For those of us who have fallen in love with Danny Ocean and his crew through the first installment, 2001′s Ocean’s Eleven and with the harder-to-love second in the series, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), this film is a must! Where Ocean’s Eleven was glitzy and stylish and Ocean’s Twelve was more convoluted and mysterious, this one is a mesh of the two. Admittedly, even the cast and crew says that Twelve did not live up to the high entertainment standards set by Eleven. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but I can say that Eleven and Twelve do seem like completely separate movies…both with different agendas. Thirteen was their way of rectifying the public dismay with Twelve so when it came to glitz and glamour and entertainment, they held absolutely nothing back. The plot (does plot really matter in these films?) revolves around Vegas developer Willie Bank (played with lots of zip by Al Pacino) who fleeces Reuben (Elliot Gould as one of the “eleven”) out of his share in Bank’s new casino. Enter the rest of the “eleven” to right Reuben’s wrong and get even with Bank. The plot, though, is overshadowed by good looking people, good looking sets, and snappy, witty dialogue that Eleven did with perfection. Apparently, this will be the last in the series, but who knows since, at the end of this one, there seemed to be the perfect entree for a number 14.

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Where the first one was slick, this one is stylized. Where the first one was clever, this one is intellectual. Where the first one is glitz, this one is glamour. Basically, Ocean’s Twelve is for adults…not only for action movie-crazed adults but for adults who need more plot, structure, and development. The look of this film is almost a night and day difference from the first, mostly because there is no “Vegas” in the second film. (I use Vegas here as a noun because in the first film, Las Vegas became an entity onto itself by contributing highly to the slickness and glitziness of the first film.) Amsterdam, Rome, Naples…where the second film is set…lend to more of an old world sophistication that Vegas can’t touch. Vegas is a playground and looks the part. Europe is cultural and classic and looks that part. Director Steven Soderbergh does many of his same tricks with the camera here to try and pump up the pace and plot. But, again, taking Vegas out of the equation brings the movie out of the realm of the fantastic and into the world of the real. Concerning the plot in this second film…well even that seems to lack some of the “Vegas” feel to it. The first one seemed faster and filled with more vigor. Tricks happened right until the every end and the audience enjoyed the ride. The characters looked good and moved quick to keep up with the Vegas scene. In Europe, there seems to be a more laid-back feel to the characters. The film starts off with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict character (who was the victim – if you can call him that – in the first film) giving each of Ocean’s men two weeks to return his money. Two weeks!!! They should all be running around frantic. But, they are not. They act like they have all the time in the world. Does the European setting have that much to do with the pace? Maybe or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to make a film that was more intellectual than eye candy. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eye candy. But, I also like a good movie. Both of these are good films in their own unique ways, but keep in mind that one is more the kid in you and one is for your adult side trying to break through.

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OK—I know. It’s not the BEST movie ever made. But, it’s just plain fun to watch…in more ways than one. It’s a highly entertaining action caper. You will not be bored at all during this one, trust me. Also, the entire cast is just a pleasure to look at (you can trust me on that one, too). Basically, it’s just two hours of good times and enjoyment. The plot revolves around ringleader George Clooney’s decision to rob three casinos owned by power-monger Andy Garcia. Clooney takes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould and six others along for the ride, including ex-wife Julia Roberts. Based on the 1960 Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack film of the same title, this 2001 movie takes little from the original other than the basic premise (casino theft), the number of players, and the name of the man in charge (Danny Ocean). By adding style, class, glitz, high-tech gizmos, and a lot of good looking people, this Ocean’s Eleven will certainly satisfy your craving for entertainment.

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This film gets most of its attention because ladies around the world wouldn’t mind being in the back seat of a limo with Kevin Costner. Aside from the very famous limo romp, this is a spot-on thriller that holds the suspense right up until the end. Actually, it’s one of those films that’s best watched more than once…since after a first viewing, you’re still wondering if you can go back and find clues the would predict the ending. I have seen it more than once and trust me, there are very few clues, if any, that prepare the audience for the trick at the tail end of this one. But, before you get to that shocker of an ending, this movie will keep you guessing and writhing in your seat all the way through. Set in Washington D.C., No Way Out features Costner as a Naval officer who is assigned to lead the murder investigation of a woman who has been killed by a Russian spy. The main problem is that he knew the woman, but cannot tell anyone this since it would make him a suspect in her murder. The other problem is that he knows his boss, the Secretary of Defense (played to perfection by Gene Hackman), is the real murderer. No, I’m not ruining anything here…all of this (including the limo scene) is told pretty early on in the film. It is after the murder that the movie takes off in all directions and leaves the audiences constantly surprised. Based on the novel The Big Clock, which was also made into a 1948 movie of the same name as the novel with Ray Milland, the setting of the political climate in D.C. only enhances the look, style, and edge of this intense thriller.

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Silly but stylish comedy about a young ditzy girl from a ditzy family who, during a charity scavenger hunt, meets a “forgotten” homeless man. The man plays along with the scavenger hunt gag and allows himself to be turned in as the grand prize. To reward him, the young girl makes him the family’s new butler. Of course, everyone knows what is going to happen – somehow the unlikely duo will fall in love and, not to ruin it for anyone, the “happy endings” cliché does occur here. But, leading up to the ending is a film filled with fun, mostly because of the true comic genius of Carole Lombard. The chemistry between her and William Powell’s “forgotten” man allows the audience to believe that fantasies like this do come true. When you hear the word “screwball,” what/who do you associate with that word? After seeing this quintessential “screwball” comedy, you will think of Carole Lombard every time.

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A charming film that is something I would normally term as “sappy.” I usually stay far away from my self-proclaimed “sappy” films but I was drawn to this one because I always had a soft-spot for Kevin Costner. Needless to say, I fell in love with Message in a Bottle (and Mr. Costner, all over again). This is not to say it is not sappy. It is sappy with a capital S, please, don’t get me wrong. But, I just have to admit this is one time I like the sap. Set in Chicago and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a Tribune reporter heads South to the beach on vacation where she meets a rugged, loner who happens to be handsome. They have some awkward moments at first but mostly, it’s pure chemistry. She goes back home to Chicago and he braves the wilds of the city to come and visit her. Your basic sap…but, this one is just high quality sap…I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but it’s a good love story, trust me. I don’t think Mr. Costner is the ONLY reason I fell for this one. I really have more standards than that, don’t I? Well, you will just have to watch this one and see!

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Based on the TV series, Bret Maverick, director Richard Donner brings to the big screen a Western comedy about a handsome gambler (Mel Gibson), a charming lady con-artist (Jodie Foster), and a lawman (James Garner), all heading for a poker tournament held on a river boat with a $500,000 pot for the winner. Much of the film’s success comes from the biting dialogue from screenwriter William Goldman (of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame). Gibson and Foster are purely charming together and Garner adds just enough tension to the film to keep the audience on its toes. Look for Graham Greene in a small role as Gibson’s friend, Joseph, who practically steals the movie and many of the laughs!

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Are you ready for some good, Lana Turner drama? One of the Queens of the Melodrama (Imitation of Life, Peyton Place) returns in a little known film that is a dramatic gem. OK — try to beat this one: A wealthy man with political family ties marries a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. At first, everything is bliss…she has a son to pacify her mother-in-law and everything seems idyllic. But, secretly, the mother-in-law is just waiting for that chance…that one screw-up she can nail her daughter-in-law with. And, boy does she get the chance when Lana’s character accidental kills a lover in self-defense. Enter mom-in-law to clean up the mess…but there is a catch — a BIG catch. Lana must leave her life forever. Meaning, faking her death so she can and will never speak to her husband or her son again. Trapped, Lana does it. A fabulous film that is about as campy as they come.

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Don’t call it “Hitchcockian” but this film is a good, nail-biting thriller. Yes, it’s flawed (which is the main reason it shouldn’t be called “Hitchcockian”) but over-all, I was entertained by this one…mostly because of Clive Owen’s brooding intensity, which he has done in films before but that he perfects here. Owen plays a suburban upper-middle-class husband and father who, by chance, meets a seductive woman on the train one morning. After that first encounter, Owen is tempted enough to seek her out again. And, that leads to more and more, etc. Where this film takes off is once the affair is over…then the action begins. Not the best thriller ever made, but something good to hold your interest on a Saturday night…

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A good thriller by Kenneth Branagh…who is not your typical “thriller” director. Maybe that’s what keeps this one original—Branagh’s unusual take on the suspense genre. Well, whatever it is that makes this film witty and clever, it works. Set in two time periods, it tells two stories that at first seem mostly separate but then begin to reveal some joint characteristics. The 1940s part is shot in black and white and revolves around a couple who appeared to be madly in love…at least until one of them is killed and the other is accused of the murder. The present-day story (shot in color) deals with a woman who is suffering from amnesia and the private investigator trying to help her. How these stories interweave is the original part. Branagh does a great job of holding off on the suspense until just the right time. But, once it kicks in, watch out!

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