of the stories.

              He talked about American Ultra and Mr. Right, which sounded extremely similar.

              He also pitched another idea he was excited about that seemed like a gimmick-filled mess.

              I didn't have an opinion on him going into the podcast, but I didn't have the best impression of him coming out of it.

              Though the trailer for Victor Frankenstein did peek my interest.

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              • #8
                Re: American Ultra

                He's one of the hottest and most sought after writers in town and his movies do... eh.

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                • #9
                  Re: American Ultra

                  he writes decent horror. has an infectious enthusiasm about him. I can't get over how productive he is. effin' crazy busy.

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                  • #10
                    Re: American Ultra

                    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
                    So what's your feeling on Max Landis?
                    I listened to him on the "Chicks Who Script" podcast (which I'm a huge fan of); I didn't really have an opinion of him going into it, and I didn't have the best impression of him coming out of it. But, at least he seems to be self-aware of his image.

                    I was a fan of "Chronicle", but "American Ultra" doesn't seem that interesting to me, so I'll probably miss it. He doesn't appear to be taking the lack of critical/box office love too well on Twitter.

                    Still, he has two other movies coming out this year, so two other chances to look good. Nice to be able to be in that position (three of the movies you wrote coming out in one year? Seriously?).
                    "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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                    • #11
                      Re: American Ultra

                      The drama around Landis is actually turning out to be more entertaining than the film. He's one of my favorites I follow on twitter, because of how outspoken he is, even when half the time it seems a bit insane.

                      I'm especially glad I saw the movie now so I have perspective on his latest rant, which is making the rounds everywhere.

                      So here’s an interesting question: American Ultra finished dead last at the box office, behind even Mission Impossible and Man From Uncle…American Ultra was also beaten by the critically reviled Hitman Agent 47 and Sinister, despite being a better reviewed film than either…which leads me to a bit of a conundrum: Why?

                      American Ultra had good ads, big stars, a fun idea, and honestly, it’s a good movie. Certainly better, in the internet’s opinion, than other things released the same day. If you saw it, you probably didn’t hate it. So I’m left with an odd thing here, which is that American Ultra lost to a sequel, a sequel reboot, a biopic, a sequel and a reboot. It seems the reviews didn’t even matter, the MOVIE didn’t matter.

                      The argument that can/will be made is: big level original ideas don’t $. For the longest time, my belief was that the 80s/90s were the golden age of movies; you never knew what you were going to get. Am I wrong? Is trying to make original movies in a big way just not a valid career path anymore for anyone but Tarantino and Nolan?

                      That’s the question: Am I wrong? Are original ideas over? I wanted to pose this to the public, because I feel, put lightly, confused. I feel like I learned a lesson, here, but have no idea what it is. I once joked “there’s only so many times people will go see Thor 2.” Sorry to be kind of a downer guys. It’s just a little frustrating to see John Cena squash Kevin Steen. Metaphorically.


                      I don't know, man.

                      -Marketed as a stoner film, but it's not (and trailer wasn't funny enough for that angle)
                      -Title isn't awful, but also isn't clear what it is
                      -The stars aren't big box office draws like he assumes (my guess)
                      -The idea isn't that original, and the trailer didn't hint at any broader story other than "stoner on the run." Turns out, that was the entire movie

                      It's tough to keep seeing original films take a pounding at the BO, but most of the time I can't see myself defending the actual film. There's a shortage of original films, but GOOD original films are much rarer.
                      Twitter: @jboffer

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                      • #12
                        Re: American Ultra

                        Originally posted by jboffer View Post
                        -Marketed as a stoner film, but it's not (and trailer wasn't funny enough for that angle)
                        -Title isn't awful, but also isn't clear what it is
                        -The stars aren't big box office draws like he assumes (my guess)
                        -The idea isn't that original, and the trailer didn't hint at any broader story other than "stoner on the run." Turns out, that was the entire movie

                        It's tough to keep seeing original films take a pounding at the BO, but most of the time I can't see myself defending the actual film. There's a shortage of original films, but GOOD original films are much rarer.
                        You're absolutely right. Every argument he makes in defense of his film is questionable.

                        Good ads?
                        Hard to call them that when they didn't clearly communicate the tone of the movie and left many people wondering what it was actually about.

                        Big stars?
                        That's laughable. Kristen Stewart hasn't had a hit in a starring role outside of pre-established franchises (Twilight, Snow White and the Huntsman). And Jesse Eisenberg - since when has he been a box office draw? Now You See Me was mainly a success because of its concept.

                        Fun idea? Sure, but it's kinda been touched on already with Pineapple Express. Stoners in an action movie.

                        Good movie? Its 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 50/100 rating on Metacritic, and B- Cinemascore makes me beg to differ.

                        Frankly, I think he was exhibiting the natural defensiveness that so many artists do when their work is poorly received. That said, trying to make this look like it's a symptom of the problem of people not seeing original films comes across as a bit disingenuous. He makes some interesting arguments; I just don't think you can base them on the performance of this particular film.
                        "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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                        • #13
                          Re: American Ultra

                          Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                          Frankly, I think he was exhibiting the natural defensiveness that so many artists do when their work is poorly received. That said, trying to make this look like it's a symptom of the problem of people not seeing original films comes across as a bit disingenuous. He makes some interesting arguments; I just don't think you can base them on the performance of this particular film.
                          Yeah, it read to me like that thing where you criticize somebody's work and they go "OH WELL I GUESS I'M JUST MISUNDERSTOOD IN MY OWN TIME." No, dude, it's just harder to come up with an original story that will have the same draw as an established property. I mean, think about it: an established idea was once one of the best original stories of its time and has since been refined by subsequent storytellers and has acquired a large, forgiving audience. Of course it'll be easier to get that right - it has more work behind it than your first-time idea.

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                          • #14
                            Re: American Ultra

                            Originally posted by omjs View Post
                            No, dude, it's just harder to come up with an original story that will have the same draw as an established property. I mean, think about it: an established idea was once one of the best original stories of its time and has since been refined by subsequent storytellers and has acquired a large, forgiving audience. Of course it'll be easier to get that right - it has more work behind it than your first-time idea.
                            Good point.
                            "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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