From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ — kick back and enjoy the ride

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 20, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

For the moviegoer who wants pure entertainment, have I got a movie for you!

Steven Soderbergh has created a new version of Frank Sinatra’s 1960 Ocean’s Eleven and the result is a pure delight. Don’t ask questions and go with the flow as ex-con Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gathers 10 fellow crooks to attempt the heist to end all heists.

Ocean’s main compatriot is Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), already on the scene in Las Vegas. From across the United States Ocean and Ryan round up a cast of burglars who seek to steal more than $100 million from three of the most famous Las Vegas hotels.

The heart of the movie is the exhaustive preparations these 11 unique characters make to break in and out of the central bank of the Mirage, the Bellagio and the MGM Grand. They even set up an elaborate set to mimic the exact look of the actual cage of the Bellagio, where the money from the three casinos is kept under lock and key.

Complications come to the fore as we find out that Danny’s former wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), has taken up with the Godfather-like owner of the Bellagio, Terry Benedict, played by Andy Garcia. It becomes fairly obvious that Danny is still in love with Tess and maybe that’s the reason this incredible caper is taking place.

Twists and turns move forward that remind the viewer of scenes in this year’s large number of caper films, namely The Score and Heist. Yes, you do pull for the success of these delightful crooks.

The dry and sly jokes keep coming throughout the film. The wonderful Carl Reiner character, impersonating a European high roller, three times says “My name is Lyman Zerga,” just like he is a contestant on the old What’s My Line? game show. The cut-throat casino owner, Terry Benedict, picks up the phone on the night of a major heavyweight boxing match that is sold out at the MGM Grand. The caller is a Mr. Levin — the name of the real-life CEO of Warner Bros. and HBO. Benedict curtly says there are no seats available and “Certainly Mr. Levin, you can watch it on HBO. You do have HBO, don’t you?”

George Clooney does a great job in the role that originally belonged to Frank Sinatra. Clooney has a dramatic presence that is in the tradition of the old Clark Gable-type of star.

Brad Pitt in the Dean Martin role is dry, droll and very funny. Julia Roberts has a fairly small but important role as the woman inciting this whole fantastic robbery, whether she knows it or not. Director Soderbergh gets in what I assume is his own joke during the credits, which read, “Introducing Julia Roberts.” Yes it was Soderbergh who directed Roberts to her Academy Award win in Erin Brockovich.

Matt Damon gives a flat performance. Of the big stars in the film he seems a little lost.

Two old-time stars steal every scene they are in. Elliott Gould is wonderful as an angry and colorful casino owner who has been done in by Benedict. Carl Reiner, now in his 80s, shows what a great character actor can do. He is memorable.

Soderbergh, who also was the director of photography, has done it again. Sure, Ocean’s Eleven is a trifle. But it is pure entertainment at its best.

Ocean’s Eleven is rated PG-13 for strong language and fake violence. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rate it A-III — for adults.

*****
For several weeks movie theaters across the country have been selling tickets to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which opened finally on Dec. 19. Tolkien was a good friend of C.S. Lewis, who wrote the seven children’s books which make up The Chronicles of Narnia.

The story of much of Lewis’s life is found in the beautiful film Shadowlands. HBO Video has the VHS version of the 1993 film.

For a long winter night, Shadowlands is a poignant story of love that bravely takes on a fundamental question: How can a good God allow suffering in this world?

Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) is a famous Oxford don at the Magdalen college. He has a huge following because of his books and lectures. He seems to have all the answers as he lives in the rather ethereal world of the mind.

Into his heavily structured and safe world comes an American of Jewish background by the name of Joy Gresham (Debra Winger). As they meet in Oxford in 1952 she is an admirer of Lewis’ books. Her background as a leftist and outspoken American both attract Lewis and at the same time make him feel more than a little uncomfortable.

Director Richard Attenborough slowly tells the story of their rather strange love and marriage. Lewis marries Gresham after she has come to England following the divorce from her abusive American husband. Lewis marries her so that she can legally stay in England for a permanent period of time.

Slowly but surely Lewis is brought “kicking and screaming” into a realization of what love and family are all about. Gresham, in her slow and sometimes very outspoken, way humanizes Lewis. He begins to feel and to love.

He is finally pushed over the edge as he has to face the fact that his wife is dying of cancer. All of his writings and lectures in which he seemed so sure of his view go by the wayside in the midst of Joy’s suffering.

Beautiful views of Oxford fill the film. Anthony Hopkins is superb in the role for which he won a British Academy Award. Even when Lewis has all the answers he is still played by Hopkins with a basic goodness that is very appealing. As Lewis is broken open by his beloved and the events that take place in this true-life story, Hopkins plays him with incredible agony and joy.

Debra Winger plays Joy with the right amount of assertiveness in which she “does not suffer fools lightly.” She beautifully walks the line carefully between the maudlin and heartfelt emotion. The scene where she and Lewis go to the Golden Valley in Herefordshire is memorable as she confronts what is unspeakable for Lewis.

Shadowlands was originally a play on the London stage by William Nicholson. It has been opened up in cinematic way that is haunting.

Yes, this is a three-Kleenex movie. Also it is a little long at 130 minutes. A subplot or two could have been easily cut. It is a film the whole family could watch, but I would certainly admit younger children would not be interested. For those viewers who hanker for a good, old-time movie, Shadowlands is it. Enjoy it. And to top it off, Shadowlands may change the you way at looking at life.

Shadowlands is rated PG for subject matter.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane.)


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