‘Venom’ Review

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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel and Will Beall

Cast:  Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Peggy Lu, and Reid Scott

Synopsis: When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

 

There’s a lot to say about Venom before even watching the movie. A solo movie has been in the works for a while, and of course we got a version of the character in the god-awful Spider-Man 3 (not all of it was bad, but a good chunk of it), we know have a solo movie with a great lead in Tom Hardy. This version, of course, was caught in a storm of “is it or isn’t it connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?” Of course, the answer was a big ol’ nope, but apparently it is left open for the possibility of being connected – which is why the movie is PG-13 – well, at least one reason. There is also Hardy’s comments that the movie cut thirty to forty minutes, but he later backed off those comments, and the early reviews saying the movie isn’t good.

Then the theory that A Star is Born lead Lady Gaga’s fans are saying negative things about Venom to help her movie get the better of the weekend – which is honestly dumb to even think, but whatever – so all of that said, where does Venom actually land? Well, for me, it’s a very, very mixed bag.

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Venom follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a journalist who has made a name for himself by exposing the dirty stories. His next assignment leads him to Life Foundation founder, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who is secretly running experiments on people with alien parasites called symbiotes. When Eddie pushes Drake with the tough questions, Eddie loses everything; his home, job and fiancée Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Eventually, he gets the opportunity to expose Drake, with the help of Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), and while he finds evidence of Drake’s nefarious ways, Eddie gets a symbiote called Venom (which he also voices) attached to him, and everything gets much worse.

Like I mentioned, Venom is a very, very mixed bag. On paper, Venom was set up for success with the talented cast and a character that comic book fans love. Unfortunately, Venom drops the ball with pretty much everyone involved, and while the hate or dislike for Venom is very strong online, I can clearly say that Venom is not as bad as some would have you believe. Is it a great or good movie? No, not really, but Venom is somewhat entertaining when it decides to let loose.

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Of course, everyone joked about Hardy playing Eddie Brock/Venom because he has a career of voicing characters that are hard to understand or what-have-you. That said, Hardy does the role justice for what he’s given. There are some moments as Eddie that are borderline, but for the most part he’s rather controlled. It’s voicing Venom that may divide some fans as the relationship between the two is somewhat odd at first, but as the movie keeps going, it becomes pretty cool to see them play off each other, even though it is Hardy basically talking to himself.

That being said, Venom also deals with a huge tonal problem, and some of it relates to the character of Venom himself. The movie tries to interject some humor in scenes – most of it doesn’t quite land – and when it comes to Venom, there are times were he’s a cold-blooded killer, and then starts cracking some humorous jokes. I’m not against adding some humor, but the execution of it doesn’t land at all.

Going back to the cast, the supporting cast is pretty much wasted here. While it’s cool to see Riz Ahmed play a bad guy, Carlton Drake just wasn’t the villain role for him. The character comes off as a mustache twirling villain at times, and his transformation to the big bad in the last act is extremely underwhelming and rushed. Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate and Reid Scott as extremely underwritten with Williams’ Anne playing a glorified ex-flame, and while she has one standout scene, it’s not enough to make up for her nothing character. Speaking of nothing characters, Reid Scott plays Dr. Dan Lewis, Anne’s new boyfriend after breaking up with Eddie and doesn’t really serve any purpose other than being the other guy. Lastly, and unfortunately, Jenny Slate gets the worse end of it as she serves as an exposition character informing us and Eddie why Drake is using the symbiotes. Her character should have been more important, given that they give her a reason for doing what she does, but we don’t see it.

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When it comes to everything else, the special effects are just okay. Venom himself is arguably the best looking visual effect in the movie, but it’s not saying much when everything else either looks muddied or okay. The final fight between Venom and Riot is hard to watch, not because it’s bad or rushed, but because it’s hard to sometimes know who is who. The action is also not that bad, with an escape/chase sequence in the streets of San Francisco and a showdown with police being the standouts. Finally, the rating really shows. The movie is rather bloodless considering how certain characters die, and Venom biting people’s heads off on some occasions. I’m not that concerned with a movie’s rating most of the time, but it clearly shows here.

All in all, Venom is a mix bag of everything, and missed opportunity to do something great, and start Sony’s Marvel Universe strong. There are some good things, some bad and some downright awful, but watching Tom Hardy do his thing could be enough for you to sit through the whole thing and not regret it. Regardless of that, it should be interesting how Sony moves forward with this.

Venom

3 out of 5

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‘The Predator’ Review

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Shane Black and Fred Dekker

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski and Thomas Jane.

Synopsis: When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Predator is one of my favorite movies of all time, and is definitely one of my favorite action movies of all time too. The movie starts off as a action movie and then goes into sci-fi horror monster movie, and it works perfectly. Not only that, the movie introduced us to, now, one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. Then the sequel came out and, while defenders exist, it wasn’t all that great. The franchise then branched off to the comic world and brought in the aliens, or Xenomorphs, from Alien giving us Alien vs. Predator movies – which are better not talked about, especially you Requiem.

We waited years for another movie, and then we got Predators, which I got to watch recently again, and still didn’t hate it s much as others do (although, the problems are there). Then rumors came out that Fox was working on another Predator movie, and finally Shane Black himself joined. For those who don’t remember, or just don’t know, Black was in the first movie in a supporting role. So, for me, having him come back to the franchise was actually a pretty great move since we know that he’ll treat the property with respect.

All that said, The Predator has had a rough road to its release. There was the reshoots to change up the final act, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it happens all the time. However, right before the release of the movie, it was revealed by Olivia Munn that a scene was cut with actor Steven Wilder Striegel, because she found out he was convicted of sexually pursuing a 14-year-old female relative. The move has been drawing some lines with people, but I’ll let you decide where you fall in that. Of course, the important thing here is whether or not The Predator has been worth the wait. So let’s get to it.

The Predator opens up setting the overall threat of the movie as a Predator ship is trying to get away from another, bigger Predator ship. The former manages to get away as it jumps to Earth and crashes. The crash interrupts a mission lead by sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who then has the first face-to-monster-face with the Predator as it kills his men and sends him running away with some Predator gear. A special government agency eventually catches up to him, and he’s put in the crosshairs of special agent Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), who wants something from the Predator ship. Quinn is then sent to an institution and ends up on a bus filled with ex-soldiers with their problems.

Meanwhile, Traeger sends to get Dr. Casey Bracket, a biologist who could them and their secret Project Stargazer, figure out more about The Predator. There’s also Quinn’s young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the spectrum, who ends up getting Quinn’s contraband Predator gear and activates it, accidentally bringing the new upgrade Super Predator to Earth. What follows is a balls-to-the-wall action comedy, yes, you read that right, action comedy as humans go up against not one, but two Predators.

Again, being a huge fan of the first Predator, I was really looking forward to The Predator, so I was just a tad disappointed with the final outcome. The movie is a mixed bag of these that work, things that don’t and things that could have used some more time to flesh out.

What definitely worked, at least for me, was that classic Shane Black humor. It’s not even forced humor either, when the characters are spitting out jokes or being smart asses it makes sense. Most of the humor comes from the group of ex-soldiers Quinn meets on the bus. We have “Nebraska” Williams played by Trevante Rhodes, the jokester Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane) who has tourettes, Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). The dynamic of the group is easily the best part of the film, and most of them have their moment to shine – Allen gets the shaft on that end – but anytime they’re all together it’s great.

Someone else who clearly looked like he was having fun is Sterling K. Brown. Brown’s Traeger chews up a lot of his scenes, and while sometimes I feel like he goes just a bit over the top, having him as the human “villain” was a nice touch. Olivia Munn also gets to have some fun, and has a strong showing here, but seeing her bounce off the ex-soldiers and Holbrook’s straight-man character. Trevante Rhodes, from Moonlight, is arguably the standout as Nebraska, who essentially becomes the co-leader of the soldiers, and is one of the more fleshed out characters. Rhodes is definitely a name you should try to remember because this man is going to be huge.

When it comes to the things that don’t work too well, that comes when it tries to explain some of the science behind the Predator. Sure it’s fun explore the mythology and expand on that on the big screen – the comics have done that to great success – but it comes out as clucky and comes at weird moments in the movie that it comes off as weird. Secondly, like I mentioned, Alfie Allen gets the short-end of the stick in the main group ensemble, and he’s not alone, Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Quinn’s ex-wife and Rory’s father, doesn’t really do anything in the movie. Also, Jacob Tremblay could have done a little more in the movie, considering how important he becomes in the grand scheme of things.

Third, some of the CGI is also dodgy, with the Predator dogs coming off just a tad bit rubbery and some scenes rely a bit too much on CG blood which kind of lessens the fun on the gore factor. Speaking of which, the action and gore in this are up there. There are a few scenes that will make fans happy on both fronts, however, I will say the anticipated Predator vs. Super Predator fight is very underwhelming – at least for me – but that said, it does show you how lethal and dangerous the new Super Predator is, but still, I would have loved to see more of a throw down. Finally, and very quickly, the last scene isn’t all that great and I feel was a last minute addition and it shows.

All in all, The Predator is a lot of fun, but it is a very mixed bag. The humor works, and doesn’t become annoying, which it easily could have and the action and gore are fine when it’s allowed to be practical. The Predator isn’t Predator, and if you think it will be, I’m telling you right now, lower that expectation and you’ll enjoy the movie for what it is.

The Predator

3.5 out of 5

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ Review

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Writer: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett

Synopsis: Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Mission: Impossible is arguably one of the best action franchises still around. The franchise has come a long way since the first film back in 1996, and since J.J. Abrams brought back the franchise in 2006, they keep getting better and better with every sequel. However, director Christopher McQuarrie has definitely put his stamp on the franchise, especially since he’s the only director to back came to direct a sequel. So where does Fallout stand in the franchise? Pretty high up there, to be honest.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and his team of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), as they track down a dangerous new organization called The Apostles, a spinoff if you will, of the criminal organization The Syndicate from Rogue Nation. The group is run by mysterious and unknown John Lark, who is after plutonium cores to set off bombs around the globe. After a botched attempt to get them before Lark, the CIA’s Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) forces Ethan and the IMF to have bring along August Walker (Henry Cavill) to insure they finally get the plutonium and Lark. Of course, all of that is easier said than done, especially when Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) reenter the picture.

I’m not going to lie, I really, really liked this movie. Fallout is thrilling from beginning to end, and doesn’t really ever let the reigns go for anything. The characters, which have all primarily been in the series before work well together. You believe that Ethan, Luther and Benji care for one another and would do anything to protect each other, while also trying to successfully complete their mission. Ferguson’s Ilsa, even though this is her second film – a rare feat for female characters in the series – also feels right at home when she shows up. These are characters we’ve seen and care about, so when certain things are set into motion, or even when they’re picking on one another, we get an emotion out of it.

I don’t want to take a jab at another long-running franchise – Fast & Furious – but Fallout knows who their characters are, and isn’t afraid to have them outshine one another every now and then. Even though Cruise’s Ethan is the lead, everybody has their moment, and it’s awesome to see them take the reins and roll with it.

When it comes to the new characters, more particularly, Henry Cavill’s Walker, he is the perfect opposite of Cruise’s Ethan. Ethan would rather take care of something as smoothly and hazard-free as possible, Walker will just straight-up walk up to the situation, get his hands dirty and deal with the consequences later. It’s also nice to see them play off with each other, and it’s even more apparent during one of the many standout sequences in the HALO jump.

Mission: Impossible is known now for their big set pieces, and Fallout is no different. While the HALO jump is cool to see – looks great in IMAX – there are two chase scenes in Paris that had me on the edge of my seat, and that’s all I’ll say that about. That said, the series has made itself proud of doing a lot of their stunts and action sequences with no to little CGI, which is maybe one reason why fans appreciate these films – as they should. That’s the case here, and while it looks like they used some CGI in little parts here and there, Fallout is probably the most daring for stunts, especially knowing that Tom Cruise broke his ankle during one of the stunts – which they actually ended up using in the film.

As much as I really liked the movie, there are some things that just kind of didn’t work for me. For one, and this is something I can’t believe I’m saying, Fallout is a just a tad bit too long. Fallout is the longest of the Mission: Impossible films and you can clearly feel it before the third act gets going. Cast wise, Angela Bassett’s Erica Sloan is kind of wasted here, even though her character doesn’t necessarily call for her to be in the film a lot, having someone like Bassett play the role, and having her disappear for most of the film was odd. Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane isn’t as compelling as he was in Rogue Nation, but he’s also now the only villain to appear in two Mission: Impossible films. Lastly, and this is something I didn’t mind, but others probably will, Fallout relies a little bit too much on small twists.

All in all, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one of the best experiences you’ll have in theaters this summer. It’s got great action, the cast is spot on, the score is also damn great and it’s thrilling from beginning to end. I can’t say enough good things about Fallout. The fact that Mission: Impossible has had the staying power and continues to get better with every installment is amazing and hard to believe, but somehow they keep doing it, and I’m all for it.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

5 out of 5

‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ Review

Director: Stefano Sollima

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Elijah Rodriguez, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine

Synopsis: The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I was fortunate enough to get to watch Sicario: Day of the Soldado – it was still called Sicario 2: Soldado at the time – all the way back in February of this year, but had to sit on my thoughts because of an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Now, the movie’s out and I can finally release this review. The review will be a combination of my first thoughts watching the movie, and my re-watch from this weekend. So, that said, let’s get to it.

Day of the Soldado opens by letting us know that the cartels make big business by trafficking people, and have now moved to terrorists. After a horrifying scene at a department store, the government has put the drug cartels on their list of dangerous threats. They call on someone with some experience in the field in Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to run an operation on taking them down. In turn he recruits his old partner Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to help him, especially since Alejandro still has anger toward them for killing his family.

The mission is to make it look like the cartels are attacking each other, and one of those attempts is kidnapping the daughter of a kingpin, Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner). Of course, not everything goes as planned. Now, Matt and Alejandro have to figure out how they will survive with all sides closing in on them.

The first Sicario, which came out in 2015, was a surprisingly dark thriller that wasn’t afraid to go there and pushed our expectations on what a movie with this kind of material should be. So when a sequel was announced, many like myself, were eager to see what they would do, and how they would put us back into this world they created in the first film. Now, before we move on, obviously with the real-world issues going on at the border, it will probably be a little hard to watch this, without trying to bring it into the conversation. However, at this point, the conversation feels dated because the real-life issues are more horrifying. But, let’s just move on from that.

Unfortunately, Day of the Soldado doesn’t quite live up to the sequel expectations that the film should have had. The film at times feels rather empty, and instead of going for more character development or deeper story points like the first film did, it goes for the easy bloodshed and violence. That’s fine for the world the movie has created, but after watching Sicario, I wanted more of that great character development. Violence is expected in these movies, but I wanted more from the story itself.

On top of that, the sequel does feel like a proper sequel. By that I mean, even though the sequel has different people behind the scenes, they tried very hard – and sometimes actually pulled it off – to make you think the sequel was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the cinematography was done by Roger Deakins. Of course, that’s not the case with the movie being directed by Stefano Sollima and the cinematography was done by Dairusz Wolski (Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, All the Money in the World). The score, which is great, was done by Hildur Guonadottir, who actually worked on the first film’s score and on films like The Revenant and Arrival. He builds off the amazing score that was done by the late Johann Johannsson, who sadly passed away between the films.

Thankfully, the cast is solid to make the missteps worth it. Brolin gets a bigger role in the sequel, and gets to play around with the character a lot more. Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro is once again great to watch, and how he engages with Isabela Moner’s Isabela and others – which aren’t many by the way – is good, but none of them are really like the Emily Blunt character from Sicario. Moner is fine as Isabela who knows what her father does, and uses it sometimes, but is still a young girl caught up in a bad situation. Everyone else like the returning Jeffrey Donovan as Graver’s other right-hand man, Steve Forsing, is a welcome sight, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo has a small but effective role, and Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener basically have cameo roles, especially Modine.

The only blemish on the cast, for me, is Elijah Rodriguez as Miguel. It’s nothing against Rodriguez and his acting, but rather the character direction or the lack thereof. The movie almost treats Miguel as someone we saw in the first movie, and that’s a problem especially considering where his character ends up at the end of the film. I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, because it’s known – at least online – that after the success of Sicario, the plan was to make the series a trilogy. That’s made very clear with Miguel’s character, but for me, the character and the arc doesn’t feel deserved or developed enough for me to care.

All in all, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, for me, wasn’t as good as the first film. While it ups the violence you would expect from this world, it leaves behind the story and characters just a bit. That’s not to say the sequel is a bad movie, because it’s not. There are some standout scenes, and even some shocking scenes that I couldn’t believe they approved. The cast is still great, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of how they left the movie at the end, I would gladly step back into this world when/if a third movie comes out.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

3.5 out of 5

‘Incredibles 2’ Review

Director: Brad Bird

Writer: Brad Bird

Voice Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini and Jonathan Banks.

Synopsis: Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

14 years, 14 years is how long we’ve waited for the sequel to The Incredibles, and arguably, one of Pixar’s more popular films. Now, as much as we love Pixar, and should never doubt them – expect Cars 2 – the long gap was something to be a tiny bit concerned about. So, was the wait worth it? For the most part, yes, yes it was.

Incredibles 2 picks up immediately where the first film left off, the Underminer attacks the city and we see the Parr family try to stop him before he wrecks the city. However, things don’t go as planned and the already ban on Supers doesn’t get any better. Enter charismatic billionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), who want to bring Supers back into the spotlight. Winston’s power move is to start with Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) – as Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) is seen as a more destructive – to get Supers legalized again.

This leaves Bob to be the stay-at-home dad and watch over their kids Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and baby Jack-Jack, whose powers are starting to kick in. Of course, let’s add in a new supervillain going by The Screenslaver entering the picture causing havoc throughout the city.

Incredibles 2 does a lot of things that work on a story and theme level. On a story level, giving the spotlight to Elastigirl, which I’m sure most will see as part of the changing tide in the industry, is awesome. We get to see her let loose, and she is given the most exciting and thrilling action sequence with her cool motorcycle. On that end, we see the roles reversed and have Bob/Mr. Incredible staying at home having to deal with their superpowered kids and a baby in what is both funny and relateable.

Not only that, Bob now has to deal with not being a superhero, even though that’s the thing he loves. So the Incredibles 2 not only deals with role-reversals, but also teaching the younger audience about pride and sacrifice. Of course, that will go over kids’ heads but it’s nice to see Pixar trying to deliver that message.

Let’s get to the other characters. Jack-Jack easily steals the whole movie by not just being adorable, and using his newly developed powers. Violet gets a subplot with a boy and Dash, arguably, comes off as a tad annoying, but that’s the character. Frozone, voiced again by Samuel L. Jackson, doesn’t do too much, and Brad Bird once again voices Edna Mode (E) in a nice little bit part. The new characters do okay with Sophia Bush voicing a Super named Voyd, who happens to be a fan of Elastigirl, Bob Odenkirk can play charismatic characters in his sleep by now and Catherine Keener as Evelyn was a nice surprise.

All in all, Incredibles 2 was, for me and many others from the looks of it, worth the wait. The animated sequel has some great action, a great story and a hell of a lot of fun and funny. The only complaint I think I would side with, to some extent, is it picks up right after the first movie, and doesn’t do a time jump. However, that said, after seeing the movie and having time to simmer with the movie, I’m okay with it not time-jumping.

Incredibles 2

4.5 out of 5

‘Ocean’s 8’ Review

Director: Gary Ross

Writers: Gary Ross and Olivia Milch

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kailing, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Richard Armitage, James Corden and Anne Hathaway

Synopsis: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’ll admit out front, I’m a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven. Ocean’s Twelve was forgettable and Ocean’s Thirteen was a nice return to form, so when the word broke that a spinoff was in the works within the same world, I was cautiously optimistic. Then it was announced that it would be female-centric, and the cast got together I was fully on-board. So, is Ocean’s 8 a worthy companion, or is it a misfire?

Ocean’s 8 starts off with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, who is getting out of prison after serving a five year sentence. Even though she puts out the front that she wants to live the “simple life,” she immediately sets a plan in motion to steal a diamond necklace called The Toussaint at the Met Gala. She begins to enlist her team in her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kailing), hacker Eight Ball (Rihanna), who ends up being called Nine Ball by Debbie and the team, pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), a “fence” in Tammy (Sarah Paulson) and fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). Why a fashion designer? Because, Debbie’s plan is to put the Toussaint on actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) while she attends the Met Gala in order to actually steal it.

Right off the bat, you know how Debbie Ocean works, and how good she really is at conning people. We also get right into it what the movie will be about. Director Gary Ross doesn’t waste too much time getting the team together and putting the plan into motion. That is both an advantage and disadvantage for the movie. On one hand, you have a fast-paced movie giving you exactly what you want to know before getting to the meaty bit. On the other, it gives you everything you need to know, and sometimes has to fill the void because you don’t want to move too fast.

That said, if you’re a fan of Ocean’s Eleven, some beats and even some of the shots, cinematography wise, will feel very familiar to you. Of course, this isn’t directed by Steven Soderbergh, but Gary Ross – although the two are close friends – but Ross is not Soderbergh. However, Ross does put his own stamp on the movie, and doesn’t try to give a movie beat-for-beat, but do his own thing. That’s to be applauded, and the fact that these are all women and not men, is brought up. It’s not preachy or trying to put forward a message, it’s a heist movie that happens to follow women who are good at conning people. That’s it.

Speaking of that, the cast is great here, and all of them have their chance to shine. Of course, Sandra Bullock gets the most screen time here, and she does a great job playing the leader here. Cate Blanchett seems to be enjoying her very loose and highly fashionable Lou and Sarah Paulson’s Tammy is a mom running cons on the side in a funny way. The standouts of the cast are Anne Hathaway, who basically plays a characterization of what real people probably think she acts like, and surprisingly, James Corden stands out as a character that comes in near the end, and brings some laughs. Unfortunately, even though the rest of the cast do get a chance to shine, not everyone is really fully developed or given a chance to shine more. Awkwafina gets lost in the shuffle, Mindy Kaling is fine but given her job, you’d think she’d have more to. Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter are good too, but I would have personally like to see more of them – it’s also nice to see Helena Bonham Carter play a normal person for a change.

All in all, Ocean’s 8 is a fun and worthwhile companion movie to Ocean’s Eleven. While the movie does have some pacing issues, and the final heist leaves something to be desired, you’ll have fun watching the cast together.

Ocean’s 8

3.5 out of 5

‘Hereditary’ Review

Director: Ari Aster

Writer: Ari Aster

Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne and Ann Dowd

Synopsis: When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

A24 as a studio is killing it right now, and when it comes to their horror films, they only have – really – two of them now. The Witch turned a lot of heads and now you have Hereditary. The film also turned a lot of heads, and some are even calling it the best horror film in some time, as well, as a modern day Exorcist. Obviously, those are very big claims to make, and doesn’t help if people are willing to accept that. So, does Hereditary live up to the hype, or is just another independent horror film that is overhyped?

Hereditary follows the Graham family with mother Annie (Toni Collette), father Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their two children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). After the death of Annie’s mother, Annie gets lost in her work of miniature sculptures and Charlie starts to exhibit weird behavior. Things only get worse when strange and unexplainable incidents start to occur.

That’s the bare bones of Hereditary’s story, and that’s about all you should know before walking into to watch it yourself. Hereditary truly works when you know nothing about the movie. Even if you’ve seen the trailers, believe me, it doesn’t give away anything about the movie. That being said, even though the movie is marketed as a horror movie, at the end of the day, Hereditary is a family drama through-and-through.

All credit goes to first time feature film director/writer Ari Aster, who crafted a compelling story about this family and adding horror elements that actually make sense to the history of the characters, and aren’t thrown in for the sake of having a scare or making the film creepy for audiences. There is enough of that to go around, but in this particular film, the scares are connected to the Graham family. We get a great sense of why the characters act like they do, and more important, what has led them to where they are now.

But as much credit Aster should get, Hereditary is carried by Toni Collette. She is put through the ringer here, and she carries it in stride. Her performance as Annie and the slow descent she goes through in the movie is amazing to watch, and one of the standout performances of the year by far. Alex Wolff is also given a breakout performance here as the young son, who also goes through his own mental descent, and newcomer Milly Shapiro as Charlie also breaks out in her own way as the younger Graham family member.

The main thing about Hereditary, much like a lot of independent horror films now, is that it will not be for everyone. Hereditary, like The Witch and even It Comes at Night, is an aggressive slow-burn that will test your patience, and then reward you with nightmare fuel in a grand finale. That said, the family drama keeps you invested – hopefully – but the slow burn will likely keep people from being fully invested, and once the third act kicks in, it might be too late.

All in all, Hereditary will definitely not be for everyone. It’s a slow burn family drama horror film that keeps the main scares at bay, while trying to creep you out in meantime. The film is carried by Toni Collette, who brings the right amount of range to everything that is asked of her. If you’re watching Hereditary and ask yourself at the end, “what the hell was that?” You’ve seen the right movie

Hereditary

3.5 out of 5