Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean's 11 is great, probably the best remake/re-imagining around (kudos to some others, perhaps in another post). Ocean's 12 is a god damned masterpiece, and I will argue that to anyone. And I have; I do not understand the less-than-favorable response it gets from most people. To paraphrase Dennis Miller, should you find it over your head you may need to stand a little taller.

Which brings us to Ocean's 13.

Soderbergh, damn, that guy makes a movie. Sure the Ocean's films have the cast that dreams are made of, and yes the story is clever and witty if not fanciful. But it really comes down to this director and his crazy-ass balls-out cinematography that is giving you a reason to get your ass off the couch and go to the movies.

The story behind 13 brings the crew back to Vegas, because I guess people like that sort of thing. I happen to as well, though they were already there... but that kind of gets lost behind the heist aspect, and clearly this story requires Vegas and Casinos and all the grifting that automatically goes with it. The core of the heist is so ridiculous that as a viewer you are asked more than ever to suspend disbelief and just watch it all play out. In fact in addition to some focal heist points that are barely possible, let alone plausible, we must accept that every inhabitant of Las Vegas is on the take. We all want to think that, and we all have our price, tho speaking from experience as a frequenter of Vegas -- and a former resident-- if that were true the town simply could not do business on the scale that it does. It's a picky argument, but the film does ask alot of you in that vein.

But I guess that's not what's really important, because it all plays out. We get our big set-ups, our snags, our "uh-oh's," and a whole lotta cool as Ocean and crew take what's theirs and then some. Pitt and Clooney riff back and forth like they just show up on set, scan the script and say "Let's go!" much like the laissez faire attitude of the Rat Pack's original film. Damon as Linus Caldwell continues to be my favorite character and even comes into his own this time around. The rest of the cast do what they do best, even Pacino reigns it in a bit (tho is still unmistakably Pacino).

But the real star here is Soderbergh and his 70's acid trip flashback camerawork. Not as daring and inventive as Ocean's 12, mind you, but top notch across the board. Aside from perfectly framed conversations between two people there are seamlessly cut scenes of the whole crew both together and apart, which is no easy task. Then there are massive zooms and panning shots that are sadly rare next to the epileptic editing foisted on us these days. The film explodes with color and high contrast, one imagines the scenes delivered to post for color grading bundled with a brand new box of crayons and a note that reads "go nuts." Seriously, the color usage here is out of this fucking world. What fascination was to 11 and music was to 12, color is to 13.

Ocean's 13 gives the masses the story they probably adhere to better, tho there's just enough nuttiness to make it special. When the final heist all goes down like clockwork you can feel the audience collectively smile like watching a massive display of falling dominoes. Adding the visual zealotry one is unlikely to see in any film the rest of the year, O13 sure put a grin on my face.

A good write up of O13 that takes off the rose-colored glasses with a more critical approach than mine can be found over at Pajiba (home of "good write ups").


Speed Racer

On one hand you have the Wachowski's and Joel Silver... The Matrix was what it was tho I felt V for Vendetta was disappointing (to put it nicely). Speed Racer, presumably a solo effort as opposed to a "trilogy franchise," would hold more of a production similarity to V in that respect, so I am wary.

On the other hand, you have that cast:
The film stars Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog) as Speed, Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan) as Trixie, Matthew Fox (TV's Lost) as Racer X, and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) and John Goodman (Evan Almighty) as Mom and Pops Racer. Rounding out the main cast are Australian actor Kick Gurry (Spartan) as Sparky; Paulie Litt (TV's Hope & Faith) as Sprittle; Roger Allam (The Queen, V For Vendetta) as Royalton; and Asian music star Ji Hoon Jung (popularly known as Rain), making his major feature film debut as a rival driver.

Hirsch channels a young Tom Cruise ala Risky Business in The Girl Next Door (a surprisingly good movie) and I'm sure he'll pull off a good Speed should he be allowed to (or be written as). And Fox as Racer X, well, that's pretty sweet. Rain, however you want to see it, was an incredibly smart casting move by the producers.

Then of course the car-- while the press release would have you believe that is a real car, I assure you it is for now a nice rendering of how the car may eventually be fabricated. Though I can hope and dream that the movie's cars and races will be as cool as we all want them to be.

Speed Racer as a big movie is an odd choice, it was never a major force in America, and recollections to the old cartoon are skewed towards a rather old audience. The fears of this new adaptation center around what will surely be an incessant need to "appeal to a younger and new generation" thereby discarding everything that its real audience knew to love. The adaptation of V was weak when compared to the original story, yet it too had to be modeled into something "current and appealing to today's audience." Ugh. I would love for Speed Racer to be a good movie. I know it can be, every element for a good movie is there in the original content. If only they can remember that.

I've a strong attachment to Speed Racer, both the TV series and the original comics, as well as the newer comics which I played a role in bringing to market. Published by WildStorm in late 99/2000, the Speed Racer 3-issue series was written and drawn spectacularly by Tommy Yune, in my opinion you are unlikely to ever find a better adaptation. Yune's story is proof that the series and characters can be updated and expanded upon without subverting history, and is the strongest argument for the potential quality of a new movie. The Speed Racer mini was followed by a Racer X series also written by Yune, but with art by the amazing Jo Chen. WildStorm also published a collection of the original manga which they sadly did not follow with additional volumes. Despite pleas of support, the view of manga and the trade market at the time was woefully short sighted.(originally posted by EDCO)