Ocean's Twelve
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Bernie Mac
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1

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Ocean's Twelve DVD: Reviewed by Colin Jacobson, DVD MOVIE GUIDE

By all rights, 2001’s remake of Ocean’s Eleven should have stunk. Sure, it included a lot of talent, with quite a few Oscar winners both behind and in front of the camera. However, that could have turned into its Achilles heel. All-star productions often turn out poorly, as all those egos can’t work together well enough to create a good ensemble piece. The idea of an update on an old Rat Pack flick didn’t sound all that appealing either; it seemed likely the new movie would be a self-conscious and self-indulgent piece of hipster fluff.

To my surprise, Eleven ended up as a minor gem. It never took itself seriously as is told a goofy and endearing tale of a complicated robbery. Audiences agreed, as the flick took in a solid $183 million.

2004’s Ocean’s Twelve didn’t do quite as well, but its $125 million gross wasn’t sneeze-worthy. Nonetheless, that’s a lackluster total given the first one’s success and all the star power on display. Personally, I hope we don’t get to Ocean’s Thirteen, since the dull and plodding Twelve leads me to believe ennui has set in.

Twelve launches with a prologue set “three and a half years ago” in Rome. Crook Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) flees his detective girlfriend Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) when it looks like she’ll find out his profession. The movie then leaps to “three and a half weeks ago” in Connecticut, where thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) tries to settle down into a non-criminal suburban life with wife Tess (Julia Roberts). Clearly the old life still entices him, and matters complicate when her old flame jillionaire Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) - the subject of the first movie’s caper - shows up at their house with Tess home alone. Benedict wants back his $160 million plus interest, and he gives the crooks two weeks to pay him.

From there, Benedict makes his way through all of the participants in the original heist: pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), pyrotechnician Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), inside man Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), drivers/general nuisances Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk (Scott Caan) Malloy, electronics expert Livingston Dell (Edward Jemison), “grease man” gymnast the Amazing Yen (Shaobo Qin), retired vet Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), and former Vegas tycoon Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). Benedict ends his crusade with a threat against Ryan.

Danny reunites “Ocean’s Eleven” - most of whom complain about that moniker - to figure out how to deal with this debt. They need a new job right away, but they’re too well known to work in the US. This sends them to Amsterdam on Ryan’s suggestion, but it turns out he has an ulterior motive: Isabel is in Amsterdam, and he wants to reconnect with his old flame.

While in Amsterdam, they connect with Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), an agent who steers them toward various jobs. The first sends them into the home of an agoraphobic and doesn’t pay much, but it’s a start. However, a criminal mastermind called the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) beats them to it, and the whole situation gets more and more complicated, especially when Isabel comes onto the case.

Why did the Night Fox thwart Ocean’s gang? Jealousy. His mentor considers Ocean to be the world’s greatest thief, so the Night Fox wants to establish his own supremacy. He offers Ocean a challenge: whoever steals a particular item first wins, and if it’s Ocean, he’ll pay off the whole $97 million debt to Benedict. The movie follows the battle of the crooks along with Isabel’s attempts to involve herself in the situation.

Eleven was lightning in a bottle - can the sequel recapture the energy and magic of the original? Nope. At its best, Twelve offers decent entertainment, but it never takes off like the first one did.

Maybe it’s too much to ask everyone involved to recapture such an unusual circumstance. Eleven was sort of a busman’s holiday, as the folks who made it did the whole thing as something of a lark. They went into it with a relaxed attitude that came through via the light and loose attitude displayed.

On the other hand, Twelve often has the feeling of a contractual obligation. I don’t thing anyone was truly required to make it, but it’s clear there was more at stake this time. The first movie was an expensive party that managed to become a big hit. Of course, it had high expectations given the talent involved, but it didn’t look like the participants saw it that way.

I think the stress became more distinct for Twelve. The first flick was a lark, while this one required more effort since all involved had more pressure to succeed.

That seems to weigh on the proceedings, as Twelve never remotely recaptures the light effervescence of its predecessors. Granted, it gives us a more nuanced character piece that tries to dig into the personalities with greater depth. While Eleven was happy to stay with pop charm, Twelve wants to deal with real emotions and consequences.

Unfortunately, it attempts those elements poorly, partially because it tries to have its cake and eat it too. The movie interconnects mildly dramatic moments with light goofiness and doesn’t succeed in either domain. The seriousness lacks heft, and the comedy feels strained and forced.

The drama also flops because we simply don’t go to see a movie like Twelve for that kind of material. If I want to watch something serious, I’ll go see Hotel Rwanda. When I check out an Ocean’s flick, I want a zippy neo-Rat Pack vibe with little seriousness and lather to spare.

That doesn’t materialize in the leaden Twelve. Actually, for one brief moment toward the end, the movie manages to almost live up to its potential. I won’t spill all the beans, but it involves an actor essentially playing a character playing that actor, and it also includes a cameo from another major star. The whole thing is almost too clever-clever to work, but it does succeed, and for a few happy moments, the flick turns into something special.

Unfortunately, it soon returns to earth and continues on its dull path. An essential lack of focus definitely harms Twelve. Eleven enjoyed a very basic plot and it prospered largely due to that simplicity. 11 guys put together a heist - that was about it. Yeah, some minor subplots evolved as well, but the movie concentrated on that robbery above all else, and that led us on a concrete path.

On the other hand, Twelve bobs and weaves itself into oblivion. Essentially it’s all oriented toward paying off Benedict, but the tale takes so many detours along the way that we get lost. Not only that, but when it tries to right itself, we don’t care.

Another problem that stems from the absence of focus relates to the use of the leads. Clooney and Pitt often feel like afterthoughts here, and most of the others don’t fare any better. When the movie ended, I thought of Isabel and the Night Fox as the major characters; everyone else seemed like vague support. A sequel that concentrates mostly on two new characters doesn’t sound like a good proposition. Maybe this is just my perception and the screen time is more balanced, but the movie sure doesn’t make it feel that way.

Admittedly, I think it’s good that Ocean’s Twelve doesn’t simply remake its predecessor. Another story with another big caper might have been tedious. However, it’s hard to imagine it’d have been less engaging than this.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Ocean’s Twelve appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A virtual carbon copy of the visuals for the first flick, Twelve delivered a consistently strong presentation.

Sharpness appeared positive. The image remained nicely distinct and well defined at all times, as I discerned virtually no signs of softness or fuzziness. No jagged edges or shimmering popped up, and I saw no examples of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, some light grain appeared due to the photographic design, but otherwise the picture seemed free from defects.

Director Steven Soderbergh usually features stylized hues, and that occurred during Twelve as well. The movie offered broad and vivid color schemes, and the DVD replicated them well. Soderbergh apparently likes for colors to border on oversaturation, and that happened here. However, the tones remained clear and tight throughout the movie; they just managed to keep from crossing that line.

Finally, black levels looked nicely deep and rich, and even though Soderbergh sometimes favored a “blown out” look, I felt contrast appeared solid and the movie never presented a washed out appearance. Shadow detail was appropriately heavy without any excessive darkness. Overall, I found Ocean’s Twelve to look pretty terrific.

As for the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it didn’t excel, but it did its job. The soundfield remained fairly heavily oriented toward the front spectrum. In that domain, the music offered solid stereo imaging, and effects seemed natural and well defined. Those elements spread cleanly across the forward channels. They showed good blending, and panning appeared smooth and natural.

Surround usage seemed limited but acceptable. The rear speakers reinforced the film’s music and they also occasionally offered decent effects support. Admittedly, they remained fairly passive much of the time, but they came to life acceptably during a few scenes. Not much stood out from the crowd, though, as the mix lacked a lot of flair.

Audio quality also seemed positive but not special. At times, dialogue displayed slight edginess, and some speech sounded a bit stiff. However, most of the time the lines were acceptably natural and distinct, and I never encountered any concerns related to intelligibility. Effects seemed clear and accurate, and they provided the film’s strongest examples of subwoofer usage. Bass response was tight and firm. The songs and score provided clean and bright highs with similarly rich lows. Ultimately, however, the soundtrack of Ocean’s Twelve failed to make a strong enough impression to merit more than a “B”.

Despite the movie’s prominence and box office success, almost no supplements appear on Ocean’s Twelve. We get the movie’s trailer and that’s about it, though the DVD opens with promos for The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby and The Phantom of the Opera.

While the first movie was a loose and lively romp, Ocean’s Twelve plods and meanders. With no pep to its step, the film fails to engage the audience, and it simply lacks the fun factor we demand of this kind of flick. The DVD presents very strong picture along with pretty solid sound, but it includes almost no extras. I had a great time with its predecessor, but Ocean’s Twelve left me cold.


Ocean's Twelve DVD: Reviewed by Colin Jacobson, DVD MOVIE GUIDE



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