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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ocean's Trilogy (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
Ocean's Trilogy (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // November 13, 2007 // Region 0
List Price: $79.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted February 8, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Movies:

Released to coincide with the DVD release of Ocean's Thirteen, director Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Trilogy boxed set is currently the only way to get Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve on a high def format (the set is available on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats). Ocean's Thirteen is available on its own but if you want all three films together with 1080p transfers, this set is your only option for now.

Ocean's Eleven (2001):

A remake of Lewis Milestone's 1960 Rat Pack classic, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven exudes cool. The film follows Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a master planner recently released from prison, who gathers together ten accomplices to assist him in pulling off the biggest heist in history. Danny gets the word out and gathers up his team - Rusty (Brad Pitt), a cards wiz and Danny's right hand man; Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), a pickpocket; Basher Tarr, a pyrotechnics expert; Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), the money man; Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk Malloy (Scott Caan), the drivers; Frank Catton (Bernie Mack), a card dealer working from the inside; Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), a retired weapons dealer; Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), a communications technology expert; and last but not least, Yen (Shaobo Qin), a Chinese acrobat.

Ocean's plan? To rob three of Las Vegas' biggest casinos - The Bellagio, The MGM Grand and The Mirage - at the same time during a boxing match that the crew hopes will keep everyone distracted enough for this to work. There's a bit more to this than simply $160 million dollars in cash, however. The three casinos are owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a sleazy business mogul who just so happens to take a liking to Danny's pretty ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). Danny has his own code of ethics though and he insists that his team follow three simple rules - no blood, don't rob anyone who doesn't deserve it, and do it like you've got nothing to lose.

Filled with some snappy dialogue and clever banter and more than a couple of really enjoyable performances, Ocean's Eleven turns out to be a whole lot of slick, stylish fun. Clooney is perfect for the part and he brings a great sense of calm professionalism to the part that makes the prospect of the heist more believable than it would be otherwise. He simply looks and acts the part. Supporting roles are also handled well, with Pitt and Garcia standing out from the pack. Matt Damn and Julie Roberts are also solid in their respective parts and the always enjoyable Elliot Gould proves to be fun as well.

As strong as the performances are, it's the camera work and the script that really stick with you. Soderbergh has made sure that his movie looks fantastic from start to finish. The lighting and the cinematography are top notch and do a fantastic job of capturing the glitz and the glamour of the Las Vegas strip. The script is tense and clever and it goes into enough detail in regards to the planning of the heist that it allows us to believe that these guys might just be able to pull this job off after all, even if a few of them are a little rough around the edges. The romantic subplot fits in nicely with the central heist story even if it's definitely a cliché and more than a little predictable.

If the film lacks any real meat, so what? It's an enjoyable slice of entertainment, the best kind of Hollywood popcorn film devoid of any real message or social commentary but packed full of cool. It's difficult not to have a good time with this film and even if big budget blockbuster films aren't your bag, Ocean's Eleven is done well enough that it shouldn't matter. Appreciate this one for what it is, one hundred and sixteen minutes of fun at the movies.

Ocean's Twelve (2004):

When the first film made more money at the box office than Ocean and his crew did with their heist, it surprised no one that Soderbergh and Warner Brothers brought the original crew back for a second run.

Three years after Danny Ocean and his team robbed Terry Benedict of $160 million dollars, the crew have calmed down and enjoyed the good life. That's all about to change, however, because someone told Benedict who was responsible. Benedict contacts Ocean and his team one at a time and let's them know that they have two weeks to give him back the money, plus interest. Unfortunately, most of the money is gone - it's been spent.

Ocean calls his crew together once again to pull off an even bigger heist. This time they're going to go to Europe and hit Amsterdam, Rome and Europe. But there's a catch! A master thief known as the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) wants to challenge Ocean and his team to see who the best thief really is. With time running out and Benedict putting increasing pressure on everyone involved, Ocean realizes that they have to accept the Night Fox's challenge and beat him if they don't want Benedict to take care of them for good.

Ocean's Twelve starts off with a fair bit of promise. It's set up well and it gives Ocean a valid reason to want to go to the effort of getting everyone together to pull of another complicated string of heists. Unfortunately the film takes the quirks of the large A-list cast that made the first film so much fun and beats us over the head with it. Pointless cameos from the likes of Eddie Izzard and Bruce Willis are distracting and the addition of Catherine Zeta Jones adds little to the story other than some nice eye candy. The snappy dialogue is turned up too high to the point where it feels forced and Soderbergh's tendency to take the funky camera work to the extreme results in an over baked picture that is literally way too much of a good thing.

The film isn't a complete failure - the European locations are very nicely photographed and provide a great playground for the cast to do their thing in. Vincent Cassel is also enjoyable as the French master thief out to show Ocean up. Unfortunately, Ocean's crewmembers aren't given sufficient reason to be on the job like they were in the first film and because of this the picture winds up feeling like little more than a bunch of famous people showing up in the movie simply because they're all famous people. Ocean's Twelve is a misguided case of celebrity overdose with a few moments where an interesting premise shines through.

Ocean's Thirteen (2007):

After the events of Ocean's Twelve we see Reuben Tishkoff joining forces with Vegas casino mogul Willie Bank (Al Pacino) to build a hotel of their own. Unfortunately for Reuben, Willie isn't the most trustworthy guy around and he winds up cutting him out of the deal, resulting in a heart attack that puts Reuben in the hospital.

When Danny gets word of what's happened to his old pal Reuben, he decides Willie needs a taste of his own medicine and so he decides to call the team in to rip off Bank's new casino on the very night it's set to open. Helping them out this go round will be none other than their former arch rival, Terry Benedict, who has nothing but contempt for Bank. Not only do they plan to rob him blind, but they're also going to mess with his operations to ensure that Bank doesn't win a prestigious 'Five Diamond' award.

A noted improvement after the weak second film, Ocean's Thirteen, like the first film, puts the story ahead of the celebrity worship and delivers another stylish and entertaining heist film. The dialogue flows better and the camera work, while still containing its fair share of odd shots, is reeled in to the point where once again the film just looks really, really slick. Consider this third film a return to form of sorts. Throwing the uber tanned Al Pacino into the mix works nicely as he proves a nice counterpart to Garcia's sleazy casino mogul, and tossing Ellen Barkin into the mix works well even if her character is one dimensional. Carl Reiner as the English hotel reviewer steals the show and helps flesh out the supporting cast nicely.

The film's real flaw is the lack of tension. The movie takes longer to get moving than it should and where the first film gave us enough of the planning phase to make the heist believable, this time around there's too much planning and not enough heist. The other problem is Brad Pitt. While Pitt is a fine actor, here he's given little to do aside from standing around looking handsome. Granted, he does this well and he fits in with the glitzy and glamorous aesthetic that Soderbergh is obviously going for, but if he were chopped out of the picture entirely the film wouldn't suffer much even if some of the back and forth between he and Clooney is fun.

All in all, Ocean's Thirteen falls squarely in between the first two films. It's not as good as the first picture but it's a big improvement over the misguided second entry in the series. Once again, appreciate this one as a slick popcorn movie, a film meant to entertain and nothing more. On that level it works well. Yes, it's quite superficial and the characters don't really grow or develop much (it's assumed we know them well enough at this point) but everyone and everything looks great, the dialogue is snappy and the humor works well. The suspense isn't there to make this one a classic, but it's a fun time killer regardless and certainly worth a watch for those who have enjoyed the previous entries.

The DVD

Video:

All three films in the boxed set are presented in 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen in 1080p/VC-1 encoding. The first film looks the best of the three. While there are some minor compression artifacts in a few scenes, for the most part the black levels stay nice and strong and the color reproduction is very much spot on. There aren't any major problems with print damage at all though those looking for it will probably catch a couple of fleeting instances where some specks show up on the image. Aside from that, however, Ocean's Eleven looks pretty solid. Ocean's Twelve, for whatever reason, doesn't look quite as detailed as its predecessor. Colors aren't bad at all but there's a darker color palette employed in the film that does rob the picture of discernable background detail. Skin tones look good and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression or edge enhancement, though some digital noise is evident throughout. The most recent of the films in the set, Ocean's Thirteen, suffers from some of the same issues as the second film, though in the disc's defense, a lot of this has to do with the way that the film was shot. It's intentionally gritty looking and there are times where the colors are obviously boosted, and much of the film was shot with noticeably lower light than many films. On the plus side, the black levels are rock solid and wide angle and distance shots look quite nice - it's just that parts of the film are supposed to look 'rough' and as such, they do. Overall, the three discs in the collection look pretty good. Keeping in mind Soderbergh's tendency to shoot using less traditional methods than many of his contemporaries, the three movies look pretty close to their theatrical counterparts and the HD-DVD set does a good job of replicating the 'big screen' experience.

It should be noted that the HD-DVD release of Ocean's Thirteen in this set is a combo disc and so it contains a standard definition 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film on the opposing side of the disc.

Sound:

The first two films in the set contain English, and French language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround Sound tracks as well as a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track and a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. The third film contains English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround Sound tracks. The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 tracks are encoded at 640kbps. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French, Spanish and Japanese for the first two pictures, and English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean for Ocean's Thirteen.

As far as the quality of the mixes goes, there's little to complain about here. All three films are very dialogue heavy and so much of the time the mix is coming at us from the front of the soundstage. Surrounds are used to build atmosphere by providing ambient and background noise and by directing the score into the rears from time to time. Dialogue is clean and clear from start to finish and there aren't ever any problems understanding the performers in any of the three movies. The scores sound great throughout, with the subwoofer subtly giving the bass lines a nice bit of punch without overpowering anything. Levels are properly and consistently balanced throughout playback and there aren't any problems to report with hiss or distortion at all. Sure, the rears could have been used more during the scenes that take place in the casinos and the mixes could have provided more surround sound action to placate home theater junkies but again, the HD-DVDs do a good job of recreating the theatrical experience for the films in this collection.

Extras:

The extras in this set are, understandably, spread across the three discs in the set. Thankfully, all over the supplements from the SD releases are found here as well, and on top of that, there are a couple of HD-DVD exclusives thrown in as well. Here's what you'll find and where you'll find it:

Ocean's Eleven:

The first of a pair of audio commentaries on this HD-DVD brings together actors Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Andy Garcia. The actors are obviously very comfortable with one another and having a good time as they discuss the making of the film together. There's a lot of humor and good natured ribbing in here that makes the track a lot of fun to listen to, but it's also full of interesting information about what it was like on set and about the other co-stars who make up the A list Hollywood cast. Damon and Pitt in particular are pretty amusing here, particularly when Damon starts discussing his relationship with Soderbergh. Garcia isn't quite as playful as the other two but he gets his jabs in where and when he can, and his input helps to round out the track nicely.

The second of the two commentary tracks features director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin. This track lacks the camaraderie that made the first one as enjoyable as it was and as such it feels fairly subdued but that doesn't mean it isn't interesting. The pair does a good job of covering a more technical side of the production, talking about shooting on location and about why certain decisions were made in terms of the cinematography. They also discuss casting the film and some of the ups and downs that went into getting the project completed. It's a little on the dry side but it does contain some good information.

From there, check out a couple of documentaries starting with The Look Of The Con which is a surprisingly interesting ten minute documentary that takes a look at the fashions seen in the film and the wardrobe design work done for the picture. This is actually more interesting than you'd probably expect and it's a fairly revealing look at what went into nailing this certain aspect of the film's look.

Up next is the HBO First Look: The Making Of Ocean's Eleven featurette that, at roughly fifteen minutes in length, takes us behind the scenes of the picture and provides us with some pretty generic talking head sound bits about the film. There's very little of substance here and it's pretty promotional in nature - it's not likely something that even the most die hard fans of the film will want to watch more than once.

Rounding out the extras on Ocean's Eleven are a handful of trailers and teasers for the film, some classy animated menus and a chapter selection sub-menu. All of the supplements on this HD-DVD are presented in standard definition, 480i or 480p.

Ocean's Twelve:

Soderbergh once again gets on the mic for a commentary track, this time joined by screenwriter George Nolfi. This is a good track with a lot of information given about how the film started as an adaptation of Honor Among Thieves and morphed into Ocean's Twelve. Soderbergh talks about why he decided to make a sequel in the first place and what it was like reuniting with the cast from the original film. There's a lot of good information in here and it isn't nearly as dry as Soderbergh's commentary with Griffin from the first film. What is most interesting about this track isn't so much the discussion about the making of the movie but the writer and director's discussion of the film's weaknesses and about how it does become difficult to tell some of the characters apart after a while. They do a good job of defending the picture by explaining their intentions with the film but they're not above noting a few problems either.

Up next is another HBO First Look documentary entitled Twelve Is The New Eleven is included. Clocking in at roughly thirteen minutes, this is another fluffy PR piece that delivers little useful information. It's made up of various interviews with the cast who deliver little of substance but who have no problem reassuring us that the movie is great.

Also included are roughly twenty-eight minutes worth of deleted scenes that didn't make it into the final cut of the film. None of these eighteen scenes are going to change your opinion of the movie but they're fairly interesting to see never the less. Many of these are simply extensions or re-edited bits and pieces but their inclusion is welcome.

Rounding out the extra features is a theatrical trailer (surprisingly non-anamorphic widescreen), some spiffy animated menus and chapter selection. Considering that the SD release had only a trailer in the supplements section, it's nice to see WB putting some effort into this department with the next generation releases, even if all of the bonus material here is in standard definition.

Ocean's Thirteen:

Once again, things start off with a commentary track that is exclusive to the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray releases. Here Soderbergh is joined by the film's two writers, Brian Koppelman and David Levien. This is a decent track that hits a nice blend of humor and information. There's a fair bit of technical information shared about the cinematography and the editing process used to cut the picture, and there's a good amount of attention paid to the script and the character development that we see in the picture.

Interesting, but not really related to the picture, is Masters Of The Heist, a forty four minute documentary about successful heists that have been pulled off throughout history. This documentary is exclusive to the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray releases of the film and does not appear on the standard definition release. Penn and Teller show up here as do some casino employees and law enforcement workers to tell us how some of these daring heists were pulled off.

Appearing on both the SD and HD versions of the film is An Opulent Illusion, a twenty-three minute documentary on the history of Las Vegas. Again, this has little to do with the film at hand but it's reasonably interesting viewing none the less. Architects explain to us the intricacies of casino design and we learn about the unique psychology that goes into building these mammoth structures and how key design work is employed to better encourage guests to gamble.

A third documentary, Jerry Weintraub Walk And Talk, is a brief, two minute segment that allows the film's producer to talk us on a quick walking tour of the casino set where the picture was shot.

Five minutes of deleted scenes are also included. None of this material is particularly essential and it was likely chopped out to keep the running time down but some extra bits and pieces of character development pop up here and make this worth going through.

Rounding out the extra features are some animated menus and chapter stops. All of the supplemental material is presented in standard definition save for the deleted scenes which are presented in HD. Oddly enough, the theatrical trailers for Ocean's Thirteen are conspicuously absent from either the HD or SD releases of the film.

Final Thoughts:

The transfers are a little odd and the extras certainly could have been better but the three films in the Ocean's Trilogy boxed set are clever, fun, entertaining and very stylish. The three films in the set work very well as a trilogy and this set comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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