Category Archives: Comedy

‘Marriage Story’ Review

Who knew that arguably both the best war film and the best comedy of 2019 would be a divorce drama?

“Marriage Story” follows a divorcing couple (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson), and the struggles they face while going through the process from different sides of the country. Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Julie Hagerty and Merritt Wever also star as Noah Baumbach writes and directs.

I’ve been big fan of Adam Driver’s for a while and it was really nice to see him earn an Academy Award nomination last year for his work in “BlacKkKlansman.” Most people know him for his work as Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars trilogy, but this is his fourth collaboration with Baumbach and he gives a career-best performance. Like the film itself, Driver jumps from happy to confused to angry at the drop of a hat, and perfectly conveys all the emotions that one goes through when getting a divorce. He has one scene where he finally explodes and it is one of those sequences that you simply feel drained watching unfold, because of how raw it comes across as.

Scarlett Johansson also gives arguably a career-best turn, and gets to show some actual humor and emotion that the likes of the Avengers films may not allow her. She has one monologue in particular that will likely be used as her Oscar reel where she recounts her marriage to Driver and where things fell apart. We haven’t known these characters for all of 20 minutes and already we feel let down alongside her. I think that at the end of the day this is Driver’s movie, but Johansson gets plenty of scenes that she commands.

The supporting cast is all great, too. The scene-stealing, scenery-chewing duo of Laura Dern and Ray Liotta are great fun and they have some wonderful lawyer banter, and are two people you love to hate. Alan Alda also turns in a fantastic performance as one of Driver’s lawyers, who like Driver wants the divorce process to be as amicable as possible but Dern is out for blood; Alda’s mild-mannered old man is just so great because the character feels so *real*.

I really enjoyed Baumbach’s 2017 film “The Meyerowitz Stories” and thought the script there was great; this one is even better. Baumbach is an old-fashion director who likes to have actors follow his written word and action to the tee, and the end result is a film that both breaks your heart and makes your stomach hurt from laughing. Like “Annie Hall” there is a “Los Angeles vs New York City” storyline and how the cities compare and contrast (“you’d love it in LA, there’s just so much more space than New York!”). There are plenty of dramatic moments that may hit more at home for those who have been married, gotten divorced and/or are a child of divorce (I check none of the three boxes), but even for the casual young person the ideas of love, struggle and betrayal will resonate.

There really isn’t much wrong with this film. It is 136 minutes but it flies by; honestly the editing by Jennifer Lame (who also cut together this year’s brilliant “Midsommar”) is quick but also specific when it has to be. Mixing violins and flutes, the score by Randy Newman is whimsical and melancholic at some parts and thrilling at others, depending on which of the couple the film is focused on, and I kept thinking how the music reminded me of “Toy Story.”

“Marriage Story” is hands-down among 2019’s best films and it has everything a film should have: uncontrived drama, organic characters and genuine laughs. I can’t wait to be able to watch it whenever I want once it starts streaming on Netflix and for it to reach the biggest audience possible. Baumbach has made something truly special here, a film that is built to last and only grow more personal as time goes on.

Critic’s Rating: 9/10

‘Jojo Rabbit’ Review

“Jojo Rabbit” tells the tale of a 10-year-old Hitler Youth (played by Roman Griffith Davis) who discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Taika Waititi stars as an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler, while also writing and directing; Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Alfie Allen also star.

This film has been subject of anticipation, skepticism and criticism for quite some time, and its light portrayal of Nazi Germany has led some to make comparisons to 1997’s “Life Is Beautiful” (a great film in its own right). Folk need to get a grip, because as Waititi has spoken on, trying to complain about and shut down a film that uses a dark subject matter for comedy is playing into the very mindset that those people are upset about in the first place. “Jojo Rabbit” may not break new ground (Nazis are bad, 1940s were a dark time for certain people, no one needs that refresher course) but what it lacks in true danger it makes up for in heart.

Children actors can be hit or miss, and this is one of those times where it is a straight bullseye. As the titular Jojo, Roman Griffith Davis is a star in the making, with a cute face and tousled hair, and enough facial expressions he could fill an emoji board. Asked to carry most every single scene of the film, and sometimes act alongside his director, a grown man in a Hitler outfit, Davis does a near-masterful job, giving us fantastic deadpan delivery, emotional glances or heart-breaking reactions. There were times his delivery of Waititi’s script was so sharp the audience laughed over the succeeding lines of dialogue, including one phrase that had people in actual tears.

The supporting cast all turn in great work, too, including Archie Yates as Jojo’s fellow Hitler Youth friend, Sam Rockwell as his scene-stealing SS Captain and Scarlett Johansson as the sympathetic “stop-and-smell-the-roses” mother. They are all given great lines from Waititi and don’t step on each other’s toes, and you get excited whenever they show up on screen. As imaginary friend Hitler, Waititi is essentially playing the Führer if he was mixed with “Mean Girls’” Regina George, and if the idea of Adolf Hitler looking at a 10-year-old boy after an argument and saying “well… that was intense!” is not funny (or worse, offensive) to you then I don’t want to be friends with you anyways.

The production and costume designs of 1940s Germany are also commendable, full of color and detail. We’ve see war-torn Europe in film dozens of times before, and “Jojo Rabbit” gets its chance to flash everything from open fields to obligatory post-bombed city squares, but it is always impressive when a filmmaker can transport you to a time period.

Now the area that may lose some people, beyond the light-hearted take on something as evil as the Nazis, is that the film is pretty cut-and-dry. Very few, if any, of the characters are shades of grey; you’re either a good guy or a bad one, and even the evolution of Jojo out of his indoctrination at times does not feel earned. Sam Rockwell’s character is really the only one who gets any real arc or a sense of “there’s more to this character than we see in the 110 minutes we’re with them,” and it’s probably why (on top of being incredible in everything he touches, sans “Vice”) Rockwell was my favorite part of the film.

“Jojo Rabbit” was a festival darling and time will tell if it is an awards contender, too; but I don’t think it truly needs hardware to justify itself. It manages to deliver numerous laughs in spite of a potentially dark subject matter, and at the same time lets the audience laugh at the expense of some of the worst humans that ever walked the earth. Does it play things too safe and contrive some drama? Sure. But the film is feel-good and funny, and in 2019 that’s not something I for one am going to turn away.

Critics Rating: 8/10

‘Yesterday’ Review

Well this is as close as we’ve gotten to a Beatles biopic to-date, but with Freddie Mercury and Elton John out of the way I feel we are inching closer and closer each day.

“Yesterday” tells the story of a down-on-his-luck musician (Himesh Patel) who, following an accident, is suddenly the only person in the world who knows about the band The Beatles, and starts to pass their songs off as his own. Danny Boyle directs as Lily James, Joel Fry, Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon also star.

I would say the Beatles are my favorite band of all-time (but then again, shouldn’t the best band of all-time be everyone’s favorite?) and one day I hope we get a biopic film on their legacy (unless its a PG-13 by-the-numbers endeavor like “Bohemian Rhapsody” in which case, keep it). Whether or not you think the Beatles are the greatest band ever, it is undeniable that they have some the most popular songs of all-time and their effect on pop culture is still being felt today. “Yesterday” tries its best to honor that legacy and while it is probably just another rom-com dressed up in Beatles wrapping paper, I really enjoyed myself watching this film.

British humor is always hit-or-miss with me, with some of their products being hilarious (anything by Edgar Wright and Ricky Gervais, for example) but other times not so much (“Death at a Funeral”). This is a product that falls into the former category, with many of the mean quips and quick retorts landing. There are several laugh out loud moments in here, and partnered with Danny Boyle’s signature editing style things move along at a brisk pace.

All the performances are solid, with leading man Himesh Patel and the always adorable Lily Collins sharing some cute, if not painfully real, scenes together. Ed Sheeran has a few scenes playing a fictionalized version of himself and I always love when celebrities do that in movies and shows, and Kate McKinnon is amusing, if not slightly overbearing, as a money-greedy manager.

The selling point of this film is its plot and its music, and they’re both entertaining. The idea that no one has ever heard of the Beatles is instantly interesting and the film also has one related running gag that is perfectly spaced out and appears just the right amount of times. Also, even if it isn’t them singing them, any time you hear any Beatles song, especially in succession like this, you can’t help but smile.

Now for the most part, there is nothing inherently wrong with this film. It is kind of predictable and one-note once you shed the allure of the Beatles songs away from it, but I thought the script was sharp enough and the actors sufficiently cute and emotional that I didn’t mind very much. There is one (bold) move done by the filmmakers that I am interested to see the public respond to, however. While I personally do not have much problem with it, I can very easily see people hating the choice and there is something about the move that took even me a second to digest. This is just one scene in the film but it is one that will probably be discussed for a time to come.

“Yesterday” very well may be blinding me from more of its flaws with my love for the Beatles and their music, but even from a romantic comedy perspective I think there is plenty here that works. It is an easy breezy watch with an obviously great soundtrack and charming cast, and with things like that, you know it can’t be bad.

Critic’s Rating: 8/10

Give Me In-School Suspension over ‘Night School’

When a film is about as enjoyable as taking a standardized test, you know you’re in trouble…

“Night School” stars Kevin Hart as a high school dropout who must return to complete his GED after losing his job.  Tiffany Haddish plays his teacher while Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Keith David and Loretta Devine also star. Malcom D. Lee directs.

Last we saw Malcom D. Lee, Tiffany Haddish and producer Will Packer teaming up was with “Girls Trip,”a film I very much enjoyed and that put Haddish on the map. Lee typically makes quality-enough films, including “The Best Man” and “Soul Men,” while Packer has made a career of producing financially successful films targeted at African-Americans, including Hart’s “Ride Along” films and this year’s “Breaking In.” You would think the trio teaming up, along with Kevin Hart who can be entertaining in bursts, would be a recipe for success but unfortunately the end result feels like detention.

One of the signs your film is (typically) in trouble is when there are more than two or three screenwriters, especially if they’re broken up with an “&” symbol, meaning it was different writing teams making a pass at the same script. “Night School” has six writers, including Hart and “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller, and that fact is clear early on because this is a scattershot affair. When the actors aren’t improvising and riffing (which is seemingly most of the time) the script jumps around to different styles of jokes, some dark and others juvenile, and it just creates an awkward pace.

The editing doesn’t do the film any favors either, as scenes got on for far too long, shots stay on characters far after the punchline and there is very little rhyme or reason to the structure. The cinematography by Greg Gardiner, who shoots many of Lee’s films and was able to give “Girls Trip” some flare, is bland (as with most Hart-Packer productions), with much of the film taking place in standard, uninspired classrooms or kitchens.

Haddish tries her best and is clearly the best part of the film but a lot of her spaghetti-at-the-wall improvs don’t land, or are so awkwardly stitched into the scene that you get no beat between lines. Hart is doing his Kevin Hart thing and at this point you’re either on that train or off it, and I just wish he would stick with doing things where he is the straight-man or is challenged just a little bit by a director (he’s so fun in “Jumanji!”). Taran Killam has a few amusing moments as the nerd-turned-principle but he largely feels like a missed opportunity of a role.

“Night School” shows flashes in the very, very early stages of being a possible satire of high school films but then it quickly falls into just a cookie-cutter comedy that is as disposable as it is boring. I started to get anxious towards the end of the film because it simply refused to end, or even build to any true conclusion, and there is really no reason you would ever need to check this one out.

Critic’s Grade: D

Universal Pictures

The Happytime Murders’ is Dumb, Vulgar and Only Occasionally Funny, but What Else Did You Expect?

This film is a lot like “Sausage Party” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” had a lovechild…

“The Happytime Murders” takes place in a world where puppets and people co-exist, and follows a human cop (Melissa McCarthy) and a puppet private investigator (performed and voiced by Bill Barretta) that must solve a recent string of killings. Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale and Elizabeth Banks also star as Brian Henson, son of the late “Muppets” creator Jim Henson, directs.

This project went through a long development period. The film was first announced 10 years ago and featured numerous actors, including Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx, rumored to star before McCarthy eventually signed on. The studio was also sued by the makers of “Sesame Street” but won rather quickly. The premise itself is somewhat amusing, playing up the “typically innocent things says bad words” (like “Sausage Party” did with animated movies) and mixing it with a world where fictional childhood beings interact as second-class citizens with people (like cartoons in “Roger Rabbit”). “Happytime Murders” is not as clever as the latter nor as funny as the former, but it does have enough going for it to give it the ever-so-slightest of recommendations.

I’m a sucker for most anything noir or set in Los Angeles and this film-at least for a while-plays up to those aspects as strengths. The early stages really do have a “Roger Rabbit” vibe to them (I hate to keep making that lazy comparison but it’s clear what the filmmakers were going for) and the puppeteer work is commendable. Brian Henson has been around Muppets all his life and even has directed a few of their films (most notably the ever-enjoyable “The Muppet Christmas Carol”) so he knows how to film puppets so their interactions with humans isn’t awkward and the framing is proper (some footage during the credits shows the extents the crew went through to get some shots, including raising sets and operating in greenscreen suits).

The comedy here is graphic and pretty one-note, as to be expected from the trailers. I personally thought this film looked painfully unfunny and one of those “R-rated films that swears and makes genital jokes just for the sake of it” romps and while I was completely right it isn’t as grating as one may think. I only laughed out loud a handful of times, and more than once it feels as if the delivery or phrasing of a punchline ruined a possibly clever joke, but the film is light and paced well.

McCarthy continues to be hit-and-miss with me and does once again show that she needs Paul Feig in order to give a genuine great performance, but she is (randomly) dedicated here and does provide a few chuckles. I personally like Joel McHale and he has a couple amusing moments with his normal d-bag shtick and it’s nice to see Leslie David Baker in something in this post-“Office” world.

Like, I don’t really know what you can expect from an R-rated neo-noir murder mystery raunch comedy involving puppets. It’s stupid and thin and really hopes you find puppets swearing funny for 90 minutes because it has little else in the tank. If the trailers or my description made you smile then this will certainly give you your late-summer fix but if you want to have a genuine great time and laugh a lot then I suggest you instead check out one of 2018’s best films, “Game Night.”

Critic’s Grade: C

STX Entertainment

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is Just an OK Rom-Com

I thought Awkwafina was wasted in “Ocean’s 8” but after seeing her steal the show in this I *really* think Awkwafina was wasted in “Ocean’s 8.”

“Crazy Rich Asians” is the adaptation of the novel of the same name, and follows an American-born Asian woman (Constance Wu) who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend (Henry Golding), only to find out he comes from an extremely rich family and must win the approval of his mother (Michelle Yeoh). Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Nico Santos, Ken Jeong, Awkwafina and Ronny Chieng also star as Jon M. Chu directs.

The past few years have been historic for cinema, with “Love, Simon” being the first studio film about an openly gay teenager and Jordan Peele becoming the first black person to win Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club” and for that reason it is important. But how is it as a romantic-comedy in its own right? Mehhh, like, it’s fine.

Films can be basic in story or genre but still find new ways to twist them, like “Love, Simon” with the coming-of-age high school dramedy or Netflix’s romcom “Set It Up” (check that out if you haven’t!). “Crazy Rich Asians” really doesn’t try to throw a wrench in its romantic comedy/Cinderalla/“impress the future in-laws” formula and at times that is fine because the glitz and glamour distract you, but at other points it makes you wish something unexpected would happen. The film is simple, weightless fluff for sure but it is also pretty hollow.

If “Entourage” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” exist to let audiences experience the excessive lifestyles of the 1% then this is in that category and arguably does it better. From the $40 million wedding receptions to the cargo ships converted into huge bachelor party yachts, there are numerous occasions where both the “crazy” and the “rich” part of the title come into play. The set pieces have lives of their own and jump right off the screen, and are probably the second best thing about the entire film.

I say second because Awkwafina absolutely steals this thing. From Michelle Williams in “I Feel Pretty” to Anne Hathaway in “Ocean’s 8,” 2018 has had numerous instances of supporting actresses outshining both their co-stars and the overall film they’re in. Awkwafina (real name Lora Num) plays the former college roommate of Constance Wu’s main character Rachel and is so energetic, random and bubbly that every scene she is not in has noticeable drop in both eminence and amusement (she has one irrelevant response to Wu in particular that had my friend in actual tears).

As the romantic leads and main characters, Wu and Henry Golding have decent enough chemistry, although they actually aren’t together for a majority of the film’s first half (they’re each off doing wedding events with their respective bridal groups). Michelle Yeoh turns in fine work as Golding’s controlling and (overly) old-fashion mother and Nico Santos has some amusing lines as Nick’s colorful cousin.

“Crazy Rich Asians” will be a much more relatable and personal film to some people than it will be to others, although like Jordan Peele has discussed with “Get Out,” even if you take race out of the film meeting someone’s parents for the first time is a terrifying but universally shared experience. The cast is solid and the production design sublime but the familiarity and some pacing issues hold “Crazy Rich Asians” back from being anything more than a typical feel-good, disposable romcom. But for some viewers, there will be nothing inherently wrong with that.

Critic’s Grade: C

‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ Wastes its Cast in Bland Action-Comedy

I am dangerously close to giving up on Kate McKinnon, she seems unable to find a quality role in a good movie to save her life.

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as two friends who must go on the run from assassins across Europe after one of their ex-boyfriends turns out to be a hunted CIA agent. Justin Theroux and Sam Heughan also star as Susanna Fogel directs.

The action-comedy is a film genre as old as time so unless someone were to really think outside the box there isn’t a storyline or thematic approach that could be taken to be radically different. “The Spy Who Dumped Me” is more than comfortable hitting all the familiar notes from a dozen previous (and better) films, and along the way loses sight of any and all goals, whether they are comedy or action-related, it originally set out with.

I like Mila Kunis and used to really like Kate McKinnon, but they both rarely seem to choose projects that are worthy of the quality of work they have shown they’re capable of. Kunis is fine as second-fiddle in “Ted” and solid in “Bad Moms” but is not in/wasted in each respective sequel and also in whatever the hell “Jupiter Ascending” was. Here Kunis gets to do all the lifting alongside McKinnon and when she is actually given a joke that works, it lands; the problem is the script gives her almost no jokes that work. McKinnon, brilliant on SNL, has never been in an objectively good film, simply doing weird exaggerated voices and facial expressions through the likes of “Office Christmas Party,” “Rough Night” and the “Ghostbusters” reboot. Fans of hers will love her overreacting and random riffs here but those who are growing tired of the one-note act will again roll their eyes and/or cringe. The two have modest chemistry together but I can’t imagine anyone will be clamoring to see them star in another vehicle anytime soon.

So the comedy isn’t very good, but what about the action? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There are actually some incredibly fun and creative moments including one tracking shot where the camera follows a character who jumps out a window and rolls off a truck (it actually prompted me to say “that was cool” out loud). There are also a few entertaining shootout sequences that are shot quite competently. However there are also a lot of over-the-top deaths simply for the sake of being over-the-top and gory and they create this conflicting tone; half the time this plays like a breezy buddy romp and then suddenly it turns into something out of “Saw.”

By the end of the film the plot becomes practically incoherent, with underdeveloped (or completely unexplained) motivations, lazy writing (a character gets shot and is completely healed mere hours later) and a bad guy organization that is introduced in the third act. The pacing and editing also has some issues, with the film feeling as if it is building towards the climax for about 45 minutes.

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” is one of those movies that is not inherently *bad* but it is bland yet just competently made enough that you wish it was better. Kunis and McKinnon try their best and as a director Fogel seems to have an eye for action, but the script she co-wrote with David Iserson lets everyone down. There are funnier comedies, better action films and more intriguing spy pictures out there (Melissa McCarthy’s “Spy” checks all three of those boxes) and there is little reason to recommend this to all but the least-demanding filmgoer.

Critic’s Grade: D+


‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is a Predictably Lightweight but Fun Marvel Romp

Given the cultural significance of “Black Panther” and the sheer scope of “Avengers: Infinity War,” I feel this one was always going to play small-scale third fiddle…

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the sequel to the 2015 film “Ant-Man” and features Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly reprising their roles as the title characters. Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Abby Ryder Fortson and Michael Douglas also return as Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne join the cast. In the film, Ant-Man and the Wasp must hunt down a stolen piece of technology in order to try and save Douglas’ wife from being trapped in the quantum realm (in layman’s terms, she shrunk so small she has been stuck between two atoms for 30 years). Peyton Reed returns to direct.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first “Ant-Man” film and actually think it is one of Marvel’s weaker outings. It just is never as inventive, clever or funny as it thinks it is and plays out like an “Iron Man” remake on a lesser scale. I wasn’t expecting too much from this sequel, even if Marvel is on a streak right now of putting out films that are changing the superhero landscape for good (“Thor: Ragnorok” and the aforementioned “Black Panther” and “Infinity War”), but maybe it was those low expectations that made “Ant-Man and the Wasp” pretty enjoyable.

Paul Rudd is perfect in most everything he does and is really one of the only actors who could pull off a superhero like Ant-Man. He is funny and reluctant yet brave and loyal and is able to have natural chemistry with anyone he is sharing a scene with. Michael Peña, a fan favorite from the first film, returns and again has some standout moments of ADD energy while Michael Douglas is given a few more chances to earn some laughs while also carrying the film’s more emotional scenes. Newcomer Randall Park was probably my favorite addition playing the FBI agent assigned to keep an eye on Rudd following his house arrest, and he without a doubt provides the film with its funniest moments (side note: get me a Park and Rudd “Odd Couple” spin-off show now, please).

Aside from Park, all the newcomers to the cast feel like useless additions that are only there to push the plot. Hannah John-Kamen is the film’s main antagonist but her goals almost feel like a side quest and really only exist to give the film a faux sense of urgency, while Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne portray people from Douglas’ past that, while the mention of their characters is important to the plot, their actual presence is not.

And that is really the film’s biggest issue, that there is no urgency or real weight. The entire plot takes place over about a day and there are certain characters that feel added for the sake of runtime or because the producers wanted to see a tiny car turn into a big car and hurt some bad guys.

That being said, the action sequences are cool (as far, few and in between as they sometimes seem to be) and the going from big-to small-to big again gag is still amusing form the first film.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” was never going to mean as much, have as much to say or be as charismatic as any of Marvel’s other tentpoles but that’s OK. Watching it is more often than not a blast and even if it fades quickly from mind a little (no ant pun intended) mid-summer distraction to hold us over until “Avengers 4” isn’t so much of a bad thing.

Critic’s Grade: B

Walt Disney

‘Ocean’s 8’ is Simple Fun that Goes Down Smoothly

As far as all-female reboots/re-imaginings of classic film franchises go, the bar for this to beat “Ghostbusters” was not that high…

“Ocean’s 8” stars Sandra Bullock as the estranged sister of Danny Ocean, and follows her as she puts together a crew of women to steal a diamond necklace during the Met Gala in New York City. Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter fill out the group as Gary Ross directs and co-writes.

I don’t think anyone was dying to see this franchise revisited but when it was announced with the gender-swap twist there really wasn’t much backlash like the “Ghostbusters” remake/reboot saw. This was mainly because the trailers weren’t historically bad and the fanbase isn’t as cutthroat as that of “Ghostbusters.” And for the most part, also unlike “Ghostbusters” (which I’ll stop comparing this to because it’s a lazy association), “Ocean’s 8” does a good job of setting itself apart from its predecessors and (mostly) never trying to duplicate or one-up them.

The cast is obviously top-notch, full of Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winners, and they for the most part get equal screen time to play around. Some of them do get pushed to the side save for a randomly inserted “look at the crew bonding!” clip, like when Awkwafina shows Mindy Kaling how to use Tinder in a scene that last 30 seconds and leads nowhere. Anne Hathaway, my first true Hollywood crush, comes close to stealing every scene she is in playing a ditsy celebrity who is the target of the heist. Hathaway is essentially the exaggerated meme that society and the Hathahaters have painted her out to be and it’s a blast watching her play into it.

Much like the heist itself the glue at the center of the film is Bullock, who carries herself with a cocky but still kind-hearted way about her. We aren’t given much to her character besides she’s a thief who likes thieving and has a few bad relationships from her past but that never really hinders our viewing experience. James Cordon also shows up toward the end of the film and while the plotline he’s involved in goes on for far too long, he provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Now the heist itself is alright, there are a few intense moments and a couple creative ways the crew works around problems, but there are also *a lot* of things we’ve seen before, not only in the previous “Ocean’s” films but just heist plots in general. There is also a twist that I did not think was handled well (or plausibly) and it was only made worse by the fact that the marketing campaign inadvertently spoils it.

The film is shot well with a nice gleam (this is the Met Gala, after all) and the editing is sometimes fun and quick but other times holds for too long or don’t create a beat for the dialogue to be delivered properly.

“Ocean’s 8” is light entertainment that for the most part does not try to be anything else. There a few fun cameos and amusing one-liners, but mostly this is a movie focused on letting several Hollywood stars have a great time and allow the audience to do the same and there’s usually nothing wrong with that.

Critic’s Grade: B–

‘I Feel Pretty’ has Its Heart in the Right Place

It’s ironic that this film’s message is all about not judging a book by its cover and many people (myself included) wrote it off before seeing it simply because of its trailer…

“I Feel Pretty” is the third film to star Amy Schumer, and follows her journey as an insecure everyday woman who gets bumped in the head and suddenly believes she is the most beautiful and confident person on the planet. Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Rory Scovel, Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps and Tom Hopper as Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein write and make their directorial debuts.

I really wasn’t looking forward to this film. I used to be a big fan of Amy Schumer and her standup, as well as her early days on the Comedy Central Roasts, but recently her bits have gotten lazy and repetitive (not to mention possibly stolen). The trailer to this film looked absolutely dreadful and nonsensical, leading my friend (who never judges a film before he sees it or off a commercial) to constantly comment how dumb it looked and for certain groups on Twitter to label the film as “fat shaming.” But much like all the shallow people in the film, I have to eat my words and say I judged this too soon because while it has its share of flaws, “I Feel Pretty” has some decent heart and chuckles, too.

I enjoyed Schumer’s performances in “Trainwreck” (for which she also wrote the script) and last year’s “Snatched,” although she isn’t really given much true acting to do, meaning she basically just plays a caricature of her on-stage persona. Here she has some actual emotional scenes and I think she sticks the landing, even if some of the sequences where she appears super confident come across as a little goofy.

The cast as a whole is well put together and all play their typical roles (Emily Ratajkowski is the hot friend, Aidy Bryant is the nice, “looks don’t matter, let me knit you a sweater” friend, etc). The true standout, however, is Michelle Williams as Schumer’s boss, the high-pitched voice CEO of a large cosmetics company. A four-time Oscar nominee, Williams won a Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical Golden Globe for technically (as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon have joked) being a comedian in “My Week with Marilyn” but she really has never starred in an actual comedy before. A lot like LeBron James in “Trainwreck” Williams steals every scene she is in simply because it is such a delight watching a traditional serious person be able to let loose and enjoy a role.

The film has a good message at its center about how it is important for women of all ages, shapes, colors and sizes to love themselves and treat one another with respect and for that it deserves commendation. It could be argued that they only skim the surface of the “problem” and don’t really get into the stem of the issue but this is an Amy Schumer comedy, not a middle school PSA.

The film flows nicely in the first two acts but then slows down in the beginning of the third, when we have to get the inevitable character arguments and eventual efforts to win everyone back. I really wish this was either trimmed down or edited better because it did affect my overall thoughts on the film.

“I Feel Pretty” isn’t Schumer’s funniest effort, nor is it directors/writers Kohn and Silverstein (check out their 2016 film “How to Be Single,” now that’s a breezy comedy). However despite its lack of laugh-out-loud moments I still was digging the energy and message that is was putting out for a majority of the runtime, and that isn’t nothing.

Critic’s Grade: B