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February 02 Issue

Sam North reviews the two most popular movies

There is a reason why there are monsters in childrens' closets!

Just don't let the kids inside the Monster's world.

Monsters has already taken $333 worldwide by February 2002 and for once the publicity lived
up to the hype. The skill in animation, the sheer exuberance of the Billy Crystal , John Goodman
and Steve Buscemi inter-relationship has been magnified and the cute factor is, for once, genuine.
The perfect positioning of the relationship between Goodman's monster and the little girl Boo is wonderful and we have none of the cloying Disney techniques here. Pixar have done a great job and even though it doesn't have as many gags in it as Toy Story 2, it is more fluid and just great animated film-making. Taking almost five years to make, Monsters Inc breaks new ground and deserves its success.

The plot about drawing power from the screams of scared children is truly macabre but of course pure fairytale stuff. Lemony Sickett would be proud. Monsters Inc even manages to comment on our capitalist way of life with all of us on an endless treadmill caught between power, job and security. We all end up screaming in the end and someone benefits.

Pixar are to be congratulated and what is nice, one doesn't feel exploited. Indeed the exhilarating moments with the Monsters trying to get back through the right door with Buscemi's snake trying to prevent them is just wonderful and techies note the computer power needed to get the hairs on the monstersflowing like that. Everyone will have a favourite moment and that is the key to a successful movie. Everyone concerned should be proud.

The Premise: A gangster by the name of Danny Ocean (Clooney) rounds up a gang of associates to stage heists of three major Las Vegas casino's (Bellagio, The Mirage, and Treasure Island) simultaneously during a major boxing event.

CAST: George Clooney (Danny Ocean), Matt Damon (Linus Zerga), Andy Garcia (Harry Benedict), Brad Pitt (Dusty Ryan), Julia Roberts (Tess Ocean), Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle (Roscoe Means), , Elliott Gould (Ruben Tischkoff), Eddie Jemison, Vladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis, Bernie Mac, Sydney Pollack (Reuben Tishkoff), Carl Reiner (Saul Bloom), Qin Shaobo

Oceans Eleven is a different kind of film. When you are watching it you are caught up in it, but as you walk away it takes on the feeling of a chimera. Before I went to see it I kept reading the hype about how much fun they had on set and the world and crazy parties they had - but on screen, well it just doesn't really play that way. A little bit of wild and crazy rat pack nonsense could have helped. It's seems churlish to protest, after all the film is slick and although slow to build as they build the crew to rob the casinos, the individual performances are fine (save Matt Damon who seems to have wandered in off a different movie). You would have liked more banter, more aspiration about why they were all there and what they wanted out of it. Why they stayed for something that was pretty nigh on impossible.

The original film has ex -paratroopers from WW11 robbing five casinos. This one has three by just regular con men and theives, but of course with inflation the money is bigger and with modern security, the robbery is, well impossible. That's the trick of the movie and it isn't giving anything away to mention 'trojan horse'. If I was to be picky (which apparently I am) the characterisation in 'The Heist' was way better than Ocean's Eleven. Gene Hackman somehow more convincing. Although Clooney and Pitt get along fine, the others clearly didn't really know each other well and lacked history which then made them a bit spare most of the time. Maybe because there is no rat pack anymore we don't get a sense of this being a caper done by 'friends'. Maybe becasue there were last minute cast changes too.

Nevertheless most people are just watching Clooney and Pitt and you do get a sense of genuine mutual respect. Julia Roberts as 'the ex-wife' seemed completely superfluous here and underdeveloped. She had an unsympathetic role and hung around like a spare part and you just didn't believe in the chemistry between them, nor that she would go from Clooney to Garcia. Likewise Andy Garcia as the Casino owner seemed to have a large metal wedge up his ass for the entire movie and this certainly reduced any sympathy one might have had for him.
The two old guys Carl Reiner, the old fifties TV comedy stalwart as Sol had a great 'sunset' part and was pretty convincing going for one last con. Elliot Gould known now for being Rachel's Dad in 'Friends' was one the biggest stars on earth following' Mash' and 'The Long Goodbye' in the seventies, so it is nice to see him in a decent part as the rival Casino owner bankrolling the robbery.

Steven Soderberg came back from the dead with 'Out of Sight' and although didn't score with the sharp 'The Limey' two years ago, Oceans has been a big success for him, taking $181 million in the USA by February 2002 and opening at number one in the UK that month.

So a crowd pleaser with a good cast. The actual robbery when it gets unway is thrilling, very well done with all the right tension, yet once it is over and they have the cash, it all seems to collapse like a balloon and we are left with two very anit-climatic endings. Almost to say we know the end is crap, so here's another crap ending just to prove it. One would have like to have more danger or at least a falling out or something to set up a sequel. Oceans' Eleven doesn't deserve to end like this.

I have a lot of respect for Soderberg and George Clooney, both know how hard success is to keep and nail down, but I'd like to see them attempt something quite new, fresh and funny next time around, something that breaks new ground.

Oceans Eleven is on just about everywhere right now. A Warner Bros film.

© Sam North 2002

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