Sandra Bullock

Ocean’s 8

There’s something to be said for novelty, for curiosity. If you add a twist to a familiar theme, you’ve got my attention. Such was the formula of Ocean’s 8, a spinoff of the popular Ocean’s Eleven franchise that spawned two sequels. This time around it’s Danny Ocean’s sister Deborah (Sandra Bullock, Our Brand Is Crisis) who has taken up the mantle. Recently paroled, Deborah begins cooking up her next caper soon after doing a 5-year stretch.  She connects with old pal Lou (Cate Blanchett, Thor: Ragnarok), and the two hatch a plan to rob the Met Gala.

I’m usually skeptical of reboots and updated versions of movie franchises. For example, I was ambivalent about the Ghostbusters reboot and I generally dislike the idea of making the “Black” or “female” version of popular movies. However, I’m a fan like anyone else, and star power is a legitimate draw. An all-star lineup attracts audiences, and that is the universal appeal of Ocean’s 8. Somehow my snobby cinematic preferences went out the window when I heard that Cate Blanchett and Rihanna were going to be in the all-girl interpretation of Ocean’s Eleven, itself a reboot of the 1960 Rat Pack classic.

Writer/director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) has created a fun, slick caper that doesn’t quite live up to Steven Soderbergh’s original Ocean’s Eleven, but more than holds its own against Ocean’s 12 and 13. Deb and Lou assemble a team whose mission is to swipe a diamond Cartier necklace from starlet Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway, Alice Through the Looking Glass), who will be wearing the jewelry worth 150 million dollars to the Met Ball. Through an intricate plan involving surveillance, reconnaissance, and good old-fashioned luck, the hodgepodge team of bandits set the stage to pull off the brazen heist.

Rihanna (Annie) features prominently as Nine Ball, hacker extraordinaire and overall badass, much like the singer herself. Rounding out the cast are Sarah Paulson (The Post) as Tammy, Mindy Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time) as Amita, high-strung and anxious to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and Awkwafina as a sticky-fingered hipster. The esteemed Helena Bonham Carter (Alice Through the Looking Glass) appears as fashion designer Rose Weil, tasked with dressing Daphne for the ball and rigging the necklace. The audacious caper requires extraordinary skill and luck, and of course it’s all farfetched, but that’s not the point!

Ross lacks the finesse of the aforementioned Soderbergh, so the film wasn’t as slick and polished as the other “Ocean’s” movies. Nevertheless, there were tonal similarities, and the cast’s chemistry and camaraderie made the movie as fun to watch as it probably was to film. The movie’s flaws weren’t significant, as I expect some suspension of disbelief and understand that any retread inherently lacks originality. Ross allowed the cast to shine, even if their considerable talents may not have been particularly tested by the material here. Rihanna was surprisingly effective, and Paulson and Hathaway were particularly endearing. This was perfect summer fare.

Grade: A-


There are some movies that you watch, and some movies that you experience.  Like Avatar before it – Gravity is a film that must be viewed in IMAX 3D to be truly appreciated as the filmmaker intended.  Here, Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) crafts a beautiful masterpiece, a stunning film that is nearly flawless.  On a personal note, there are two things that I find terrifying: the ocean and space.  I never want to be any place where I cannot breathe normally.  Space seems equally frightening and beautiful to me, and Cuaron captures that unique duality perfectly.

The movie takes place entirely in space, and the visual aspect of the film was nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve never seen a movie, science fiction or otherwise, feature such a stunning depiction of the planet and stars.  You have no choice but to be captivated, as there are no extraneous distractions on the screen.  There is just simplistic beauty; nature unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed.  The phenomenal backdrop is viewed from the perspective of Sandra Bullock (The Heat) and George Clooney (The Descendants) as Ryan Stone and Tom Kowalski.  The astronauts are on a routine space mission, when they find themselves in the midst of a harrowing ordeal.

I felt an uneasy sense of apprehension throughout, as I knew something was going to go wrong.  That’s attributable to having seen the trailer, but also because of the movie’s atmosphere.  There was such profound peace in the silence of space; I knew it would be disrupted.  While making a repair on a satellite (I think), Stone and Kowalski get word from Houston that the Russians have destroyed one of their own satellites, causing a field of debris.  Initially the blast particles would not have reached them, but a ricochet effect has placed them in harm’s way.  First we wait with baited breath for the interstellar onslaught, and then our collective hearts stop as pieces of debris come hurtling through space at our beleaguered pair.  I was so enraptured that I found myself dodging the debris too, as the 3D effects made me feel like the objects were coming right at me.

From top to bottom, this was a stellar film.  I’ve already described the breathtaking imagery, but the performances were equally impressive.  Bullock’s range is on full display, as Dr. Stone teeters along the precipice of disaster for most of the film.  She showed the full gamut of human emotion, as Stone was at times terrified, courageous, vulnerable, and at one point just decimated psychologically.  When characters are isolated in such a manner, the merits of the performance are allowed to shine through.  Bullock is the centerpiece of the film, and there is no doubt that viewers will be emotionally invested in such a human, nuanced character and performance.  Clooney gives an amazing performance as well, and he only gets more charming with age.  His presence is calm and soothing, a reassuring beacon in the abyss for Stone as she fights to survive.

This is a film that must be experienced, not just with the eyes, but with the entire being.  This is not a passive viewing experience; I was spellbound but fully engaged for the entire film.  Never have I felt that I was vicariously sharing the experiences of a character as I did while watching Gravity.  I’d be shocked if the film did not receive a slew of award nominations, particularly for cinematography.  The camera work was phenomenal and there were scenes rife with meaningful symbolism, particularly one where Bullock is filmed as if she’s in utero.  The weightlessness of space allowed Cuaron to experiment with perspective and imagery in brilliant fashion.  What more can I say?  A must-see film.  Grade: A.