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« Showbiz History: Waterworld, Waterfront, and Wonderland | Main | Nicole Kidman is One Perfect Stranger »
Friday
Jul272018

Review Catch-up: Eighth Grade, Ant-Man and the Wasp, etc...

by Nathaniel R

A few recent major pictures we didn't post full reviews on. Oops. Let's take them in order of preference...

Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)
Synopsis: A slice of life in middle school as an introverted teenager with an unwatched YouTube channel tries to survive eighth grade. 
Capsule: Such is the miracle of this movie that I felt pangs of recognition all throughout it even though I am basically the dad's age and not the daughter's, and also not a parent. I went to middle school a million years ago and so much about life as a teenager has changed radically since then. We didn't have social media, cel phones, and gun drills when I was a teenager...

An aside but I think people have forgotten how recent all these things were (they're all post 2000 essentially in terms of being normal everyday things. (It's funny to watch 90s movies now and remember that people didn't really even have cel phones). Still, almost everything felt 1000% universal and you-are-there immediate. It was not unlike the wonders of watching a particularly sharp and funny observational documentary like -- sorry this is a weird comparison-- Paris is BurningA/A-

Bo Burnham is ridiculously talented and we hate him.MVP: Bo Burnham, the 29 year-old writer/director (!), because everything about this movie works including the naturalism of all the child performances, not just Elsie Fisher's already beloved authenticity.
Oscar Chances: I hope A24 pushes hard for an Original Screenplay nomination. I could see it happening with the right level of box office success and the right kind of campaign. Best Actress (Elsie Fisher), and Best Supporting Actor (Josh Hamilton) might be pipe dreams but it doesn't hurt to try. At the very least you'll see Elsie Fisher up for Breakthrough Performer prizes at year's end.

 

Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird)
Synopsis: Elastigirl is recruited by a superhero-loving philanthropist tech giant to restore the good name of superheroes by defeating a new villain Screenslaver. Mr Incredible struggles with his new role as stay-at-home dad... especially given the what's happening to little Jack-Jack who is manifesting one power after another. 


Capsule: A truth: There are too many sequels to films that don't need them. Another truth: even if there are diminishing truths some properties are so genius the first time that we're willing to chase the high again and again. (In short, it's the audiences fault that there are so many sequels.) It was lovely to spend more time with these characters and a great moviegoing experience, too, while it lasted. And yet... forgettable? I remembered almost no details just a couple of days later unlike the original which seeped into the brain and lingered for years after the first viewing. B/B+

MVP: Jack-Jack, or rather the animation team devising the Jack-Jack versus racoon sequence which is amazing stuff.
Oscar Chances: A shoe-in for the Animated Feature nomination. But the questions are two: Can it shove into other categories like its predecessor (4 nominations / 2 wins) and can it win again? Oscar voters in that branch haven't been all that enthused about honoring sequels so one supposes it entirely depends on the competition. 

 

Ant Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed)
Synopsis: While under house arrest for his involvement in the events of Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) receives a message from the quantum realm from the original Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer). The new Wasp (Evangeline Lily) and her father (Michael Douglas) think they know how to rescue her but everyone is after the tech they need to do it and time is running out. 

Capsule: You can feel the strain, a bit, for laughs in the first 15 minutes but once you settle into the movie's goofy warmth, and relatively chill vibe (well, as chill as superhero movies get that is), it's quite a fun adventure and rarely drags since it's actually under 2 hours (like Thor Ragnarok it knows to quit while the party is still fun). In some ways it's a minor film and a formula, yes, but everyone involved is having a good time and that's contagious. Most of the actors get at least one really fun thing to play including Michael Peña and David Dastmalchian as Ant Man's trusted friends and even -- and this is less expected -- minor characters played by Randall Park who is keeping tabs on Ant-Man's house arrest, and Walton Goggins as a bad guy who is after the tech. (I REALLY did not appreciate the credits tag though, tying it back into Avengers: Infinity War, which was way too much of a downer, given the pleasant fun for two hours preceding that.) B

MVP: You know I wanted to type Michelle Pfeiffer here but in truth it's not much of a role. There's far too little of her. My vote goes, easily, to the visual effects team. So let's talk about that...
Oscar Chances
: Though a nomination seems unlikely given Oscar history, I'd personally argue that the visual effects here are worthier of Oscar attention than the bigger Marvel successes this year (Infinity War and Black Panther). These actually feel, always, in service of the story rather than existing as mere spectacle. Though they're that, too, make no mistake. Between all the constant size-shifting and Ghost's unstable body, they're quite eye-popping and funny and tension-building in all sorts of specific ways. They really are super.

 

Oceans 8 (Gary Ross)
SynopsisOcean (Sandra Bullock) fresh out of the slammer, recruits other female criminals to rob a priceless necklace from the Met Gala, right off of the neck of the movie star Daphne Kruger (Anne Hathaway) who is wearing it.

Capsule: This movie was soooo up our alley we were counting down the days. While it was never less than pleasant to watch, it registers as a disappointment. Our expectations were too high for the minor laughs, minor tension, and minor character work on display. Everyone hit their marks but the filmmaking never escaped its workmanlike competence to find any inspiration. Still, honestly, I'd watch it again just for Hathaway, and Bullock & Blanchett's decidedly sapphic chemistry. B-/C+

MVP: Anne Hathaway, hands down. She's dialed the charisma and self-aware fun way up for her big screen return after a hiatus that lasted much much too long for our tastes.  
Oscar Chances: Nope. This one is just for fun. Even the almost universally loved Soderbergh film Oceans 11 in 2011 received zero nominations. 

NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS & PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED: 
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (Chris Feil), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Jorge Molina), McQueen (Glenn Dunks), Mission: Impossible -Fallout (Chris Feil), Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Glenn Dunks), Sorry to Bother You (Chris Feil), Three Identical Strangers (Glenn Dunks)

NEW ON DVD, BLURAY, OR STREAMING & PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED: 
Chappaquidick (Jason Adams), Disobedience (Jason Adams), Hannah Gadbsy: Nanette (Glenn Dunks), A Quiet Place (Chris Feil),  Ready Player One (Chris Feil), Sheikh Jackson (Nick Davis), The Tale (Spencer Coile), You Were Never Really Here (Seán McGovern)

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Reader Comments (11)

Re: your post on Eighth Grade, I agree that it was totally refreshing to see someone state rather explicitly that we are still fundamentally human despite all of these changes in technology, media, etc. It's so easy to poke at Millennials for these new-fangled gadgets and doodads, but they don't change the basic struggles that we all go through.

As a former percussionist, band geek, and choir kid, I gotta give bonus points for the on-point representation of painful middle school band concerts. Everything about her crash symbols was just... perfect. :)

July 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavid S.

Have not seen EIGHTH GRADE nor is it even on the festival radar down here for whatever reason.

I thought ANT-MAN AND THE WASP was a lot of fun! Easily my favourite strand of the MCU after Captain America (and even then, the third one was too heavy). Light as a feather and the best visual effects of the franchise. Plus Paul Rudd looking beautiful and Evangeline Lily and Michelle Pfeiffer! The villain in this one was negligible (for the first half it felt like there wasn't even really a villain and they just put one there because they figured they had to) and the post-credits scene still doesn't explain where Ant-Man and Wasp were during the Infinite War. I had a blast, though. The scene with Rudd as a toddler had me giggling so much people in the theatre started looking at me funny.

Agreed on OCEAN'S 8. It's a great friday night on the couch flick, which I wonder is maybe intentional since they know that's where more movies are watched these days. "Oh, I think I liked that. Yeah, let's watch it again" or "Oh I wanted to see that!" reactions a plenty in the future I am sure. The stakes are virtually non-existent, but the second half is a hoot.

Agreed about INCREDIBLES 2, as well. It's fun and I enjoy a lot about it and will probably gladly watch it again alongside the original, but it doesn't quite feel as fresh as the first. Of course, we're so surrounded by superheroes that it's hard for that to happen (which is why I think I like the Ant-Man movies so much - they play around with possibilties as opposed to just sticking a strong man in a world of crumbling debris). I like that Kristen Stewart was the obvious visual reference point for Void. Jack-Jack vs the Raccoon was a wonder. I don't doubt it'll be nominated for the animated feature Oscar as this year seems thin for mainstream quality releases, but maybe a sound one, too?

July 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

My disappointment with the Ocean's 8 movie is that cast deserved a much better team behind the camera. You could feel the unexcitement in the filmmaking, while everyone else was having fun. I think Hathaway will make my lineup though, what a blast of a performance.

July 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

I so badly want to see Eighth Grade but have a feeling I may need to see it alone. Which, in a way, feels right for that movie.

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

@lylee - I saw the film by myself too since none of my friends wanted to see it. But YOU ARE RIGHT that it almost feels right to see this by oneself.

As for these reviews, I'm pretty much in agreement on all of this... the universality of EIGHTH GRADE... Jack Jack as MVP in INCREDIBLES 2... the hilarious ANT MAN (would've grade it higher than B myself though)... the (very) minor disappointment of OCEANS 8.

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Ocean's 8 was fun, but underwhelming - I'm looking to 'Widows' to do what I though O8 would do, although 'Widows' looks like more of a drama with heist elements than a fun romp. I love any heist/con movie, and immediately went home and searched for heist movies.

Randall Park as Jimmy Woo in 'Ant-Man and the Wasp'! I just think he is so talented and charming.

Eighth Grade looks great - BTW, I lost a spelling bee by misspelling 'Eighth' when I was in Eighth Grade.

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Anne Hathaway will never get her due even though I found her insufferable in Les Mis,she's been perfect in everything else.

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

O8 isn't fun just film making by numbers and THAT casy apart from Anne fails to deliver,I mean I never thought id call HBC,Bullock and Blanchett boring.

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

@markgordonuk I'll never understand it. I think she's great - I always think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHcEcNmbWbY

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Does anyone think Hathaway can get Supp Actress traction for Oceans 8? She is an utter delight in the film but overall the film feels too slight. Still, stranger things have happened.

July 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Michael -- i assume they won't even think to campaign her but she is marvelous in the film.

July 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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