George Clooney and pals caught a lot of flack for faltering (somewhat) in the second installment of this crime caper trilogy. Critics berated Hollywood's finest for enjoying themselves off set so pointedly you'd think dead hookers were popping up left and right. Excuse the guy if he needs a break from trying to save Darfur and prepping pensive, top-notch fare like Syriana, Good Night, And Good Luck, Michael Clayton and so on. And for all its faults (I'm looking at you, Julia Roberts cameo), Twelve was still as entertaining as a popcorn movie needs to be. There seemed to be a "you owe us" attitude among some critics, and Thirteen for the most part put the carping to rest. Its biggest strength? It becomes personal for Ocean's crew, once Reuben (Elliott Gould) is royally screwed over (nearly keeling over as a result) by Al Pacino's SOB casino mogul. Not only is our faith fully restored in Ocean et al here, but suddenly we're rooting for them harder than ever. As nice as it is to see Pacino hooting and hollering again (mostly hollering), the real treat in terms of new blood is Ellen Barkin as his empowered assistant/ the "cougar" Linus (Matt Damon) attempts to seduce in the movie's funniest sequence. Who'd think Barkin could be still be so sexy 16 years after Switch?
Shrek the Third
Speaking of critical lashings, Shrek's third outing was a popular target for ire this past summer. Not so much in terms of popular opinion, though. Mylesomaticx, for one, declared it "THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE" in his/her user review on Moviefone. Whoa there, Mylesomaticx. I'll play the diplomat and say it falls somewhere smack dab in the middle of the critiques of the Rotten Tomatoes majority ("flat and pointless," says one) and the Caps Locked Mylesomaticx. I didn't find Shrek the Third any less enjoyable than Shrek 2 (which got glorious reviews), that's for sure. There are more storylines here (they could've done without those creepy dronkeys) and the humor, seemingly skewed even further for adults, is still funnier and smarter than the vast majority of animated rip-offs we see nowadays. The suddenly ubiquitous actorJustin Timberlake (when in the world does he find time to practice the Moonwalk?) joins the fun as Artie, the rightful heir to the throne of Far Far Away, and is surprisingly adept at voicing a whiny teen. But Mike Myers needs to hurry up and play someone/something else. Is it just me or is he becoming increasingly interchangeable with the character Shrek? Luckily, The Love Guru, his first non-Shrek film in five years, opens next June. JT co-stars.