Film and drama

Screen Themes: Oceans 8 vs Coco

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Let’s all go to the movies as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the latest heist flick along with a Pixar animated gem you might have missed.

Oceans 8

Directed by Gary Ross (2018) 

The genre of "heist movies" covers a lot of ground. From the hyper-realism of Heat to the weirdness of Inception and the cartoonish absurdity of Point Break, the one thing heist movies tend to have in common is that they require a healthy suspension of disbelief.

Starring Sandra Bullock as the perpetually dour Debbie Ocean, this spinoff/sequel finds Debbie fresh out of gaol, promising to go straight, then immediately putting into action a plan that she has been concocting for the entire five years she spent behind bars. The plan involves getting together a bunch of women with special skills to steal a $250 million diamond necklace from the Met Gala.

Cate Blanchett stars as Lou, Debbie’s best friend and longtime partner in crime. Acting with an Australian accent (for once) Blanchett seems to be having a lot of fun with the role. The same can’t be said for Bullock, who appears to be there under contractual sufferance. Helena Bonham Carter stars as faded designer Rose Weil, and the trio are joined by a bunch of barely sketched archetypes that struggle for both screen time and character development.

Said archetypes are played by Anne Hathaway as the actress; Mindy Kaling as the jeweler; Sarah Paulson as the fence, perhaps the most ludicrous character in the movie; Awkwafina as the… uh.. skater(?); and singer Rihanna as the tech expert, acting exactly as proficiently as you would expect. Also featuring are Oceans alumni Elliott Gould and Shaobo Quin, along with a list of celebrity cameos as long as your arm: Kim Kardashian, Anna Wintour, Katie Holmes, Olivia Munn — huge amounts of style, not a lot of substance.

Mindy Kaling recently came out and said the problem with Ocean’s Eight is white male critics, but I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree. The problems with Ocean’s Eight are manifold: it’s incredibly derivative, the surprise twists are painfully obvious and there are plot holes that you can drive a truck through.

If the movie is saved by anything, it’s the third act appearance of James Corden as an insurance investigator — and that’s not going to do much for the large number of people who seem to dislike the carpool karaoke "star". The fact that the cast all had a good time and got along is fantastic, it just doesn’t make for a good movie.


Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (2017)

There are good Pixar movies, like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Monsters Inc, and there are great Pixar movies like Wall-E, Toy Story 3 and Up. Even lesser Pixar efforts like Cars and A Bug’s Life have their charms — the only thing that all the above movies have in common is that they made more at the box office than Coco. And that, dear readers, is a crime.

Coco tells the story of aspiring guitarist Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez. Miguel lives in a family where music is forbidden, so on the night of Dia de Muertos he sneaks away to enter the big musical contest in his village. On the way he steals a guitar from the mausoleum of famous singer Ernesto de le Cruz, voiced with relish by Benjamin Bratt, but somehow slips into the land of the dead.

On the other side Miguel meets all of his deceased relatives and encounters the stunning spirit animals, surely one of the most visually beautiful creatures in animated movie history. As his family work to get Miguel back to the land of the living, he encounters near-forgotten musician Hector, voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal. Hector teaches Miguel the importance of being remembered and the perils of following your dreams — particularly if your dreams involve being a professional musician.

Lyrical, emotional and stunningly beautiful, Coco also has a pitch black sense of humour running through it, often featuring Miguel’s loyal hairless canine companion who may or may not be a spirit animal. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not is irrelevant – Coco is one of those rare movies that captures the importance of family without being saccharine sweet or overtly moralistic.

It is somewhat rare that an animated movie will move me to tears (although Toy Story 3 did it effortlessly) but Coco had tears rolling down my cheeks by the closing credits – keep the tissues handy if you want to keep up the macho façade…

The Verdict

Ocean’s Eight is far from the worst heist movie ever made. It may in fact be better than Ocean’s 12, which felt like it was shot over a long weekend, but enjoying it does require some concessions. If you have the ability to turn off your brain and simply enjoy looking at beautiful people doing implausible things, then you may well find something to like in Ocean’s Eight.

If you’re a fan of animated movies, or just movies in general, Coco is a must see.

Ocean’s Eight: 5/10

Coco: 9/10

Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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