Ocean’s Eight (2018)

Ocean’s Eight
Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross, Olivia Milch
Spin-off from: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, Dakota Fanning, Elliott Gould, Richard Armitage, James Corden
Seen on: 2.7.2018

Plot:
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) was just released from prison and has already plans for a new, daring heist at the Met Gala. She just needs to convince her friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) to go along with it and then they can assemble a team to pull it off. And Debby already knows the women they need to do it.

Ocean’s Eight may not be the film of the century, but it never set out to be. What it is, is a perfectly entertaining heist film with a great cast that is a wonderful addition to the Ocean films that have come before it. I hope there will be a sequel or five.

Film poster showing the eight main women in front of a red background.
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Trolls (2016)

Trolls
Director: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn
Writer: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Based on: Thomas Dam‘s dolls
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Kunal Nayyar, Quvenzhané Wallis
Seen on: 8.4.2017

Plot:
The Trolls live a very happy life, carefree and filled with music and definitely not thinking about the Bergens who are only happy when they can eat Trolls. Nobody more so than Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick). It’s only Branch (Justin Timberlake) who refuses to sing and who fears that the Bergens will be back. Therefore he is constantly trying to prepare for that eventuality. When Poppy throws a big party that actually does attract the Bergens and a few Trolls end up taken, Poppy knows that she has to rescue them. And who could help her better than Branch?

When Trolls came out last year, I decided pretty quickly that I really wasn’t interested in it. I did have Troll dolls when I was a kid, but I was never particularly taken with them and basing a film on them just seemed weird. But my niece loves the film and she wanted to watch it with me, so I did. And it turns out, it’s actually really sweet and funny.

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The Lady in the Van (2015)

The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Alan Bennett
Based on: Alan Bennett’s actual experience with Mary Shepherd
Cast: Maggie SmithAlex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Deborah Findlay, Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, James Corden, Russell Tovey, Alan Bennett
Seen on: 3.6.2016

Plot:
Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moved to a new neighborhood and he quite like it. Part of the neighborhood is Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a woman living in a van parked in his street. She’s weird, often rough and has issues, but Alan does take a liking to her. So when her existence is threatened because her road is being declared a no parking zone, Alan permits her to park the van in his driveway. What was supposed to be only a temporary solution, turns into a long-term fact and Alan starts to find out more about Mary’s past.

The Lady in the Van was a sweet film, told with a sly sense of humor that keeps the story from turning too dark, even when the realities it faces are harsher. It’s an enjoyable mix, although it stays a little too shallow to use the potential for social criticism it would have.

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Into the Woods (2014)

Into the Woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer. James Lapine
Based on: James Lapine‘s (book) and Stephen Sondheim‘s (music and lyrics) musical, which is in turn based on a few Brothers Grimm fairy tales
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Lilla CrawfordChris Pine, Billy Magnussen, Mackenzie Mauzy, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullman, Meryl Streep, Simon Russell Beale, Johnny Depp, Frances de la Tour
Seen on: 11.3.2015

Plot:
The baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) dream of having a child, but due to a curse by the evil witch (Meryl Streep), they can’t conceive. But the witch offers to reverse the curse – if they bring her certain items: a cow as white as milk, hair the color of corn, a golden slipper and a red cape. They set off into the woods where they hope to find all of those items. As luck will have it, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) runs away from her prince (Chris Pine) in golden slippers, Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) tries to sell his white cow, Litte Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) is visiting her gran in her red cape and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and her blonde hair meet her prince (Billy Magnussen) – all in those same woods. But things don’t go quite as planned.

The first half of Into the Woods is extremely enjoyable. In the second half, the plot completely unravels, but at least cast and production design are still awesome.

Into_the_Woods

[SPOILERS]

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Begin Again (2013)

Begin Again
Director: John Carney
Writer: John Carney
Cast: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam LevineHailee Steinfeld, James Corden, Mos Def, Catherine Keener, Rob Morrow, CeeLo Green

Plot:
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a producer. Or rather, he used to be – these days he’s mostly drinking and despairing at the state of the music industry, while his estranged wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and equally estranged daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld) grow ever more frustrated about it. After he loses his job, despite having funded the company he worked for together with his friend Saul (Mos Def), he hits a new low. That’s when he hears Gretta (Keira Knightley) sing and falls in love with her music. But Gretta sees herself as a songwriter only and is not interested in a career as a singer, especially since she just had a bad break-up with her newly made superstar of a boyfriend (Adam Levine). But Dan convinces her that they should record an album together.

Begin Again [German title absurdly enough “Can a Song Save Your Life?”] might not be quite as magical as Once was, but it is a sweet film with a very nice soundtrack that I enjoyed a lot.

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