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June 11, 2007 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-06-11

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Monday, June 11, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Smooth Criminals
"Ocean's" franchise finally finds its smug self

ManagingArts Editor
There's nothing quite as satisfy-
ing as a refined sequel to a lacklus-
ter sequel to a mediocre remake of
an edgy heist.
After disap-
pointments of
"Spider-man Oceans 1
3," "Shrek 3," At Quality 16
and "Pirates of and Showcase
the Caribbean:
At World's Warner Bros.
End," we can
finally escape the imminent sum-
mer heat with Steven Soderbergh's
("The Good German") "Ocean's 13,"
which not only entertains as a sum-
mer blockbuster, but also exceeds
its franchise predecessors.
Despite its weak writing and
uninspired plot, "Ocean's 11" appro-
priately played the part of a suave
thief in stealing audiences atten-
tion, flaunting high-end suits on
A-list Hollywood studs. And, in
archetypal sequel fashion, "Ocean's
12" took an incredulous step beyond
"11" by using a higher budget and
filming in Europe.
With "13," we find Soderbergh
doesn't slip where so many direc-
tors do: Assuming a higher bud-
get will yield a more entertaining
movie. "13" forgoes the inaccessibly
foolish logistics of "12" - and even
uses an estimated 10 million dollars
less - so as to play upon the origi-
nal style and pizzazz of "11." Only
"13" is distilled of "11's" grandiosity
until its left with a basic Vegas-hip-
Surfin' a good wave
* ***
"Surf's Up"
At Quality 16 and Showcase
"Surf's Up" is yet another film
about penguins - surfing penguins,
no less. It could have been a forget-
table miscalculation from industry
execs heaping on unnecessary sec-
ond and third helpings of a dish we
found moderately intriguing the
first time. Indeed, with the disap-

ster essence.
We catch-up with Danny Ocean
(George Clooney, "Syriana") and
his clan of Armani clad thieves
as they reunite to defend one of
their own. Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot
Gould, "Ocean's 12") suffers a heart
attack after getting screwed over in
a hotel deal by Las Vegas real estate
fiend Willie Bank (Al Pacino, "The
Merchant of Venice"). Ocean's gang
vows to get revenge, at all costs.
And here is where "13" is essen-
tially better than the previous films
with the protagonists as characters.
They show emotional substance
beyond faux disappointment over a
failed banditry plan. Ocean's band
of brothers literally devotes all its
pennies to vengeance. Unlike the
other movies in the franchise, the
thieves aren't in it for the money.
They're doing it for their comrade.
And whatrthey're doing is rigging
Bank's casino so that on opening
night they will literally break The
Bank, Willie Bank's aptly named
casino. On their path to redemption
and upscale vigilante justice, they
recruit the help and funds of for-
mer nemesis, Terry Benedict (Andy
Garcia, "Smokin' Aces").
Not only is there more substance
to the characters in "13," but the
film also carries social commen-
tary, albeit half-baked. Ocean and
Rusty share in nostalgic waxing
over a time when the Vegas strip
wasn't as showy. A time, they refer
to as "smaller."
The conversation holds all the
in the "Shrek" and "Pirates of the
Caribbean" series, what right had
we to expect anything better from a
film about surfing penguins?
To put it mildly then, "Surf's Up"
is a pleasant surprise. A generic
tale of a misfit (penguin) looking to
find his way in the world, the film
outshines the usual genre suspects
with the innovative way in which
it tells its story. Here is a mocku-
mentary in the vein of TV's "The
Office," and that parallel is enough
in itself to attest to the movie's
ambition and innovation.
Strong voice performances
from Jeff Bridges ("Seabiscuit"),

more meaning coming from down-
played stars. Unlike "11" and "12,"
"13" doesn't show-off its stacked
cast. Each star is just a link in the
chain. Clooney, Pitt, Damon and
Pacino are all as crucial to the movie
as the soundtrack's astrolounge Men in su its. With sunglasses.
beats and the city of Las Vegas. Yet,
no one actor or element is spotlight-
ed. Everything is casually calcu-
lated and the product is a balanced
and satisfying movie. But Ocean
and Rusty's conversation extends
beyond the movie's self-conscious-
ness. It's a commentary on the
ostentation of so much of society,
namely summer blockbusters.
Don't read too much into it
though. That's not Soderbergh's fu
point with "13." While Soderbergh Xph s l, tfa, Froh" fa h
has polished his style as the darec- V
tor of the "Ocean's" franchise, Ihe
has come to the conclusion in "13"
that the movie should just be fun
and accessible. And it is. The movie
is eye candy, and everyone involved
knows it, from the director to the
actors to the guy eating his popcorn
in the back row.
"13" may take two and a half
hours to culminate and unwind all
the expected twists, but it doesn't
feel nearly that long. With playful To play:Complet
sequences aboutcharacters embrac- and every 3x
ing Latin American revolutionista
culture and the absence of distrac- There is na
tions like Julia Roberts playing a
character playing Julia Roberts, just use lOgi(
"Ocean's 13" is basic, stylish, soulful
and, above all, cool. And thankfully, Difficulty:
there are no French super thieves
dancing through laser fields.





2 5

Zooey Deschanel ("Bridge to Ter-
ebithia"), Jon Heder ("Napoleon
Dynamite") and especially Shia
LeBeouf ("Disturbia"), who voices
the main character Cody, give the
film a viable emotional ground-
ing. Astonishing special effects
(far better than anything seen in
"Shrek the Third") make the intri-
cately defined scenes come alive
and bring out awe usually reserved
for far more hyped films.
The lessons are the same as
always, even the characters look
familiar, yet never has an animated
film been made quite like this.

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