Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ocean's Eleven

[Both versions]
Lewis Milestone, 1960 (6.4*)
In the original, we had the somewhat appealing, though often obnoxious original Rat Pack starring, of course led by Frank Sinatra as the mastermind (what else) behind robbing three casinos in Las Vegas at once. Danny Ocean, fresh out of prison, and eleven of his cronies. I think part of the appeal of that idea is that the whole group already robbed Vegas with huge salaries for being mildly entertaining on stage together, and adding Hollywood legitimacy to a criminal enterprise, based on bilking tourists at every turn.

The script had some light humor attached to an intricate robbery heist, which had a couple of plot twists along the way. Nothing terrific, just some entertaining fluff allowing Sinatra to play the gangster, and also the brains of the outfit. You had to be able to stomach Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr, and Joey Bishop in order to enjoy this heavily plotted film, but it's ok late night tv fare.

Stephen Soderbergh, 2001 (5.8*)
The curiousity here is why the remake? Other than, of course, that Hollywood never met a remake it didn't like (Vanishing Point, Bad News Bears did not need remakes, maybe Seabiscuit did). First of all, no modern rat pack. The cast assembled is George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Eliot Gould, Carl Reiner, Julia Roberts, and some unknowns, while Andy Garcia is being robbed. An affable but hardly daunting criminal group, and a waste of some Oscar-winners with little to do here - and certainly not an organized 'gang' like the rat pack.

Second, the original was hardly a classic, had no pace and plodded along until the major setup all happens at once. For the remake, the usually reliable Stephen Soderbergh updated the time, the casino names, made it the Bellagio, and two others who share that vault that they are robbing. They changed the plot, so if you're a fan of the original, it's not the same story, but you'd guess that ahead of time, else no surprises in the movie at all. There was also never a sequel to the first, thankfully, now they've already made a sequel to the mediocre remake, Ocean's Twelve - more of the same tedium, too boring to remember. This could get old very slowly, like the pace of the remake - if anything they found a way to slow down the original.

These films show what happens when they aim for the 'mass appeal audience'. The original is worth one viewing at least. As Sinatra would later say when playing solo, "I miss the boys."


Elizabeth Perrigin June 23, 2009 at 3:01 PM  

I really did enjoy these movies. People kept talking about them and when I finally did get around to sitting down to watch them they were very enjoyable.

You blog is great, As a movie lover myself, I love reading your movie reviews. Keep up the great work!

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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