Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolf, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Mallory Bechtel
Directed by: Ari Aster
One of the fallouts of the “have your DNA decoded” craze is that there may be secrets of your ancestry that you might not really want to know about. Take the family in “Hereditary,” which sure has its secrets. First time director Ari Aster skillfully parlays the “less is more” trope into a master class in tension-building. Soon after the family’s matriarch dies, her dollhouse-miniature-making granddaughter’s off-the-wall behavior becomes more and more violent. While her parents search for causes, the audience begins piecing the puzzle together to form an unsettling picture of what is really going on.
3-and-1/2 pieces of ‘Toni Collette is GREAT in this’ toast
FIRST REFORMED (R)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Michael Gaston, Van Hansis
Directed by: Paul Shrader
Director Paul Shrader, the screenwriter who created the Travis Bickle character for “Taxi Driver,” has con-jured up another great movie icon in the Rev. Ernst Toller (Hawke). His small church in upstate New York is in the guidebooks for Revolutionary War and Civil War buffs, so he is familiar with the intrusiveness of others. But a simple request from a pregnant woman for a pastoral visit to her husband tears apart the minister’s previously unquestioned core beliefs.
3-and-1/2 pieces of ‘Paul Shrader spirituality’ toast
HOTEL ARTEMIS (R)
Starring: Jodi Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista
Directed by: Drew Pearce
In the not-too-distant future, downtown Los Angeles is filled with rioters searching for clean water in a time when the scarce rainfall is toxic, and the underground aquifers are owned by greedy corporations. Four men attempt to rob a bank during the tumult, and when one is wounded he is whisked to Hotel Ar-temis, a membership-only medical facility controlled by a seen-too-many-bad-things woman simply called The Nurse (Foster), whose patients are all gangsters. Fans of the John Wick films have noted many similarities and set pieces from that franchise - but they are less skillfully envisioned in this low budget film.
2-and-1/2 pieces of ‘violence-strewn, B-movie flashback’ toast
OCEANS 8 (R)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, James Corden, Carl Reiner
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
I bet you didn’t know Danny Ocean (the character played by George Clooney in all those “Ocean’s 11” films) has a sister named Debbie who looks and sounds exactly like Sandra Bullock. The McGuffin this time is a $150 million diamond necklace just waiting to be stolen from the neck of a glitzy celebrity (Hathaway). Quite a bit of screen time is spent recruiting the all-female “gang” of experts Debbie needs to pull off the ca-per. These women include a professional vodka diluter, a fashion designer, a computer hacker, a pick-pocket, and a suburban housewife. If this concept seems like it was stolen directly from the script of “Ocean’s 11,” you have skillfully discovered the strength and weakness of “Ocean’s 8.” But where are all the Bad Girls in this film? Despite being presented as crooks, whose previous escapades focused on feathering their own nests, every one of the “gals” roots for the home team. It’s as though the sister-hoodness of wearing high heels makes them super loyal. Come on. Where’s the dynamic tension in that?