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Murky Ocean 

‘Ocean’s Twelve’ seems like an inside joke; Third time’s too much for ‘Blade.’

OCEAN'S GANG: Not so slick this go-round.
  • OCEAN'S GANG: Not so slick this go-round.
I must admit: Though I hate even the idea of a film with a mega-star ensemble cast, I really liked 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven.” Besides being a sucker for a heist film, no matter how clumsy, I think that with stars like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts on board, the peer pressure kept all and sundry from mailing in the flabby performances they might deliver if any of the above was headlining alone. With a script that buzzed along too fast for much soul-searching, star-bright Vegas locales, and the crisp style of director Steven Soderbergh, “Ocean’s Eleven” is one of those rare movies I can watch again and again, even the chocksockied version they show on TNT. All this is exactly what makes “Ocean’s Twelve” so disappointing. Often hackneyed and ponderous, “Twelve” seems like it was made solely to give the old chums from the first movie a reason to hang out in Europe. While you get the feeling they’re having a hell of a time, onscreen and off, the viewer is often left feeling like the odd man out. “Ocean’s Twelve” picks up three years after “Eleven” left off, with the $160 million from the first film’s heist evenly divided and the 11 members of the original scheme scattered to the four winds (some of them with more of their original stake than others). All are living relatively quiet lives when they are finally tracked down by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the vindictive casino boss they stole from and humiliated in the first film. Given that ringleader Danny Ocean (Clooney) stole both Benedict’s money and his girlfriend, Tess (Julia Roberts), he isn’t in the mood to negotiate. Benedict wants his $160 million back, with interest, in two weeks, or it’s curtains for the original Eleven. Once reunited, they decide to pull a number of jobs in Europe to get the money together and save their skins, leading to adventures and misadventures in some of the continent’s most beautiful cities. Soon, they find themselves in a mysterious sort of competition with a French thief called “The Night Fox” and trying to outwit a beautiful Interpol agent (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is out for more than an arrest. Though Soderbergh employs the washed-out, hand-held style that made his powerhouse “Traffic” such a joy to watch, here it just ends up making “Twelve” look bleak and jittery. Without the bright lights and electricity of Vegas, there’s nothing to distract you from the plot holes, and after awhile the film just sort of drops over on its side and is content to lie there, looking bloated and star-heavy in exactly the way the first film never did. — By David Koon Though there have been some pitiful excuses for the Superhero Movie in recent years (the bloody and slow “The Punisher” comes to mind), when it works, it really works. In particular, I’ve been a long-time fan of the “Blade” movies. Starring Wesley Snipes as a Kevlar-clad vampire slayer with all the James Bond toys and none of the James Bond quippiness, Blade was a hero for a new, more frightening era — an often paranoid, conspiratorial, anti-social loner with a mean streak as wide as an Interstate and trouble keeping his heart in the fight to save a society that really doesn’t seem all that worth saving. While “Blade II” was a bit top-heavy, there wasn’t an inch of fat on either Snipes or the first film in the trilogy. With razor-clean style and shots torn directly from the comic books, the look and pace of the original “Blade” can still take the Pepsi Challenge with even the most ambitious of today’s comic-flick crop. But oh, how the mighty have fallen. You shouldn’t ride a racehorse until it drops dead from exhaustion. Likewise, all good heroes ought to be allowed to go out on top. Here, however, with the last installment of the Blade saga (how this one ends doesn’t leave much wiggle room for a sequel), we get what can only be called a mess. Directed by David Goyer, who wrote all three of the “Blade” films, it’s the best argument yet for why writers shouldn’t try to tack “director” onto their resume. Slow to build and diced into more bits than a julienned potato, “Blade: Trinity” often forgets the lone wolf sensibility that made the first two “Blade” films work, substituting instead a handful of funny one-liners, a predictable story, and enough dead-end plot threads to knit a sweater. The film begins much where the other two did, with Blade continuing in his one-man crusade to rid the world of bloodsuckers, with the help of his gadget-man Abraham Whistler. After getting drawn into a fight that is captured on videotape, Blade suddenly finds himself Public Enemy No. 1, pursued not only by the Vampire cabal that runs the world, but by the FBI as well (sadly, this is one of those promising plot lines that just sort of peters out). Soon, we find that the Vampires, led by indie-film queen Parker Posey (looking like a kid with Grandpa’s false teeth crammed into her mouth, often slurring her words over a gigantic set of fanged choppers) have recently discovered the resting place of the original vampire, Drake (Dominic Purcell). One bad mother, Drake — like Blade — can walk around in daylight, but also has a number of other tricks up his sleeve, including the ability to shape-shift to look like anyone. Meanwhile, Blade gets captured and Whistler gets killed. But just before he’s to be transferred into the hands of his enemies, Blade is sprung from FBI custody by the Night Stalkers, a “sleeper cell” of vampire hunters led by Abigail (Jessica Biel) — Abe Whistler’s illegitimate daughter — and prerequisite wise-ass sidekick Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds). Once back at the Stalkers’ secret hideout, Blade finds out they are working on a virus that will do away with all the vampires once and for all, but only if it is mixed with Drake’s blood. From there, you know how it goes: explosions, mayhem, lots of swordplay. It seems to be more about setting up a new Night Stalkers franchise than it is about Blade, and it’s a poor end for a hero who seemed headed toward an honorable ride into the sunset. — By David Koon
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