Ocean’s 8 Review

The ingredients to pull off an entertaining heist movie are much the same as those needed to pull off the heist itself. First, there has to be motley crew, each of whom has specific talents that will come in handy at the opportune moment. Then, there needs to be a big enough haul worthy of a cinematic heist, followed by moments of high tension, only to be resolved; and a deserving enough bad guy whose misdeeds are enough that you want other criminals to rob him or her blind.

Ocean’s 8 gets a lot of elements of the heist subgenre correct, but stumbles in setting up an antagonist for the antiheroic ensemble to steal from.

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Finding Nemo Turns 15

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: Finding Nemo turns 15 and it represents much of what Pixar has spent the past few decades trying to say about families.)

Over nearly 25 years, Pixar Animation Studios has become the high watermark of American animation. Unlike even Walt Disney Animation Studios, which has had some level of creative and behind-the-scenes upheaval over more than eight decades, Pixar’s films have been consistently successful with audiences and at the box office. Technologically and creatively, Pixar’s filmmakers have made plenty of leaps from the first computer-animated feature, Toy Story, to last year’s Coco.

Although the settings of these stories vary, Pixar has thematically been laser-focused for many years on telling stories about the creation and embrace of a community; it’s an idea that is perhaps reflected most strongly of all in a film celebrating its 15th anniversary this month: Finding Nemo.

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Han Solo is the best human character in the Star Wars cinematic franchise, as played by someone who didn’t seem to care much about the vagaries of the series.

This is the inherent paradox of the character brought to life by Harrison Ford, in a genuinely star-making performance. Before Star Wars, Ford had appeared in a few films, including The Conversation and American Graffiti. However, Han Solo was his breakout role and was at his best in the first film, even if Ford couldn’t have cared less about the science-fiction trappings of the world he was occupying.

This week heralds not only the 35th anniversary of the last original-trilogy film in the series, Return of the Jedi, but the return of Han Solo to the big screen in Solo: A Star Wars Story; each of these films, in their own way, proved that lightning could never strike twice.

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Deadpool 2 review

Much like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is less a movie than a smirky, feature-length meme generator. Though the sequel has a new director and some new cast members, Deadpool 2 is unsurprisingly doubling down on what made the first film such a big hit, including jokes about exactly how big of a hit at the box office it was, as well as plenty of other fourth-wall-breaking moments. Considering that the original was successful, it’s somewhat predictable that this sequel is going to the same well of snark and glib ultra-violence, but this is just as obnoxious as its predecessor, if not more so. Read More »

Life of the Party Review

Over the last decade, Melissa McCarthy has helped boost a handful of comedies with her fierce comic charm and timing. Spy, The Heat, Bridesmaids, and the Ghostbusters remake (which wasn’t perfect, but was still pretty damn funny) all were elevated by her ability to play someone who’s wild and outlandish while managing to feel slightly rooted in reality. Her immense talent in these films makes it all the more puzzling that the three films she’s co-written and produced, including the new comedy Life of the Party, are so scattershot. Life of the Party has a familiar, straightforward premise, but is hampered by dull jokes and a poor sense of pacing.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Tully Trailer - Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is one of the great living actresses, and Tully is the latest proof. Theron’s ability to fully embody and transform into her characters is already well-documented, from her Oscar-winning work in Monster to the fierce Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Prior to Tully, one of Theron’s better, more acidic performances came in the Diablo Cody-written, Jason Reitman-directed Young Adult. Now, the actress, writer, and director have come together for a film that’s perhaps slightly less biting but far more resonant in its depiction of the struggles of modern middle-class parenting.

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Infinity War Runtime

The best thing about Avengers: Infinity War is, in many ways, the best thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole: an incredibly charming and almost overqualified ensemble cast. Though a few of the actors in the nearly 20 films of the MCU haven’t worked out so well, many of the performers are key to making the heroes of this fantastical series fresh and exciting. Whenever the sometimes-unwieldy, epic-length Infinity War works, it’s largely thanks to the actors, not the action sequences or the effects or anything else. The cast makes this movie, not the other way around.

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Ready Player One Shining Scene

For good and ill, Ready Player One feels like the apotheosis of all things nostalgic in popular culture in the 21st century. The new Steven Spielberg film, based on the book of the same name by co-screenwriter Ernest Cline, depicts a future in which people of all ages escape into a virtual-reality landscape that’s populated with cultural characters both famous and obscure. As much as it may be enjoyable to be reminded of the things you liked or loved (or still like or love), Ready Player One struggles with the balance between depicting nostalgic totems and commenting on the damage that obsessing over such cultural detritus does to a person.

One scene midway through the film represents this struggle, and is almost able to encapsulate the film’s various issues in a microcosm. To describe that scene would be a pretty big spoiler, so consider yourself warned.

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Beetlejuice 30th Anniversary

It’s been too long, painfully so, since Michael Keaton got to be even remotely as funny and wild on screen as he is as the title character of Beetlejuice. Keaton has mercifully had a bit of a career revival in the last handful of years, having starred in two of the last four Best Picture winners (remember Birdman and Spotlight?) as well as getting to play the villainous Vulture in last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Though that movie represented a nice reversal of the days when Keaton played the Caped Crusader, Homecoming leaned more into the longtime actor’s darker side.

So watching Beetlejuice 30 years (it hit theaters on March 30, 1988) later feels all the more shocking because it’s a bracing reminder that, even when he was playing a darker-than-life character, Michael Keaton could be as funny as he was scary.

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(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: why the recently retired John Musker matters to Disney’s past and its future.)

There are only a few people whose presence at Walt Disney Animation Studios has been as massive as that of Walt Disney himself. During Disney’s life, although he never directed a single animated feature, it was hard to see anyone else at the studio he created with his brother being quite as influential or impactful as he was. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, there have been a handful of artists who could say that they caused major change at the studio, from the late composer Howard Ashman to the now-mired-in-controversy animator and producer John Lasseter.

Last weekend, one of those great artists stepped down from Disney Animation: longtime animator and director John Musker, whose loss at the studio will be keenly felt for a long time.

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