“OCEAN’S THIRTEEN” (2007) Review

“OCEAN’S THIRTEEN” (2007) Review

After the rather disappointing 2004’s “OCEAN’S TWELVE”, I really did not expect to even like this third entry into what became a trilogy. I more than liked “OCEAN’S THIRTEEN”. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only was it better than the second film, I found it just as enjoyable as the first – namely 2001’s “OCEAN’S ELEVEN”

Directed by Oscar winner, Steven Soderbergh, the movie starts out in a series of flashbacks in which Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), one of Danny Ocean’s associates from the first two films, makes the mistake of building a hotel with one of Las Vegas’ most hated businessmen, Willy Bank (Al Pacino). He gets cut out of the deal and ends up in the hospital after a heart attack. In an attempt to help his old friend Reuben, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) approaches Bank and asks him to restore Reuben’s share of the hotel. In their exchange, Ocean appeals to the code of honor that applies to those people who have shaken Sinatra’s hand – both Reuben and Bank have done so. Bank glibly denies Ocean’s request saying of Reuben: “He’s made the right choice: roll over and die. Let him be.” Ocean and his crew decide to bring down Banks by rigging his new hotel and casino – The Bank – to lose $500 million dollars on the night of its Grand Opening, six months later. When they run out of money, they enlist the help of former nemesis – casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who wants to settle a score against Bank for creating hotel/casinos that have been taking the spotlight from his casinos.

I could go into detail about the movie’s plot, but I rather not. It happens to be a complicated plot. Do not get me wrong. Brian Koppelman and David Levien’s (“ROUNDERS”) plot is not convoluted. Aside from one or two plot points, I perfectly understood what was going on. But I feel that it is too complicated for me to spell it out in details. Instead, I will simply point out the moments that I truly enjoyed:

*I found the gang’s initial plot to kill Willy Bank and dispose of his body in retaliation for Reuben’s condition rather funny and a great moment of ensemble acting from the cast:

*Another moment I enjoyed was when Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) caught Danny watching an episode of Oprah. Great comic moment for both Clooney and Pitt.

*I loved Linus Caldwell’s (Matt Damon) impersonation of a ”mouthpiece” for an Asian real-estate mogul (Yen in disguise); especially when he is called upon to seduce Bank’s assistant, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), using artificial pheromones, which act as an aphrodisiac to maximize her attraction to him. Apparently, Linus needed her to get him inside Willy Bank’s Diamond Room.

*There is a great sequence of scenes featuring a hotel reviewer who is treated as “the V.U.P.” (the always great character actor David Paymer) or “Very Unimportant Person”, when Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) is mistaken as the reviewer. The V.U.P.’s discovery of bed bugs in his room is part-hilarious, part-creepy.

*Don Cheadle as the group’s mechanical genius Basher Tarr gets to shine in a scene in which he impersonates a motorcycle stuntman in order to distract Bank, while Virgil and Turk Malloy (Casey Afflect and Scott Caan)

*Another great moment is when the plot to financially ruin Bank comes together with many of the hotel’s patrons winning large sums of money at most of the gaming tables in the casino. Actually, this entire sequence was done within a montage.

*But my favorite sequences feature featured Virgil Malloy’s (Casey Affleck) efforts to load the casino’s specially designed dice at a factory in Mexico. Virgil is sent there to infiltrate the factory. Instead, he loses sight of his mission when he sees the working conditions at the factory. Instead of fixing the dice, he decides to fix the problem and lead his co-workers in a revolt.

As usual, the cast is great. I especially enjoyed Al Pacino’s performance as the backstabbing casino owner, Willy Bank. He managed to be flamboyant, without going over-the-top. I also enjoyed seeing Ellen Barkin in a memorable role, after all of these years. But I must admit that I especially enjoyed Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, David Paymer, Don Cheadle and Elliot Gould in this film. And Steven Soderbergh did a great job in maintaining the movie’s pace, drawing out memorable performances and especially capturing the flash and glitter of early 21st century Las Vegas. In fact, I think that “OCEAN’S THIRTEEN” is just as good as the first movie, “OCEAN’S ELEVEN” . . . and thankfully, a great improvement over the confusing “OCEAN’S TWELVE”.

Favorite Movies Set in OLD HOLLYWOOD

Below is a list of my favorite movies and television movies set in Hollywood’s past, before 1960:

FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN OLD HOLLYWOOD

1. “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) – Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds starred in this musical classic about Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies. Kelly co-directed with Stanley Donen.

2. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988) – Robert Zemeckis directed this adaptation of Gary Wolfe’s 1981 novel, “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”, in which a 1940s private detective who must exonerate a cartoon star “Toon” for the murder of a wealthy businessman. Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleischer and Christopher Lloyd starred.

3. “Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War” (1980) – Tony Curtis starred as producer David O. Selznick in the second episode of the miniseries, “Moviola”. The television movie featured Selznick’s search for the right actress to portray the leading character in his movie adaptation of “Gone With the Wind”.

4. “The Aviator” (2004) – Martin Scorsese produced and directed this biopic about mogul Howard Hughes’ experiences as a filmmaker and aviator between 1927 and 1947. Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio starred.

5. “Hitchcock” (2012) – Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren starred in this comedy-drama about the tumultuous marriage between director-producer Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Alma Reville during the former’s making of his 1960 hit, “Psycho”. Sacha Gervasi directed.

6. “Trumbo” (2015) – Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston starred in this biopic about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and his troubles after being jailed and blacklisted for being a member of the Communist Party. Directed by Jay Roach, Diane Lane and Helen Mirren co-starred.

7. “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952) – Vincente Minelli directed this melodrama about the impact of a Hollywood producer on the lives of three people he had worked with and betrayed. Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Barry Sullivan and Dick Powell starred.

8. “Hollywoodland” (2006) – Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Ben Affleck starred in this intriguing tale about a private detective’s investigation into the life and death of actor George Reeves. Allen Coulter directed.

9. “Hail, Caesar!” (2016) – Ethan and Joel Coen produced and directed this fictional account in the life of studio executive/fixer, Eddie Mannix. The movie starred Josh Brolin.

10. “The Artist” (2011) – Michel Hazanavicius wrote and directed this Academy Award winning movie about a silent screen star and the disruption of his life and career by the emergence of talking pictures. Oscar winner Jean Dujardin and Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo starred.

Favorite Movie and Television Productions About Journalism

Below is a list (in chronological order) of my favorite movie and television productions about journalism or features journalism:

 

FAVORITE MOVIE AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS ABOUT JOURNALISM

1 - His Girl Friday

1. “His Girl Friday” (1940) – Howard Hawks directed this second adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1931 stage play, “The Front Page”. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell starred.

 

2 - Roman Holiday

2. “Roman Holiday” (1953) – William Wyler directed this delightful comedy about a bored European princess visiting Rome on a state visit, who becomes involved with an American reporter after giving her courtiers the slip. Gregory Peck, Oscar winner Audrey Hepburn and Eddie Albert starred.

 

3 - All the Presidents Men

3. “All the President’s Men” (1976) – Alan J. Pakula directed this Oscar nominated adaptation of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s 1974 book about their investigation of the Watergate scandal. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman directed.

 

4 - Broadcast News

4. “Broadcast News” (1987) – James L. Brooks directed this Oscar-nominated tale about a love triangle between a neurotic television news producer; a prickly reporter, who happens to be her best friend and a charismatic, yet less intelligent news anchorman. Oscar nominees Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and William Hurt starred.

 

5 - The Pelican Brief

5. “The Pelican Brief” (1993) – Alan J. Pakula directed this adaptation of John Grisham’s 1992 novel about a Tulane University law student and a Washington D.C. reporter investigating the assassinations of two Supreme Court justices. Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts starred.

 

6 - Lois and Clark - The New Adventures of Superman

6. “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1993-1997) – Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher starred in this television series about Superman, which heavily emphasized on Clark Kent aka Superman and Lois Lane’s relationship and roles as journalists for The Daily Planet. The series was created by Deborah Joy LeVine.

 

7 - State of Play 2003

7. “State of Play” (2003) – John Simm and David Morissey stared in this six-part miniseries about a newspaper’s investigation into the death of a political researcher, who worked for a Member of Parliament (MP) investigating the connection between the oil industry and corrupt high-ranking ministers. Created by Paul Abbott, the miniseries was directed by David Yates.

 

8 - Good Night and Good Luck

8. “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005) – Oscar nominee David Strathairn, George Clooney and Jeff Daniels starred into this historical drama about the conflict between Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin about the Cold War blacklists of the 1950s. The Oscar nominated movie was directed by Clooney and co-written with Grant Heslov.

 

9 - State of Play 2009

9. “State of Play” (2009) – Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck starred in this movie adaptation of Paul Abbott’s 2003 television miniseries in which a Washington D.C. newspaper investigates the death of a political researcher who worked for a congressman investigating the connection between a private defense contractor and corrupt high-ranking politicians. Kevin Macdonald directed.

 

10 - Spotlight

10. “Spotlight” (2015) – Tom McCarthy co-wrote and directed this account of The Boston Globe‘s investigation into widespread and systemic cases of child sex abuse by numerous Roman Catholic priests in Boston. Michael Keaton, along with Oscar nominees Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams starred.

“THE IDES OF MARCH” (2011) Review

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“THE IDES OF MARCH” (2011) Review

During my recent re-watch of George Clooney’s 2011 political thriller, “THE IDES OF MARCH”, it occurred to me that a good number of years have passed since I last watched a movie about politicians . . . inside a movie theater. It also led me to wonder if Hollywood has become increasingly reluctant to make movies about politicians. It would be a shame if that were truth. Because I believe the studios need to release more movies about them. 

I am certainly grateful to Clooney for directing, co-producing and co-writing “THE IDES OF MARCH”, an adaptation of co-writer Beau Willimon’s 2008 play called “FARRAGUT NORTH”. The movie is about Stephen Meyers, an idealistic junior campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate, Governor Mike Morris of Pennsylvania, and his crash course on the brutal realities of politics on the campaign trail in Southern Ohio. His life and role in Governor Morris’ presidential campaign is threatened when Tom Duffy, the senior campaign manager of Governor Morris’ Democratic rival, Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman, offers him a job. Unfortunately for Meyers, his boss, Governor Morris’ senior campaign manager, Paul Zara learns about the job offer. Complicating Meyers’ situation is his romance with one of the campaign interns and daughter of the Democratic National Committee chairman, Molly Stearns, leads him to discover about her one night liaison with Governor Morris and her eventual pregnancy.

On paper, “THE IDES OF MARCH” looks and reads like a lurid melodrama with political overtones. But I believe the movie revealed to be a lot more. This is just a theory, but I believe that “THE IDES OF MARCH” served as a warning for those who tend to look toward politicians as saviors or leaders who can solve the problems of society. At the beginning of “THE IDES OF MARCH”, Stephen Meyers is a sharp and canny political campaigner. He has seen enough of the world to be somewhat jaded. But he is still young enough at age thirty to believe that one man can change his world for the better. And in his mind, that man is Michael Morris. But his own ambitions for a career as a political adviser and the revelation of Morris’ brief affair with Molly Stearns forces Meyers to grow up . . . in a most painful way. Considering the methods that he used in an effort to save his career, one might view Stearns’ loss of idealism with a negative eye. Or one might now. Personally, I believe that loss turned out to be a mixture of good and bad for Stearns.

“THE IDES OF MARCH” received a good deal of positive reviews from many of the media’s critics. Did the movie deserve the positive word-of-mouth? I believe so. I really enjoyed the story. And I believe that Clooney, Willimon and the third co-writer, Grant Heslov, did an excellent job of conveying Stephen Meyers’ final loss of innocence with plenty of melodrama (oh, that word!), tight pacing, political wheeling-dealing and plot twists. What is interesting about this movie is that all of the characters involved in the story are Democrats. There is no Republican or hard line conservative in sight. And I have to hand it to Clooney, Willimon and Heslov for being willing to show that in their own way, Democratic politicians and political wheeler-dealers could be just as dirty and manipulative as their Republican counterparts. Personally, I believe that this is a good lesson to learn that when it comes to the world of politics – and the media, for that matter – you cannot trust anyone, regardless of political suasion.

Clooney managed to gather a fine collection of actors and actresses for his movie. I do have one minor quibble about this . . . and it involves actress Jennifer Ehle, who portrayed Governor Morris’ wife, Cindy Morris. I had no problem with her performance. But aside from a brief scene with Clooney in which the two discussed his future in the White House, she seemed wasted in this film. I almost found myself thinking the same about Jeffrey Wright, who portrayed a North Carolina senator, whose support both Democratic candidates sought. He only had brief scenes in the movie. But he made the most of it by portraying Senator Thompson as an egotistical power seeker with great relish. Max Minghella gave a decent performance as Meyers’ assistant who harbored ambitions to achieve the latter’s position. Marisa Tomei gave a witty performance as a snarky New York Times reporter, whose attitude toward Meyers changes drastically by the end of the movie. The year 2011 had been a busy year for Evan Rachel Wood. The young intern Molly Stearns proved to be her third major role that year. Wood did an excellent job portraying Molly as a sexy and outgoing woman, who also proved to be vulnerable and scared by the consequences of her brief affair with Governor Morris. Her description of Morris’ seduction of Molly at an Iowa hotel left my skin crawling.

Both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti gave powerhouse performances as the two rival senior campaign managers, Paul Zara and Tom Duffy. Watching these two manipulate and trip up Meyers was like watching two war horses showing the world how to give colorful performances. George Clooney’s portrayal of Governor Mike Morris was a lot more restrained than those given by Hoffman and Giamatti. But I found him equally memorable as Democratic candidate, Michael Morris. Superficially, Clooney invested a great deal of subtle charm and idealism into the character. But I liked the way he slowly revealed the ambition and corruption behind the Mr. Smith persona. If anything, Clooney’s Governor Morris reminded me of the numerous so-called ideally liberal politicians, who are revealed to be not only corrupt, but disappointing.

Despite the powerhouse appearances of veterans like Clooney, Giamatti, Hoffman, Wright and Tomei, the real star of “THE IDES OF MARCH”turned out to be Ryan Gosling. The ironic thing is that his portrayal of political campaign manager Stephen Meyers made Clooney’s restrained performance look absolutely subtle. Yet, along with Clooney’s direction, Gosling more or less managed to carry the movie. I am not saying this because Gosling is the star of the movie. In his quiet way, he managed to carry a film featured with more colorful performances from an older cast. More importantly, Gosling did an excellent job in quietly conveying Stephen Meyers’s development from a savy, yet idealistic junior campaign manager to a harder and wiser politico who is willing to embrace corruption in order to save his career. I thought he gave a very impressive performance.

In the end, “THE IDES OF MARCH” was able to earn an accolades during the movie awards season, including an Academy Awards nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.  Well, I believe the film deserved its accolades.  Thanks to George Clooney’s direction, the script and a talented cast led by Ryan Gosling, I was very impressed by it.