There’s a good chance one of your favorite stars was in a new movie this past weekend. Ocean’s 8 was packed with Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna (Rihanna!), Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, even Jeff Goldblum lending a little continuity between the most recent Ocean’s series.
Not to be outdone, Hotel Artemis packed its marquis with Jodie Foster, David Bautista, Charlie Day, Sterling K. Brown, Zachary Quinto, and Jeff Goldblum.
We’re talking Oscar winners, EMMY winners, Tony winners. These are two rosters filled with genuine talent.
And they are two movies that are absolute messes.
Plodding Instead of Plot’ing
Each movie starts with lots of potential besides an A-LIst cast. We discuss both in our reviews for Ocean’s 8 and Hotel Artemis. But both quickly go off the rails. All this star power is wasted by a lack of script and, in the case of Artemis, sub par directing. Plots with little character development works fine for a six-minute sketch on SNL, but not in feature-length films.
Ocean’s 8 goes for girl power and is much better than the Ghostbusters reboot from a couple of years ago. But honestly, it that how far we’re lowering the bar? The script gives us eight-is characters with minimal background and hopes we’ll mentally fill in the blanks with our knowledge of the guys’ version and trust in our favorite stars.
But all it delivers is one story point after another, all of which you can see coming at you from a mile away.
However, Hotel Artemis makes Ocean’s 8 look like a storytelling masterpiece. This movie brings together a group of wounded baddies to get treated by The Nurse and her Orderly/Bodyguard/Foundling/BFF. The script sketches out loose connections between all the characters, but they go nowhere. This film feels even more egregious because, since it’s not part of a franchise, it’s starting with a blank page where anything is possible.
Jodie Foster is made to look way too old. Sterling K. Brown doesn’t come off as a criminal at heart (which is sort of the point), but he keeps his membership at the hotel/hospital. And Jeff Goldblum. Don’t get us started. He is so terribly miscast. At least he will likely make us forget about this forgettable movie when he stars in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom next weekend.
The Write Stuff
The point of all this is to say that stories matter! You can have all the stars you want, but if you don’t give them something meaningful to say and do, then you’re wasting their time and ours.
Avengers movies and Black Panther aren’t great because there is one A-Lister after another. The movies are exquisite because they are telling a compelling story. That’s not to discount the actors. But people like Robert Downey, Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, et al, elevate a great script to produce a great movie.
If Sandra and company had been given a script with wit and tension, we’d be raving. But they didn’t. And we’re not.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
The Rum Sazerac. This cocktail has many ingredients, but nothing too fancy. All of your faves are in here, they blend well, and serve to quench your quest to ditch sobriety.
Otherwise you can just pour whatever you’ve got on the bar into a glass and douse with some soda that’s gone flat in your fridge. You can call that the Hotel Artemis.