Sunday, July 20, 2014

18. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Code-name: Vegas
[where else?]

Director: Stephen Soderbergh

[yeah,  as a long time fan of this movie, I can't believe it's the same dude who directed "Magic Mike" and "Behind the Candelbra," both of which I saw back to back the first and only time]

Type: dramedy, adventure, heist

Notable Award:

ALMA- Andy Garcia for Best Supporting Actor

[on a side note, I don't think Brad Pitt did this movie just because there could have been a Teen Choice award in it for him]


Danny Ocean- George Clooney
Rusty- Brad Pitt
Reuben- Elliot Gould
Frank Catton- Bernie Mac [RIP 2008]
Virgil Malloy- Casey Affleck
Turk Malloy-Scott Caan
Livingston- Eddie Jemison
Basher- Don Cheadle
The Amazing Yen- Shaobe Qin
Saul- Carl Reiner
Linus- Matt Damon
Terry Benedict- Andy Garcia
Tess- Julia Roberts

Cameos at Rusty's poker game:

Topher Grace [That 70's show]
Barry Watson [7th Heaven]
Joshua Jackson [Dawson's Creek]
Shane West [Once and Again]
Holly Marie Combs [Charmed]


Opening Remarks

I actually managed to list all Ocean's 11 from memory, either by actor or by character (most of them, both), with the exception of Livingston.

For the record, I have not seen the original movie by the Rat Pack. And I'm not sure if I want to. With the whole original vs. remake scenario, I tend to lean towards the version I see first and as a result, the second one does not live up to the same expectations.

I don't know how this movie appeared on my radar, why I wanted to see it as much as I did. Whatever the reason, I think of it as one of my first truly mature movies. I grew up on cartoons and many of my first movies were comedies. Everything else, I just didn't have the patience for.
Don't get me wrong, "Ocean's 11" does have its slow moments (as often is the case, in the third act), but it's not usually the type of movie I go for.

And all of these types of movies, large ensemble heists like "Tower Heist" and "The Italian Job"... even "Now you see me" fits into this genre, "Ocean's 11" is the best representation.

On the whole, what makes it, not just glimmer but, SHINE... of course, is the cast. Particularly the dynamic of Clooney and Pitt.

You could jokingly say that this is a movie full of big stars, and if they weren't stars yet, they would soon be.
Seriously, if you weren't a big star before this movie, you were on your way up to the A-list.

The biggest, brightest example of this: Matt Damon.

Shortly after this movie became a hit, he became a big action star (opposed to smaller projects like "Good Will Hunting") with the Bourne series


Ample Spoilers along the way...

The three act structure is pretty solid here, one of many things that rock about this movie

I: meet the players

2: forming the plan
3: the heist

Danny Ocean's out on parole after serving some time in jail.

We don't get a lot of details outside of his testimony in front of the parole board:

"My wife left me, I was upset, I broke into a self-destructive pattern"

It can't be much worse than House driving his car into Cuddy's house after she broke up with him.

So naturally after spending time in jail, the very first thing you do is get together with your best buddy, leave for Las Vegas and plan a massive heist... to get back at the new guy your ex-wife is seeing.

That's all well and good. Unless of course the guy happens to be as powerful as Terry Benedict; the man in charge of the trifecta of Vegas casinos: MGM Grand, Mirage and Bellagio.
The combined total of cold hard cash in their underground vault on a Fight Night, the night they plan to rob it: $160,000,000+

And with any good heist, you're going to need a team of men with a unique set of skills.

Luckily, this is taking place in a movie, so they've got a wide variety of personalities to go with those skills. If not for those personalities, this movie would have sucked :P

The Cast

By the time this movie was available at Blockbuster, I think I knew the name Matt Damon.

I never watched it, but I knew Bernie Mac had a TV series back then.

I also knew who Julia Roberts was even though this was couple years before I saw "Pretty Woman."

And of course, there was Clooney and Pitt.

Two of the biggest names and I had yet to see any of their acting. I mentioned in my "Spider Man" review that I didn't get the pin-up appeal of Brad Pitt. Most of this was due to the fact he always seemed to have long hair in his movies. Nowadays, I say "It depends on the guy," but I didn't get why the long hair made all the other girls adore him.

Clooney was another big name that I didn't really know, but he already had an outstanding reputation.

Who would have thought putting them together would turn into something so amazing?

As for everyone else... I don't think the little Chinese guy (that's an actual line from the movie, btw) went on to do anything else.

Casey Affleck never made it as big as his brother. It's funny I should mention "Tower Heist" because he was in that.

And I was going to spend this paragraph trying to explain how I get him and Dave Franco mixed up (Franco was in "Now You See Me"... yet another tie-in I didn't expect when I named-dropped that film... loved it)

The other of the Malloy "twins" (they look nothing alike but that's how Clooney and Pitt called them in the movies), Scott Caan, would later make it big on the reboot of "Hawaii 5-0."

[Amazing bit of trivia: the twins were originally gonna be the Wilsons but they were doing that "Tenenbaums" movie and had to drop out... I don't think the movie could have handled their star power in addition to the main guys, lol]

Other than Matt Damon, I think of Don Cheadle as the biggest break-out star this movie has. I found his character Basher charming in a quirky sort of way (had to be the accent!!) with a wicked sense of humor, in both good and bad situations.

His biggest gigs include the Showtime series "House of Lies" and, of course, some of the "Iron-Man" movies... for whatever reason, I still haven't warmed up to his version of Captain James Rhodes. (That discussion will continue in the next month or so, promise).

An older audience might recognize Carl Reiner from "All in the Family." I hadn't seen that series and probably should, but he brings his own wily sense of humor to this part.

When asked [again] about being up for his part in the 'grand scheme,' he has a comeback for Clooney so good, there was simply no comeback for it.

"If you ask me that question again, Daniel, you won't wake up the following morning"
[pause]Clooney (whispers to Pitt): "He's ready..."

Had it come from anyone else, this joke wouldn't have worked.

Another great addition is Andy Garcia as the villainous Terry Benedict. This is my first encounter with him and he blew me away. The way he carries himself on screen, maybe it's just that mob-style mentality he brings to his other roles, can't help but be impressed by that.

Then of course Julia Roberts shines as the only big female role in this movie. No matter who it is, she doesn't let anyone push her around. An admirable quality for sure.

The Writing

The best parts of this movie for me are a tie between the acting and the writing. Naturally, without a good script, this wouldn't have worked as well.

As Rusty, Brad Pitt is the one member of the team able to keep Danny in check, especially when it appears his priorities are a bit scrambled. Spending more time trying to woo Tess than working on the plan.

Their dynamic is amazing in that they know each other so well, they can finish each other's sentences. This is almost to the point of clairvoyance. They don't even have to say anything and the other knows exactly what their thinking.

My personal favorite: the one line that kept me coming back to the movie:

They'd just recruited Saul and Clooney is talking to Pitt:

"So Saul makes 10, 10 ought to do it, don't you think?... you think we need one more?... you think we need one more...... all right ,we'll get one more"

Absolutely priceless. Especially since Brad Pitt gives absolutely no indication he's dissatisfied with just 10 guys... it's just the aura he gives off as he's resting his chin on the counter.

Everyone works off each other so well. Even when plan A's have to give way to plan B's and C's, the improvisation often works out better than the original scenario.

Another thing that stood out to me about this movie when I was younger was that it had great balance between drama and comedy. There were enough light movements in between to break up the drama.

Other Lovable Details

It's one of those great movies my family and I like to watch together. As I do, my mom loves the Poker scene with Eric Forman from That 70's Show and other TV actors who have no idea what they're doing.

"Look, all reds!"

We also love poking fun at the fact that in almost every scene Brad Pitt is eating...
I got halfway through the movie and gave up counting how many scenes.

Apparently it was more than coincidence. Rumor is that everyone was so busy working on the movie that they barely had time to eat and Brad Pitt came up with the idea to give Rusty that unusual character trait.
And supposedly during one scene, they did so many takes that he wound up eating 40 shrimp.

My dad pointed out during our last viewing of this movie that the featured prison is Rahway Prison and on a recent customer call there, he drove by it.

One thing that also stood out to me was the second to last scene in front of the Bellagio fountain. "Clair du Lune" is playing in the background, all the guys are reflecting on the fact they got away with the money and they all go their separate ways one at a time.
When I was younger, I wasn't a fan of this scene. It was just so serious and kinda sucked the fun out of the movie for me. Or I just didn't fully grasp the genius or the beauty of it.

Combined with the fountain, the looks on everyone's faces, the swelling of the music, it's amazing to watch now that I understand it. I guess I just needed to mature a bit and it's great when you can appreciate more things from your favorite movies with age.

I only recently saw "Ocean's 12." It brought back a lot of the same players, which was nice, but unlike this movie, the great scheme didn't fully make sense. We saw the heist take place, but all wasn't fully explained until afterwards.

Coming Soon

Oh wow... got a really big one coming up next week...
I spent this past weekend looking back on some nostalgic things. Mostly music, both good and bad, and "High School Musical" (which remains as awesome as it was the first time I saw it).

Next week's movie is about as nostalgic as it gets.
Most likely my very first "favorite" movie.
I don't remember this, but supposedly I rented it so much from Blockbuster that one of my grandmas finally bought it for me.

And for anyone following my blog actively, they can probably piece together the fact that it's.... animated...

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