Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews: Hereditary and Ocean's 8

An instant-classic horror film, and a gimmicky retread.



Horror begins at home in the terrible world of Hereditary, a maximally disturbing first feature by writer-director Ari Aster. The home at the center of things is a big rambling wooden house inhabited by the Graham family: amiable psychotherapist Steve (Gabriel Byrne), his tightly wound artist wife Annie (Toni Collette), their stoner son Peter (Alex Wolff) and strange younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). In addition to this main domicile, there are also the miniature houses Annie builds in her workshop for exhibition in art galleries—scaled-down structures in which she sometimes stages unsettling domestic scenes from her troubled life. Then there's the imposing treehouse out in the family's woodsy backyard, which gives off an eerie red glow late at night. (A reasonable explanation for this is suggested along the way, but do keep wondering.)

The movie is a very grown-up undertaking. We see no monsters, no teen sex, none of the usual fright-flick fodder. Instead we're invited to contemplate the torments of mental instability and the awful intimacies of family life, as well as whatever malignant forces may lurk behind the veil of everyday existence. Aster knows his way around the cinematic scary-movie tradition, and there are clear echoes of Rosemary's Baby here, as well as glancing nods toward The Omen, The Blair Witch Project, and, in one creepy shot, The Exorcist III. The movie's most unnerving components, though—the ones that are likely to have you peering through your fingers—are of the director's own creation.

The story begins with a funeral. Annie's mother has just died, and she doesn't know how to feel about it. The old woman was secretive and difficult, and Annie was bitterly estranged from her. "Should I be sad?" she asks her husband. She's not sad. But she's worried. Her daughter Charlie was grandmom's favorite family member, and the old woman forged an intensely close relationship with the little girl, who has grown dark and bizarre. (To emphasize this, Milly Shapiro—once the peppy star of Broadway's Matilda the Musical—has been made up and photographed to resemble a potato-faced medieval peasant.)

The film's early innings provide a generous amount of character development—the backstory of a family that is slowly, horribly falling apart—along with a certain amount of coffin consciousness, grave desecration, and grisly pigeon action. Then, in a sequence that begins at a teen house party, the movie leaps into screaming high gear, and a rich tide of dread rises as the movie's alarming story starts to become clear, and then—worse yet—even clearer. (There are, among other things, weird figures in the woods, more icky insects than anyone might ever need to see, and Ann Dowd as a local woman promoting séances as a way to reestablish contact with Anna's dead mom—because "she's not gone!") It is a measure of Aster's originality that any more-detailed revelations would wreck the movie's several world-class shocks.

But tribute must be paid to Toni Collette, a great actor reaching a new peak of brilliance here as a woman being consumed by her malign mental inheritance. Collette soars and rages; she tiptoes up to the edge of overacting in a couple of fiery rants, but she never crosses over, and she's unforgettable. Oscar voters are generally uninclined to reward horror films in significant ways, but Collette's stellar performance here will be very hard to deny.

Ocean's 8

Warner Bros.

It's odd, isn't it, that the two juiciest performances in the all-female Ocean's 8 are given by Anne Hathaway—so often derided as talentless for no reason at all—and James Corden, who's best-known in this country as a TV host? This is not something you'd expect in a movie whose cast also includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, rapper-comic Awkwafina, and—why not?—Rihanna. But there it is. The picture slumps under the weight of its condescending concept: Let's insert a bunch of women into a narrative blueprint originated by men, and bring in another man to direct and cowrite it. How could this go wrong?

Well, in a number of ways. The director, Gary Ross (The Hunger Games), who crafted the script with Olivia Milch, seems to have little flair for the sort of sparkling dialogue that comical heist movies like this require, and he's not a master of elegant movement or cleanly staged action, either. This could not be said of the three earlier Ocean's movies directed by Steven Soderbergh (a producer on this one). And while the filmmakers may be hoping that Ocean's 8 will be the beginning of their own trilogy—with 9 and 10 hooking up with Soderbergh's Eleven and possibly spawning some sort of giant boys-meet-girls crossover to the enormous financial benefit of all—I would say, having seen this one, that such a result is not entirely probable.

Here's how the story works. Sandra Bullock is Debbie Ocean, sister of the recently deceased Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney in the Soderbergh films). Fresh off a five-year prison stretch for fraud, Debbie scams her way around Manhattan (one of the movie's livelier sequences) and starts assembling a group of old pals to help execute a plan she's had years to work out. It involves all of them getting into the annual Met Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—no easy feat for non-movie characters—and stealing a $150-million necklace that's due to be worn by a professionally fabulous celebrity (Hathaway).

The preparations for this job, and its subsequent execution, should be the movie's most compelling elements, clever, tense and funny. Some of them—the search for dead spots in security-cam coverage, the plan for employing a 3D printer—are clever; but the details of the heist are never crystal clear. And the fact that that the movie gets no satirical mileage out of all the glittery-ridiculous fashionisti on hand (even the back of Anna Wintour's head passes through) suggests the ancient truth that celebrity access has its price.

In addition, the cast never works up the sort of razzmatazz chemistry—pioneered by the Sinatra Rat Pack in the original Ocean's 11 in 1960—that might have carried the movie over its sometimes dull plot mechanics. Helena Bonham Carter has some good ditzy moments, and Awkwafina some funny pickpocket moves; but Mindy Kaling and Sarah Paulson aren't given much of interest to do; Blanchett is strangely unengaging; Rihanna doesn't have a lot of range as an actor; and Bullock, whose face seems frozen throughout the film, is unable to communicate much thought or emotion. James Corden's appearance toward the end (as a voluble insurance investigator) is much more of a relief than anyone connected with the picture would seem likely to have wanted.

NEXT: Congressional Republicans Say They Just Cut $15 Billion in Spending. It's Actually Only $1.1 Billion.

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  1. Ocean’s 8 sucks because we’re misogynists, amirite?

    1. I found Ocean’s 11 unbearable. I guess that means I hate men? Or maybe I hate Clooney, Pitt and Damon…

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  2. We’re misogynists because Ocean’s 8 sucks, amirite?

  3. I thought Anne Hathaway was always considered talented and charismatic. I guess I don’t follow the movie industry very much. She’s been good in almost everything I’ve seen her in (though I didn’t care for Les Miserables because it doesn’t live up to its stage counterpart). Is this some kind of baggage she’s carrying because she got her big break starring in cheesy teen comedies? I never watched either of the Princess Diaries movies.

    1. Yes she is wisely considered as talented. I don’t know what they were thinking when they wrote this.

      1. Maybe it’s the beauty-and-talent combo that riles some people, but amazingly the hate is real: http://www.nickiswift.com/5962…..ted-celeb/

    2. I think she succumbed to the Catwoman curse. Anyone who plays Catwoman sort of kills off their career: Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Adrienne Barbeau (voice), and most recently Anne Hathaway.

      1. Julie Newmar?

    3. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of her being hated by some people, but I don’t know why, exactly that is. I don’t care enough about celebrity gossip to really keep up with that shit.

    4. Funny, just saw Les Mis on stage in London and thought it paled in comparison to the film version.

      1. It could just depend on the production, I suppose. Somehow, the film actually felt small compared to the stage because of the directorial choices-lots of long shots locked in on the actors, lots of close-ups. Which is a shame because the opening was grand and cinematic, and the thing I’ve always like about Les Mis is that it feels sweeping and epic, but the effect of the movie seemed to diminish that feeling for me.

    5. Women don’t like other women who seem pretty, smart AND nice. Can only have two of the three.

      1. Yeah most woman hate other woman because they ultimately compete on looks while men compete on actions.
        A fat ugly man can become great at something and gain status in the eyes of better looking men.
        A fat ugly woman will always be towards the bottom of the female hierarchy, even if she is great at something.

        Evolutionary biology is a bitch despite the efforts of the SJW types to murder it.

    6. She’s pretty crappy in Devil Wears Prada.

      1. Eh, that’s debatable though Stanley Tucci really made the movie work

    7. When she won the Oscar, she started receiving backlash. It was never clear to me why, but it’s probably just one of those things where people were waiting for her to do nothing in particular, and then pounce.

      1. It was because as she won award after award that year, it became clear to many that her reactions were very well “acted”. She came across as disingenuous, and as one who gave way too much of a crap about awards. She seemed rather pathetic actually. I mean cringeworthy.

  4. Are you crazy? Anne Hathaway was never considered talentless. She’s widely regarded as multitalented.

    1. Again, there have always been people out there who hate her: https://bit.ly/2JBIa5n

      1. Anyone who is successful and doesn’t have people out there who hate her (or him) are clearly doing something wrong. Petty jealousy is easy. Success is not.

    2. She certainly has two big talents…

  5. “Hereditary” is awesome, saw it last night.

  6. “Hereditary” is awesome, saw it last night.

  7. “a narrative blueprint originated by men, and bring in another man to direct and cowrite it.”

    I know. Men ruin everything. O. M. G. Why can’t we have one movie for the ladies? Why does every single movie focus on Luke Skywalker or Mad Max or some male ghostbuster? They should do an all female superhero movie. Written by womyn. Directed by womyn. Starring womyn. Produced & shot on an all-female island. Call it Divergent Hunger Gaymes…

    1. I know you are being sarcastic, but a Gotham City Sirens movie could be quite interesting if they could get decent cast and competent scriptwriter.

      1. Meh. The TV show Gotham has pretty much become that, and it’s trash. The motivations just don’t resonate.

  8. Soderbergh’s Eleven and possibly spawning some sort of giant boys-meet-girls crossover to the enormous financial benefit of all

  9. The only “Ocean’s” film that was any good was the SCTV classic, “Maudlin’s 11”.

    1. The Dirty Dozen?

      1. Rats! You stole my idea…

    2. The Magnificent Seven?

  10. A24 puts out some lesser known gems.

  11. Saw Hereditary last night. Toni Collette is fantastic and much better than the movie itself. Maybe my expectations were too high given all they hype, but I’d give it a ‘meh’. Toward the end, I had no idea what was going on. I still don’t — and truth be told – I don’t really care enough to find out.

    1. Wood not.

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  13. I saw 8 last night.

    Not as good as 11. Better than 12. And arguably the equal of 13.

    1. But definitely worse than 69.

    2. Anything is better than O12

  14. The problem with these all-girl films is they’re contrived. They’re a victim of all this woke nonsense and they try to capitalize on it but they come up flat because the script succumbs to the PC rules.

    Had it been done in the 70s with say, Kahn, Rivers and whoever else merited it, it would have been, I bet, better because it wasn’t ‘cool’ to do so.

    Plus Ocean’s 8 is misogynistic. Only 8? What, women can’t organize a crime scam with a dozen people?

    And if you don’t like it, just blame ‘twitter trolls’ or angry people like the people who ruined Star Wars do. Easy target.

    1. Only 8? What, women can’t organize a crime scam with a dozen people?

      Women are used to collaborating, therefore eight women can pull off a job that would require a dozen men.

      [Now that’s misogynistic.]

      1. *misandric

    2. Yeah that’s my issue too. It’s contrived. They are just shoehorning female characters into male story lines in the most arbitrary of ways. The only movie I thought took a male idea and owned it from a female perspective was that great white whales “trainwreck” which I loved.

      Soon it will be a “saving private ryan” remake with all women running up the beaches.
      It too will be devoid of all the brotherhood and comradery that it seems only men can truly muster.

  15. A movie no one wanted except Bullock’s publicist.

    Did not know Kaling was still acting.

    To make it work they would have needed some youth, not a troupe who look like they’ve been sucking lemons for the past 30 years.

    Some comedic chops would’ve been nice. Perhaps Kaitlin Olson? Kristin Bell? Mila Kunis? Elisha Cuthbert?!

  16. These films are all horrible at their core. The premise is that con men (women) basically know how to accomplish everything and so can figure out solutions to every insoluble problem, disguise themselves so they are unrecognizable to everyone and make the impossible getaway even though everyone short of the CIA is looking for them. It was a decent premise for the original O11, it was headache material with the remake, and every sequel was worse. And the premise doesn’t improve because the sex of the cons has changed. Frankly, it’s boring.

    Someday Hollywood will actually produce a movie with either an original premise or one that is not based on a comic book and western civilization as we know it will go into oblivion.

  17. I heard they’re doing a remake of Dunkirk with an all women cast. Can’t wait!

    1. And a remake of D-Day with an all-star ‘diversity’ cast!

      The bad ass Native, the take no shit transgender, the Muslim with a chip on their shoulder who is tired of all the racism, and the woman leader of her platoon (the Soyboy 77th which beat all the other ‘white privilege’ platoons) as they cite passages from Marx and Lenin.

      Now that’s a movie!

  18. Darn. With a cast that includes Hathaway, Blanchett, and Bullock, I was really looking forward to seeing this. Meh, I’ll eventually see it anyway. And The Spy Who Dumped Me. Why not?

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