June 18, 2007 12:00 PM

Ocean’s Thirteen
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin | PG-13 | [3 stars]
CRITIC’S CHOICE

CAPER

The latest Ocean‘s voyage is smooth sailing. While not quite up to the glossy razzle-dazzle of 2001’s original Ocean’s Eleven, Thirteen is a huge improvement over 2004’s Twelve, which the cast clearly had more fun making than the rest of us had watching. But if Clooney and Co. want to reunite every few years to make a frothy treat like the latest Ocean‘s, it’s swell by me.

The key to Thirteen‘s return to form is having Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his merry ratpack of expert thieves and con men reteam in Las Vegas, site of their original big score in Eleven. They’re back to avenge a team member (Elliott Gould) after he is cheated out of his fair share of a glitzy new casino owned by a Donald Trump-like megalomaniac, amusingly portrayed by an unctuous Pacino. The potential pay-off to the crew’s complicated caper: a cool half billion.

Returning director Steven Soderbergh makes sure all the performers get their moment to shine, though Clooney and Pitt dominate with their jocular camaraderie. Near the end, watch for a hilarious exchange between the two playing off their real-life lives. It perfectly encapsulates the whole winking, we-know-that-you-know glee of the Ocean’s series.

Surf’s Up
Voices by Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel | PG | [3 stars]
ANIMATED

The march of the penguins continues. Having already shown up as animated stars in Madagascar and Happy Feet, these feathered cuties now hit the waves in Surf’s Up, which centers on a young, ambitious, web-footed surfer named Cody Maverick (voiced by LaBeouf). In faux documentary form, Up tracks Cody’s progress as he enters a major surfing contest, discovers that his boyhood idol (Bridges) is a washed-up has-been and learns that winning isn’t everything. Fred, my 7-year-old consultant on kids’ flicks, liked this one. “It’s exciting and has a good message, but it wasn’t funny enough,” he said. Actually the movie was plenty funny, only much of the humor spoofs sports and reality-TV clichés—jokes likely to sail over younger viewers’ not-yet-jaded heads.

Day Watch
Konstantin Khabensky, Maria Poroshina | R | [3 stars]
REVIEWED BY JASON LYNCH

SCI-FI

If you loved the Matrix movies, you’ll be thrilled by this trippy Russian fantasy extravaganza. Even better than Night Watch (2004), its mind-bending predecessor, this sequel continues telling the story of a war between two camps of supernatural beings called “others,” who live among us and represent the forces of good and evil. You’ll be wowed by the inventive special effects—including a sports car surfing alongside an urban high-rise. And this is one foreign language film that makes reading subtitles fun: The words dazzlingly morph, pulsate and change color with all the action onscreen.

La Vie en Rose
Marion Cotillard, Gérard Depardieu | PG-13 | [3 stars]
BIOPIC

Edith Piaf was France’s Judy Garland. Like her American counterpart, Piaf was a tiny woman with a huge voice and a troubled life marked by drugs, alcohol, a merry-go-round of romantic partners and an untimely end. When either woman sang, pure emotion poured forth, moving generations of listeners. In La Vie en Rose, French actress Marion Cotillard (A Good Year) gives an astonishing performance as the singer known to her fans as the Little Sparrow. With ferocious energy she captures the desperation and drive that fueled Piaf’s rise from poverty and prostitution to stardom—and the self-destructiveness and heartbreak that led to her premature death at age 47 in 1963. To paraphrase one of Piaf’s signature tunes, you’ll regret nothing after seeing this film.

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