Ocean’s 8 (Full Review)

Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of the Rat Pack’s Ocean’s 11 is one of my all time favorite films. With charisma and a brilliantly clever heist, the film cemented itself as one of the best in the genre. Now it’s the ladies turn. With Gary Ross (Hunger Games) at the helm and a wealth of talented actresses to work with, Ocean’s 8 looks to rekindle the magic that Ocean’s 12 and 13 couldn’t quite recapture.

OceansEightPosterAfter serving 5 years in prison for fraud, Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) is back in the family business. With her best friend and fellow con-artist, Lou (Cate Blanchett) at her side, she plans to steal a $150 million necklace from celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the annual Met Ball in New York City. To pull off the elaborate heist, she recruits a former thief turned housewife (Sarah Paulson), a down on her luck designer (Helena Bonham Carter), a jeweler (Mindy Kaling), a pickpocket (Awkwafina), and a brilliant hacker (Rihanna).

In an industry of shallow and unnecessary remakes (The Mummy), it’s a breath of fresh air that Ocean’s 8 never feels like a cheap knock off. From the style, to the humor, to the endless celebrity cameos, the film manages to feel organically similar to Ocean’s 11, but the diverse and fantastic cast creates a unique feel. Even characters like Debbie and Lou, who have identical personalities to George Clooney’s Danny and Brad Pitt’s Rusty, work well off of the strength of the chemistry and wit of Bullock and Blanchett. It only takes one, early shoplifting scene for Bullock to cement herself as a worthy successor to the franchise. As for the supporting cast, it’s surprisingly Rihanna who stands out the most. Her performance as the hacker named 9 Ball, is smart, sly, and fun making it clear she’s having a blast every minute she’s on screen.

Things aren’t completely rosy. With such a large cast, it’s easy for at least one character to slip through the cracks. Here, it’s Mindy Kaling’s Amita, who unlike her co-stars, never really gets a chance to let her personality shine. The heist itself also feels almost too easy for the ladies and somewhat undermines the suspense. So while it might not be quite as clever as Ocean’s 11, this reboot manages to properly re-establish a franchise that provides some wonderful humor and a fun cinematic experience. And it’s one of the few reboots that isn’t a waste of time and money.

FINAL GRADE: B

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RedBox Reviews 10/5/16

If you’re not feeling a night of binge watching Luke Cage on Netflix and want to have a nice movie night, here are a couple of films that came out this past Summer that are worth checking out.

money_monster_posterMONEY MONSTER George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as Lee Gates and Patty Fenn, host and director of a live stock tip TV show called Money Monster. After a company recommended by Gates as a surefire investment loses $800 million seemingly due to a random computer glitch, a down on his luck New Yorker (Jack O’Connell) who had stock in the company, takes the show’s studio hostage demanding answers. Meanwhile, the company’s CEO (Dominic West) is nowhere to be found as the city’s Police Captain (Giancarlo Esposito) contemplates a rescue attempt.

The film probably wants to be as compelling as John Q, but the suspense never comes close to reaching those heights. The biggest issues come with the latter half of the film, which spends far too much of its time delving into a convoluted conspiracy that involves computer hackers and an African rebellion. Nevertheless, compelling performances from the lead actors, especially Jack O’ Connell’s Kyle Budwell, give the audience reason to care about all of the pieces involved despite the lack of viable twists or turns. FINAL GRADE: B-

 

the_nice_guys_posterNICE GUYS It doesn’t matter whether you’re plot is a plucky short guy trying to impress his brother-in-law, or two Private Investigators trying to solve a murder case in the 1970’s; you can’t have a good buddy cop movie without chemistry between your lead actors. Chemistry, along with the vibrant style of the 70’s, is what makes Nice Guys a must see.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as the aforementioned private investigators  who are forced into a partnership in order to investigate the murder of a Pornstar. Gosling’s bumbling boyishness meshes perfectly with Crowe’s scruffy loner to form a movie that is wildly entertaining despite its murder mystery plot suffering from far too many conveniences. Newcomer Angourie Rice stars as Gosling’s daughter and her witty presence adds just enough endearment to make this movie one to enjoy at least once. FINAL GRADE: B+

 

 

May 2015 Quick Reviews

Summer movie season is in full swing. Here are some quick thoughts on some of the films that capped the month of May…

San_Andreas_posterSAN ANDREAS Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as rescue pilot Chief Ray Gaines in this earth quake disaster film about the San Andreas fault (mainly encompassing California) ripping apart. The film is pretty much everything you’d expect a disaster movie with The Rock to be. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

San Andreas is stuffed full of nearly every disaster movie cliché imaginable: A scientist that no one listens to until it’s too late (Paul Giamatti), a significant other that the main character must reconcile with (Carla Gugino), an offspring that needs saving (Alexandra Daddario), and a character who turns full a-hole when everything starts to go south (Ioan Gruffudd). But it’s still fairly entertaining. The action sequences are no less (or more) interesting than the events in films like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, but the 3D is a nice added touch. And as far as leads go, Dwayne Johnson is right in his element here, when he isn’t trying to show too much emotional depth. All in all, the film is decent time spent, but don’t expect anything earth shatteringly original. Pun intended. FINAL GRADE: C+

Tomorrowland_posterTOMORROWLAND In this day and age when spoilers are released via on-set cell phone footage and each movie gets four trailers to show you all of the interesting parts, Tomorrowland is an absolute breath of fresh air. Kept relatively under wraps, the story revolves around an intelligent, young girl (Britt Robertson) who is recruited to save a futuristic world kept secret by history’s best and brightest. George Clooney co-stars as the former child genius turned cynical recluse who reluctantly aids her on her journey.

The cast, especially Clooney, deserves credit for strong, emotionally grounded performances. The only problem is that this adventurous build-up comes to a highly underwhelming climax that manages to weigh down the entire film. And, although highly relevant, the movie beats you over the head with its overarching message. Still, kudos to Disney and director Brad Bird for withholding all of their secrets to make this film feel wildly original. FINAL GRADE: B-

Aloha_posterALOHA Where do I start with this one? I guess I’ll begin with the overly convoluted plot. Yes, a romantic comedy has a complicated story. Anywho, Bradley Cooper stars as a contractor for the military who returns to his hometown in Hawaii to help a billionaire (Bill Murray) with a satellite launch. Yes, that’s actually the plot. Emma Stone co-stars as his Air Force watchdog who falls in love with him and Rachel McAdams as his now married ex-girlfriend.

If the military and NASA dribble involving secret missiles and land negotiations with Hawaiian natives doesn’t make this film feel droll enough, the lack of chemistry between the characters will. The film is filled with awkward moments, and not the entertaining kind of awkward that makes you laugh, but rather those moments where you just want the scene to end. The most enjoyable moments in the movie come from Rachel McAdams’ husband, played by John Krasinksi who communicates non-verbally for nearly the entire movie. He provides some snickers in spurts, but other than that, this film is neither endearing or humorous. FINAL GRADE: D+

Quick Reviews (From Cate Blanchett’s Oscar to Taken 3)

There are so many movies coming out that I can’t seem to find time to write full reviews fast enough. But here are a few quick thoughts on some recent films to hit theaters.

 

Blue Jasmine

ImageWoody Allen’s films, while entertaining, often have vague endings and even vaguer messages. Jasmine is no different. Cate Blanchett does an exquisite job in her portrayal as the titular character, a socialite trying to rebuild her life after her shady businessman husband is arrested by the FBI. Whether her performance is worthy of the Academy Award she received is debatable (I personally thought Merryl Streep deserved another victory), but it is certainly good enough to carry an otherwise scatter brained narrative. FINAL GRADE: B

 

The Monuments Men

ImageWorld War II films (or any war film for that matter) always carry a sense of nostalgia about them. This film directed by and starring George Clooney, manages to capture that with perfection. Where this intriguing true story about men recruited to prevent Hitler from stealing art from invaded countries, falters is in its tone. Its solid cast floats between serious and quirky and often undermines what is actually a serious and humbly noble story. Is it enough to derail the film? No. But it is enough to prevent what seemed like an Oscar-worthy set up from becoming as such. FINAL GRADE: B

 

Pompeii

ImageThe source material, about the real life ancient Italian city destroyed by a volcano, lends itself to at least a decent swords and sandals epic. But maybe the wrong people got a hold of the source material. This movie is laughably sloppy from its cast (why is Jack Bauer from 24 playing a corrupt Roman politician?) to its dialogue, to its melodramatic love story. It thinks it’s 300 meets Gladiator with a dash of Titanic, but it possesses none of the actual qualities that made those films classics. I suppose its saving grace would be the action sequences. But you’re better off just watching an episode of Game of Thrones than sitting through this mess. FINAL GRADE: D

 

Non-Stop

ImageLiam Neeson has perfected the grizzly action hero. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Non Stop is another Taken. Believe it or not, it is actually much more cerebral than Taken or Taken 2 while still being more suspenseful and action packed than Neeson’s divisive film The Grey. Not to say that it is a classic piece of noir filmmaking. That is by no means the case. In fact, many of the sequences are more preposterous than the McGuyver-esque stunts Neeson made believable in the Taken films. But, this movie about an Air Marshall attempting to find and stop a mystery terrorist aboard his plane, is a top notch thriller that gives just enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. FINAL GRADE: B+

Gravity… Full Review

I already know what you’re thinking. It’s probably the same thing I thought when I saw the commercials and trailers for this film. That is; can a movie about a woman floating around space by her lonesome really be worth two hours of my time? The answer: Absolutely.

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First and foremost, you’ll be happy to know that the film is far more in-depth than what has been shown in the promos (If I had to estimate, I’d say the trailers are only about 25% of the actual movie). Sandra Bullock stars as scientist Ryan Stone, who is on her first space mission to help install some new technology onto a U.S. telescope. When a catastrophic event on the other side of the world causes their mission to go horribly wrong, she and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalksi (George Clooney) are the lone survivors left to somehow find their way back down to Earth.

Think of this film as space Cast Away, but with more perilous obstacles. In fact, the film gave me a newfound respect for anyone willing to go up there (If you still want to be an astronaut after watching this film… you’re either insane or have the testicular fortitude of Evel Kinevel). The minimal cast is solid. Bullock is perfect as the rookie who must fight her fears to stay alive when seemingly all hope is lost. Her journey is one that any person who has ever lost a loved one can learn from. Clooney’s Kowalski provides just enough heart and wit to keep the film from becoming too bland.

What stands out most about this film, however, is the visuals. Director Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) is more than worthy of an Oscar nomination for his ability to make you feel every beautiful, vast, and terrifying moment that encompasses outer space.  For those who can afford it, it is a necessity to see it in 3D, preferably IMAX 3D where it is as if you can reach out and touch the objects floating towards the camera.

The start of the film may make it feel as though your worries are legit, but be patient. It doesn’t take long for it to pay off. With so few characters to focus on, it is easy for a film of this nature to drift and grow tiresome. But a strong lead can maintain your focus, especially when the action and suspense is as vibrant and well paced as it is here.

FINAL GRADE: A