Ocean's 11 Blu-ray delivers great video and solid audio in this enjoyable Blu-ray release
New Yearís Eve in Las Vegas. Roulette wheels spin, cards snap, slots chime, champagne fizzes, shows go onÖand the lights go out. Itís the perfect time to steal a kiss or a $25 chip. But for Danny Ocean and 10 partners in crime, itís the ideal moment to steal millions.
For more about Ocean's 11 and the Ocean's 11 Blu-ray release, see Ocean's 11 Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 30, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
It's Vegas, baby! And Old Vegas at that. The Mint, the Golden Nugget, the Bootlegger Bistro, the Golden Gate and, of course, the Sahara, Riviera, Desert Inn, Sands, and Flamingo. The classic, Rat-Pack era Strip. No Cirque du Soleil, no MGM Grand, no Elvis impersonators, no Blue Man Group, no Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, no Siegfried and Roy. Sharp suits and cigs, high-class broads and cool cats. Snake eyes and double-down bravado, Big Band in the Copa Room. Filmmaker Lewis Milestone's oft-panned Ocean's 11 is a celebration of all things Old Vegas; a slick, unabashed tribute to the reign of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis, Jr. But like its Kings of Swing, self-indulgence haunts its legacy. As sure-footed and sharp-witted as it can be, Ocean's 11 is rather bloated and ungainly. As breezy as its furrowed brow ensemble's chemistry is, its stuffy setups and stilted cadence spoil some of the fun. Long before the credits roll, the weight of its screenplay crushes any semblance of effortlessness as the film, brisk and bristling as it may be, struggles to rise to the height of its Rat Pack stars.
"The odds are always with the house..."
Bearing little resemblance to the fiercely entertaining Steven Soderbergh 2001 remake of the same name, Ocean's 11 follows the exploits and five-casino heist of eleven World War II veterans: unflinching masterminds Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford), inside man Sam Harmon (Dean Martin), go-to demolitions man and resident driver Josh Howard (Sammy Davis Jr), gopher Roger Corneal (Henry Silva), terminally ill electrical expert Tony Bergdorf (Richard Conte), insecure loyalist Vince Massler (Buddy Lester), brains and backer Spyros Acebos (Akim Tamiroff), and second tier robbers Mushy O'Connors (Joey Bishop), Curly Steffans (Richard Benedict), Louis Jackson (Clem Harvey) and Peter Rheimer (Norman Fell). The gig? Simultaneously looting five casinos -- the Flamingo, the Sahara, the Desert Inn, the Riviera and the Sands -- at the strike of midnight on New Year's Eve. The plan? Rewiring the cashier's cages so a power failure will open each one and the crooks can relieve the hotels of their earnings before anyone's the wiser. The execution and getaway? Well, that's where things get tricky.
When Ocean's 11 focuses on its fast-talking ne'er-do-wells, it sings. Charles Lederer and Harry Brown's dialogue is punchy and memorable, the Rat Packers are as charming as ever and their supporting players fill several thankless roles quite admirably. Sinatra exudes seven shades of unwavering cool, Martin croons whenever the opportunity presents itself, Lawford is classy and contained (hardly a stretch for the calm, collected Englishman), Davis Jr. delivers despite being saddled with a woefully underdeveloped part, Conte and Lester actually find some meat on their characters' thin bones (melodramatic subplots notwithstanding) and Tamiroff hams it up as the group's thick-accented comic relief. Sinatra and Lawford are more essential to the plot than their fellow singers -- a real surprise, especially considering how easily each one could have demanded a spot at the head of the table -- but Milestone takes advantage of his actors' chummy humility and delivers a leaner, tighter heist as a result.
The humor is heavy-handed and the gags are riddled with cumbersome slapstick, sure. The team's oddly timed jokes are occasionally at odds with the slippery tone and tenor of the flick, I know. The five-casino heist isn't nearly as clever as Milestone presents it, no argument here. (Lone security guards and oblivious management hardly pose the threat Terry Benedict's state-of-the-art computer-controlled vault does.) The film's momentum stutters and stalls, the stars mug for the camera and the musical bits are seasoned with a hint of ego... yes, yes, yes. But Ocean's 11 isn't a film in the traditional sense as much as it is a cinematic Rat Pack bender. It's Sinatra and crew doing what they do best: flirting with women, lighting cigarettes, downing cocktails, belting out songs and doing it all with the patented swagger that vaulted them to fame in the first place. Narcissistic? Perhaps, if the cast weren't having so much fun. Uneven? It already was in 1960, and it seems even more so in 2010. Cheesy? In retrospect, definitely. But as a time capsule of '60s Vegas Swing style and swank, I gotta say... it kinda works.
Unfortunately, Ocean's 11 doesn't end on a high note. Instead, it sobers up and pushes on, plodding along well after the Rat Pack pulls off their elaborate heist. Whether Milestone and the boys are guilty of moralizing, reflecting on the real-world consequences of criminal behavior or simply holding onto a good thing for too long is anyone's guess. But the film's third act endgame undermines most of what comes before it. At times, it feels like a separate flick entirely; a dull and diluted sequel of sorts tacked on without much rhyme or reason. Though deliberate, it seems at complete odds with Ocean's first act -- a slow, lumbering build up that feels positively aimless in light of Milestone's electric, casino-to-casino heist -- and the two bookends sandwich what could have been a fantastic little flick. (A sentiment Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin apparently shared when developing their nimble 2001 remake. If you couldn't tell already, it's a personal favorite.) I can see where it would be easy to love Milestone's Ocean's 11 and understand why it's still kicking after fifty years. But, at best, it strikes me as a guilty pleasure; an ode to Old Vegas, its Rat-Pack glory days and an era with undeniable appeal. If that sounds up your alley, by all means, enjoy.
Say what you will about some of Warner's lesser catalog releases. Far more often than not, the studio treats its classic titles -- true gems and divisive guilty pleasures alike -- with the utmost respect. Honestly, I didn't expect much from Ocean's 11 video transfer. Chalk it up to its fifty years, limited appeal or barebones marketing campaign. But Warner's excellent 1080p/VC-1 transfer handily trumps its DVD counterpart and should easily surpass humble expectations like mine. William H. Daniels' Old Vegas palette is awash with bold neon blues, deep backroom reds, satisfying blacks and warm, relatively natural skintones. Better still, delineation is impressive, contrast is spot on (despite a few bowling alley-esque dips and dives) and nary a distracting artifact or color band spoils the proceedings. Detail is a tad inconsistent and noise occasionally invades nighttime sequences -- no thanks to an at-times spotty source littered with soft shots and problematic scenes -- but by and large, the integrity of the original image has been meticulously preserved. Fine textures are apparent throughout, object definition is clean and crisp, edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and the whole of the presentation, grain and all, is faithfully rendered. Only a handful of scenes will raise DNR flags, and of those scenes, an even smaller handful are prone to slight smearing. All things considered, Ocean's 11 looks great and reinforces Warner's place with Sony at the head of the catalog pack.
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is just as faithful, albeit to lesser ends. Dialogue is bright, clear and well prioritized, and only a small smattering of inconsequential lines is muffled or pinched. The whole of the track struggles with tinny effects, a somewhat hollow musical score and stagey background chatter, but at fifty years and counting, it rarely detracts from the studio's otherwise noble mastering efforts. Of course, without any LFE oomph or engrossing soundfield to speak of, there's little else to praise (or complain about for that matter). Ideally, every studio would offer a lossless mono or stereo mix and a snazzy 5.1 remix on their catalog releases, pleasing both purists and progressive audio-junkies in one fell swoop. But production budgets are king, and I would rather have a solid mono mix than an overwrought 5.1 redux. Frankly, I'm just happy to see every catalog release earning a full-fledged lossless audio track. Just a year ago, that wasn't the case.
The highpoint of the 50th Anniversary Edition extras is Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson's audio commentary, despite the fact that silence tends to dominate the track. Recorded individually, Sinatra delivers a slew of dry but interesting production tidbits, touching on the genesis of the project and his father's involvement, while Dickinson offers up a number of amusing first-hand anecdotes, many of which steal the show. Unfortunately, Sinatra is a bit too enamored with the film, Dickinson tends to get lost in her memories, and there isn't much to speak of beyond the commentary. A clip from "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" with guest host Frank Sinatra (SD, 4 minutes) is worth watching but far too short, a "Tropicana Museum Vignette" (SD, 2 minutes) is little more than a tourist promo, the disc's "Vegas Map" includes quick video histories of the film's featured casinos, two theatrical trailers (SD, 4 minutes) are included for good measure, and a brief easter egg can be found on the Special Features menu by pressing "down" from the "Vegas Map" and clicking on the dice that appear (many thanks to forum member "bluskies" for finding the hidden extra).
Ocean's 11 is a byproduct of early '60s Rat Pack kitsch, but fans of the era and its swinging stars won't mind. Warner, meanwhile, continues to grant even its lesser catalog titles strong releases, and this one is no different. With a fit and faithful video transfer that trounces its standard DVD counterpart, a solid DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix and a semi-decent supplemental package, the Blu-ray edition of Ocean's 11 justifies its asking price. Limited appeal? Indeed. But fans who buy in will be pleased.
Warner Home Video has withdrawn My Dog Skip from its Blu-ray release schedule. The studio has not given a new release date, or any reason for the cancellation of this family movie, initially announced for October 19. In other date change news, Ocean's 11, initially ...
Warner Home Video has announced Ocean's 11: 50th Anniversary Edition for release on Blu-ray on October 5. This is the original 1960 heist movie, starring Frank Sinatra and its "rat-pack" off-screen pals Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and ...