Ocean’s Eight (2018)

Ocean's Eight poster

IMDb

Released: June 8, 2018. Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway. Directed by: Gary Ross. Runtime: 1h 50 min.

Midway through “Ocean’s Eight”, the spin-off of the “Ocean’s” trilogy, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) tells Lou (Cate Blanchett) that there’s no room for men in this heist. “I don’t want a him,” says Debbie. “A him gets noticed. A her gets ignored.”

This all-female led cast isn’t one to be ignored. Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, Danny’s sister, and the movie starts with her in a parole meeting – the same opening as 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven.” She gets released and with the help of Lou, they round up a team for a heist.

This includes Tammy (Sarah Paulson), the hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling) and pick-pocketer Constance (Awkwafina). Debbie wants do this job because stealing is her talent – established by clever little after she’s out of jail. She tells a guard: “I have forty-five dollars, I can go anywhere.”

The heist is at New York City’s annual Met Gala, and the target’s a diamond necklace called the Toussaint, valued at $150 million, which will be worn by Daphne Kruger (Anne Hathaway).

Hathaway’s fun in the role, playing an exaggerated version of herself, shown best during a fashion-related panic attack. I’m glad the franchise kept that meta sense of humour, even if it’s not as obvious as the scene in “Ocean’s Twelvewhen Julia Roberts plays Tess Ocean pretending to be Julia Roberts.

Everyone’s performances in “Ocean’s Eight” are stronger than their characters. They’re basic characters and Debbie has the most development. Helena Bonham Carter is quirky and entertaining as the Irish fashion designer Rose.

Ocean's eight pic

Sarah Paulson, Sandra Bullock and Rihanna in Ocean’s Eight. (IMDb)

Rihanna’s also great as Nine Ball. Her hacks are clever, and I love that her computer mouse is a nine ball (pictured above). Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson are charming, and both Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling are amusing. James Corden is among the only male talent and appears in the third act and makes things livelier, and he’s good for a few laughs.

It’s difficult for this film to avoid comparisons to the original trilogy. Steven Soderbergh brought so much style to his trilogy and to the heist genre. In comparison, this is flat, especially during the setup.

Without any great characters here, the cast mainly kept me interested. It’s entertaining enough on its own but it doesn’t have much style under Gary Ross’s direction. Style only shows up on the night of the Met Gala with all of its glitz, glamour and celebrities.

I like how writers Ross and Olivia Milch make the characters steal something off the neck of someone instead of them having to figure out how to get inside a vault to steal the necklace. There’s creativity in the plot and the implementation of the Met Gala plan is decent fun, even if the suspense doesn’t come close to any of the originals.

Score: 65/100

 

 

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Rio (2011)

RioRelease Date: April 15, 2011. Director: Carlos Saldanha. Stars (voices): Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx. Runtime: 96 min.

Blue Sky Studios produces decent animated movies; from the Ice Age flicks to Horton Hears a Who! to Epic. The studio is just that, though, decent. Their movies aren’t anything extraordinary usually – and that’s just the case with Rio.

As feel-good and foot-tapping as the movie is, it’s quite generic and simply forgettable. It’s a good way to pass the time, and it offers a few laughs, but I don’t remember any of them. The voicework is also fine. It’s a story about believing to fly, because Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) was taken from his natural habitat before he learned to fly. I don’t remember hearing any R. Kelly song throughout this movie, so that seems like a missed opportunity. The supporting characters are mildly amusing.

The movie goes down like a bitter pill. The movie is solid entertainment, but it hurts to know that Pixar could have made a movie just like this. They had to cancel their project, called Newt, because theirs was a similar premise with geckos — and I just can’t help but think their finished project would have been superior to this only mediocre film.

Score63/100

Les Misérables (2012)

Les MiserablesLes Misérables

Release Date: December 25, 2012

Director: Tom Hooper

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway

Runtime: 157 min

Tagline: Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.

Based on the original stage production of the same name, this tells the story of a slave prisoner who skips on his parole, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). Throughout his life, a police inspector, Javert (Russell Crowe), is close on his tail. After Valjean vows to a factory worker by the name of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to take care of her daughter, Cosette, his life is changed forever.

I have not seen the original play, and I hadn’t even heard of the play before seeing this feature. Does that mean I live under a rock? Not really, but if I did, it would be a really fancy rock. Anyway, all the knowledge I had of this film going in was the slim plot synopsis on IMDb, and I saw a few of the trailers.

Expectations: exceeded. This is a fine feature that has superb direction, great costumes, a beautiful yet heartbreaking story, and one heck of an ensemble cast. The cinematography is fine (there’s a scene that’s hard on the eyes), and with the actor’s legitimate singing voices complementing the film and its phenomenal imagery, it might as well feel like the real on-stage production.

The only thing that makes it not feel like the actual on-stage production is all the information that comes at you. With a stage production, there would be short breaks to change sets and let the audience absorb what just happened; but this goes from set to set, and time period to new time period. This poor transition of scenes makes it feel like there’s a lot more to absorb. In a way, this is much like ‘Lincoln’ earlier this year, that film just shot information at you (even though this isn’t as bad).

One more thing that feels off about the film: the make-up. The costume design is stellar, but some characters are neglected regarding make-up because they don’t look like they age a day. They make Jackman look a little more older and exhausted as it goes along, and he looks like his hair has grayed; but Crowe doesn’t look as if he’s getting any older, over a span of seventeen years (or however many it is). He looks exactly the same. The same with the “comic relief” innkeepers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), they really don’t age.

The story is all about never giving up and searching for freedom wherever it may present itself. It’s also a great analysis of the survival of the human spirit, and the things it trudges along through. Though, the message gets slightly preachy. It feels more preachy than it is because they’re singing it to you! They sing to you all about revolutions because of poverty and searching for that said freedom, finding love, and it’s also a story about self-sacrifice and redemption. However, I was willing to accept it for what it is.

Valjean is a man really about always starting over and making it a clean slate for himself. I mean, he gets enslaved for nineteen years because he stole a loaf of bread. He soon highly becomes consumed with just protecting Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the young girl who has become a daughter to him. All the other characters are pretty great, especially the villain you love to hate – Javert. He’s a good singer too, as is everyone else involved in this project. He is a man who lives by the law, despite all the times Valjean (who Javert usually refers to as Prisoner 24601, a number you won’t soon forget) tries to convince him to have a heart and let him go.

The only irritating character is a young boy named Gavroche, a petite thing part of the young people revolution. I understand that, at his core, the face of innocence – he’s just really, really, stupid.

Fantine is a character that really helps him [Valjean] change even further. She and he didn’t realize, that at the time, her asking him to take care of Cosette would be a life-changing experience for him. Fantine is a desperate woman trying to care for her daughter in a time of poverty, and her story is truly heartbreaking. She steals the scenes she is in with an Oscar-worthy performance (Jackman is also worthy of an Oscar), but the other performers are great, and they each capture the emotions they are supposed to, and they each sing with great heart. The ensemble make it that much more enjoyable. The young Eddie Redmayne shows some strong potential for more leading man roles, as he is one heck of a singer and a great actor. He also proves other people besides fat ladies can have a solid operatic voice.

While the story is slightly preachy, it undeniably has a very emotional core, making this one of the most emotionally vast films of 2012. The story is truly great, but it is definitely not the feel-good flick of the year. Each of the primary characters don’t want to be held back any longer, and live a better life than what they know. If the actors weren’t singing the vast majority of their dialogue, the film wouldn’t be quite as exciting. I am a sucker for period pieces, and now, I’m a sucker for this sort of profound musical.

In a nutshell: Les Misérables has a slightly preachy story, but it has a fine emotional core and a great set of characters and great actors that sweep you up into the sad story even more. You might as well be watching the on-stage production itself.

85/100

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises

Release Date: July 20, 2012

Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway

Runtime: 165 min

Tagline: A fire will rise.

This one was quite impressive.

   Eight years after Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes, a new terrorist leader has come to the surface in Gotham. There hasn’t been a spotting of Batman for eight years, and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse around the same time. Wayne must overcome his own personal turmoil and once again protect the city that has branded him an enemy.

It’s a great summer blockbuster that offers many incredible thrills great plot execution, some great twists and turns, and great direction and writing from Christopher Nolan.

The character of Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) wasn’t all that great. She offered a nice presence, but she wasn’t developed well enough as the other characters. The other new characters, like Bane or Officer John Blake or Miranda, are really good, and got solid character development. Although, other new characters like Daggett or Stryver, weren’t very interesting at all and weren’t extremely well-developed. The old characters are, as expected, as great as always.

The usual great Nolan atmosphere is offered, and it is one heck of a super-hero film. Its only possessive flaw is the sometimes slow build-up, and the plot feels a little too overused. Of course, what can you expect from a super-hero film? It will obviously have the whole hero vs. villain play-out, and this one has an extremely memorable climax. Its length may also feel like a flaw to some, but really and truly it doesn’t feel nearly as long as it actually is. Also, some of the realism of the whole thing feels off in areas.

This was obviously highly anticipated, and it really does live up to its hype. The cast is stellar, and Tom Hardy delivers a great performance – considering all he must act with are his eyes, voice, and gestures. His British drone and sometimes barely-audible dialogue make his character cringe-worthy, but the majority of his dialogue was understandable – if you listen very well. The subtitles should be helpful to those who will watch it on home media.

Now, here come the inevitable comparisons to the first two films, and the villains before Bane. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t nearly as great as The Dark Knight, but it is much better than Batman Begins. The atmospheric action was greater in D.K., and it had more memorable scenes. Though, this was still amazing. In this Nolan trilogy, Bane is better than Ra’s Al Ghul (as Ken Watanabe), but not Cillian Murphy’s The Scarecrow, Two-Face or especially not The Joker. All Bane has really is a frightening stature, strength, and the whole mystery of why he’s wearing that freaking eerie inhaler thingy-ma-bobber. That isn’t very scary, right…? He’s probably not the best villain because he doesn’t use a whole lot of psychological warfare. Heath Ledger’s The Joker used that all-too-well, and he was downright terrifying with his extreme psychopathic nature. The Scarecrow was just really cool, and he obviously used psychology as a weapon as he poisoned his victims with that gas to make them hallucinate like crazy.

This flick stars Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, with Liam Neeson and Juno Temple.

The Dark Knight Rises is an extremely impressive piece of cinema that may be flawed, but still awesome. The length may threaten some, but it is an experience that should be had, and even people who don’t like super-heroes can enjoy this. It isn’t as great as The Dark Knight, as [it was] expected, but this is still quite must-see. This is a summer blockbuster at its finest which should snatch up an extremely respectable amount of awards.

90/100