Review – Let’s Call This a Zeitgeist Heist (“Ocean’s 8”)

As Annie Oakley sang in Annie Get Your Gun, “Anything you can do, I can do better!”. From the all-female tragic reboot of Ghostbusters, to the upcoming wave of other female-centric remakes & reboots coming up, this one had the blessing of Ocean’s 11-13 director/producer, Steven Soderbergh.
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Starting off with an homage to the opening of Ocean’s 11, we see Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of Danny Ocean–from the previous films–getting paroled and connecting with her old partner and BFF, Lou (Cate Blanchett). What’s her idea after five years in prison? What else! Pull a heist, of course!

Just like in the Avengers, a crack-team is quickly assembled: Amita (Mindy Kaling) a jewelry expert, super-hacker 9-Ball (Rihanna), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), profiteer and fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson), and disgraced fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). Their target? Ultra-vain celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) and the rare $150 million Cartier diamond necklace she’s gonna wear at a swanky art exhibit.

Debbie’s been plotting this scam for years and has left nothing to chance… that is until Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), her creepy ex-boyfriend and art dealer, shows up. Y’know, the guy that set her up and sent her to prison in the first place. Aside from getting her revenge, Debbie has her team do their thing in surveillance, stealing this ‘n’ that, learning valuable information, and finally getting Daphne to wear the famed necklace to the prestigious party. Pretty soon, the con is on, with Debbie and her team pulling off a daring theft.

BUT! Quicker than you can say, “Inspector Clouseau”, a dogged insurance inspector (James Corden) is called into the case to find the missing jewels. Will he ever find them?  Will Debbie and her ladies get away scot-free? And who names their kid Awkwafina anyway? I mean, I hear that name and I immediately think of the water, Aquafina. Was that intentional? But I digress…

Producer Soderbergh said that this movie is actually a version of what would have been an Ocean’s 14 movie, if there was a going to be a fourth film. So, this movie isn’t so much a remake, but more of a gender-swap continuance. I just made that word up, by the way. #genderswapcontinuance.

Director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Pleasantville) and Olivia Milch (her first screenplay) wrote this with the same vibe and fanciful air of Ocean’s 11 & 13 (we do not speak of 12) with Daniel Pemberton even supplying the same upbeat jazzy score. The film connects wonderfully with the ladies pulling off a robbery well, but almost TOO well. In any good ‘ol fashioned heist movie, there has to be tension, plot complications, and a sense of eminent danger for the heroes to be caught. Here, there is very little of that. In fact, the plan goes off so picture-perfect, you’re almost disappointed that something bad didn’t happened.

The same can be said of the girls; their characters are so perfect, so lacking in flaws, you literally yearn for someone to mess up! With the previous Ocean’s films there were a bunch of problems that popped up and some of the guys were dolts, here, it’s just a walk in the park for Debbie & Co. But I will say, the casting was great. Bullock is just as suave and self-assured as her big-brother was, Rihanna and Awkwafina are excellent in their small roles, and Kristen Wiig look-a-like Paulson is terrific. But by far the real fun is watching Hathaway and Bonham Carter. Those two together steal every scene they’re in with their comic timing and hilarious line delivery.

Sucker Punch (2011)
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Reviled by many as a Zack Snyder failure, even though he did make the excellent 300, Watchmen, and iffy films like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this especially odd-duck movie has the distinction of having some the very best SPFX interwoven with the weirdest storylines ever told.
 
Shot in a Sin City green-screen sorta way, we have the curious tale of young Babydoll (Emily Browning), who is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather at the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane after she is blamed for her younger sister’s death. But this asylum actually doubles as a brothel and the owner, Blue Jones (Oscar Issac), as well as the chief psychiatrist, Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), run the place like a sex slave auction house for high rollers. Babydoll, because of her looks and body, is quickly made into a dancer.  
 
She befriends her four other dancers: Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jena Malone), and Rocket’s sister, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). When Dr. Gorski, also the girls’ dance instructor, gets Babydoll to express herself in music & dance, she escapes into a bizarre fantasy world. While they see her dance something extraordinary, we see her dream world, which starts with an anime-style feudal Japan, in which a Wise Man (Scott Glenn) tells her she must fight three huge samurai giants to be free, and then collect items like a map, fire, a knife, and a key to escape.     
 
As her fantasy ends, she finds herself back in the brothel, her dance having impressed Blue and other onlookers. Babydoll convinces the four girls to join her in preparing an escape and uses them as part of her plan. She dances as a distraction while the other girls steal the necessary tools, this time imagining she’s in a wild steampunk WWI battle with orcs, castles, and dragons!! But once out of her dream-like dance, Jones overhears Babydoll’s plan and all hell breaks loose. He has Sweet Pea locked in a utility closet and confronts the other girls backstage.

From here, things gets worse. . .and weirder. Blue shoots Amber and Blondie and attempts to rape Babydoll, but she stabs him and steals his master key. Babydoll frees Sweet Pea and starts a fire while they look for an exit. But is everything the way it’s supposed to be? Is this Babydoll’s story or did that scheduled lobotomy that was planned for her actually take place…  or this is all in her mind? The finale even has one of those lame “you decide her fate” endings that I hate.

Director Snyder co-wrote this along with newbie Steve Shiboya (his only screenplay) and took alot of heat when this not only bombed at the box office, but was ripped to shreds by critics and fanboys alike. The story had an awkward vision that, with a few more re-writes, might had been a better film. The A-story (Babydoll trying to escape the asylum with the help of her friends) wasn’t anywhere as interesting as the B-story (the incredible fantasy world she dreamed up). The A-story was convoluted, odd, uninteresting, and terribly misogynistic in its depiction of women. The B-story, at least, was exciting, fun, outrageous, and showed real promise. Why couldn’t the whole film been about that?
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