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Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Meg

THE MEG

** SPOILERS **

The Meg is 33% decent and 67% shameless and, for a Jason Statham vs a giant shark movie, these turn out to be surprisingly winning statistics. This is a film where the actors take on everything with total earnestness while the screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber and the direction by Jon Turteltaub throw in things like a tiny dog swimming in the middle of the ocean and coming face to face with a giant shark and a Chinese woman yelling "Pa! Pa!" whom they felt the need to subtitle "Dad! Dad!" The finale of The Meg is like Crazy Rich Asians at the beach, except dozens of them are being ripped apart by a Megalodon. Also, soldiers sent to kill the Meg with dynamite can't tell the difference between a shark and a whale. This is that kind of movie. But for a 2018 summer film about a prehistoric beast, it's way more ridiculously entertaining than Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Bite me.

And yet, the actors 100% believe nothing happening is ridiculous, which helps a whole lot. Jason Statham is a deep-sea rescue diver who unwittingly encountered the Meg five years prior. When an attempt to explore the Marianas Trench deep, deep in the ocean unwittingly reveals the existence of a Megalodon shark, long thought extinct, Statham is brought back to rescue his ex-wife Jessica McNamee, who is in command of the lost sub. Statham saves the day but the rescue ends up unleashing the Megalodon, which swims up to the surface and decides all of these humans on the deep sea research station owned by skeezy billionaire Rainn Wilson are its mortal enemies. 

Statham and the multinational cadre of actors like Li Bingbing (whom he has the hots for and vice versa), Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, and Page Kennedy, declare war on the Meg right back. Off they go a-huntin' for the giant shark, only to find out there's a second, even bigger Meg! "Nobody said there were two of them!" Kennedy yells, echoing the audience's thoughts at the movie's marketing. Despite their best efforts, the Meg(s) destroy every single boat the humans are on, their shark cages, most of their submarines, and the sharks ruin a fun beach holiday off the coast of China to boot. 

The Megs themselves are not sharks to remember. They're drab, brownish, CGI monstrosities that lack the presence and character of Spielberg's shark in Jaws. But no matter. This is a movie where Statham pilots a one-man sub against the Meg and then goes into hand-to-hand combat with it for good measure. But while Statham's gruff, macho skills are put to the test against the sharks, the real action is between him and Li. Sparks fly between the two, and her 8-year-old daughter Shuya Sophia Cai is all for her mommy moving on with this heroic, macho, bald Englishman with the magic lips that resuscitated her when she drowned. We end up rooting for them to get together as much as we root for them to beat the Meg. In the end, we're glad they all end up chums.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT

** SPOILERS **

"Hope is not a strategy," August Walker (Henry Cavill) says to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) quips back, "You must be new." Indeed, if you think about it, we never really see Ethan Hunt eat or drink, so he must be fueled purely by hope as he does impossible things to save the world.

In the relentlessly entertaining Mission: Impossible - Fallout (the 6th Mission in 22 years), Ethan is pushed to his absolute limits as he and the IMF, consisting of the hilarious Benji (Simon Pegg) and the ever-loyal Luther (Ving Rhames) - race around the world to stop two nuclear weapons from killing millions of innocent people. The genius of Fallout, directed once more by Christopher McQuarrie, is in how all of the dangers the IMF has ever faced has been balled up into the personal guilt of Ethan Hunt. He's responsible for all of us, and he knows it. "I'll figure it out!" is Ethan's response every time the IMF asks him what to do, though by then, Ethan has already taken off to perform some type of aerobatic insanity. Bless him, Ethan will go to absolutely any lengths to save us, because that's simply what Ethan Hunt does.

The last three Missions have been a more tightly-woven narrative than the original trilogy from 1996-2006. 2011's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol introduced the Syndicate, a rogue nation of former government operatives led by an anarchist named Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Ethan and the IMF captured Lane in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, but two years later, the remnants of the Syndicate have reorganized into a new terrorist network called the Apostles. They want their old leader back and they'll detonate three nukes to get him. Of course, the IMF mobilizes to stop them, this time led by Secretary Hunley (Alec Baldwin). Hunley was the IMF's greatest critic until he saw Ethan in action in Rogue Nation; like anyone who gets to see what Ethan Hunt can do, Hunley was instantly converted. Indeed, Hunley delivered an astonishing pro-Ethan speech in Rogue Nation where he called Mr. Hunt "the living manifestation of destiny." Now's he's Team Ethan all the way. However, the IMF always has to be disavowed in some way. New CIA head Angela Bassett thinks the IMF are a bunch of "grown men in Halloween masks" and sends her own man to oversee Ethan, August Walker. If Walker could twirl his infamous mustache, he would have.

The action in Fallout is typical for Mission: Impossible, which is to say it's deliriously breathtaking. With the 56-year-old Cruise once more performing the majority of his own stunts, Ethan soars higher and takes more risks than ever. Ethan and Walker HALO jump 25,000 feet into Paris just to crash a party where the mysterious Apostle leader named "John Lark" is set to meet a broker called the White Widow (the fetching Vanessa Kirby). If you think about it, was the HALO jump even necessary? It's Paris, not North Korea - there are a dozen safer ways to enter the City of Lights. Nevertheless, that sets the stage for a brutal men's room brawl and an incredible motorcycle and car chase sequence all over Paris as Ethan evades the police after capturing Solomon Lane yet again. Ethan then parkours and runs across the rooftops of London chasing after Walker, who is revealed to be the real John Lark, before it all culminates in an absolutely spectacular helicopter chase that concludes with a fight on a Kashmir mountaintop where Ethan is literally dangling off the mountain by his fingertips.

For her part, Kirby delivers a speech about her mother Max, which means she must be the daughter of the original broker of information Ethan encountered in his first Mission in 1996. And the White Widow is powerfully attracted to Ethan, so like mother, like daughter. Also attracted to Ethan is MI-6 agent Ilsa Faust, who was Ethan's partner and foil in Rogue Nation. Ilsa joins the IMF at last, though not after betraying Ethan again, which he naturally forgives because he knows she has "reasons." That's the spy game for you. The best callback of all, however, is the return of Ethan's wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who has been on the run for her own safety since Mission: Impossible III. She's a doctor without borders now, married to Wes Bentley of all people, but when Ethan comes back into her life once again, she knows it's because the world is at stake. She gets him. "I like her," Ilsa realizes, and we agree. Even while four action set pieces are going on at once, George Lucas-style, in one of the best roller coaster third acts ever in an action movie, we're stunned at the emotional punch Julia and Ethan's reunion packs.

Poor Ethan apologizes eight times in Fallout: once to a French police woman who finds herself in the wrong place in the wrong time, once to Alec Baldwin, twice when he runs into a funeral in a cathedral while being chased by the Apostles, and four times to Julia herself. But as Julia notes, Ethan has nothing to be sorry for. Ethan's guilt over the way his adventures have upended his wife's life is expunged and finally, he's free of the secret torment he harbors - the same torment Solomon Lane uses against him in his nightmares. Of course, Ethan Hunt can't ever stop trying to save the world, and the world desperately needs him. But by the end, with Ilsa and the IMF, his team - no, his friends - rallied around him in the hospital after he put it all on the line once more, we regard Ethan with the same admiration that they do. Rest up, Mr. Hunt, and get back out there. The world needs you in Mission: Impossible 7.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Equalizer 2

THE EQUALIZER 2

** SPOILERS **

The Equalizer 2 plays right into that time-honored stage trope: if you say that there's a storm coming in Act 1, then that storm better come in like a motherfucker and you fight all the bad guys in it in Act III. Director Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer 2 resists calling itself the logical title of The Sequelizer; nonetheless, this is Denzel Washington's first-ever sequel in his illustrious career. Denzel returns as Robert McCall, a Boston native and former CIA operative with a certain set of skills and a hole in his lonely soul he can only fill by putting the hurt on very bad people. As established in the previous film, McCall is a man who believes in pure justice and will apply his certain set of skills on behalf of the unfortunate souls who cross his path and need his help. He's intelligent, unrelenting, and unstoppable. If you need the Equalizer, you can reach him via your Lyft app.

In the years since he massacred the entire Russian mafia to help a teenage prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) get her life on track, McCall has left his job as a beloved manager at Home Depot. His vigilante activities require him to set his own hours, plus he needs to be amongst the people to figure out who is worthy of his incredible talent for murder. Like old man Logan, McCall entered the livery business; the many scenes of him scooting all over Boston and taxiing people to and fro are the most entertaining scenes in the movie. For all of the driving around, however, The Equalizer 2 is slow to get where it ultimately wants to go. The many, many scenes of Bob behind the wheel or trying to help out his neighbors, who had their apartment building and garden vandalized, are intermittently interspersed with, you know, the actual plot of the movie.

Bob is eventually pulled into a quest for revenge when his best friend and former CIA overseer Melissa Leo is murdered in Brussels. All signs point to Pedro Pascal, Bob's former teammate when they were running black ops together for the agency and sure enough, Pascal is the bad guy. There was never any doubt about this. The way McCall calls him out is a clever reversal of the villain threatening the hero's family; Bob drops by with all smiles and gets Pascal's wife and kids to warm up to him. They're blissfully unaware they're human shields while McCall plays Pascal right into his trap. After threatening Pascal and his mercenary buddies lives by telling them flat out he's going to murder them, McCall goes and does exactly that.

The original Equalizer climaxed with an extended shootout of McCall against the Russian mafia at Home Depot. Once more, McCall takes on his enemies on his home turf: he booby traps his seaside hometown of Marshfield, MA Home Alone-style and decimates Pascal's men in the middle of a typhoon. McCall effortlessly navigates his quaint New England hamlet completely unbothered by the relentless rain and wind, delivering methodical and brutal vengeance as the Right Hand of God. It's satisfying watching Denzel annihilate bad people, yet at the same time, he is never truly challenged, rarely injured, and he's not once in any actual danger. By staging the climactic battle in the midst of Mother Nature's wrath, The Equalizer 2 flat out announces that Bob McCall is the real force of nature.

Overall a drab affair, The Equalizer 2 takes quite a long while to shift into gear, yet it's comforting to ride along with Bob McCall. Even though he's a mass murderer, he is a righteous one and deep down we know he is the good guy. His murders are actually much lower key this time around; compared to the first movie, McCall's body count is seriously reduced. With no Moretz as his youthful foil, McCall is paired up with a troubled young artist named Miles (Ashton Sanders) whom he saves from becoming a gangbanger and tries to teach some life lessons to, but Miles doesn't exactly win the audience over. The question now is whether Denzel will actually set another precedent and make another Sequelizer. Maybe he will if we leave him a five-star rating.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

** SPOILERS **

There's a moment early in director Peyton Reed's Ant-Man and the Wasp that subtly epitomizes why Marvel Studios superhero films work so well. Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) gets double-crossed by a criminal dealer in exotic technology played by Walton Goggins. As his goons set upon her, she transforms into the microscopic but wondrous Wasp and goes to town on the bad guys. Naturally, they open fire while she takes refuge in a chandelier. As she waits for the coast to clear, Hope is breathing heavily - being a superhero and fighting baddies is hard, it takes effort. And even though she has the superpowers to shrink and fly with mechanical wasp wings, Hope is human through and through.

The human moments are the highlight of Ant-Man and the Wasp, which continues the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, as affable as ever), the smallest (not officially an) Avenger. The last time we saw Ant-Man, he was in a maximum security prison called the Raft after he was captured for fighting alongside Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War. In the two years since, Scott copped a plea bargain for violating the Sokovia Accords by revealing that his Ant-Man tech came from super scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). As a result of his shrinking technology being unregistered with the UN, Hank and Hope are now fugitives on the run and are not at all happy with Scott. For his part, Scott is under house arrest and, in a spin on a classic cop movie trope, he's only got a few days left until retirement his sentence is up and he's a free man. But Scott had the best of reasons to give up the Pyms: he did it to be with his adoring 10-year-old daughter Cassie (Abbie Ryder Fortson), the apple of his eye and the best pre-teen in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Family is what Ant-Man and the Wasp is all about, and the plot really thickens when Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer, a bit underutilized), the original Wasp who was lost for 30 years in the other-dimensional Quantum Realm, somehow mind-melds with Scott, who was briefly lost in the Quantum Realm in the first Ant-Man movie. (This is called a Quantum Entanglement but, as Scott wryly notes, the Pyms put the word "Quantum" in front of most of their super-sciencey words.) Since the coordinates to find Janet are in Scott's head, Hank and Hope kidnap Scott and launch a wacky series of shrinky-dink adventures in their quest to find Janet and bring her back home. Hank has constructed a Quantum Tunnel is his secret shrinking lab, and the film overdoses on jokes about how the Pyms can shrink and enlarge just about anything, especially the Hot Wheels cars they drive on several gonzo chases all over San Francisco. 

All of the bad guys, including the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), want that shrinking lab, and practically all of the characters play an extended game of hot potato with that lab. Unfortunately, after super villains like Vulture (Michael Keaton), Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), and Thanos (Michael Josh Brolin), Ghost, a desperate victim of Hank Pym's super science mistakes who can phase through solid matter but is in danger of disappearing into the Quantum Realm entirely, is a bit of a letdown despite John-Kamen's best efforts to make her poignant.

In the meantime, just about everyone from the first Ant-Man comes back for the sequel, including Scott's ex-con cohorts-turned-business partners led by the hilariously motormouthed Luis (Michael Pena). Despite his house arrest and the film's ticking clock trope of him needing to be back home periodically to throw the Feds off his scent, the fact that Scott can be in business with a bunch of ex-cons in a security company literally called X-Con shows that he somehow struck the most lenient plea bargain deal in the short history of the Sokovia Accords. Also back are Judy Greer as Scott's ex-wife and Bobby Cannavale as her cop husband; this time, they amusingly love Scott and can't get enough group hugs. But then, it's incredibly hard not to like and want to hug Scott Lang. 

The first Ant-Man was a tidy little (but honestly, probably superior) Marvel superhero movie disguised as a heist film. Ant-Man and the Wasp is more sprawling and ambitious, but considerably less focused. This can be attributed to the film being the product of no less than five screenwriters, including Paul Rudd, who reportedly emphasized Scott's family ties. Meanwhile, Lilly is a firecracker as the Wasp; one senses she has been waiting her whole life to be a superhero (just like Hope) and she makes the most of finally getting to wear a supersuit and sock bad guys. Hope and Scott continue to have chemistry that the film doesn't quite go all the way with, perhaps realizing that this prequel film must eventually synch up with the tragic events of Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos' finger snap does factor into the film, and most of the characters fade to dust in the end - a rather ballsy denoument after a pleasingly lighthearted and fun adventure yarn. But before half the universe dies, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a good time Marvel palate cleanser - which, all things considered, is no small feat.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

** SPOILERS **

With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the Jurassic franchise jumps the Mosasaurus into full-on Terminator franchise territory: taking a tidy, elegant, initial idea - what if there was a theme park full of dinosaurs? - and sending it careening out of control to keep the billion-dollar money train rolling. It's true that the franchise had to evolve; Fallen Kingdom is the fifth time humans ventured to the doomed island Isla Nublar and were chased by the cloned dinosaurs that rule it. The previous film, Jurassic World, soft-rebooted the original trilogy to show the theme park John Hammond dreamed of fully operational before the dinos ran amok. Fallen Kingdom is the next step - making the title manifest by bringing the dinosaurs into the mainland at last. By the end, the planet (starting with America, naturally) threatens to become a Jurassic World, for better or worse.

The plot is simple: Isla Nublar suddenly has an active volcano about to blow and wipe out all of the dinosaurs. Despite the fact that InGen took all the embryos off the island and can make more dinosaurs, Congress debates whether the Jurassic World dinosaurs classify as an endangered species and warrant protection (their answer is no). Nonetheless, Bryce Dallas Howard, now a dinosaur protection crusader, is bamboozled by Evil Businessman to recruit Velociraptor whisperer Chris Pratt and return to the island to rescue Blue, the raptor he raised and taught to follow human commands. Blue is the last of her species, they argue - again forgetting they have the embryos and can create more Velociraptors for Pratt to train if need be. Still, they go back to the island and are immediately doublecrossed by the military guys who are secretly there to traffic the animals. 

The fact that Pratt, Howard, and their two assistants Justice Smith and Daniela Pineda, survive their ordeal on the island stretches believability to its snapping point - and that's saying something for a dinosaur movie. The four manage to elude certain death many times over from a dinosaur stampede as volcanic fire rains from above and then miraculously don't drown despite dinosaurs plummeting into the ocean all around them. Their escape from the island is so frantic and impossible, it's simply not believable. This is followed by sea travel so ridiculous that it makes the travel in Game of Thrones look reasonable: Isla Nublar is 100 miles from Costa Rica. The Lockwood Mansion, where the second half of the film takes place, is in the Pacific Northwest. You cannot travel from one to the other by ship overnight - unless you're in Jurassic World

Regardless, the latter portion of Fallen Kingdom takes place entirely in a gloomy gothic mansion complete with a Museum of Natural History-like dinosaur gallery. This madhouse also has a sub-basement containing a secret genetics lab, a dinosaur holding facility, and even an auction era - apparently all built without the knowledge of sickly billionaire James Cromwell, who we learn was the best friend and business partner of the late John Hammond. Despite already being established as expendable and the targets of attempted murder, for no good reason other than the movie needs them alive to be its heroes, Pratt and Howard are inexplicably kept alive by the mercenaries.

Meanwhile, Evil Businessman auctions off the dinosaurs captured from Isla Nublar and then unveils Fallen Kingdom's newest Big Bad: the Indoraptor, a hybrid dinosaur which will be the lynchpin of a ridiculous plot to sell Indoraptors to be used as military-grade weapons (because "Indoraptors can take commands better than human soldiers"). Of course, the Indoraptor escapes and massacres everyone except Pratt, Howard, and their friends, who can miraculously outwit it. There's also the revelation that dinosaurs aren't the only thing InGen has the power to clone - Fallen Kingdom introduces the concept that perfect human clones are a thing in the Jurassic universe. Repeat: PERFECT HUMAN CLONES exist and no one bats an eye about this. But Emperor Palpatine will be pleased; he can summon a Clone Army to fight the dinosaurs.

As Jeff Goldblum (largely wasted in a mere walk on) warns, humans are irresponsible, will be the cause of our own demise, and boy, do we deserve it. As such, Fallen Kingdom - while containing a few thrilling and outright terrifying sequences well-directed by J.A. Bayona - boasts an illogical and nonsensical script by franchise architects Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connelly that eschews wonder and heart. Instead it is a deeply cynical and violent exercise in stretching a franchise out while condeming human beings for being the worst creatures on Earth. It makes abundantly clear humans are the villains, populating the film with ruthless, greedy businessmen, international arms dealers looking to weaponize dinosaurs, and paramilitary animal traffickers who have no qualms about leaving the film's heroes to die horrifically on an island about to be destroyed by an erupting volcano. Wheras the previous films feasted on humans being eaten by dinosaurs (they usually deserved it), Fallen Kingdom is the first Jurassic film to show humans murdering other humans in cold blood. 

Ostensibly, Fallen Kingdom is about empathy for the dinosaurs - there are two shots of dinosaurs crying and the most heartwrenching moment if the film is being forced to watch a Brachiosaurus left behind on the island to be consumed by volcanic fire - but virtually none for humans. The final act of the film makes the choice to let the dinosaurs live and allow them to run freely into the world - an errand of mercy for the dinos that nonetheless will condemn countless people and other animals wholly unprepared for a T-rex or a Velociraptor to suddenly storm their neighborhoods to horrific deaths. Fallen Kingdom likes dinosaurs but hates humans. Maybe it has a point, but it's a weird one for a billion-dollar movie dinosaur franchise to make - except that they've got to make another couple of billion, yo.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hotel Artemis

HOTEL ARTEMIS

** SPOILERS **

Hotel Artemis is the cinematic equivalent of one of those distracted boyfriend memes that's been all over the Internet for the last couple of years. You know the one. Written and directed by Drew Pearce, Hotel Artemis posits an exclusive, members only secret Los Angeles hotel sanctuary for criminals run by the Nurse (Jodie Foster). It's a haven for bad guys who can't turn to traditional avenues for hospitality and medical care. 

However, outside the confines of the hotel is Los Angeles circa 2028 (a year before the events of the original Blade Runner; the universes are unrelated but the spirit is evoked). LA is in lockdown. The city is in the grips of a destructive riot as ordinary people take to the streets to protect the lack of clean drinking water. The City of Angels is a warzone. Helicopters are shot out of the sky by rocket launchers and explode into buildings as law enforcement struggles to contain the mob, These events, fleetingly glimpsed by news reports and by the film's main characters occasionally stepping outside the hotel, comes off as so much more compelling than what's actually going on in the Hotel Artemis. Hence. the distracted boyfriend meme, Hotel Artemis version:


Since we're mostly stuck in the hotel with criminals, albeit portrayed by some charismatic actors, you'd think the interactions between these bad guys with different agendas in such cramped quarters would be super interesting, but no, not really, though the actors try. Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella are standouts; he just accidentally robbed the biggest crime boss in the city, Jeff Goldblum, and is trying to protect his dying brother from that very crime boss who's on his way to the hotel. Meanwhile, Boutella is a sexy international assassin here to kill Goldblum, but she runs afoul of a foul-mouthed skeevy arms dealer played by Charlie Day. Meanwhile, the Nurse tries to hold all this chaos together with the help of her loyal and good-hearted orderly Dave Bautista

A lot of scores are settled and there are revelations dropped about the Nurse's past and how it all ties into Goldblum, but it all feels undercooked and unearned. The third act, especially, should be taught in film schools, but as a cautionary tale since the reasons why the characters do just about anything they do are bewildering. Their actions feel more in service of the plot than anything that might actually benefit them from the way they're set up inititially - after all, they are criminals. There is bloody action and shootouts, but this isn't a visceral violent tour-de-force like John Wick either - though they try by giving Boutella a Daredevil-like hallway fight scene that she's fantastic in. Meanwhile, we're left wondering how the clean water riots turn out and the events that sparked them, all of which could have made for a hell of a lot more interesting a movie than Hotel Artemis turned out to be.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Ocean's 8

OCEAN'S 8

** SPOILERS **

Like the cubic zirconia duplicate of the $150-million Cartier diamond necklace Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) plots to heist, Gary Ross' Ocean's 8 is an imperfect copy of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Trilogy. Debbie Ocean is the younger sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney), who is believed to have died but she doesn't know for sure. Either way, Ocean's 8 spends a lot of its running time genuflecting at the feet of its predecessors, making it very clear that they're heisting in the spirit of Danny Ocean and his crew. "You would have loved it," Debbie swears to Danny's grave at the very end, and one can picture George Clooney's affable grin and agreeable nod, though what Danny Ocean was really thinking we never knew for sure. He'd probably react the same to Ocean's 8.

Debbie spent 5 years in prison masterminding a jewelry heist at the Met Gala (while making it clear their score is stealing from someone at the museum and not from the museum itself - though that turns out to be a lie). Once out of the clink, she immediately assembles roughly 70% of the crew that her big brother usually ran with: Cate Blanchett is her partner, Rihanna is their hacker and tech guru, Mindy Kaling is their forger, Sarah Paulson is their fence, Helena Bonham Carter is their accomplice, Awkwafina is their pickpocket, and Anne Hathaway is their unwitting mark, until she isn't. 

Hathaway blows everyone away and is the best thing in Ocean's 8; she delights as a wry parody of how people perceive celebrated movie star actresses (especially herself) behave, but she's also the only one with a character arc in the film. Blanchett, in the Brad Pitt sidekick role, does her best despite having to actual character to play; she even lacks Pitt's constant eating as a running gag. As for Debbie Ocean herself, Bullock is subdued, as if she's either keeping a private joke or stifling the urge to sneeze the entire time. Debbie Ocean's 8 lack the overall charm of Danny Ocean's Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen), but the actresses' raw talents rise above what little there is for them to work with on the page.

Of course, Debbie is working a side hustle, just like big brother was. Danny's original Las Vegas score was also a plan to reunite with his estranged wife Tess (Julia Roberts). For Debbie, it's the opposite: she's out to frame and send her ex-boyfriend Richard Armitage to prison for ratting her out and sending her to the slammer for five years. Like Brad Pitt did to Clooney, Blanchett objects when she finds out, then goes along with it anyway.  What Ocean's 8 sorely lacks, however, is a villain of any sort, and Ross' film illustrates how vitally important Andy Garcia's malevolent casino owner Terry Benedict was to Ocean's Eleven. Without an opposing force that puts the Ocean crew at risk, Ocean's 8 essentially sails through its heist in a breeze. All of their plans go off without a hitch, they're never in any jeopardy whatsoever, and what little that does momentarily go wrong is covered up by Sandra Bullock yelling at someone in a foreign accent.

Overall, Ocean's 8 is entertaining enough but proves itself to be a fraction as good as Eleven or Thirteen (it probably ranks alongside the unmemorable Twelve). After each scoring eight figures in the end, even the rewards the ladies choose for themselves are boring: Hathaway decides to become a film director (why?), Blanchett buys a motorcycle, and Bullock takes a subway ride to Danny Ocean's tomb instead of buying a house in Lake Como, which is what big brother would do.

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