Tag Archives: jesse eisenberg

American Ultra

We got to check out the Ottawa screening of American Ultra last night.  I wasn’t excited to see it but hey, it’s a free movie!   Why wasn’t I excited?  Two reasons:

I haven’t cared for Jesse Eisenberg since Zombieland.  I have never been able to get over his one whiny character he always plays (at least I hope it’s a character).   And now he’s going to undoubtedly be whiny Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman which worries me a lot.  Even worse, I’m not sure I’ve ever liked a movie starring Kristen Stewart, because she seems to be exclusively in bad tween movies and also she never smiles or changes expressions as far as I can tell.

So those were two big strikes against American Ultra.  And I have to say, my worries in that regard were largely unwarranted.  Which is not to say either of these actors surprised me with their performances.  They were really the same as they ever are.  It just worked in this movie for some reason, maybe because Topher Grace was more annoying than the two of them put together, so I had to cheer for the good guys as the lesser of two evils.

It also helped that American Ultra was surprisingly decent as a popcorn movie.  Looking back, there are some parallels between this and Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Kingsman is hands-down better, don’t get me wrong, but American Ultra has the same kind of feel and, like Kingsman did with Colin Firth, American Ultra made me believe that Jesse Eisenberg could take down a whole army of government-sponsored assassins (or “assets” because apparently the government owns them).  Which was essential when the plot of American Ultra consists of Jesse Eisenberg killing lots and lots of people with whatever items are close at hand.

The difference between this and Kingsman is the subtext (or lack thereof).  Kingsman knows exactly what it wants to be and the message it wants to convey.  American Ultra, not so much.  If there is a message here, I totally didn’t get it, as the message I thought was being delivered for most of the movie disappeared and then was completely contradicted by the ending as American Ultra tried to wrap itself up.   And without a message, this movie is just violence.  Well-done, over-the-top, spectacular violence, but still just violence.  And that means American Ultra will be quickly forgotten by me and probably everyone else who sees it.  It is a time waster, a missed opportunity, and nothing more.

Apollo Ape and Chip the Brick, on the other hand?  Now there’s a team!  I would much rather have seen that movie.

 

American Ultra gets a rating of five gruesome Kwik-E-Mart kills out of ten.

 

Mother-Son Movies

TMP

I dedicate my submission to Wandering Through the Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks this week to my own mom. She gave me life and unconditional love and, on Mother’s Day, I took her to brunch.

sixth sense

Toni Collette is no stranger to playing a mom with a lot on her plate but she’s never been in more over her head than in The Sixth Sense (1999)   Single mom Lynn Sear has no idea that her 10 year-old son can see dead people but she can tell that something not right with him. To me, her performance as a mother who just wants to help but doesn’t know how is the best part of the movie and Haley Joel Osment’s scenes with her are far more believeable than his with Bruce Willis. I expressed my enthusiasm for the final mother-son scene in the movie in 10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away.

Millions

Speaking of kids who see dead people, seven year-old Damian is frequently visited by dead saints in Millions (2004). There’s a whole lot going on in my personal favourite of Danny Boyle’s films but- for the purposes of our belated Mother’s Day- Damian’s obsessions with saints seems to come from the conviction that his recently deceased mother must be a saint now herself. The appearance of his newly-sainted mom at the end of the film is just plain beautiful.

squid and the whale

When his parents separate after 17 years of marraige, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) defends his father (Jeff Daniels) and rejects his mother (Laura Linney) in The Squid and the Whale (2005). Walt idolizes his father so much that he basically becomes his clone. When following in his father’s footsteps starts getting him into trouble and he starts seeing his dad’s true colours, he is surprised to find himself thinking of treasured memories of his mother from long ago- before he had chosen sides.

Workplace Movies

TMPThursday Movie Picks, sponsored as ever by Wandering Through the Shelves, is brought to us this week by the letter W – for movies set in the workplace.

Matt

Office gossip can be addictive. Most people wind up spending most of their time talking about work when they spend time with their colleagues outside the office. Actually, three of the Assholes work in the same place and- when we’re not arguing about movies we’re often reminiscing (or ranting) about work. Even people who claim to hate their job tend to find the comedy and drama of any workday pretty interesting. All you need to do is capture that environment in a relatable way and you’ve got a pretty good movie.

The ApartmentThe Apartment (1960)- This has been one of my most significant Blind Spots until this week and it was worth the wait. Jack Lemmon plays an accountant at a big firm who’s just trying to get noticed. Once his superiors find out that he has a modest but nice apartment conveniently located on the Upper West Side, he becomes their go-to guy as they start borrowing his key so they can discreetly cheat on their wives. Director Billy Wilder has a lot to say about the compromises people make in the name of ambition and manages to make a movie that is still funny after all these years while he’s saying it. Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are as charming as can be too.

Office Space (1999)- Turning an animated short into a live action feature-length film could have Office Spacebeen a disaster but Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge turned any old boring day into the office into one of the funniest comedies of the 90s. Re-watching it this week, I laughed loudest when Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh- in an effort to pacify the troops- announces that Friday will be Hawaiian Shirt Day. Around our office, they charge us two dollars to wear jeans on Friday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for poor old Milton though.

MargMargin Callin Call (2011)- Yet another movie that I’m thankful to Wanderer for giving me an excuse to finally check out this week. Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Kevin Spacey (making my list two weeks in a row) play investment bankers who see the writing on the wall leading up to the 2008 Financial crisis and sit around wondering what to do about it. Director J. C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) knows how to set the mood and the performances are all stellar.

Jay

Up In The Air – Poor Ryan Bingham is so afraid of real life that he’s made sure his job keeps him in constant motion. His office may be at a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet but he spends a lot of George-Clooney-Whattime visiting other people’s workplaces to tell them they’re no longer employed. This is such a tough job that cash-strapped businesses are still willing to pay big bucks during a recession for him to do it in their place. He sees offices at their very worst, smells the fear and senses the instability, and is the receptacle for sometimes 20 years’ worth of pain and frustration. Our identities can be so wrapped up in our work, and in many ways, Ryan (George Clooney) is the prime example of this. Director Jason Reitman bravely tackles those creeping workplace notions of downsizing and obsolescence and asks some tough questions of the aging American workforce.

The Social Network – I love how you see the growth of the company here, the “offices” originally facebookin a Harvard dorm room, and then graduating quite quickly to the impressive work space that was eventually needed. The movie recounts a very modern invention (hello, Facebook) but its workplace themes are as old as the first profession – loyalty, jealousy, theft, power, the complicated ownership of ideas. Whether friends or enemies, friended or unfriended, colleagues or competition, this project is always work, and everybody wants to get paid.

Brokeback Mountain – The classic office romance. They meet by the photocopier, lock eyes over the  on, thwater cooler, exchange business cards in the elevator…or, you know, not. Don’t you wish your office looked like this? The scenery is breathtaking but mabrokebackke no mistake: these two cowboys meet at work, doing a job that’s not altogether welcoming to “their kind.” When their boss gets an inkling of what’s going on, the work dries up and the two spend the rest of their lives stealing secret moments and steeling themselves with memories of the best job they ever had. monsters

Bonus pick: Monsters, Inc. Sully and Mike are about as close as two colleagues can be. Mike is the more ambitious of the two, but it’s Sully’s talent and skill that make them so successful. The workplace is originally competitive, and tinged with the fear of contamination (they do bio-hazardous work with children). It may be a cartoon about fuzzy monsters, but any joke about paperwork in triplicate is likely to land huge with adult audiences.

Sean:

Since Matt took Office Space and Jay took Up in the Air, I am sticking to familiar territory and making my section an all-lawyer-movie workplace bonanza!

Philadelphia – a great movie about a lawyer getting kicked out of his workplace, and then going to his other workplace, the court, to try to make things right.  Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington absolutely own this movie.  I actually did not see this until last year and I should have seen it way sooner, because it’s excellent.

A Few Good Men – I saw this in theatres, I owned it on VHS, I own it on DVD, and one of my roommates in university recited the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech every time he had more than three drinks.  And I could watch it again tomorrow.  There are so many good lines and so many good characters in here that it remains enjoyable to this day.   And again there are a few workplaces in here, namely the courts and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The Firm – Tom Cruise is probably the best lawyer ever, at least if you go by his on-screen performances.  He almost got Dawson and Downey freed and in the Firm he somehow outmaneuvers a whole team of crooked lawyers and the mob while still adhering to his strict ethical code.  Plus he does a lot of really fast running in the Firm which is always the best part of any Tom Cruise performance.  This movie feels really long, because it is, but it’s still a good watch.

Anyone had an office love? Office hook up? Office BFFs?

The Social Network

Mark Zuckerberg is a big, fat, shit-eating dick and Jesse Eisenberg is the man who was born to play him (if only he had retired right afterward – he is seriously the most one-note motherfucker in Hollywood today).

Once upon a time, a pretty girl (Rooney Mara) broke a nerd’s heart. Mark (Eisenberg) is an asshole and deserves it, but he’s also a pretentious prick at Harvard so in his privileged, entitled little head, he thinks this gives him the right to declare war on women everywhere. He has an all-night coding sessions with his buddies (has anyone EVER written on a window with marker in real life, I wonder?) and by the next morningMV5BMjI2NzQ4MDMyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDA1NTUxNA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,642,1000_AL_ he’s got the most misogynistic piece of programming he can muster, and he shares it like wildfire. It attracts the attention of a couple of conceited, ambitious BMOCs – The Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who have an idea of their own for an exclusive social network.

Famously, Mark Zuckerberg accepted the job offer but then strung them along, stealing the idea for himself. He talked his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) into bankrolling their fledgling company but then pushed him out just as Facebook hit the big time, in favour of the snake Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). And he didn’t just push him out, he FUCKED HIM OVER. Royally. Shares that were nearly invaluable the day before were rendered almost worthless overnight. And Eduardo was his friend! His only friend, really. This movie is about the ensuing lawsuits but mostly it’s about a young guy with a brilliant mind and a cold heart who pursued his dream single-mindedly until he was a billionaire with no friends.

Mark Zuckerberg, as he is portrayed in the film, seems to be a young man on the verge of becoming on of those woman-hating incels before he finds salvation in programming and intellectual property theft. In real life, he may not be quite so villainous, but the truth would have made a far more boring movie, and with David Fincher in the director’s seat and Aaron Sorkin writing furiously, The Social Network was never going to be hindered by the truth.