Ocean’s Eight

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Gary Ross

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina

Ocean’s 8 is a spin-off/side-quel to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, which itself was a remake of the rat pack starring Ocean’s 11. The twist here though is that the format is given a feminine spin with an all female cast. Oddly this didn’t receive the same amount of backlash as the all female Ghostbusters, which either shows that fans have finally grown up, or that they just don’t care. There’s an argument to be made that a female director would have also bought a new eye to the franchise, but Gary Ross is a fitting enough choice after shepherding the first Hunger Games movie, and turning Katniss Everdeen into an icon of female empowerment. Here he has assembled a starry enough cast to rival the Clooney/Pitt era, as he mounts a new heist.

Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean and played by Sandra Bullock, has just gotten out of prison. She’s spent her time there planning the heist of the century: to steal one of the most expensive necklaces in the world. She assembles a crack team of females to help her pull it off, including her best friend (Cate Blanchett), clothes designer (Helena Bonham-Carter), Fence (Sarah Paulson), hacker (Rihanna), pick-pocket (Awkwafina), jewellery expert (Mindy Kaling) and… I’ll leave the eighth member of the team as a surprise. Their plan is to infiltrate the MET Gala and steal the jewels off of movie star Daphne Kluger’s (Anne Hathaway) neck.

In a summer full of moon hurling titans, and exploding Skyscrapers, Ocean’s Eight is a breath of fresh air, a throw back to the time when the biggest draw to the cinema was the star wattage, and the chemistry between those stars, and these stars definitely have chemistry. You buy from minute one that Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are friends, they play well off each other, they’re effortlessly cool, and they have charm to spare. It’s the kind of film where you could pick any actress and say they stole the film, and that’s because they’re all served well by the script, they are all given something to do, and they are all given their moment to shine, without overpowering the rest. Helena Bonham-Carter steals the show as an Irish fashion designer, Rihanna steals the show as a no nonsense hacker, Sarah Paulson steals the show by being her usual fabulous self, Awkwafina steals the show whilst providing plenty of laughs, Mindy Kaling is hilarious and steals the show with her screentime, and Anne Hathaway steals the show as the self-absorbed diva. They’re all fantastic.

Gary Ross marshals them with confidence, but apart from the revolutionary act of casting women, he does little else to reinvent the wheel. This is a heist movie, pure and simple, and it leans into all the familiar tropes. The craziest things is that it works. The movie is a breezy piece of summer fun, it’s so cute easy to get caught up in the charm and swagger that you forget to look for the numerous plot holes. The biggest being the reveal of the eighth member of the team. It’s a little too convenient, and a lot too implausible. Oceans 8 portrays itself as a feminist movie through and through, which would be fine if the plot didn’t revolve around getting revenge on a man. It’s great as a sisters doing it for themselves movie without this added piece of baggage.

We also need to talk about the James Corden in the room. I like James Corden, and I found him really entertaining in this film, but his appearance almost took me out of the film completely. I couldn’t help but feel that it was almost a sketch of him parodying a heist movie, although it did get me thinking of a Pink Panther remake with Corden as the star. He is fine, but incredibly distracting.

Ocean’s 8 is a perfect summer film. Cruising along delightfully on the charisma and charm of its stars, this is the kind of film that audiences used to flock to. A proper summer blockbuster powered by star wattage. It had the remit to be something more, the #metoo movie, but it sidesteps gender politics to deliver pure popcorn entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

7/10

A Wrinkle In Time

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Ava DuVernay

Starring: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Ava DuVernay is one of the leading lights in American film making. Blazing a trail for both people of colour and for female filmmakers. Her output is usually politically charged, having directed both Selma, and the documentary feature 13th. The later of which won the academy award for best documentary with its exploration of the incarceration of African-American men in America. It’s somewhat of a surprise then that her next feature is a Disney movie primarily aimed at kids. It’s clear though that Ava had a vision for this movie, and that there was a story here that she wanted to tell. She turned down countless other big budget movies, including Black Panther, but with A Wrinkle In Time she became the first African-American woman to helm a film with a budget over $100 million.

A Wrinkle In Time follows the story of Meg, a brilliant Storm Reid, who has become despondent ever since the disappearance of her father, Chris Pine, four years ago. She lives with her Mum and younger adopted brother Charles Wallace. She gets into fights at school, and her grades are starting to slip. We’re told that she used to be a top student, and her brother tells her she’s got more potential than anybody. When her brother introduces her to Mrs Which, Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit, she finds out that her father had managed to wrinkle space time, allowing him to travel through the universe instantaneously. He’s now been captured by a terrible evil, and it’ll be up to Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin to rescue him.

The buzz going into this film was mixed. I don’t understand that, I loved this movie. Disney release one of these every year, a big budget movie which isn’t based on an existing franchise, we’ve had The Lone Ranger, and Tomorrowland, and now we’ve got A Wrinkle In Time. They struggle to find their audience, but are some of the most interesting films Disney release. There’s a part in the film where Chris Pine talks about finding the right frequency to wrinkle space time, maybe you had to find the right frequency to really appreciate this movie, because for me it resonates loudly. If you thought that Ava was leaving the politics at the child friendly door, don’t worry, she doesn’t hit you over the head with it, but there’s a message which runs throughout the movie.

The casting alone sends a clear message, Ava is about diversity, and giving opportunities both in front of and behind the camera. The choice of a bi-racial lead isn’t just a token gesture, it becomes the crux of the movie. This is a film about a young girl who doesn’t love herself, doesn’t believe in herself, and that message is reinforced by everyone around her. When Calvin tells her he likes her hair and she says that he doesn’t, it means something. It’s backed up later when she faces the version of herself she wishes she was, and that version has straightened hair. The film is about fighting conformity, and Ava makes it clear that this is of upmost importance to those who are told that the way they naturally look isn’t right, or isn’t beautiful.

The film looks fantastic as well. It’s clear that this is a singular vision of this story. The vistas of the alien planets are gorgeous to behold, and the way the world is built is ingenious. It’s unlike anything DuVernay has done before and she proves herself equal to the task. The rush you get when seeing this world is something I haven’t felt since Avatar. It’s also an incredibly emotional movie. There’s an emotional note which is hit from the very first scene, and it sounds throughout the whole film, getting louder and louder until you can’t hold back the tears. It delivers the most emotionally satisfying climax to a film this year. The cast are all brilliant, especially the three young leads. Storm Reid is a future superstar, and Deric McCabe is immensely enjoyable.

If there’s any faults with the film, it may be in the structure of the story. The first two acts are spent being transported from place to place, with a lot of exposition. It isn’t until the third act that Meg is afforded any agency, which might be a problem for some, but is kind of the point of the film. It’s about a young girl finding her agency. The messages in this film are all beautifully delivered, about loving yourself, your faults, your differences, and building up those around you. It’s about love in the purest form, which may sound saccharine but it’s anything but.

Overall, A Wrinkle In Time is a film not to be missed. If you have a young child, I implore you to take them to see it. They’ll be awed at the world created, but they’ll also learn some important lessons along the way. Ava DuVernay continues to blaze a trail, and I can’t wait to see what she does next, and to see what those who follow her come up with.

9/10