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Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 11/13/2007

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/21/2007

The star-studded movie is an idea which has been around for ages, and the concept makes good business sense. If one or two stars can get butts in the seats, just imagine what a movie filled with familiar faces could do! But, this idea doesn't always work out, as the talent involved outweighs the script or it's obvious that egos have clashed while making the movie. The Ocean's trilogy has featured a slew of stars and the results have been mixed at best. The latest entry, Ocean's Thirteen, has just hit DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Ocean's Thirteen opens following the events of the second film. Las Vegas legend Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould) has gone into business with developer Willie Bank (Al Pacino) to build a new high-rise hotel & casino. But, Bank double-crosses Reuben, forcing him to sign away his share. Following this, Reuben has a heart-attack. Reuben's long-time friend Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gathers his gang of merry gangsters to help Reuben. Rusty (Brad Pitt), Linus (Matt Damon), Frank (Bernie Mac), Basher (Don Cheadle), Virgil (Casey Affleck), Livingston (Eddie Jemison), Turk (Scott Caan), Yen (Shaobo Qin), and Saul (Carl Reiner) soon arrives at Reuben's house to devise a plan to get back at Bank. Danny enlists mastermind Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard) for assistance, and they outline their plan to ruin Bank's opening night, taking a significant portion of his money and embarrassing the man at the same time. The only problem is that Bank's casino is state-of-the-art and it's going to take more than a little sleight-of-hand to get past all of his security.

Ocean's Eleven was meant to be not only a modern remake of an old classic, but a star-studded movie where the actors and the audience had a good time, and the movie achieved this goal. Clooney and Pitt played off of one another very well, and Matt Damon was good as the slightly goofy Linus. I'm not sure what Ocean's Twelve was supposed to be, but to me, it was a disaster. The movie wanted to have a wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude about Hollywood with the subplot of Julia Roberts playing a Julia Roberts look-alike, but one got the feeling that these celebrity hipsters were having more fun than the audience. Given this track record, I wasn't sure what to expect from Ocean's Thirteen.

Famed drive-in movie connoisseur Joe Bob Briggs is one of my all-time favorite movie critics, and he would often say that a movie had gone wrong because "the plot got in the way of the story." That's exactly what happens in Ocean's Thirteen. Screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien, along with director Steven Soderbergh have created a labyrinth-like plot which has an incredible number of twists and turns. Each member of Ocean's gang has a specific task in their plan to take down Bank, and we see each of these plans in detail -- from taking a job in the casino to traveling to Mexico.

This creates two huge problems. First, the movie bites off way more than it can chew and if the viewer looks away for a second, they will probably be lost. I would expect that most viewers approach a movie like Ocean's Thirteen for entertainment, not to feel as if they are taken a college-entrance exam. Secondly, and more importantly, the movie must dedicate so much time to these intricate schemes, that we get to spend very little time with the characters. There's a very funny moment with Clooney and Pitt which left me saying, "I want to see more of that." Damon also has a surprisingly funny moment of physical comedy. The movie needed more of this and less heist.

While Ocean's Thirteen isn't the disaster which was the second entry into the series, it's not as much fun as it could have been. The movie is crowded with stars and contains some amazing sets. The heist plot is admittedly interesting, but it should have taken a back seat to the characters. As it is, Ocean's Thirteen is a nearly mechanical movie concerning a detailed revenge plot which just happens to have a few bright spots involving the actors. An entire film with Clooney and Pitt simply watching TV would have been much, much better.

Ocean's Thirteen suavely sneaks into DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has come to DVD in two separate editions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. I'm not sure exactly what Soderbergh did while filming this movie, but it resulted in an ugly transfer. The image shows notable grain in many scenes and some shots are very lacking in detail. Around the 52-minute mark when Yen enters the elevator shaft may be the best example of how bad this transfer gets, as his faces looks as if it should be in a 60s psychedelic movie. Oddly, some scenes look fine, showing a clear image and good colors. Nevertheless, the bad scenes really stand out here. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fine and there some nice surround sound and bass effects during the finale when the heist really kicks into gear.

The Ocean's Thirteen DVD only contains a few extras. "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion" (23 minutes) gives an overview of the history of Las Vegas, examining the hotels, the gaming, and the mystique of the city. "Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk" (2 minutes) has the producer touring the movie's very elaborate set. The DVD has four "Additional Scenes" (5 minutes) which are all brief, but two set up situations which were revealed later in finished film.

Ocean's Thirteen has also come to Blu-ray Disc from Warner. The disc has a VC-1 transfer which is 1080p and the film is letterboxed at 2.40:1. The video bitrate rarely gets above 30 Mbps. Everything which was wrong with the DVD video transfer is only magnified here and this is the worst Blu-ray video that I've seen thus far. Again, the colors look fine in some scenes, but the grain and distortion are too great to ignore. The image doesn't have the kind of depth that I've seen in other Blu-rays. The audio here is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, running at 38 kHz and 640 kbps. So, essentially, it's the same as the DVD. The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are identical to those found on the DVD, plus there are two exclusive bonus features. The Blu-ray has an AUDIO COMMENTARY by Director Steven Soderbergh, and writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien. The second exclusive is "Masters of the Heist" (44 minutes), which examines four real heists from American history. Through interviews with experts and dramatic re-creations, the documentary tells the story of a con-man, a gambling scam, and two robberies.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long