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Non-Review Review: Ocean’s 8

Ocean’s 8 is mostly a charming and inoffensive heist movie that coasts off the charisma of its central cast.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism of itself. There’s nothing wrong in watching an ensemble including Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock bounce off one another, performers who are both talented screen and genuine old-fashioned movie stars. As with the series of films that obviously inspired (and named) Ocean’s 8, the cast have an easy chemistry with one another. Star power goes a long way, and there’s something almost refreshing in seeing a movie that runs almost exclusively on it in this age where these sorts of high-profile movies are largely driven franchising, high concepts and intellectual property.

Properly trained for this.

Of course, there’s some small complication in that in that Ocean’s 8 feels at times like an effort to split the difference between being a star-driven caper movie and also the latest installment in a larger recognisable franchise. Indeed, some of the movie’s weakest moment lean most heavily on nods and winks to the trilogy of Steven Soderbergh movies that provided a launching pad for this female-star-driven caper. The title character is Debbie Ocean, revealed to be the sister of Danny Ocean; that is the least of it. (Even the choice of “8” in the title seems designed to leave room for two more installments making a trilogy.)

Still movie stars are a dying breed, so it’s a novelty to see so many of them congregating in the same place and to see a movie that understands the appeal of watching confident performers playing competent characters who are constantly in motion. Ocean’s 8 lacks some of the more undervalued elements of the earlier films, the problems created by their absence here underscoring their importance, but it mostly succeeds as a light and breeze caper movie without a clear antagonist, without a strong directorial vision and with an over-extended third act.

Getting the gang together.

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The Lone Gunmen – Three Men and a Smoking Diaper (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Three Men and a Smoking Diaper might just be the worst episode of The Lone Gunmen.

It is also the only episode to be written solely by Chris Carter, who had also contributed to The Pilot.

Good advice...

Good advice…

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Star Trek – Who Mourns For Adonais? (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

In many respects, Who Mourns for Adonais? is a formative episode for Star Trek as a franchise. It’s a show that really informs a lot of the franchise that would follow, even beyond the confines of the original television show. It’s an episode that represents the first clear articulation of a strand of thought that has been bubbling away through the first season of Star Trek and into the second, exploring the religious side of the Star Trek universe and mankind’s place in the cosmos.

The episode is iconic and memorable. It is packed with images that are familiar to even the most casual of fans. “Kirk confronts a Greek god in deep space!” is a catchy premise. “A giant hand grabs the Enterprise and threatens to crush the ship!” is the type of delightfully insane visual that ranks with “Captain Kirk as a Nazi!” or “space Lincoln!” when it comes to Star Trek visuals that stick with people outside the context of the show itself. Coupled with the distillation of those themes, this is a “big” episode.

"Jack, I'm flying!"

“Jack, I’m flying!”

Unfortunately, Who Mourns for Adonais? is also a deeply troubling episode. It has problems heaped upon problems. Some of those problems are inherited from the general aesthetic of the show, and are not specific to this episode. However, some of those problems are explicitly articulated here. Who Mourns for Adonais? is an episode that embodies quite a few of the very serious problems that run through the original Star Trek and haunt the franchise for quite some time.

The fact that these problems come baked into an iconic and memorable episode is disappointing.

"Oh, your gods..."

“Oh, your gods…”

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Facets (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Facets in more than a little muddled. It’s an episode that is all over the place. It’s a script that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, leaning in one direction and then another. The episode’s big plot point isn’t dropped until half-way through, and there are any number of points where the script offers a feint towards a plot that never quite develops. As befitting a story called Facets, this is an episode with quite a few different (and often conflicting) sides.

It’s a disjointed little story, and perhaps an effective demonstration of just how much trouble the producers were having with Dax as a character. And yet, despite all this, Facets works surprisingly well. This is likely down to the fact that – like Playing God and arguably Blood Oath before it – it feels like a Dax story that is as interested in the character as it is in the concept.

A little piece of herself...

A little piece of herself…

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“It’s None of Your Damn Business What I Think About That”: Tarantino and the Limits of Film Directors…

It’s a clip that’s gone viral. Tarantino lashing out at Channel 4 interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy has become something of in internet touchstone. “I’m shutting your butt down,” the director protests after getting another of those inevitable questions about the link between movie violence and real-life violence. It’s cringeworthy and awkward, and it plays into Guru-Murthy’s hands better than a straight answer would have, but I can’t help but empathise with Tarantino’s position.

Incidents like the shooting in Aurora or Connecticut shooting are truly horrifying and very hard for us to contextualise. I can understand Tarantino not wanting to get into that debate, because it’s really not the place of anybody involved in cinema to talk about it. It’s arrogant for anybody with any film background to try to relate their work to it, and it’s negligent of any journalist to try to sensationalise a link between film violence and real violence when the real questions are tougher, more uncompromising and more uncomfortable than a quick jab at Tarantino.

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Do We Live in the Age of the Forty-Something Leading Lady?

Jennifer Aniston’s romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter may not have quite set the US box office alight last weekend (coming third behind Alice in Wonderland and some film even I’ve never heard of), but she’s still one of Hollywood’s biggest name leading ladies currently on film – and I don’t see that changing. And she’s 41 years old. Sandra Bullock, that darling of the nineties romantic comedy, spent last year reaffirming her golden touch, with the surprising-even-by-the-standards-of-the-genre romantic comedy The Proposal and an Oscar-winning role in The Blind Side. There was also a Razzie-winning role in All About Steve, but she even managed to use that to demonstrate that she is still one of the queens of Hollywood. And she’s 45 years old. Are the attitudes towards women – particularly leading women – changing in Hollywood?

Is Aniston on a winning Streep?

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Musicals For Macho, Macho Men…

A trend I’ve noticed appearing over the last few years is the none-too-subtle attempt to genre-shift movies away from the stereotypical audience demographics associated with those genres to other stereotypical audience demographics. I’m speaking of course of the trend to sell movie genres that have generally been associated as ‘chick fare’ to ‘manly men’. At the moment we have the news that a manly manly musical is being adapted to big screen by Hairspray helmer Adam Shankman – Rock of Ages will be a jukebox musical featuring artists like Journey or Twisted Sister and appears to be a blatant play for the middle age male audience.

Rock on, man...

Rock on, man...

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