American Ultra Feature

Some Movies to See This Weekend, August 21, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015 Rob Samuelson

There's a bit of everything hitting theaters this weekend. You get your sequels and reboots, but they're of slightly lesser-known quantities than usual. You also get your counter-programming, the comedic weirdness of the late summer season. It helps that each of the new movies is of a different genre, too, so the lack of true originality is hardly a burden. Let's take a look.

American Ultra
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Writer: Max Landis
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton

A sleeper agent (Eisenberg, who has been quite busy these last few weeks in theaters) has been living a quiet, marijuana-filled life. Then one night he gets activated and things start going haywire for him and his equally hazy girlfriend, played by Kristen Stewart. He is targeted by the agency that created him and, while the muscle memory kicks in, everything seems new to his addled mind.

Eisenberg gets to twist his nebbish persona into something much more relaxed and Stewart gets to play on her publicly perceived persona of not being totally “present” all the time. They're each much more layered performers than those descriptions imply, so it could be fun to see each actor play into and subvert these expectations.

Hitman: Agent 47
Director: Aleksander Bach
Writers: Skip Woods, Michael Finch
Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto

The last time Hollywood took a stab at turning the Hitman video games into a movie, they turned to one of the better character-actor-leading-man hybrids in the business, Timothy Olyphant (pre-Justified) to shave his head and shoot at bad guys. This time around, it's Rupert Friend of Homeland getting the nod, and he gets to fight Star Trek's Mr. Spock, Zachary Quinto. That's about it. There appears to be a little too much CGI for the budget (re: it doesn't look particularly good), but that could just be the effects not being entirely finished for the trailer. Cars go zoom, bombs go boom, and the bald guy with the red tie gets to look neat. It's pretty meat-and-potatoes.

Mistress America
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writers: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Seth Barrish

Gerwig and Baumbach team up again after 2013's Frances Ha, with Gerwig playing a woman who meets her soon-to-be step-sister and begins teaching her the ways of the world. Except, of course, Gerwig doesn't know much about the world and is pretty bad at pretending she does. That premise-actress combination is ripe for screwball comedy.

Sinister 2
Director: CiarĂ¡n Foy
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan

Modern horror is one of my biggest cinematic blind spots. I've never seen the first Sinister from 2012, but it, like this weekend's sequel, was co-written by C. Robert Cargill, a man whose film criticism I read for a long time when he worked for Ain't It Cool under the pseudonym Massawyrm. He's a guy whose cinematic writing I would like to experience because the lives and breathes genre movies.

Plot-wise, it involves the murders of the bogie man. A family in a farm house experiences strange things, a kid starts to go nuts, a handsome guy who was apparently in the first movie investigates. It sounds straightforward, but there are some visual flourishes in the trailer that indicate a little more than regular scares.

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