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2 Reviews: Ali & Ocean's Eleven
by david    Jan 14, 2001

starring: Will Smith, John Voight, Ron Silver & Jamie Foxx

The first hour or so of Ali is incredibly compelling. It focuses not only on Ali's first Liston battle, but on the meteoric rise of his media persona, and on his relationship with the Nation of Islam, and especially Malcom X. It is engaging to watch this most popular of sports figures (played with great relish by Will Smith) as he stumbles through the unfamiliar territories of political and national intrigue, and, for me, tremendously interesting to watch dramatic political events such as the death of Malcom X and Martin Luther King, Jr. through Ali-colored glasses.

But then the first hour and fifteen minutes are over, and you have to watch the movie for another hour and a half.

Apparently Ali was friends with Joe Frazier. Also, he had a few wives, and a weakness for women. And he was broke for a while. And Don King tried to manipulate him. And George Forman can punch through steel. All this is tossed unceremoniously at the audience without real context, or even so much as a good timeline. Even with the three wives Ali goes through only in the movie, the only real relationship in the seems to be the one between Howard Cosell (John Voight) and Ali, and even that is lost 45 minutes before the movie's end.

The acting in this flick is very good. Will Smith is a good Ali. Voight is a great Cosell. Even Mario VanPeebles is a good Malcom X (whoulda thunk it?). But the movie just meanders way too much, and the ending, despite Ali's triumph over Foreman, is horribly unsatisfying. Maybe, rather than focusing on 10 years of Ali's life, director Mann should have focused on 5 years. Or 1 year. Or a coffee break. Christ, this is Muhammed Ali - how in the hell did a movie about the life of one of the most entertaining sports figures ever get so boring?

Ocean's Eleven
starring: Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Gould, Reiner, Caan, Affleck, Roberts, Garcia, Mac & Grace

I expected not to like Ocean's 11. It looked boring to me, and silly.

Well, I was wrong on one count at least. It is silly, but it is funny-fun silly, not boring silly. Not at all. It's a big, silly heist movie, where big, silly George Clooney (Daniel Ocean) has to recruit a big, silly "crew" to pull off a big, silly robbery (three Vegas casinos simultaneously). Hi-jinks ensue, and everyone is just the right amount of cool and witty and charming and silly and sweaty and old and/or young. And nearly everyone (notable exceptions being Carl Reiner and Elliot Gould) is very good looking. Topher Grace (That 70's Show) is especially hilarious as a vacuous young Hollywood pretty boy trying to look cool in front of con-men Pitt and Clooney, and Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are extremely amusing as constantly-feuding half-wit brothers.

Ocean's 11 is fast paced, the writing and directing is tight, and the acting is solid. All in all, this makes for great fun in a movie. There's not much here in the way of deep spiritual journeys or touching romantic interludes, but stuff does blow up and Elliot Gould walks around with no shirt on. What more do you need?

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