Tag Archives: sandra bullock

‘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–

Bullock Saves ‘Brand’ from Being a Crisis

Our_Brand_Is_Crisis_(2015_film)_POSTERWell this movie may not be a crisis, but it isn’t that good, either…

“Our Brand Is Crisis” stars Sandra Bullock as a political strategist who comes out of retirement to help a Bolivia presidential candidate. Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie and Joaqium de Almeida also star as David Gordon Green directs. The film is partially based on the true story of the 2002 Bolivia election.

The film is produced by George Clooney, and was at one time supposed to feature him in the starring role as well as the director’s chair. But somewhere along the line the role went to Bullock and the character was rewritten as a woman, and we have the movie we have. The movie may have been different with Clooney in the starring role, however I can’t imagine it would have been much better. As I’m sure Clooney would have done, Bullock is the saving grace of the film, lifting it up and at some points saving it from a script that is scattershot and features major shifts in tone.

The interesting thing about Bullock in “Our Brand Is Crisis” (a role that screams Golden Globe nomination) is that she seems blissfully unaware of how poor the movie around her is. She skates along, spewing out quotes from politicians and military leaders, and occasionally gives passionate speeches. It is an interesting character and by far the best part of the movie. Every time things seem to be slowing down Bullock gives it a shot of energy, however her flare may expose the flaws the film has.

The tone of the film is all over the place. There are a few chuckles that come out of nowhere (thanks to the always likable Anthony Mackie) but the film isn’t constantly funny enough to be a comedy. On the flip side the film’s dramatic heft stems from randomly inserted story points, like Bullock’s character disclosing randomly halfway through the film that she suffers from depression; and then never touching on that topic again. There’s a point where Mackie’s character says negative ad campaigns are like a bomb, you can blow your opponent up but you don’t know where the votes are going to land. The tone of this film is a lot like that; they just set off an explosive in the genre factory and prayed things ended up in the right place (they didn’t).

Oh, and can we talk about Billy Bob Thornton’s character because what the heck was that? He plays the political adversary to Bullock and when he’s not making sexual innuendos at Bullock (a storyline that never reaches fruition), he’s coming off very uncomfortable for the viewer. And one may say that’s the point, he’s a sleaze ball; well the presidential candidate is a scumbag human, too, but at no point did I feel a sense of awkwardness just seeing his character on screen.

Some of the behind-the-scenes of political campaigns is fun, and like I said Bullock steals the show (and made me want to start researching quotations that I can spew out at random) but all too often I found myself disinterested in “Our Brand Is Crisis.”

Here’s the bottom line: I saw this film yesterday, and it already feels like it was a month ago, that’s how far this thing has already faded into my mind. If you’re a Bullock fan is this worth checking out if it’s on TV one Friday night? Sure. But to most everyone else, you’ll find the film about as fun as watching a real presidential debate; maybe less because there’s no Donald Trump.

Critics Rating: 5/10

our brand


‘Gravity’ Visually Stunning Andrenalin Rush


You know how people complain CGI is overused, replaces story and make films mindless? Well “Gravity” takes that stereotype and throws it out the window. The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who are stranded in space when debris hits their station. They then must work together to make their way to another ship on the other side of the globe. Alfonso Cuarón directs.

Do not drink Red Bull before you see this movie; you will die. The film is so intense that your heart may just explode. The amount of tension that Cuarón builds, especially in the film’s climax, is just unreal. Every scene is better than the last as we follow Bullock and Clooney in space, a black abyss where no one can hear you scream. And Tom Hanks thought he had it bad in “Castaway”…

You’ve probably heard it in every review of this movie, but it warrants clarifying: this movie is visually stunning. I can now put “I have been to outer space” on my job application. At no point in the film did I think that what I was looking at was computer generated or green screen. As far as I know the actors actually went on the most expensive location shoot ever and filmed the movie in space. From the aerial shots of different continents to the sea of stars in the background, every shot in “Gravity” is stunning and will leave you breathless.

What is holding the film back from being a masterpiece is the lack of character development. The running time is only 90 minutes and we are thrust into the action, so we learn near nothing about the characters except that Bullock is a rookie and Clooney is on his last ever mission (so of course something bad is going to happen). The only attachment we feel towards the astronauts is that they are fellow human beings and they are in a situation that we can all agree is horrifically terrifying. But maybe that is enough.

“Gravity” is a Hollywood rarity: a blockbuster with intellect. You have to see this in a theater; experiencing it on anything short of a 40 foot screen will not do it justice. Full of amazing visuals, great performances and intense direction, “Gravity” is just unique in all the best ways.

Critics Rating: 8/10