Judge David Johnson pulled off an incredible heist last week. He stole his cat's water dish without getting scratched.
Our reviews of Ocean's Eleven (published May 7th, 2002), Ocean's Thirteen (published November 13th, 2007), Ocean's Thirteen (Blu-Ray) (published November 23rd, 2007), Ocean's Thirteen (HD DVD And DVD Combo) (published December 13th, 2007), Ocean's Trilogy (Blu-Ray) (published February 2nd, 2008), and Ocean's Twelve (published April 25th, 2005) are also available.
Are you in or out?
Director Steven Soderbergh's trifecta of celebrity-drenched heist films cons its way onto HD DVD.
Facts of the Case
With series mainstays George Clooney (Batman and Robin), Brad Pitt (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Matt Damon (The Bourne Ultimatum) headlining the roles, each film finds Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his slick task force of con artists, thieves, criminals and other assorted hooligans taking on bigger and bigger jobs, with the stakes increasing per film.
• Ocean's Eleven
Recently freed from prison, lifetime schemer Danny decides to carry out the biggest score of his life when he eyes a lucrative casino and its shifty owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). But to pull off one of the greatest heists in the history of Las Vegas, he's going to need help, so he starts recruiting. Long-time associate Rusty (Pitt) immediately comes on board, soon joined by an explosives expert from across the pond (Don Cheadle) a fast-talking blackjack dealer (Bernie Mac) and Linus, the pickpocket (Damon). Once he rounds out his supporting cast he's ready to roll, but the presence of his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) muddies the waters.
The original (so to speak) is still my favorite of the series. The star power is impressive, but their cumulative wattage doesn't outshine the story. With any heist movie, the actual job is the key ingredient for success and Soderbergh has a great one to work with. And in his skilled hands, the complicated scheme is executed extraordinarily well, keeping the audience in the dark until the very end of the film.
These films are perfectly suited for high definition and Ocean's Eleven kicks off the technical treats with a bang. The vibrancy of Las Vegas springs to life in the 2.40:1 widescreen, 1080p video transfer. Lots and lots of colors to work with, and the levels are on the money. Clarity is noteworthy, especially when you consider the amount of eye candy on screen at a given time (slot machines, craps tables, roulette wheels, explosions, monster truck drag racing). The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track is active and clean and brings the quirky and recognizable score to life.
Sadly, no high-def specific extras accompany, but the standard-issue bonuses (two commentary tracks with Damon, Garcia and Pitt and Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin, the "HBO First Look" making-of documentary and a costuming featurette) are good.
• Ocean's Twelve
Angered at losing his millions from the last movie, Terry Benedict has issued Ocean and his crew an ultimatum: return the $160 million they swiped or suffer a lethal recourse. So Danny reunites the crew and leaves the confines of Vegas to go globetrotting and execute an even bigger scam, to recoup the money, make a little more and preserve the fragile relationship he has with Tess, his ex-wife. Unfortunately for them, a master thief is on their tail and he will prove to be more than a match for even their assembled talents.
This one nearly turned me off of the entire series. The trademark humor is there and the con is lots of fun, but the sheer amount of "Look at me I'm so awesome"-ness is borderline nauseating. Essentially, Ocean's Twelve felt more like a celebrity jet-set than a serious movie. Soderbergh still has the skills the pay the bills behind the camera, but in front of it, the film descends into levels of self-adulation formerly not known to humanity. One sequence in particular—and if you've seen the film you know which one I'm talking about and if you haven't. I don't want to spoil this experience—is pretty much the most profound example of on-screen celebrity mutual masturbation and I wanted to puke into my bowl of Pops.
The technical treatment for Ocean's Twelve is every bit as impressive. In fact, with the new, exotic locations, the video experience is even better. Details are crisp and the color levels are precise. Video is transferred in 2.40:1, 1080p widescreen. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus audio continues to rock.
Extras are heavy on the deleted scenes (over 30 minutes total), supplemented by another "First Look" documentary and a commentary by Soderbergh and screenwriter George Nofti.
• Ocean's Thirteen
The job this go-round is for revenge. When their long-time pal (Elliot Gould) is screwed over by jackass Vegas developer Willie Bank (Al Pacino), Danny and his pals plot out their biggest con yet: bankrupting Bank's new, mega-casino. Rigging the casino games is only the beginning. Terry Benedict wants in and is forcing Danny to steal $250,000 worth of diamonds. And to disrupt the casino's high-tech security system, the Ocean boys will have to generate an Act of God. Then there's the small problem of a labor dispute in Mexico. All of this crap taken together adds up to the most ambitious score yet for our anti-heroes.
This is more like it. Ocean's Thirteen returns the series to its roots, and to Las Vegas. Shedding the bizarreness of the previous film, the third entry in the series focuses once more on Ocean and the kids targeting a Las Vegas casino with ridiculous security. The obstacles are bigger this time around but the motivation is purer: vengeance. Willie Bank is a dick and is asking for some bodacious retribution and what Danny and Rusty have cooked up is an intricate series of cons that all come together in a big, rewarding way at the end. Best of all, this is the funniest of the three movies; the Mormon boys leading a workers' revolt in Mexico is gold.
The look of Ocean's Thirteen is much different from the previous two films. Soderbergh varies his color tone dramatically, with much of the casino-based action soaked in an orange tint. Occasionally, scenes shift and are given a blue tone. The colors vary from setting to setting and while I dig the stylistic choice, the picture quality is noticeably softer than Eleven and Twelve. Audio (Plus 5.1) continues to be potent, filling the room with the jazzy score (which works the LFE mix by the way).
A stronger selection of extras on this disc: deleted scenes, a lame Vegas promo feature, a set visit with the producers and, exclusive to high-def, commentary but Soderbergh and screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien and a cool 45-minute documentary on true-life Vegas heists.
Apart from the major narrative misstep in the second film, this is a trilogy that is fun. Fun, fun, fun. And on HD DVD, Ocean has never looked or sounded finer.
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