The Gift

Critics say director Joel Edgerton’s The Gift is wickedly smart and playfully subversive. On the evening I saw this film, the audience members seemed on the edges of their seats.  When the film begins, Robyn (Rebecca Hall) and Simon (Jason Bateman) set up household in Los Angeles to restart their lives. Soon after, they run into Simon’s high school classmate, Gordo (Joel Edgerton), and from there we see the plot unfold through Robyn’s point of view.  Gordo continues to surface as an uninvited guest, which casts an unsettling shadow over the couple’s new life in L.A. The plot turns and suspicion begins to shift between Simon and Gordo creating a gripping sense of uncertainty. The more information Robyn discovers, the more the mystery unfolds through twists and turns.

This film is psychologically intense. It’s more about mind games than bloody grotesque horror tropes — the house is not haunted, but a ghost is emerges in the film’s compelling plot.

I might see this one again!

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American Ultra


Nima Nourizadeh’s American Ultra is a film that is deceptively funny, warm, and scary at the same time. The reviews for this film were tepid, but I have to disagree with them. I liked the film.

As the story opens, audience members meet a stoner, Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives in a small rural town with his girlfriend, Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart). The Audience watches the prologue unfold through Mike’s eyes, when strange things begin to happen. A clue at a time is revealed when CIA agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) goes searching for Mike. We find that he was at one time a government agent, who has been deactivated. Mike is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. He’s too well-trained, however, (and too high) for the CIA to keep up with him. Telling any more would be a spoiler.

This show is billed as a comedy, but don’t expect much slapstick farce in this film. The humor is carefully woven into the suspenseful drama. The moments of the film you laugh are the points in the film where you begin to understand Mike’s background. Eisenberg pulls off a klutz of a character that ends up being a hero tripping over his shoelaces — and he pulls it off quite well.

The fight scenes are not as bloody as those in other films, but they grip attention with meticulously staging. Only a stoned superhuman agent could fight this well, using such quirky, well choreographed moves. All this action is tempered by the unfolding of a romance between Mike and Phoebe that increasingly complicates along the way and adds dimension.

If you are looking for a film with technical effects and stunts as slick as Mission Impossible, this film is not for you. But if you are looking for a movie that is what Roger Moore calls “fun in a bad way and bad in a fun way,” you will like this movie. Go see it.

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(If you do see American Ultra, remember to stay for the credits to the end. They are an animated epilogue for the film.)