Friday, June 8, 2007

From the Archive: "Ocean's Thirteen" Film Review

Film Rating: A-

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of “Ocean's Thirteen.”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Ocean's Thirteen”
Originally published June 8th, 2007

Sequels.  The writing/directing team of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (Back to the Future) once said that sequels weren’t really movies, but a product that is ridiculously easy to sell.  Well, I agree with them that sequels are ridiculously easy to sell, but I have to disagree about the point that sequels aren’t really movies.  At least, not when done like “Ocean’s Thirteen”.  Yes, sequels can often be little more than factory standard product, but there is a great percentage of sequels that are masterpieces in their own right, just like the predecessors that inspired them.  “Ocean’s Thirteen” is this type of sequel.  It perfectly captures the spirit of the original but twists and turns it to be a familiar but unmistakably fresh movie-going experience, one that is made to bring fun back to movies, not just to make a quick buck.

Danny Ocean and his crew of eleven meet each other in Vegas for one more job after their buddy and crew member Rueben is betrayed and almost killed by wealthy, greedy, and bloodthirsty casino owner Willy Banks.  Banks loves nothing but his money and diamond-studded possessions, and Ocean and his crew of crooks plan to rob him of all he loves, by rigging every game on the Casino floor in their flavor, along with a couple of other well thought out plots destined to destroy the greedy villain.

Yes, Danny Ocean is back, along with all his friends/crew, but something else is back that sadly did not return with the previous installment, "Ocean’s Twelve," and that is fun.  Pure, unprocessed, down to earth fun that we don’t often see in movies anymore.  The film’s creators add plot points and twists to the mix every few minutes, and each one these has a more then satisfying payoff that amounts to the most fun you’ll have at the movies all year.  In fact, I don’t know if I had this much fun at any movie last year either.  This movie is like the best theme park ride you’ve ever been on, only it lasts two hours, and never wavers in its entertainment value.

The movie is so fun because every department that brought the film alive execute their tasks expertly and work together well.  The thing that really makes the movie work is, as always, the actors.  Ocean’s Eleven was perfectly cast, and all the actors are back at top form.  They say their pitch perfect dialogue smooth, cool, and in a way that makes you forget that Danny Ocean is George Clooney.  He’s just Danny Ocean.  These actors all have great chemistry together, and it’s a blast to watch them together.  Newcomers Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin add a great new layer to the ensemble.  As greedy villain Willy Banks, Pacino is the guy you love to hate.  You root for Ocean and his team because this guy is such a convincing jerk.  As his assistant, Barkin plays her part perfectly as well; she’s a lap-dog who is easy to manipulate. 

Of course, the cast wouldn’t work if the writing wasn’t good.  Unlike "Ocean’s Twelve," where the dialogue and jokes often fell flat, its top notch this time, much more in line with the first film.  The plot is also exquisite, taking a new twist or turn every few minutes, and tying them all together and paying them off expertly.  The writing and directing are tied together by Soderberg’s great direction.  I imagine he must be a fun guy to work with; how else could the movies be so fun to watch?

Once again, the music adds many layers to the entertainment level, and the cinematography is brilliant.  As in the other two, “Ocean’s Thirteen” uses it 2.35:1 wide aspect ratio to greatest effect.  Something is going on in all parts of the frame at all times, and it subtly but importantly enhances the movie’s quality.

The creators also nail the feel of Las Vegas, just like they did in Ocean’s Eleven, only in this one, they really get to have fun on the Casino floor, rather then the vaults underground.  Having been to Vegas, I knew that everything on the screen was real and not an exaggeration.  You get a real Vegas experience without going to Sin City; everything except the horrible smoke fumes wafting from the Casino floors (which, of course, we kids can’t go on.  You can smell it all the same just going to your hotel room though).   

There’s not much more to say about “Ocean’s Thirteen”, other than to reiterate that it’s great fun from beginning to end.  I’d recommend going to a night showing (after 5) on opening weekend to experience this with a full audience.  A full audience really enhances the experience, especially when the audience laughs and cheers in the right place.  Don’t wait for the DVD, see it with an audience.

Yes, Zemeckis may have been right about sequels being products in some situations, but when a filmmaker is really committed to making a great film, a sequel is anything but a factory product.  “Ocean’s Thirteen” is an exercise in great entertainment, just like the film that spawned it.       

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