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Ocean's Eleven (PG, 2001) ... Average: 3.0
(George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts, Carl Reiner,
Sydney Pollack, Andy Garcia, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Lennox Lewis)

Sue Hohenadel
I've never seen the original "Ocean's 11,"  nor have I ever been a huge fan of the Rat Pack.  As a matter of fact, I thought the movie was some kind of navy war movie.  Duh.
Ocean's Eleven:  Clooney, Pitt, Damn, Gould, Cheadle
Ocean's Eleven is the story of Danny Ocean (Clooney), a smooth talking, well dressed con man who's planning to pull off one of the biggest heists ever -- robbing three casinos for more than $150 million.  As if the money isn't enough, revenge will be just as sweet -- Ocean's ex-wife (Roberts) is dating the guy (Garcia) who owns the casinos that are about to get hit.

The beginning of the movie details how Ocean picks his eleven member team (Ocean's Eleven -- get it?) of grifters, cons, explosive experts and pickpockets for the scam.  The actual heist is a little less believable than anything you've seen in all the Mission Impossible and Die Hard movies combined, but it's still fun to watch.

Clooney and Pitt are great in their roles.  Both can deliver a line with just enough cockiness to be cool and just enough of a smirk to make it funny.  They play well off each other, as well as the other cast members.  Although each character has a purpose, this is, by far, George and Brad's movie.  Julia Roberts is less-than-warm as Danny's ex-wife, but she is such a presence on the screen that her bitchiness is easily overlooked.  And Andy Garcia plays one hell of a smarmy prick.

Ocean's Eleven is not an Academy Award contender, but I'm sure it wasn't meant to be.  It's fun to watch -- you can tell the "boys" were having a hoot making it.  It almost feels like you've been invited to a frat party and the hosts just happen to be some of today's hottest stars.

If you're looking for a movie that doesn't make you think, has some interesting plot twists and boasts one of the biggest casts in recent memory, go see Ocean's Eleven.  It's mindless Saturday night fun.

 

October Sky (PG, 1999) ... Average: 3.5
(Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chris Owen)

Chris Mal
This was certainly a breath of fresh air after watching good-mood killers "Affliction" and "Angela's Ashes" last week.  Was "October Sky" a great movie?  No, but it was a very worthy rental, particularly if you're not in the mood for something depressing.  This is a pure "feel-good" movie, and a true story to boot.

It's a story about a high school boy in a small mining town in the 50's who has a dream of making much more of his life than his father's plans for him to walk in his footsteps as head of the mine.

Homer Hickman (played by Gyllenhaal) is inspired by the Russian's launching of Sputnik to become a rocket scientist and then by his high school teacher (played by Laura Dern).  Interesting to me is recognizing how all of the people in this town were virtually doomed to work the coal mines no matter what their skills and desires were - and this was merely 45 years ago.  We often talk about the technology of today, but it's equally amazing how far this country has come in terms of giving every one of us an opportunity to do whatever we chose to do.

Recommended!

 

Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou (PG-13, 2000) ... Average: 4.0
(George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
The only film by eccentric indie filmmakers, the Coen brothers, that I've ever seen is this one, an odd retelling of Homer's Odyssey set in the American South in the 1930's.

George Clooney plays the protagonist, Ulysses Everett Magill (get the name reference?), a charismatic convict leading two others on a jailbreak (Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro, a Coen brothers favorite).  Along the way, they meet Depression-era versions of lotus eaters, Scylla and Charybdis, sirens, and even a cyclops (the brilliant John Goodman), not to mention Ulysses' wife, who of course is named Penny (Holly Hunter).  All of this is surprisingly entertaining.  Clooney keeps a look of perpetual bemused puzzlement on his face for almost the entire running time of the movie; this is actually far less annoying than it sounds.

While Clooney naturally attracts the most attention, Nelson and Turturro bring a lot of understanding to their roles as well.  I heartily recommend this movie if you're in the mood for something offbeat, although basic familiarity with the plot of the Odyssey will help you appreciate it.

(Mention should be made of the incredible music score, put together by blues guitarist Ry Cooder, which actually provides fodder for some of the movie's funniest moments.  Also, Charles Durning is very entertaining as a classic old-style Southern politician.)

 

Old School (R, 2003) ... Average: 3.25
(Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis,
Ellen Pompeo, Artie Lange, Andy Dick, Snoop Dogg)

Sara (Gaughan) Austin
VERY funny, if somewhat dumb.  When Will Ferrell shot himself with a tranquilizer dart I almost peed in my pants, and I said something I have never said to my husband during a rented movie before: "Rewind it!  Rewind it!"  Hilarious, and not just for guys.  Plus, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughan are totally yummy.

Drew Gallagher
Kind of a throwaway comedy, but Vince Vaughn makes me laugh.  As do fat black kids.  A couple of laugh outloud moments but probably best served with a few beers and the Mrs. in another room.
 

One Hour Photo (R, 2002) ... Average: 3.0
(Robin Williams, Connie Nielson, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith, Andrew A. Rolfes)

Chris Mal
I really looked forward to seeing this movie from the moment I saw the previews, probably just because the premise all by itself was a little spooky.  I always wondered just how much notice my pictures get when dropped off at the local Photo-mart.  Was someone examining them closely?  Disecting that little slice of my life dropped off in someone else's hands?  Throw in Robin Williams, an all-time favorite, in the role of the obsessive slightly deranged photo-shop manager, and this had the ingredients to be a good one.

It didn't disappoint, but at the same time, it was pretty much everything you know about it going into it.  The best way that I can describe it is that, after the movie was over, it felt like I had seen only about 60 minutes worth of film information.  That didn't make it bad, it's just exactly what you think it is.  A good solid average movie.  Surely worth the rental, particularly if you like Robin Williams...but, just good solid average.

 

102 Dalmatians (G, 2000) ... Average: 2.0
(Glenn Close, Gerard Depardieu, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Robert Guediguian)

Chris Mal
This is a sequel to the original Disney classic 101 Dalmatians and picks up after Cruella DeVil is paroled after 3 years in prison for cruelty to animals.  The rest of the story is not really interesting enough to rehash.

Good points:  The parrot. That parrot thinks he's a dog and was absolutely hysterical.  Were it not for that parrot, I'm not sure that I would give this movie even as high as a ONE.  The dogs were also really impressive.  Unfortunately, the only interesting part of this movie was spending it thinking, "Wow, how'd they get that dog (and/or parrot) to do that."

It's very hard to come up with an appropriate rating for kids-movies, but I think it makes most sense to base it on a combination of how entertained the kids seemed to be plus how tolerable it is for the parents.

Kids are entertained by "things happening."  It seemed like our kids (5-year old niece and 3-year old nephew) were bored, for the most part, except for the parts where the dogs were running around.  Between dog scenes there was too much plot development to keep their attention.  And the plot was just so silly, it was of no interest to "grown-ups" either.  Making matters worse, the plot was too complex for a 3 and 5 year old to comprehend.  Everything that was going on was shooting so far over their heads I was hoping it would hit the projector behind us and kill the movie.  The 5-year old was more concerned with who was going to clean up the mess the bad guys were making when they'd break in to steal puppies, and the 3-year old was asleep - no lie - about 20 minutes into the movie.

I guess this is proof that even sequels to children's films a usually bad.  If this movie had been created without the cushion created by its 101 predecessor, it would have been yanked from the box-offices before the end of the first showing.

 

The Others (PG-13, 2001) ... Average: 4.0
(Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy)

Chris Mal
"The Others" is a old-fashioned goose-pimply spine-shivering movie about a family living an old mansion on a British island just after World War II who discover that there are others who are living in their home, too!  It plays out somewhat in the spirit of "The Sixth Sense" and "seeing dead people."  My 4-star rating might be taken by some with a grain of salt since I rarely see a scary movie that doesn't suit my taste, but this one was definitely creepy, creepy, creepy from start to finish.

The OthersNicole Kidman plays mother of two children who have "XP," a real disorder that has been diagnosed in only 150 people in the U.S. at this moment, and causes an allergic reaction whenever the person is exposed to sunlight.  Their skin does not have the ability to regenerate any sort of sun burn, and the result is equivalent to 3rd degree burns and skin cancer.  (There is a small "extra" feature about this on the DVD.)

The movie begins just after the hired help at the mansion has mysteriously disappeared - no notice of their departure, without even picking up their latest payments for work, and all of their belonging are gone.  An odd trio of servants arrive to take their place, and strange things begin to happen!  It's impossible to give much more detail without giving away the ending which completely took me by surprise.

Kidman is excellent as usual, and the child actors were tremendous.

This is one of those movies you should see with as little advanced information as possible.  The movie creates an immediate sense that something is lurking in the shadows.  The script is very smart, and direction and cinematography very good.  A large majority of the scares are created out of mood and suggestiveness, that proves special affects (unless you count a bit of fog) are not a requirement to make you jump.  It cleverly teases you with small clues without giving away the ending until it smacks you in the face at its climax.