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Ocean’s Thirteen

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang are back in Las Vegas out for money and revenge. Reuben (Elliot Gould) has a heart attack after being swindled by a casino boss (Al Pacino) with the gang deciding on the ultimate gamble against the ruthless hustler.  Setting their sights on valuable diamonds and on breaking the bank, the boys attempt to do so in their own smooth sophisticated style.
One of the delights of the Oceans series is not in its fine ensemble, but in how they execute their plans.  As they piece together the puzzles towards their goal, the endgame becomes a delicious pay off for both them and the audience. After the murky confusion of their last outing, Ocean’s Thirteen knows exactly where it’s going and maintains story focus until the end.  The seamless script is easy to follow, allowing the audience to enjoy the camaraderie and plotting.  The snappy dialogue and fast pace makes for enjoyable viewing that is entertaining rather than delivering a ‘message’.
The cinematography and music envelopes the film in a retro manner, setting the old style heist into the confines of modern Vegas.  The breezy soundtrack and trippy visuals help to bring a sense of timelessness allowing the viewer to become involved in the story.  Frank Sinatra is mentioned several times, with the gang evoking memories of the rat pack era where the guys had their own adventures among the gaudy Vegas lights.  Director Steven Soderbergh’s indie film background ensures that the plot doesn’t descend into obvious heroics and mixes an engaging cocktail of action and humour.
The usual acting suspects are all in place and do a fine job.  George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, et al know the drill by now but still maintain that exuberance that was evident in their first adventure.  The group’s scenes are pleasurable to watch and truly encompass the all star ensemble pieces that were the rage when the original Ocean’s 11 came out.  A standout of the new additions is Al Pacino who enjoys playing a cold blooded villain, whose ruthlessness is almost overshadowed by the frightful wig he wears.  The performances are very natural and never once stray into the campy territory which could so easily have happened.
The recent spate of trilogies has been somewhat disappointing, never delivering what the ads have promised.  Ocean’s Thirteen delivers everything and more, becoming the best of the glut of sequels by far.  Thirteen seems to be a lucky number for the sharp suited guys who laugh all the way to the bank in this enjoyable romp.
Rating out of 10:   8
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Bridge To Terabithia

You have to hand it to movie marketing gurus.  The ads for this children’s drama have promoted this as something akin to ‘Lord of the Rings part 4′.  The only thing this has in common is its lush New Zealand scenery and use of special effects.  If the ads bring more people to see the film then its not a bad thing, as they will discover an enchanting all ages tale that doesn’t overdose on sugary sweet sentiment.
Jesse (Josh Hutcherson), is a shy pre-teen who is bullied at school and finds escape in his sketchpad.  In a new student Leslie (Anna Sophia Robb), he finds a kindred spirit who also revels in a fantasy world.  Using the local forest, they create a world called Terabithia, where evil elves and warlocks lurk behind the tree trunks.  This imaginary refuge particularly helps Jesse, who lives on a struggling farm, and provides solace when an unexpected tragedy occurs.
Creativity and how it’s expressed is one of the main points.  Both Jesse and Leslie bounce ideas off each other and use the elements of nature to their adventurous advantage.  It’s refreshing to see a children’s film that embraces the notion of imagination, which helps them to connect in the real world.  The tempo of the film successfully recalls the awe and innocence of childhood which seems to be missing in kids films these days.  The great special effects subtly enhance the story rather than intrude on it.
The down to earth acting from all involved is first rate.  The adult actors blend seamlessly with their juvenile counterparts, with each character talking to - rather than talking down - to each other in a mature fashion.  Josh Hutcherson brings a poignant edge to his role, as a boy who deals with friendship and loss in equal measures.  Anna Sophia Robb provides much spark as the girl who taps into the creative potential she sees in Jesse.  Robert Patrick adds another acting feather to his cap as Jesse’s stern father.  The entire cast help to bring to life the best selling book on which the movie is based.
In an era where children’s films seem to be awash with cute animated movies, watching a film where kids are treated with a semblance of intelligence is like a breath of fresh air.  Bridge To Terabithia doesn’t descend into coy tweeness and shows that the gift of imagination is one that should be utilised at all times.  A worthy film that stays the distance until its fantasy filled end.
Rating out of 10:  7
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