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

 

 

Ride Along (2014)

Ride AlongReleased: January 17, 2014. Directed by: Tim Story. Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter. Runtime: 99 min.

Buddy comedies remain one of the most dime-a-dozen, yet bankable, sub-genres of comedy and action. Last year, Paul Fieg made an attempt at re-inventing the genre by simply replacing men as the focal point, with women (Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy were the unlikely duo) appearing in “The Heat.” The buddy cop action comedy is a formula that’s never going to change, but we can always hope for a film to try to mix things up and still give us a good time.

The newest buddy cop comedy “Ride Along” stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. Ben (Kevin Hart) is a fast-talking security guard who has just been accepted to the police academy. This film is really about him proving himself that he could be a good police officer, as well as prove to his girlfriend’s (Tika Sumpter) brother James (Ice Cube) that he’s man enough to marry his sister. And how does he prove that he’s man enough? Well, James can take him on a ride along, of course! Isn’t that the only way? And he proves to people watching the film that he’s man enough by nicknaming his penis the black hammer (and that’s his gamer tag, too!)

It’s funny to me that this ride along can prove that Ben is man enough to marry the sister and be a police officer, while it’s simply an excuse for James to humiliate him and prove that he can’t do either. Meanwhile, James really wants to take down this feared Atlanta criminal named Omar; he’s a ghost because he’s never been seen. One knows when that’s the case with a big-time villain, the reveal is either going to be someone we’ve already seen on screen, or a random big-name actor. I won’t reveal which one it is here, don’t worry. James has been chasing this Omar character for three years, which is ruffling his lieutenant’s feathers. It feels uninspired and a simple excuse to make this film look like it has a plot; but it is the sub-plot that enables action to happen.

If this sub-plot wasn’t existent, the film would simply be a comedic version of “Training Day.” Regardless, this is still a comedic version of “TD” – the filmmakers put in that silly sub-plot in to make it less obvious. They will help some people make the connection to it by saying that film’s title, so at least they’re honest about the fact that we’ve seen this story before. The film isn’t as bad as I might be making it out to be in these first paragraphs; I just wanted to get the flaws out of the way. The action scenes are amusing because they’re able to add comedy to the action mix of it all. That can be difficult, filmmakers try and try to do that – but it’s usually a miss. It hits here, once or twice. So director Tim Story (“Fantastic Four”) should get some recognition for it.

The film is usually entertaining because of the consistent laughs. The film is as familiar and unoriginal as they come, but I think you’ll find yourself laughing a lot, but maybe a bit less if you’ve seen the trailer beforehand – I managed to not see the trailer once. The multiple laugh-out-loud moments are the most enjoyable parts of the film. Well, really the only enjoyable parts – the action is straight-forward and there are explosions; so that might make this a fun flick for people who like loud noises. There’s an amusing aspect in one of the action scenes, but I won’t spoil it because now that I saw the trailer after watching this, I won’t spoil a funny scene that wasn’t in the trailer.

This feels like an advertisement for XBOX Live at times, but whatever; video games are cool, too. It seems Hart’s character is inspired by video games to become a cop, but with his knowledge of the sounds of weapons developed by playing realistic video games, he might just be better off as a weapons specialist. Or he might just be better off continuing playing video games with his buddy Assface. That’s a funny name, but the filmmakers are making it too easy for people to criticize it and say that they (the writers) are trying too hard for a laugh every time the name is said. At least the film is funny, but this is one of those comedies where only one character gets the laughs. That character is Ben, and Hart’s energy helps the film not be a trainwreck. Anyway, he makes it enjoyable for the audience members, while Ice Cube is simply the straight man. He isn’t able to have much fun in his role, unless you consider screwing with Ben’s character a fun activity. Cube’s stern facial expressions and his pissed-off comic delivery works with some characters (like his angry police captain in “21 Jump Street”) but it doesn’t work here.

The main reason why James hates Ben so much is because Ben accidentally set him on fire at a barbeque one time. That’s one reason to hold a grudge, I guess. Some might just want to say to him; man, you got burnt, get over it and just be thankful it didn’t leave any ugly scars on your face. Since James hates Ben for a fair majority of the film, the chemistry isn’t enjoyable. It’s a buddy comedy but the buddy aspect doesn’t feel there. In buddy movies, the two main characters might not like each other at first but they usually have a heart-to-heart about halfway through. With this, it feels like it’s never going to come. Also, with other buddy cop movies, they might not like each other, but at least one of them isn’t trying to humiliate the other. It makes James look like an antagonist to Ben’s dreams. Ben tries hard be nice to James because he loves his sister, but it’s hard when the guy is such a dick. She must be a real freak in the bedroom to make him willing to deal with James.

Note: This is one of those movies I had to put a lot of thought into my score because I enjoyed the laughs, but it was really a toss-up between getting a 60 or a 58, it might not mean much a difference to some, but it means being rotten and not being rotten on a Rotten Tomatoes scale. In the end, Hart won me over.

Score60/100

Gravity (2013)

GravityDirected by: Alfonso Cuarón. Released: October 4, 2013. Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice). Runtime: 91 min.

As far as survival movies go, I usually like them. It takes a lot for me to hate them, but it also takes a lot for me to love them. It also seems that they’re usually either slow or thrilling. “Gravity” makes me conflicted. It is a good human drama with substantial symbolism, but it has such little substance in other major areas. Let’s say if the story substance is a wire in space; Bullock’s character would not want to hang onto that wire, because it would break within seconds.

The film follows Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, under the guide of veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), in command of his final mission before retirement. On a seemingly normal space walk, they are caught in the way of falling satellite debris. Their shuttle is destroyed and contact with Houston, and Earth in general, is severed. They are left adrift in space with only each other, and one hell of a view.

This is a terrifying situation. If this happened to me, I’d probably be that first astronaut who gets hit by debris and gets a nice hole in his head. You could throw a baseball through it. (It’s some seriously awesome CGI effects. I don’t think it’s a major spoiler because I don’t even remember the guys’ name.) It’s terrifying to even imagine oneself stepping into Stone’s space boots and having this happen to them. That makes Bullock’s character more admirable, because she keeps kicking and repeatedly escapes death; but her repeatedly escaping death makes the character slightly unrealistic, as well.

Stone is the main character, and she is somewhat interesting because she contributes to the film’s human drama aspect. She finds it tough to hang onto her hope because of something that happened in her past, that has also made her a reserved person. One of her motivations to go up into space is because of the peace. She struggles to forget about her past and try to find happiness… Experiencing a trauma is never easy. Rebirth is one theme of the movie. Stone floating in space is a literal and metaphorical journey for her to find her way again. I won’t go into further detail about that – it is better to watch the aspect for yourself. Hope is an occuring theme, too, because that’s a good motivation to survive. It feels like Stone has one layer, so she isn’t as compelling as the actress portraying her. Bullock performs mainly with varied types of breathing; an impressive way to convey emotions in cinema. One could tell what she is feeling throughout. This acting job seems difficult, and she does well.

As for George Clooney, the guy is good at being charming, but he is average here. He isn’t forgettable enough for people to ask “Which Batman starred alongside Sandra Bullock in Gravity? Val Kilmer?,” but he isn’t anything to praise. His character has many decent stories and he is good comic relief for such a situation, but he’s generic.

Director Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) knows how to portray Stone’s pain well, but his story needs a lot of work. “Gravity” is good for Sandra Bullock and it is one of the most visually stunning films I have seen, in just about ever. If you’re just there for the effects, you’ll be satisfied. Some of the 3-D effects are pop-out scary, which is edge-of-your-seat intense. In one scene when a character cries, the teardrop is really cool. This experimental film works in a few areas, but it relies on effects too heavily to enhance its weak narrative.

The film’s first half is thrilling. But the good thrills are too repetitive, and when they’re repeated in the second half, it’s much less interesting. The screenplay’s main event is “escape inevitable death; from debris, fire, and lack of oxygen, and try to think of a way home,” and it happens over and over. It makes the second half have moments well worth a yawn or two. A more diverse screenplay would be welcome, and the character development leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps it is strange to expect more from a minimalistic filmmaker; but alas, this is one highly anticipated film of 2013 that doesn’t make me feel any sort of passion for it.

Score: 63/100

Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)

This is the End (6/12) [My review]

“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)

Monsters University (6/21) [My review]

“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)

World War Z (6/21) [My review]

“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)

The Heat (6/28) [My review]

“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)

The Purge (6/7) [My review]

“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)

Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]

“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned! 

 

The Heat (2013)

The HeatRelease Date: June 28, 2013

Director: Paul Feig

Stars: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Marlon Wayans

Runtime: 117 min

The comedy genre is one of the most popular genres out there, but it’s very hit-and-miss. The comedy gem of the year so far is This is the End, but The Heat will produce more than a few laughs. And in a year of mostly mediocre laughfests, we have to take all the near-greatness we can get.

Uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is teamed up with foul-mouthed Boston street cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) in order to take down a ruthless drug lord, Larkin. Things might go a little awry, because neither of these women have ever had a partner or a friend.

Sandra Bullock has always been a funny screen presence, and a talented one. Whatever she is called to do, she can do it well. Melissa McCarthy is also a funny screen presence, even if I prefer her on TV’s Mike and Molly. She has basically been playing the same roles in the movies ever since 2011’s Bridesmaids. (First Megan in Bridesmaids, then Diana in Identity Thief, and now Shannon Mullins here.) While that works for some actors, I’d really like to see her mix it up a little. That dirty, vulgar role might get old in a hurry. As her character of Shannon, she is funny, but even a sailor might be offended at some of the things she is asked to say. Most do produce laughs, and that’s just the point of a comedy; it makes you laugh.

The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The presence of Bullock really balances out the humour as well, and she isn’t just milking a straight man role. Both of these girls have lots of fun together joking around. There’s some quotable lines with a few memorable supporting turns. It’s great to see so many TV personalities on the big screen (most notably MADtv alum, Michael McDonald). Paul Feig knows how to bring it as the director as well, and I like the general story more than Bridesmaids, even if it isn’t anything special.

It’s really just your traditional buddy cop comedy. They’re trying to take down a drug lord, and blah blah blah, you know the rest. It’s one’s traditional, somewhat predictable ride. It’s a formula that works, and the Bullock/McCarthy team produce a lot of laughs. There’s lots of fun action and memorable jokes, even if they’re all vulgar and not all that clever, but they’re not repetitive or lazy, either. I appreciate the sweet core and sentiment underneath its mean spirit. It’s interesting how each character’s loneliness is shown; Ashburn only hangs out with a fat cat who has to go back to the neighbour’s when she comes-a-lookin’; and Mullins has basically been disowned by most of her family, for a reason I won’t spoil. It gives these characters depth, and you’ll probably like these characters a lot. The plot flows well and there’s a good comedic momentum – with a chuckle-worthy scene here, and a hilarious scene there. There’s one particularly gross and superfluous scene, though, that does nothing to advance the story. It feels as if they could get the message across a lot better in a much better way.

The movie balances out to a fun, somewhat predictable, but hysterical time at the movies. You’ll laugh out loud quite a few times, and that’s all that matters with a comedy. This isn’t the most memorable thing out there, but you could spend your money on a lot of worse movies. Check it out if you don’t mind your comedy often raunchy and incredibly vulgar.

75/100