Sunday, February 20, 2005

Movie Review (Ocean's Twelve)...

Oceans Twelve

In 2001, director Steven Soderbergh (Sex, lies and videotape, Traffic, Solaris ) remade the 60’s rat pack movie Oceans eleven. He delivered pure entertainment in the form of a starry Hollywood heist movie, a smartly written and satisfying addition to his resume. A sequel was inevitable after the success of eleven, and rather impressively, Soderbergh has managed to persuade the entire cast to reprise their roles. When we last saw these characters, they had just pulled off an incredible robbery of three of Las Vegas’ largest casinos in one night. The casinos belonged to Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who also happened be seeing Danny Oceans (George Clooney) ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts).

As we get re-acquainted with these characters, we learn that the eleven are now enjoying their fortunes in various parts of the U.S. Benedict, however, has discovered their whereabouts and has set about regrouping his stolen fortune, with added interest of course. Forced to come up with the money they owe Benedict within two weeks, Oceans Eleven decide to relocate to Europe and get back to work as they are “too hot” to steal at home.

The first hour of Oceans Twelve is promising. We feel at home with these characters almost immediately and their onscreen chemistry is palpable. Some witty small talk works well, such as Clooney’s question, “What age do I look?”, but is ultimately pointless and serves no purpose in furthering the story. There are also a plethora of in-jokes which presume you have a good, in-depth knowledge of the first film. Certainly entertaining in small doses, for those who have seen and enjoyed Oceans Eleven more than once, but Soderbergh pushes it too far.

There is a moment in Oceans Twelve where everything starts to fall apart. All the promise shown and confidence in the story crumbles at this point. Trying not to give too much away, a certain character is used as a decoy in assistance to the team. The manner in which this character is used is a post modern, pretentious cop out, which is so ridiculous that it actually draws you out of the film, in sheer disbelief. We begin to realise that the writer obviously had no idea in which direction he was heading, and from this point on just made it up as he went. Oceans Thirteen? No thanks!

2 out of 5

Movie Review (Meet the Fockers)...

Meet the Fockers

Director Jay Roach (The Austin Powers movies) has returned along with the original cast of his 2000 hit comedy, Meet the Parents. A smart, consistently funny and well written script ensured its success, with both the director and actors mining the comic concept of meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. Back again are Ben Stiller as hapless male nurse Gaylord ‘Greg’ Focker, his girlfriend Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), Robert De Niro as ex-C.I.A. agent and Fockers’ future father in law, Jack Byrnes, and Blythe Danner as Jacks wife Dina.

Due to Greg’s fear of the inevitably calamitous results, Jack and Dina have not yet met his parents, sex therapist Roz (Barbara Streisand) and stay-at-home father Bernie (Dustin Hoffman). But Greg and Pam have gotten engaged and have invited the Byrnes’ to Focker Isle in Miami for the weekend. The stage is set for culture clash comedy gold, as the incredibly laid back and impossibly embarrassing Roz and Bernie set about getting to know the Byrnes’.

Meet the Fockers is a pointless sequel whose only real purpose seems to be to tarnish the reputation of its predecessor and its cast. The focused script and well timed gags of Meet the Parents have been replaced with a sloppy story, overlong unfunny set pieces and some lazy, phoned in performances by its stars. Robert De Niro was undoubtedly the star of the first film, lampooning the threatening hard-man role to which he is most closely associated; a fact obviously not lost on the creators of the sequel. This time out he resorts to pulling funny (?) faces to elicit laughs in the absence of any real jokes from the screenwriters. De Niro needs to fire his agent and start reading scripts before he signs on the dotted line. It’s a shame that the greatest living American actor insists on repeatedly damaging his reputation by choosing these dire roles.

Meet the Fockers is one to avoid. Hugely disappointing in almost every way, Ben Stiller seems to have forgotten how to be funny. With this, the abysmal ‘Dodgeball’ and the painfully average ‘Starsky and Hutch’, Stiller needs a hit. Hoffman and Streisand are criminally wasted here, and make one wonder what could have been had the script not been a shambolic mess of clichés.

2 out of 5

For Your Consideration...

Assault on Precinct 13

Starring Laurence Fishburne, Ethan Hawke and Gabriel Byrne, Assault on Precinct 13 is quite a surprisingly effective remake of John Carpenters 1970’s slow burning siege movie. Offering nothing particularly new to the genre, this is nonetheless a relentlessly entertaining popcorn movie.

3 out of 5

Closer

Mike Nichols’ movie adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play is a meditation on the nature of modern relationships. Starring Jude Law, a scene-stealing Clive Owen, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman, this is certainly not the fluffy romantic comedy it is being marketed as. Closer is gripping and thoroughly enjoyable.

4 out of 5

The Aviator

Martin Scorsese’s great Oscar hope this year, The Aviator is magnificently well crafted movie. With a revelatory central performance from Leonardo Di Caprio as Howard Hughes, billionaire industrialist and visionary filmmaker, and great supporting cast, this is Scorsese’s best since Goodfellas.

4 out of 5