Take 3: Ocean’s Eleven (1960) Review

Peter Lawford is an actor I was not familiar with prior to my participation in the 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon. But, like I’ve said in past blogathons, I didn’t let this stop me to joining Kristen’s event! As I was looking through Peter’s filmography on IMDB, I discovered he had starred in the original Ocean’s Eleven. This is the movie I chose to review for the blogathon because of how rarely heist films are talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. Two years ago, I wrote a review for Logan Lucky when I participated in my very first blogathon. Anyone who has read that article would know how I did not like that film. Another point I’d like to make is how Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero (who all appear in Ocean’s Eleven) starred in another movie I reviewed for a blogathon; Marriage on the Rocks. Like Logan Lucky, I was not a fan of the 1965 movie. With my review of Ocean’s Eleven, however, I’m hoping my luck will start to turn around!

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/18360/Ocean-s-Eleven/#tcmarcp-196918.

Things I liked about the films:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I have seen and reviewed Marriage on the Rocks. Three of the film’s stars, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero, reunite in Ocean’s Eleven! The 1960 picture allowed Dean and Cesar to work with acting material that was different from Marriage on the Rocks, with their performances appearing more dramatic. Meanwhile, Frank’s portrayal of Danny Ocean contained the same ease he displayed in the aforementioned 1965 movie. Ocean’s Eleven also introduced me to talent that I had never seen before, such as Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. What I liked about Peter’s performance was how he was able to adapt to any situation placed in his character’s path. Even though this was the first time I’ve ever seen Sammy act, I was impressed with the smooth confidence he consistently carried throughout the story! One thing that stood out to me was the on-screen chemistry among the cast! Every actor appeared to work well with each other and compliment their co-stars.

The differentiation among the casinos: In a movie showcasing five casinos, it’s important to differentiate these locations for the audience. This choice avoids confusion and prevents the casinos from blending in with each other. The various New Year’s Eve parties feature creative ways these facilities were able to set themselves apart! At the party in the Flamingo casino, pink balloons served as party decorations. Down the street at the Sands casino, blue balloons could be seen. The costumes of the on-stage performers also highlighted the differences between each location. Dancers wearing burnt orange and white checkered costumes were found at the Desert Inn. Meanwhile, black costumes were worn by dancers at the Sands.

The dialogue: For the most part, the dialogue in Ocean’s Eleven was smartly written and sounded clever! One example takes place during a conversation between Danny’s ex-wife and Sam Harmon. When she is talking about her relationship with her ex-husband, Sam responds by saying how Cloud 9 must have been boring. Another example of smart writing happens when Josh Howard to talking with one of the members of Danny’s group. In their conversation, they talk about bravery. Josh shares that being brave doesn’t make someone invincible. These two examples I shared show how there was effort placed in the script.

The 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes. Image found at https://knwiniarski.com/peter-lawford-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A dialogue heavy first half: Every heist movie sets aside time to lay out the plans for the heist. While the first half of Ocean’s Eleven does feature these plans, it also included explanations of why the members of Danny’s group wanted to pull off the heist. The first half of the story featured explanations of the characters’ personal issues as well. This caused the movie’s entire first half to be dialogue heavy. If some of these explanations had been shortened or cut, it would have presented the heist sooner.

A “bait and switch” third act: With a movie titled Ocean’s Eleven, the audience expects a good portion of the story to focus on the heist itself. While the planning and execution of the heist was shown, the story transitions its focus to Duke Santos and his investigation after the heist takes place. This creative choice made the third act seem like a “bait and switch”. It also caused this part of the story to drag a little bit, preventing the film from ending earlier than it did.

Too many characters: Despite the film containing an all-star cast, I felt there were too many characters in this story. There were times when I had difficulty keeping track of who was who. The large number of cast members also caused some actors to receive less screen time than others, with Red Skelton being one of them. When I saw his name on a casino marquee, I was given the impression he would perform a comedy sketch on the casino’s stage. However, Red was briefly featured in one scene where he was seen arguing with a casino employee. I wondered why this film’s creative team would recruit such a well-known star for such a small part, especially when Red Skelton’s claim to fame, comedy, wasn’t utilized?

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My overall impression:

Ocean’s Eleven is the first film of Peter Lawford’s I have ever seen. But I have not seen the “Ocean” movies from the 21st century, so I cannot make a comparison. Despite all this, I found the 1960 movie to be a fine first impression! Unlike Logan Lucky, Ocean’s Eleven showcased a heist that was interesting, exciting, and even suspenseful. Clever dialogue and creative set design at each casino were worth seeing and listening. Even the acting was solid, not just from Peter, but from the cast as a whole! However, there are factors that held Ocean’s Eleven back from being a stronger film. While I liked the dialogue, I found the movie’s first half very dialogue heavy. There were also too many characters and the third act felt like a “bait and switch”. But I still thought it was better than Logan Lucky and Marriage on the Rocks. If Kristen brings this blogathon back next year, it’ll be interesting to see what I choose!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of the “Ocean” movies? Which film of Peter Lawford’s would you want to check out? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Never a Dull Moment Review

Like I said in my Follow Me, Boys! review, I have several movies on my DVR. Most of these films were recorded last year or over a year ago. Last night, I chose to watch one of these films, which I added to my DVR last June. This film is Never a Dull Moment! Sometime, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will host a marathon called “Treasures from the Disney Vault”. When this event takes place, the network will show a collection of smaller titles and lesser known films from Disney. In one of these marathons, Never a Dull Moment was included in the line-up. While I had never heard of this film prior to the marathon, I have seen two of Dick Van Dyke’s movies. Because one of those films was Mary Poppins, which I have enjoyed, I had a good indication that I might like Never a Dull Moment. Was this the case? Keep reading my review if you want to find out!

Never a Dull Moment poster created by Walt Disney Productions and Buena Vista Distribution. ©Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NeverADullMoment1968.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Before watching Never a Dull Moment, I had seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. A consistent component of Dick Van Dyke’s acting abilities I have noticed is the strong adaptability. In one scene, his character, Jack, is acting drunk in an attempt to impersonate a gangster. Moments later, Jack is crying over the loss of a fictional Aunt Gladys. This is a great example of how Dick could effortlessly take on any situation through his performance! At limited moments in the film, a gangster named Florian would appear. This character was portrayed by Tony Bill. What I liked about his performance is how calm and collected his persona came across. Even though Florian was Leo Smooth’s henchman, he presented an idea of a gangster that people have come to recognize in film. While I liked Dorothy Provine’s portrayal of Sally, I want to talk about Joanna Cook Moore’s portrayal of Melanie, as her on-screen presence was shorter. Joanna’s personality was bubbly, which appeared natural for her character. During a scene where Melanie is showing Jack some of her figure skating photos, Joanna seemed to use her performance to light up the room. Her on-screen presence was memorable, despite being featured in only three scenes.

The set design: I was really impressed by the set design in Never a Dull Moment! Since the movie takes place in New York, tall skyscrapers and even the Brooklyn Bridge can be seen. This specific set looked impressive, making the location feel larger than life! Another great example of set design was Leo Smooth’s mansion. My favorite feature of this set was the consistency and fine detailing of the woodwork, especially on the staircase! A local art museum is where the film’s heist is featured. During the climax, various art exhibits are showcased. The Pop Art exhibit was the best one, as the art itself was colorful. It was also large in scale, creating a space that felt grand.

The music: If used well, music can help set a tone for either the whole movie or a particular scene. The music certainly did that for Never a Dull Moment! Whenever Jack was sneaking around Leo’s mansion, smooth jazz music could be heard. This fits the tone of those scenes because it emulates a feeling of curiosity that usually comes from film-noir and mysteries. In a scene involving a spinning piece of art, music from a merry-go-round was playing in the background. Since the art itself is colorful and the scene is meant to be humorous, this musical selection makes sense.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out story: One overarching narrative of Never a Dull Moment revolves around a group of gangsters planning to steal a valuable painting. While an important component of any heist is the preparation stage, this part of the process lasted longer than it should have. Only one scene is dedicated to highlighting the plans for the heist. But the rest of that time was spent focusing on things not related to the heist. One example is Melanie Smooth attempting to relive her glory days as a famous figure skater. Moments like this had nothing to do with the heist and caused the overall story to feel drawn out.

Little sense of urgency: Heist films are usually fast paced, as there is a sense of urgency to carry out the heist. But, in Never a Dull Moment, the amount of urgency within the story was small. For most of the film, Jack hangs out at Leo Smooth’s mansion. This part of the movie was mundane, as little to no excitement was taking place. Even the gangsters’ activities didn’t feel out of the ordinary. A good example is when Leo is painting in his office. While the overall level of excitement picked up when the heist started, the build-up itself was not exciting.

A dull first half: With a title like Never a Dull Moment, you’d think the movie as a whole would be intriguing and action-packed. However, that is not the case for this film. I found the first half of the movie to be dull. This is the result of the story being drawn out and a small amount of urgency. Even though a part of the overall narrative focuses on a heist, this aspect of the story seemed to be an afterthought within the film’s first half. The heist itself took place in the second half of the movie. But this doesn’t make up for the weak nature of the previous segment.

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My overall impression:

As of late June to early July 2020, I have reviewed four live-action Disney films from the ‘60s. Three out of four of these movies have been ok or “middle of the road”. Never a Dull Moment was one of them. I will say this is a better heist movie than Logan Lucky. However, it wasn’t as exciting as I had expected it to be. The film is titled Never a Dull Moment, but the first half of the story is just that: dull. It also doesn’t help that there was a small amount of urgency. But the movie did contain elements that I did like. Some of them includes the acting and the set design. As weird as it sounds, Never a Dull Moment doesn’t feel like a Disney movie. It’s understandable for a studio to try new things and think outside the box. Never a Dull Moment, however, seems like belongs to a different studio. Like my Follow Me, Boys! review, I can’t fully recommend this movie, but I’m not going to dissuade anyone from watching it either.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of Dick Van Dyke’s films? Which live-action Disney film from the ‘60s do you like or dislike? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen