Oceans 8

Posted on June 7, 2018 at 5:50 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Marijuana, alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 8, 2018
Date Released to DVD: September 10, 2018
Copyright 2018 Warner Brothers

Heist films are irresistible, especially when they are as twisty and stylish as “Oceans 8.” First, there is the practicality of the puzzle part. I always love the way they set it up to show us how impossible it is, so we can fully appreciate the cleverness of the characters in coming up with plans to surmount the various traps and security features. And then things always go wrong in the moment, so we have the fun of seeing problem-solving in real time. But just as important is the luxury of the fantasy element. We get to identify with people who, like wizards and superheroes, operate outside of the usual rules. All we need is some very slight reason not to worry about the people who are being stolen from (they are usually either unworthy or so institutional it seems impersonal), and we’re on board.

“Oceans 8” has another reason to intrigue us as well. We are already very familiar, perhaps too familiar with the “Oceans 11” series, which rather wore out its welcome by the last in the trilogy and perhaps the original, starring Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Freshening up the concept with an all-female group of grifters and thieves with a cast that features three Oscar-winners and a sensationally beautiful style icon gives it an embedded freshness and underdog quality. “A him gets noticed; a her gets ignored,” Debbie Ocean says. “For once, we want to be ignored.”

Debbie (Sandra Bullock) is just out of prison after five years, eight months, and twelve days. She explains to the parole board that she has learned her lesson and all she wants is “the simple life. Hold down a job, make some friends, go for a walk after work in the fresh air, pay my bills.” They buy it. And soon she is out, shoplifting herself a new wardrobe and swindling herself a hotel room. She visits the grave of her brother, Danny (the character played by George Clooney in the male “Oceans” movies), though the movie does leave open the possibility that his death might just be another con. And she gets in touch with two of her partners in grift from the past, Lou (Cate Blanchett), who has been dealing in petty cons like watering vodka, and art dealer Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), against whom Debbie seems to have quite a grudge.

Debbie has spent her time in prison devising a heist of delightful complexity and ingenuity. Of course in reality it was devised by director Gary Ross, who wrote the script with Olivia Milch, and one of their best ideas was to set the robbery at the most glamorous event in America, the annual Met Gala (that’s GAH-la, not GAY-la). Their plan: to get the event’s celebrity chair, an air-headed actress named Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) to wear a $150,000,000 diamond necklace so they can steal it.  And this gives us a peek into the most exclusive party of the year, with a delicious chance to get up close to huge celebrities in fabulously over-the-top gowns (though gala empress Anna Wintour is played by an anonymous extra in an impeccably coiffed wig).

This will involve a combination of talents from the psychological (persuading Kluger to choose an out-of-fashion designer and persuading Cartier to loan the necklace) to the technological (everyone needs a hacker these days) to the embedding of various moles to good old-fashioned pickpocketing. As we used to say in the 70’s, sisterhood is powerful.  I won’t spoil any of the twists or surprises; I’ll just say that I enjoyed them all very much and this crowd and they are welcome to steal a necklace from me any time.

Parents should know that this film has criminal behavior, some mild peril, brief strong language, alcohol, and marijuana.

Family discussion: If you had a crackerjack team of thieves, what would you want to steal? What would be the biggest obstacle? What was the movie’s biggest surprise?

If you like this try: the documentary about the Met Gala, The First Monday in May and other sophisticated heist movies like the original and remake versions of “Oceans 11,” “The Italian Job,” and “The Thomas Crown Affair” as well as “How to Steal a Million” and “Topkapi”

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Trailer: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets from Luc Besson

Posted on November 10, 2016 at 11:14 am

Get ready to have your socks knocked off — I saw some concept art and unfinished footage from Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” at Comic-Con last summer and it is going to be AWESOME. And yep, that’s Riri.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Home

Posted on March 26, 2015 at 5:59 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Comic/cartoon-style/sci-fi peril and violence, no one badly hurt but some mildly scary images
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: March 27, 2015
Date Released to DVD: July 27, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B00XRDYK1C
Copyright Dreamworks 2015
Copyright Dreamworks 2015

“Home” is a cute and colorful movie about an alien invasion with an important safety tip concerning one of the most destructive forces in the universe, causing utter devastation to every known life form. Yes, it is hitting the dreaded “send to all.”

This is the catastrophe that strikes Oh (Jim Parsons), part of an alien invasion by the Boov, a civilization known for their primary cultural attribute — running away from danger, from problems, and from learning that some of what they believe about the universe may not be right. They are led by the egotistical Smek (Steve Martin), never in doubt and always willing to cut off any disagreement by smacking his fellow Boov with his “susher,” a staff topped by a rock he grabbed during his last unsuccessful negotiation with a terrifying armored alien Commander of a race called Gorg. The Gorg want to destroy the Boov, so the Boov are constantly seeking planets where they can hide. Earth seems homey, so they vacuum up all of the humans and send them off to Australia and settle into their new domicile.

The Boov are not much for socializing, but Oh wants to make friends. He sends out invitations to a housewarming party, but accidentally hits “send to all,” and “all” somehow includes the Gorg. Oh has just alerted their worst enemy to their location. This is one too many mistakes for him (Boov are allowed just three and he is well over that), so he runs away. And that is how he meets Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna), a plucky middle-schooler with a cat named Pig. Tip was missed by the Boov vacuums because Pig was on her head so she was not identified as human.

When Oh fixes Tip’s car and promises to help her find her mother, the two of them (plus Pig) go off on a wild ride that includes an upside-down floating Eiffel Tower, plugging themselves into the Boov brain trust network (with a very funny joke about passwords), and, of course, learning a little bit about each other and themselves.

It’s nice to see a person of color as the lead in an animated film and Rihanna gives a warm, spirited vocal performance as Tip, who shares her West Indies heritage.  The character design is cute but uninspired. Same for the storyline. But it is bright and colorful — literally. The Boov turn a crayon box of colors to show their emotions. And the briefly glimpsed Gorg add some zingy sharp angles. Playful touches start right at the beginning, with Oh fishing off the Dreamworks logo. The Slushious car, decked out with convenience store staples, is a hoot. And kids will enjoy seeing Oh learn about life on earth, something they know a little about.

Parents should know that this film has some potty humor, mild peril, and cartoon-style violence, and some sci-fi-style scary images.

Family discussion: When do you feel “sad-mad?” Why did Tip decide to be friends with Oh? What was the best thing about the Slushious car?

If you like this, try: “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Megamind” and the book that inspired this film, The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex.

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3D Animation Based on a book Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy Science-Fiction

A Trailer for A Movie You’ll Never See: Moonquake Lake with Mila Kunis and Rihanna

Posted on December 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm

“Moonquake Lake” has a lot of star power behind it — “LEGO Movie” directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord and stars Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Rihanna. And it looks….intriguing, some sort of “Twilight”-style supernatural teen romance.

It just isn’t real.

“Moonquake Lake” is a movie within a movie. In this week’s release “Annie,” the stars go to a movie premiere and we get a glimpse of the movie they see. Here’s the trailer:

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Shorts Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Battleship

Posted on May 17, 2012 at 9:29 pm

As if it wasn’t enough of a challenge to try to create a movie based on a board game — and a board game based on a game that is perfectly adequately played with pencil and paper — this movie has to find its way around the fact that the large armored warships that give the game and the movie its title have been out of commission as everything but museum pieces for decades, replaced by much more powerful ships called destroyers.  And yet, director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) and screenwriters Eric and Jon Hoeber (“Red“) have somehow managed to add some aliens and a lot of explosions to create a good, old-fashioned summer popcorn movie that is good, old-fashioned fun.

They give us half an hour to meet the main characters.  Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, thankfully making it possible to overlook “John Carter“) is an impetuous but gallant young man.  His brother Stone (“True Blood’s” Alexander Skarsgård), a naval officer frustrated with Alex’s lack of direction, insists that Alex get some discipline and join the navy.  A couple of years later, Stone is a commander and Alex is a promising but still-impetuous lieutenant in love with Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), the daughter of the admiral (Liam Neeson).  In the midst of an event called RIMPAC that is like an Olympics of international naval operations, just after Alex gets in trouble for a scuffle with a Japanese naval officer (Tadanobu Asano), something happens that is not part of the program.  For four years, a program called the Beacon Project has been sending signals to a planet that is similar to earth and capable of supporting life in the hope of making contact.  The signals have been seen as an invitation and the inhabitants of the other planet have arrived, like Columbus.  And, as a character points out, if they are Columbus, we — all of humanity — are the the Indians.  Except it is more like Columbus arriving with  an armored brigade and bombs that slice through destroyers like bullets through tissue paper.  And they operate a enormous rockets that operate like Decepticons the size of the Chrysler Building in a world with no Optimus Primes.

The Battleship board game involves trying to guess where the other player’s warships are hidden by calling out squares on a grid, and the Hoebers find a witty way to make that a part of the story, and to bring in a real battleship, too.  There’s more than just bang-bang.  Alex comes up with some clever, way-out-of-the box tactics and Rihanna is a hoot as a determined petty officer weapons specialist.  And in a cute variation on the whole “ET phone home” thing, the aliens need to get to the Beacon Project communication center.  The only people who can stop them are none other than the beautiful daughter of the admiral and a wounded warrior she happens to have been trying to inspire by taking him for a bit of a mountain climb.  He is played by real-life West Point graduate Gregory D. Gadson, a double leg amputee, in a performance adding some nicely quiet dignity to the story.  There is not much quiet or dignity in the rest of the movie, but Berg stages the action scenes with kinetic energy and a sure sense of fun.  (And be sure to stay all the way through the credits for an extra scene.)

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop action-style violence with aliens, many explosions and military battles, characters injured and killed, and some strong language (s-words, muffled f-words).

Family discussion: How did the qualities that got Alex into trouble also help him?  Would you say the same about anyone else in the story who became an unexpected hero?

If you like this, try: “Independence Day” and “Transformers” – and the board game!

 

 

 

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