For a re­view of “Oceans 8,” see Page 3

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Some movies are more about par­al­lel play than actu- al play­ground in­ter­ac­tion, and de­spite a screen­ful of ter­rif­i­cally skill­ful tal­ents, “Ocean’s 8” never quite gets its en­sem­ble act to­gether. It’s smooth, and far from in­ept. But it isn’t much fun. That’s all you want from a cer­tain kind of heist pic­ture, isn’t it? Fun?

San­dra Bullock takes the linch­pin role of Deb­bie Ocean, sis­ter of Danny, played by George Clooney in the three “Ocean’s” movies of widely vary­ing qual­ity di­rected by Steven Soder­bergh. Bullock seems dead­set on not just dead­pan­ning her way through this re­boot, but go­ing be­yond dead­pan to un­charted re­gions of sphinx­like min­i­mal­ism. That style and tone of­ten works with ca­per films, where the char­ac­ters’ poker-face nerve is typ­i­cally out­classed only by the clothes.

This surely was the case when Clooney, Brad Pitt and com­pany swanned through Soder­bergh’s larks. The first of that tril­ogy, re­leased in late 2001, clicked with post9/11 au­di­ences happy to slip into a com­fort­able retro groove. Soder­bergh up­dated the 1960 “Ocean’s 11” (pretty arthritic, but with great open­ing- and clos­ing-credit se­quences) star­ring the em­blems of old Ve­gas: Si­na­tra, Dino, Sammy, Peter Law­ford, Joey Bishop, plus all that glo­ri­ous neon and elec­tric sig­nage. Those were the days. When men were men and women, pure dec­o­ra­tion, barely spoke.

In “Ocean’s 8,” at least, they speak. Re­leased from prison af­ter be­ing set up by her equally de­vi­ous art-dealer lover (Richard Ar­mitage), Deb­bie re­unites with her part­ner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), for a score some­what larger than their bingo money scams of old. The quarry: a Cartier di­a­mond neck­lace worth $150 mil­lion, or roughly twice the pro­duc­tion bud­get of “Ocean’s 8.”

The jew­els, on loan but closely guarded, dom­i­nate a swank wardrobe de­signed by has-been cloth­ier (He­lena Bon­ham Carter), who’s in on the scheme, for an im­pe­ri­ous movie star (Anne Hath­away) at­tend­ing the an­nual Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art fundrais­ing gala in New York City. A jew­eler (Mindy Kal­ing), a pick­pocket (Awk­wa­fina), a fence of stolen goods (Sarah Paul­son) and the in­evitable, all-im­por­tant com­puter hacker (Ri­hanna) com­plete the cir­cle. Their tools in­clude sur­veil­lance gad­gets (eye­glasses equipped with video) and im­per­son­ations (Bullock, too briefly, pre­tends to be a huffy Ger­man guest of the Met Gala). James Corden pops in as an in­sur­ance in­ves­ti­ga­tor, on the hunt for who­ever stole the neck­lace and re­placed it with a knock­off ver­sion.

That’s an apt de­scrip­tion for the movie it­self. With cowriter and di­rec­tor Gary Ross’ script, writ­ten with Olivia Milch, you keep wait­ing for the ban­ter and the in­ter­play to take off, and take you with it. Bullock, to Ri­hanna: “What’s your name?”

“Nine Ball,” she says. “What’s your real name?” “Eight Ball,” comes the re­ply, which sounds like a joke and times like a joke but isn’t re­ally much of a joke. Re­fresh­ingly, “Ocean’s 8” doesn’t re­sort to the cus­tom­ary point­less bru­tal­ity found in so much con­tem­po­rary es­capism. Now and then there are glim­mers of panache, as when Kal­ing per­fectly judges a one-word re­join­der, or when Ri­hanna en­ters the gala look­ing like $150 mil­lion her­self.

The movie feels tame, and vir­tu­ally sex­less, which could be said of the Soder­bergh “Ocean’s” movies, I sup­pose, one of which I re­ally liked (the first one), one of which I hated (the third one), and the mid­dle one, eh. I wish “Ocean’s 8” were live­lier; I like movies that set an el­e­gant, amus­ing trap with some flair. Also, I re­ally don’t want to hear one word from a sin­gle id­iot male movie­goer who KNEW a fe­male-driven vari­a­tion on “Ocean’s 11” was DES­TINED to UT­TER FAIL­URE.

Then again: “Ocean’s 8” isn’t likely to pro­voke the same hos­tile push­back that met the re­cent and not-very-good “Ghost­busters” re­boot. The “Ocean’s” movies are aim­ing at an older, less fan­boy-ob­ses­sive au­di­ence. What Ross’ film re­minds us, more than any­thing, is that movies op­er­ate on base­ball per­cent­ages at best. And ev­ery­thing has a chance to go a lit­tle wrong, long be­fore the cast ar­rives on set, ready to play.

“Ocean’s 8,” a Warn­ers Bros. re­lease, is rated PG-13 for lan­guage, drug use, and some sugges­tive con­tent. Run­ning time: 110 min­utes.



Ev­ery so of­ten, a di­rec­to­rial de­but comes along that just so hap­pens to be an in­stant clas­sic. Such is the case with writer/di­rec­tor Ari Aster’s fam­ily hor­ror film “Hered­i­tary,” a sen­sa­tion at the 2018 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val and one of the most bone-chill­ingly ter­ri­fy­ing films to come along in quite some time — a mas­ter­piece of film form and sto­ry­telling.

Star­ring the leg­endary Toni Col­lette, “Hered­i­tary” is a hor­ror film that harkens back to ’70s clas­sics like “Rose­mary’s Baby” in its slow burn, dread-filled nar­ra­tive style. Aster parcels out the ter­ror spar­ingly at first but uses cam­era move­ment, edit­ing and sound de­sign to cre­ate an at­mos­phere of such in­tense ten­sion and dread that the small­est sounds and briefest of images star­tle and shock. You’re in such a tense state that by the time the truly hor­ri­fy­ing stuff gets go­ing, you don’t even know how to re­act.

“Hered­i­tary” is most sat­is­fy­ing when you know as lit­tle as pos­si­ble about the plot go­ing in. Col­lette plays An­nie, the ma­tri­arch of a fam­ily deal­ing with the reper­cus­sions that re­ver­ber­ate through­out their home af­ter the death of her mother. Af­ter a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship and years of es­trange­ment, An­nie isn’t quite sure how she feels about her mother’s death, and so she fo­cuses on her work as an artist, cre­at­ing minia­ture tableaus, as well as her chil­dren — most im­por­tantly, her 13-year-old daugh­ter, Char­lie (Milly Shapiro), an odd duck with a close con­nec­tion to her grand­mother.

In her eu­logy, An­nie de­scribes her mother as a se­cre­tive per­son, with “se­cret rit­u­als.” And as she reck­ons with her pass­ing, Aster slowly be­gins to peel back the lay­ers on the fam­ily se­crets. Odd oc­cur­rences start to pop up: Ap­pari­tions and tricks of the light and strange sounds. But what does it mean? Is it just the process of grief, or is some­thing su­per­nat­u­ral hap­pen­ing? The be­gin­nings are sim­ple, quo­tid­ian, and as a viewer you don’t know whether to trust the char­ac­ters or to even trust our­selves in what we see and hear.

Part of that is the mas­ter­ful film­mak­ing by Aster. He man­ages to im­bue scenes that would be rather mun­dane on pa­per with a breath­less ten­sion, sim­ply through cam­er­a­work and a sound de­sign and score by Colin Stet­son that clucks, ticks and tap dances. Aster builds an al­most un­bear­able sense of sus­pense through­out os­ten­si­bly straight­for­ward scenes that are in­cred­i­bly nervewrack­ing, thanks to the film­mak­ing choices, and es­pe­cially the per­for­mances.

And oh, the per­for­mances. It’s no sur­prise Col­lette is un­be­liev­able as An­nie, a woman who goes from a place of numb sur­vival to manic hys­te­ria, some­times from mo­ment to mo­ment. Where other ac­tresses would play a sin­gle note, Col­lette plays a sym­phony of emo­tions. She will nearly bring you to tears and then make you laugh be­fore you know it. Academy Awards don’t even feel like enough of a plau­dit for this kind of per­for­mance. Step­ping right up there with her is Alex Wolff, who plays her teenage son, Peter. Wolff has put in the work, with 20 film cred­its from block­busters to indies un­der his belt by age 21, but this feels like a true break­through role for him, as he goes toe-to-toe with Col­lette and just about walks away with the film.

“Hered­i­tary” is about our lega­cies, the things we in­herit — what we can’t choose or give away, or even es­cape. The idea of that can be chill­ing, and “Hered­i­tary” pushes that con­cept right to the edge, and then all the way over it. It’s a stun­ning de­but from Aster, the kind that is go­ing to stand the test of time.

“Hered­i­tary,” an A24 re­lease, is rated R for hor­ror vi­o­lence, dis­turb­ing images, lan­guage, drug use and brief graphic nu­dity. Run­ning time: 126 min­utes.



Toni Col­lette, left, and Ann Dowd star in “Hered­i­tary.”

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