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  • ‘Ocean’s 8’ is more than enough
    ‘Ocean’s 8’ is more than enough

    Anyone who digs a good heist/caper movie carries a fondness for the “Ocean’s” series of movies. 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” 2004’s “Ocean’s Twelve” and 2007’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” were a stylized delight, reinvigorating the genre via the directorial talents of Steven Soderbergh and the tremendous cast, anchored by the movie star triumvirate of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon atop some phenomenal ensemble casts.

    It’s such a wonderful trilogy, in fact, that one can certainly understand the skepticism felt my moviegoers upon hearing the announcement of a new, female-led installment in the series. However, “Ocean’s 8” largely puts that skepticism to rest; while the film doesn’t necessarily reach the heights of the initial films, it’s got a powerhouse cast of its own telling a story that – while a bit implausible – is still a heck of a lot of fun.

  • Checking into ‘Hotel Artemis’
    Checking into ‘Hotel Artemis’

    World-building – particularly sci-fi world-building – isn’t easy. Creating a consistent, believable genre landscape is tricky business. And doing it in such a way as to allow for both exciting action and narrative engagement is trickier still.

    Drew Pearce knows how tough that can be, having penned scripts for iconic franchises like the MCU (“Iron Man 3”) and “Mission: Impossible” (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”). But creating something original presents its own set of unique challenges.

    Pearce marks his directorial debut with one such original script in “Hotel Artemis,” a gritty bit of near-future sci-fi storytelling. The simplest way to describe it is if you wanted to focus on what happened to bad guys that John Wick injured but didn’t kill, only a decade or so in the future. It has that same sort of hinted-at rich and complex underworld, centered around a hospital where criminals can receive treatment for injuries suffered in the execution of their duties. It’s brutally violent and darkly funny with moments of surprising poignancy.

    All that, plus Jodie Foster. What’s not to love?

  • Come sail away – ‘Adrift’
    Come sail away – ‘Adrift’

    Ever since humans have been telling stories, some of the scariest have been born of the idea of being lost. Of being stranded, held at the whim of the elements with no one to help us and no one to hear us scream.

    And few of those stories are as harrowing as the lost in sea stories, the tales of people whose attempts to challenge the ocean are met by her unrelenting, unforgiving power.

    “Adrift” tells one such lost at sea story. Based on the book “Red Sky at Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea,” the film tells the story of Tami Oldham, who in 1983 was sailing in the Pacific Ocean when she and her boyfriend ran into a hurricane. It’s a tale of battling through the worst kinds of adversity for the highest possible stakes – survival. But while the movie does have some solid qualities, it ultimately can’t quite manage to stay completely afloat.

  • The pointless action of ‘Action Point’
    The pointless action of ‘Action Point’

    I’ve always had an affinity for watching people get hurt in ridiculous ways. It’s the teenaged boy in me; slapstick, physical humor has always been a favorite of mine. It’s why I have a soft spot for Johnny Knoxville and “Jackass.” The sheer abandon with which those degenerates approached their work (such as it was) … admirable, really.

    But such degeneracy is a young man’s game. Truly, in the end, time leaves no man’s balls unkicked.

    This brings us to “Action Point,” a film about which I held the exact right degree of low expectations, yet was disappointed nevertheless. It’s a lazy, largely unfunny comedy that spastically flails about and fails to make any real impact, despite an enthusiastic performance by Knoxville (including a couple of stunts sure to delight his longtime fans).

  • Taking flight with 'Solo'
    Taking flight with 'Solo'

    Full disclosure: I love “Star Wars.” The original trilogy is near and dear to my heart – one of my earliest memories is seeing “Empire” at the drive-in when I was three. And while the prequels left a lot to be desired, Disney’s reinvigoration of the franchise in recent years has been welcome.

    “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the fourth film in this new wave and somehow manages to be both the biggest departure and the most conventional of the bunch. Turmoil seemed abundant behind the scenes – original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were replaced by Ron Howard; rumblings about reshoots and acting coaches and whatnot were plentiful – so one wondered what the final product was going to be.

    It’s … fine. Pretty good, actually. Not as good as the other newer offerings, but with plenty to recommend it. There are moments where it feels stitched together and a bit inconsistent, but otherwise, the directorial drama doesn’t show up much on screen. The performances range from meh to solid to excellent. The story is a bit slight and there are certain narrative mysteries that might have been better left unsolved (along with some tonal inconsistency and a few not-insignificant timeline questions), but all in all, it’s a fun space opera/heist movie with a charming cast and some strong set pieces.

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