“We Will Not Be The Prime Suspects…”
With Steven Soderbergh’s ice-cool Oceans Eleven back at the start of the twentieth a contemporary remake of the 1960 Rat Pack-led movie of the same name which managed to not only work exceptionally well to both critics and audiences alike, but managed to create a further two big-screen releases with its’ staggeringly star-studded cast, the release of Ocean’s 8 follows the blueprint of 2016’s Ghostbusters by being a franchise spin-off/remake which modifies the primary gender of the film’s preceding it from predominantly male to female. With the notion of gender-modification on-screen something of which I’m entirely supportive of, with the film industry still way behind in terms of equal pay and equal opportunities even in a post-Weinstein cinematic era, the real question remains whether the final product is good enough to warrant a continuation of the franchise in the first place, and with a stellar, starry cast, an abundance of flashy style and some interesting plot developments, Ocean’s 8 is an enjoyable caper-based romp, one which although sacrifices deep characterisation in favour of simply getting on with the job at hand, is a more than capable treading of old ground which harmlessly passes the time but still does not hit the gold standard of the original remake which still remains the best in the franchise thus far.
Directed by Gary Ross of The Hunger Games fame, Ocean’s 8 follows Sandra Bullock’s (Gravity) Debbie Ocean, the freshly released ex-con whose family tree burdens her with a pre-conception of her immediate return to crime as soon as she gets back on her feet in the outside world. Surprise, surprise therefore that with the help of a merry band of fellow criminals including Cate Blanchett’s (Thor: Ragnarok) leather jacket wearing Lou and Sarah Paulson’s (The Post) suburban housewife turned profiteer, Tammy, Ocean immediately plans to steal a staggeringly expensive necklace from Anne Hathaway’s (Interstellar) air-headed Daphne Kluger during the annual star-studded Met Gala. With a silly, plot-hole ridden screenplay, one which disregards any meaningful character backstory whatsoever and one which leans too heavily on a reliance that the audience will agree to leave their brain at the door, Ocean’s 8 is the cinematic equivalent of an episode of Hustle, a sometimes sharp, quip laden flash-a-thon which is bolstered by a fundamentally appealing cast who simply are there to get the job done and have fun whilst doing it, and whether or not you can bypass the sheer stupidity of the central heist is the real measure of how you may or may not enjoy the film, but for a harmless slice of popcorn entertainment, Ocean’s 8 is far from the worst entry in the franchise and passed the time rather solidly.
Overall Score: 6/10
The Little Glass Slipper
“Not another remake of a Disney classic in order to tear the little money we have away from us”, I hear you all scream! And to be fair, before watching Kenneth Branagh’s “re-imagining” of the well-known fairy tale, I had that exact view, even after being pleasantly surprised of it having a cast that includes Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgård and the always brilliant Helena Bonham Carter. My pretty pessimistic view of Cinderella was soon put to bed however, with the film succeeding in being everything that I wanted it to be, whilst simultaneously reminding me of my childhood where Disney films played a constant, and important, part of my early cinematic years.
As everyone knows the story behind Cinderella there is really not much point in giving a plot synopsis, but I will say how happy I was at seeing how much the film stuck to the original telling from the 1950’s animated classic, something of which has seen to sway away from “re-tellings” recently such as within Into the Woods, which although wasn’t terrible, didn’t really do it for me in attempting to do something a slightly bit different. Sometimes sticking to your roots isn’t such a bad thing, and I think that is one of the reasons the new Cinderella is so strong. Yes, everyone knows the story, but I would rather the film stuck to the story everyone knew instead of heading in a completely different direction, particularly when it is such a beloved fairy tale such as this. Bonus points for that then.
Even more bonus points for the casting too, with Lily James doing a rather grand job in such an iconic role, supported by the ever-smiling Richard Madden as the spouse-searching Prince Kit, and the ever-evil Cate Blanchett who once again shines as an actress, chewing up the scenery as the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine. For the short time she is on screen, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother (of course) also shows why she is the go-to kooky character actress too, shoving down the scenery instead of chewing it, only adding more evidence to my opinion that she should just move to a world ran by Tim Burton and Disney. To be honest, I would probably move there too.
In conclusion, Cinderella beat all my previous expectations of it hands-down, proving that if done correctly, a story as strong as Ella and her glass slipper, can never be broken. Not only is the casting spot on, but the pretty much perfect runtime maintains its’ sense of sheer wonder throughout, ending on a note that can only make you leave the cinema smiling. If there ever was a blueprint for future live-action Disney remakes, then Cinderella has surely secured itself as just that. Cinderella, you can go to the ball.
Overall Score: 8/10
Another Disney movie with Johnny Depp in. Again, playing the weirdest character possible. For me, it’s lost it’s charm and really reflects Disney’s desire to ride off of the success of Jack Sparrow in alternate realities. Within recent weeks, The Lone Ranger has suffered largely from a flop in America and critics bashing it left, right and centre. It’s $220 million budget was one of the big problems that Disney has had on this project and it’s expected that it may not see an actual return on the investment. With thee American results over a month ago, it is extremely unlikely that it will achieve over $190 million from the worldwide box office. Personally, I wasn’t aware that The Lone Ranger was a radio show, TV show and loads more avenues. I thought it was a kids books from back in the day. Not experiencing the avenues, I don’t know much about The Lone Ranger and Tonto but this movie focuses on the beginning of the pair which could mean it is an origins story with the potential for more. However, due to the sales, this is very unlikely even though Gore Verbinski directed it and is renowned for his Pirates of The Caribbean trilogy (Not the Black Beard one!)
Instead of just jumping into the story, we join the world in the 1920’s (Bit of a stab in the dark!) A young boy dressed in Lone Ranger attire wanders through a Wild West carnival exhibit and stumbles across a Native Indian statue which turns out to be real. Soon we find out it’s Tonto (Johnny Depp) whose grown old. From this point, he beings to reactant the story of how he and the Lone Ranger met and the story that formed the bond between them, only to be interrupted a few times in the midst of the story to clear up things that Tonto left out (presumably because of age), this could have been used to aid the plot but it felt intrusive and stopped the motion of play at certain points but really aided the ending with the explosion of a bridge by deviating before it blew and returning about 20 minutes later to finally watch it go up in flames. The overall story was one that was very simple and could have ended at multiple points. Skipping through the usual ‘How our heroes came to be’ we know that Tonto is a nutter and John Reid – The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) is a city lawyer broken apart by the death of his Texas Ranger brother. Seeking justice, the pair ride together to find Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), an infamous posse leader who is known for eating the organs of his fallen foes, right in front of their corpse. With a mix of plot twists and turns, the story doesn’t grind to a halt but it could easily have ended much sooner rather than being dragged along for a 2 1/2 hour journey.
A big budget, a collection of famous names and faces with a talented director and Disney’s backing, you can see that a lot of work and dedication has gone into the movie. As a group, the writers have worked together to create something both adult and child friendly while reflecting the complexity of the situation that was happening at the time with the conflicts between Americans and the Natives over control of the land and its natural resources. Alongside the cinematography the overall filming was stunning and the cunning use of the props was an intriguing and clever idea. The prop use that sticks out to me was when Tonto was looting the bodies of the dead rangers and was doing a traditional Indian trade when he gave him a packet of nuts that was given to him by the young child he is telling the story too. Lighting was heavily considered for certain areas. The most prominent area was the silver mine which has the brightest lighting combined with the natural light of the area, the whole area glistened white. The shots ranged from extreme close-ups to long shots that captured the landscape brilliantly and transitioned between areas extremely well. The general construction of both the settings and the costumes should be applauded as they were well manufactured and fit the area perfectly.
Out of the whole cast, the best acted character was Butch Cavendish. One – his make-up was impeccable and I didn’t know it was him until I looked at the IMDB list. Two – Fichtner managed to keep in character without losing character by over exaggerating. Once again, the typical duo of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are gracing the screens together. Nothing new and exciting there but Helena only appears 2-3 times and doesn’t really do much to warrant the huge pay check that she received, especially with the accent that didn’t sound very ‘western’. As usual, Depp plays a weird character that is placed out of the regular confines of modern society in a changing world. He plays the crazy characters fine, the feeding of the dead bird was entertaining and his blank stares were much the same but it’s nothing that we haven’t already seen and I would really like to see him in something a little more serious, perhaps Rum Diaries. Finally, we have the main hero John Reid. Arnie Hammer doesn’t appear to have done a huge amount and I would hazard a guess that this is his first leading role so far and it wasn’t bad. He was a little weird and points and spent most of the time being a bit of a liability with very little character development apart from his brothers death and his brothers wife who he loves…One of my problems is with the casting of Reid’s nephew, why can they not cast a child who can act a little?
In typical Verbinski style, this movie is just an action movie. It is also filled with comedy and crazy shenanigans which made the Pirates series so popular. A personal favourite was the rabbits. Not just ordinary rabbits, savage mother fuckers who will quite happily feed on their dead cooked cousin while snarling at the screen bearing its teeth, bundling in with a brawl between seemingly normal animals. The rest of the comedy was the over zealous explosions, fight scenes with witty one liners, The spirit horse that appears from nowhere and the heroic duo who spend moments arguing like a married couple in Asda’s drink section (Walmart to the Americans), Alongside that you have Tonto’s weird behaviour coupled with that bloody crow can be funny.
So overall, the movie is fun. Not a masterpiece of cinema, or a brilliantly scripted piece that grabs you by the balls and pulls you into the dark room. There was no tension builders that could have assisted the story but in total I feel it is worth the watch, seeing as we won’t be seeing a follow-up to it. 6/10 feels right to me. 7/10 on a good day.