Sunday, February 17, 2002

Face it, you knew that I wasn't going to make my Friday afternoon deadline. It was ambitious, it was foolhardy, it was never, ever going to happen. And true to form, I'm here again doing the Sunday afternoon update. If you think of me at all, think of me as being consistant in my ability to drop the ball and let life overwhelm even my most humble plans. But, as this is my darned page, and nobody is reading the thing, I can't really get too worried about my tardiness.

So, "Ocean's Eleven" is Steven Soderbergh's latest, and a departure in that it's a glossy, undemanding romp that boasts an unbelievable cast of "Heat" magazine faves - George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts are just the toplining stars, with a supporting cast that includes Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon and Scott Caan - and the burden of being a remake of the enduring Rat Pack vehicle from the height of their 60s infamy.

In this case, the fact that this is an update of an existing classic flick isn't really a factor, as nobody seems to have a good word to say about Sinatra and Co's initial efforts - I caught the trailer on the latest "Total DVD" magazine cover disc and have no plans whatsoever to see the original, as it looks wretchedly dated and not the kind of thing which will float your boat unless you really, truly love the chairman of the board and Dino's movie careers.

Essentially, we're on an even playing field and can consider this movie on its own merits and I'll drop any pretence of critical objectivity at this point, because I really loved what Soderbergh did with this film. It's the first film I've seen since "The Fellowship Of The Ring" which left me with a smile on my face and a song in my heart - Two hours of pure cinematic joy, with little pretence of being about anything which approaches reality (Which is a little odd, given that the director's last picture, the Oscar-grabbing drug-trade pseudo-Dogme epic,"Traffic", was about as serious an enterprise as you could reasonably imagine, short of Soderbergh announcing that he's going to direct the next Reese Witherspoon confection).

This is a movie about slick heists, clever crooks and sneeringly nasty villains - Andy Garcia is really quite splendidly evil as Terry Bradshaw, the Casino-owning Big Man In Vegas and object of Danny Ocean (Clooney)'s ire - where you can be sure that the plot will turn, twist and induce you to hover on the edge of your seat throughout - And the goodwill that this film effortlessly draws from its audience allows you to happily swallow set-pieces which seem to have wandered in from a spec script for "Mission:Impossible 3", which is quite some achievement.

Of course, "Ocean's Eleven" is aimed at a different audience than the usual Soderbergh converts and lives and dies on the charisma and star quality of that quite remarkable cast. Clooney is reliably slick and matinee idol handsome as the eponymous hero, playing Danny Ocean as a twinkle-eyed, slightly beaten-down career crook who wants the proceeds of his one last score just a bit less than the chance to win back his ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts, as luminous and eye-catchingly sweet as you might hope for, in a role that is much less prominent than you might expect). Brad Pitt is truly excellent, which is not something that I had expected, and seems to be only getting better as he gets older - The days of vapid souffles like "Meet Joe Black" are hopefully well behind him.

This won't be a film which lasts for long in your mind - Though Don Cheadle's quite monumentally appalling "Cockney" accent will haunt you forever - but it is a hell of a lot of fun whilst it lasts. And if you need one reason to see it, you need David Holmes' effortlessly funky music score in your life, playing loud, in a suitably well-equipped theatre. It's the Dog's Unmentionables, kids...

DVD release of next week? Tim Burton's very ill-advised 'Re-imagining' of "Planet Of The Apes" comes to shiny disc and boasts so many extra features that you'll be almost convinced that you're watching a flick which is worthy of such love, care and attention. Is it still as utterly bloody stupid as it was in the cinema? As the skull-poundingly loud Danny Elfman score kicks in in sensory-assaulting DTS 5.1 digital surround sound, you may not even care....

Peace, bonhomie and director's cuts for all


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