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The Set of 400: #249 – My Favorite Prison Tuxedo

Today! Because you can’t have six cards in a five card game –

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring George Clooney (x2), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia (x2), Elliott Gould (x2), Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner (x3), Bernie Mac, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle (x2), Topher Grace, Joshua Jackson (x2)

A remake so much better than the original that it’s almost unfair to mention its existence, 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven was the movie that I think everyone assumed Steven Soderbergh could make, but never would. Sure, Out of Sight hits largely the same tone, and with Clooney, too, but it isn’t quite the bustling movie star popcorn extravaganza that this film is. But while in some cases I’ve advocated that a filmmaker winning an Oscar was detrimental to society as a whole – Spielberg’s four year hiatus after Schindler’s List, James Cameron’s everything after Titanic, etc. – Soderbergh’s win for Traffic may have actually freed him up to make something more purely fun, purely Hollywood than we would’ve expected.

And boy did it deliver. Yes, the sequels were underwhelming and unnecessary, straight through to last year’s okay-if-beating-a-dead-mare Ocean’s 8, but the first movie is a dazzling gem of subterfuge and sleight of hand. From Danny Ocean’s first appearance, getting out of jail in a full on tuxedo, this movie is chocked full of style, attitude, and more than a little winking-at-itself humor that totally works. Sure, with a cast this large and accomplished, it’s bound to feel like some folks got a little wasted through lack of use, but they do manage to give everybody just enough character bits and snappy lines to satisfy – for the most part. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #279 – My Favorite Talking Sandwich

Today! Because you go ahead and eat me now, you’re gonna need the energy –

Muppets From Space (1999)

Directed by Tim Hill

Starring Dave Goelz (x2), Steve Whitmire (x2), Bill Barretta (x2), Frank Oz (x3), Jerry Nelson (x2), Brian Henson, Kevin Clash (x2), Jeffrey Tambor, Josh Charles, Andie MacDowell, David Arquette, F. Murray Abraham, Ray Liotta (x2), Pat Hingle, Kathy Griffin, Rob Schneider, Hulk Hogan (x3), Katie Holmes (x2), Joshua Jackson, Gary Owens

Often referred to as the first big screen Muppet film where Kermit wasn’t the lead, Muppets From Space is actually the third in the ’90s trilogy of post-Jim Henson films where Gonzo is the unquestioned star, following his roles as Charles Dickens in virtually every scene of The Muppet Christmas Carol and as Jim Hawkins’ boon companion, er, Gonzo in Muppet Treasure Island. This is, to date, the only original Muppet feature where Kermit doesn’t nominally star, though, that’s true.

This was also the only theatrical Muppet film released between 1996 and 2011, and as such, it serves as an interesting keystone – wrapping up the entire early history of the franchise with the characters playing themselves, signaling the end of the Jim Henson/Frank Oz era of features, and introducing the Muppets Tonight characters into the film family for the first time. Most of them would be roundly discarded by the time the reboot of the ’10s came around (even fan favorite Pepe), and so this is likely the only film where these eras of Muppets will appear together.

We honor you, Pepe!

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