DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, Hollywood Homicide

 

Title: Ocean’s Eleven   (or Ocean’s 11)

Release Date:  2001

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 120 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Distributor and Production Company: Warner Brothers (AOL); Village Roadshow Pictures

Director; Writer: Steven Soderbergh  (had directed Traffic)

Producer: Jerry Weintraub

Cast:   George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner

Technical:  Panavision, digital

Relevance to doaskdotell site: that’s entertainment (??_

Review: Oh, really, this all-star “rat pack” cast, all interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC “2020” recently, in a comedy. And it is funny. There all of these stories on Project Greenlight while it was being filmed.

    It’s tongue-in-check, as when a boyish Linus (Matt Damon, normally one of the most intellectually engaging younger characters in Hollywood) simply asks, “smash and grab job?”  There is the old, fat hairy-chested “fag,” there is the fake heart attack, there are spider man antics. 

   Sometimes it is a bit more serious, as when Linus impersonates  a Nevada Gaming Commission official (in classes, like the Talented Mr. Ripley) and gets a casino employee fired and escorted off the premises. 

   The title, in fact, refers to the “rat pack,” the team of 11 (including himself) assembled by Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) as he gets out of jail. Well, he will go back to jail some day.

    This movie makes me want to get on a chart (even if no Sun Country) and head back to the Las Vega Strip.

    On a more serious note:  of course, nobody could possibly stage a heist on the Bellagio. Nobody will copycat the antics in this movie.  It’s an extended comedy, right?

     Well, there is this matter of the flux compression generator, e-bomb (electronic pulse generator) that they use in the heist. It knocks out all of the power in Vegas (including the fight) for a few seconds. The weapon looks real enough, but that would not happen.  Instead, there would be permanent destruction of all electronic equipment over a small area (a couple of city blocks) and it would not come back on, but the city as a whole would not be affected. The screenplay at one point mentions that this kind of weapon can throw a geographical area back into the “17th Century” although then the lights could not come back on!  Now, Popular Science came out with its scary story on this por man’s weapon around Labor Day, about a week before the Sept. 11 attacks (and this article uses a 19th Century metaphor).  Was this story prompted by knowing that the e-bomb would figure into the plot of an upcoming high profile movie?

    Technically, the photography lacked clarity in some scenes, as the backgrounds behind the close-ups blurred too much and lost depth, making the wide-screen format almost a distraction.  You want Vegas to look as real and have that “you are there” quality.

   One more thing, why did Warner Brothers bypass its wonderful Casablanca musical trademark in the opening credits?  The background clatter leading gradually into almost monochromatic opening shot of George Clooney in jail would not have been diminished if the trademark had been used.

  This was the last movie I would see (Dec 7, 2001) before getting my layoff notice on Dec 13, 2001—the beginning of “retirement” for me.

 

Ocean's Twelve (Ocean's 12) is a spectacular (Amsterdam, Paris, Monaco, Rome) but half-baked sequel in terms of plotting, as the lines get lame. Add Julia Roberts (playing herself!), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Casey Affleck and tumbling Scott Caan to the cast. They have to get the money back, all right—the problem is the action tails off at the end rather than exploding with a payoff. A lot of acting talent (Matt Damon’s) gets wasted—yet the point seems to make the audience “worship” all the big stars in this rather Casino Royale type story. Soderbergh is capable of intellectual challenging work (and he even asked for it from writers in his Academy Award speech back in 2001), so let’s hope he turns back towards work like Traffic. 

 

Ocean's Thirteen (Ocean's 13) comes back to Vegas, where one of the rat pack Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould, who was once a young man) has a coronary thrombosis, and needs a heist by his buddies to feel better. He says that the Inuits used to ship away their elderly on ice floes when they became too infirm to hunt, and he doesn’t want eldercare to catch up with him. Part of the plan comprises simulating an earthquake. There is a lot of metaphoric comedy and chic dialogue, somewhat random in nature. Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) becomes Lenny Pepperidge with a Pinocchio nose. There’s a great line where a dealer is fired for having too high a body mass index, where the supervisor keeps taunting the fat on the employee’s forearm. There’s great on location photography of the strip, although the shots look hot and overhued with orange (as in “Traffic”).

 

Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow let ratpack music play during their opening trademarks, instead of the Casablanca theme, which is much more effective as a mark for Warner Bros.  Studios should always use their musical as well as visual trademarks. I’m surprised their lawyers don’t insist on this.

 

Hollywood Homicide (2003), from Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios, directed by Ron Shelton, in which Harrison Ford (playing experienced cop Joe Gavilan) and Josh Hartnett (playing rookie K. C. Calden) run through some rather comic situations and chases as a tag team. The car chase through Beverly Hills in the last half is the best ever, even outdoing Bullitt and Matrix Reloaded. But it is the scriptwriting technique and characterizations that is worthy of note here. The two partners seemed so interested in their own self-actualizations that they more or less talk at one another and the other characters. Joe has previously owned tanning businesses and has become a real estate broker, sinking in too much and deeply in debt and needing one big sale. So he is constantly on his cell phone even while on the job. He gets accused of conflict of interest, comingling of funds, in an internal affairs investigation. K.C. moonlights as a yoga instructor and aspires to become an actor, with the movie ending with his beefcake performance in a play called “Nasty”. There is mention of Tennessee Williams and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  Of course, some of this reminds one of Josh Hartnett’s own story, how the St Paul native moved to Hollywood after high school graduation and in a few swings hit some home runs. In fact, the movie, with its somewhat manufactured plot, gives the impression that the two leads are really playing themselves, that law enforcement is an afterthought and a reason to introduce some interesting material as well as provide opportunities for black comedy. Some critics have remarked that Hartnett’s performance is a bit wooden here. But what comes across is that he is trying to become the Renaissance Man, the terrestrial Clark Kent, a man who can do everything and who has no weaknesses. It is hard to pull that off and make it convincing, outside of the comic book world, and indeed this movie has a bit of a Marvel quality to it.  Near the end, the trusting and likeable Hartnett character tricks one of the bad guys with some real acting (“please don’t shoot me…”) a sudden martial arts move, and even gets it on tape! 

 

Good to see that Columbia Pictures brought back its wonderful musical trademark at the opening.    

   

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