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Black Swan (2010)

I just want to be perfect.

— Nina Sayers

The genesis of the #119 Movie of All Time on IMDB, Black Swan stemmed from a jettisoned storyline from Darren Aronofsky’s last movie, The Wrestler. It was intended to be a story about an over the hill wrestler and fading ballerina. Aronofsky wanted to explore the psyche of a ballerina further in this movie.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a featured dancer in the American Ballet Company in New York City. Her overprotective mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey) gave up her dreams of being a prima ballerina to have Nina. She wants Nina to succeed in ways that she could not.

Headmaster Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is auditioning potential dancers for his stripped down version of the classic ballet, “Swan Lake” to open up the season. The original Swan Queen, Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) is forced into an early retirement, because she is not drawing the crowds like she used to. She is embittered by this drastic action.

Seeing her chance to be the principal dancer, Nina tries out for the Swan Queen and almost loses the part due to her frigid, perfectionist style of dancing. Thomas seeing the potential in Nina when he forces himself upon her and gives her the part.

Nina’s ambition for being the best Swan Queen that ever was is consuming her when she thinks a rival dancer from San Francisco, Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her part and her life. Her paranoia over Lily, the pressures of her mother, the criticism of Thomas and the part almost consumes her as she thinks that old habits of scratching are rearing their ugly head again.

Aronofsky has a way of setting the mood of the film with a device that he did in his last film with having the camera being behind the main actor. Like the audience is falling her, going on her journey to madness. I don’t know if the notice that the color palette was mostly black and white to represent the light and the dark, good and evil, etc. I would not think that a movie about a ballerina would be Aronofsky’s plate, but I would impressed by the result.

I did find some faults with the film. It mainly deals with the supporting actresses in this film, Hershey, Ryder and Kunis. I know that Hershey wanted to be the overbearing, neurotic mother, but the scene in the kitchen with the cake. Yeah. I don’t believe for a second that Ryder would be on point in her life. Her only emotions were inebriation or anger. Nothing in between. The problem that I had with Kunis was that I didn’t believe that her character would be a rival for Natalie’s character at all. I also had an issue with the camerawork in the up-close dance sequences. It felt so jerky and weird that I could not get into the dance on an emotional level.

Judgment: It is a graceful retelling of obsession, jealousy and destruction.

Rating: ****1/2

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

You know, you’re half smart, Ocean.

— Willy Bank

Soderbergh and company wanted to conclude the Ocean’s saga with Ocean’s Thirteen. This installment is a return of form with the gang returning to their roots in Las Vegas. I am glad that everyone returned to the slick caper story like the first movie.

During their absences between capers, the gang is reunited when Reuben suffers a cardiac infarction when a deal with an egomaniacal property owner, Willy Bank (Al Pacino) goes south. When one of the Twelve is wronged, a price needs to be paid. Danny pays Willy a visit when he was at the construction of his place, The Bank Casino.

The Bank Casino is an extravagant showplace with no expense spared with its marble floors and golden silverware. Willy wants to win another “Five Diamond” necklace for the best hotel in terms of customer service and overall cleanliness. Willy’s right-hand woman, Abigail (Ellen Barkin) is his eyes and ears to see if anybody would do anything during their soft opening.

Danny and Rusty seek the advice of Roman to find a way to seek revenge on Willy before the official opening of The Bank Casino on July 3rd. After some brainstorming, the team decides to destroy Willy from the inside out. First, they have to get inside of the building by bribing the lead concierge, Debbie (Olga Sosnovska), rig all of the games so the gamblers win, create a seismic event and distract a “Five Diamond” critic (David Paymer).

If they pull off this feat, they could get away with over $500 million dollars and at the same time bankrupt Willy Bank in the process. As their plan goes along, they realized that they bit off more than they can chew. Begrudgingly, they seek the help of Terry Benedict to help them carry out the mission.

First, what was up with Al Pacino’s skin? He was fluorescent orange. He was tanoxeric. It distracted me. I’m glad that they recaptured some of the magic from the first movie. I have a problem with some of the lighting. The shadowy scenes muddled everything. Nothing popped out of the screen. Soderbergh ended the series of a good note.

Judgment: If you want to see a return to form, watch this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Terry, I can’t predict the future. I pay professionals to do that, and even they get it wrong sometimes.

— Reuben

After the massive success of the first movie, Soderburgh and company came back together for Ocean’s Twelve. This setting and story are dramatically different from the glitz and glamour from the first incarnation. Instead of the bright lights of the Las Vegas, the Eleven are focused their attention on Europe. I think that this was a mistake, because it hurt the caper aspect of the story.

When the Eleven successful pilfered Terry Benedict out of his $150 million dollars at the ending of the first movie, (spoiler alert) the beginning show how the gang was doing during the three and a half since the heist. Most of them spent some or all of their $13 million dollars cut.

They get a rude awakening when Benedict tracks them all down wherever they were hiding. He offers them a chance to correct their mistakes by stealing his money. Benedict gives them two weeks to return the money with interest, which is roughly $200 million dollars, or he will kill them.

The gang has a pow-wow to discuss how they could get the money is that short amount of time. They decide to go to Amsterdam to meet up with Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who gives them an assignment to steal the world’s oldest stock certificate from 1602 worth $2.5 million Euros.

When they do, they realize that a famous cat burglar named “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) got the stock first. Not only that, but the team realizes that The Night Fox made the call to Benedict that ratted them out.

The Night Fox issues a challenge to the Ocean’s Eleven to steal a Coronation Faberge Egg from exhibit in Paris. They want to beat The Night Fox at their own game. Eleven becomes Twelve when they enlist the help of Roman (Eddie Izzard) to help pull off the switch-a-roo.

This movie as a whole is not well executed. The dialogue was not up to par. The scenes dragged on way too long. I was bored to tears. The movie looks grainy. The interaction with the members felt clunky and stagy. There wasn’t the synergy from the first outing. I was disappointed with this movie, especially the last thirty that fell off the tracks.

Judgment: This is one of the instances that the sequel is not better than the original.

Rating: **1/2

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