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Ensembles Assemble!

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“Ocean’s 11”: The first of the revamped “Ocean’s” series is the perfect ensemble movie of our time — clever, tight, and packed with a likeable cast of stars. It was almost (but not quite) spoiled by the superfluous and indulgent follow up “Ocean’s 12” which featured the same cast having a much better time than the audience did. “Ocean’s 13,” slated for an early summer release has the potential to make “11” unwatchable. (Bob Marshak / Warner Bros.)
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“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”: Who wasn’t in this 1963 film about an every-man- for-himself-search for buried treasure? The film’s title credits read like a who’s who of old timey comedians including Don Knotts, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Durante, Sid Ceaser, Ethel Merman, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, the Three Stooges and so many more. And did all the comedians add up to a hilarious comedic romp? In this case, yes. (United Artists)
Altman movies
The Robert Altman Catalog. The late director is responsible for some of the best of the ensemble genre, as well as some of the worst. Over his 50-year career he directed groundbreaking films like “Nashville,” “Short Cuts,” “MASH” and “The Player.” Less notably, he’s responsible for “Popeye” and “Mr. T and the Women” and “Pret-a-Porter.” His last film, “ A Prairie Home Companion” looked like it was a lot more fun to make than watch, although it has its fans. (Melinda Sue Gordon / Picturehouse)
Guest
Christopher Guest and Friends: Every three or four years Christopher Guest assembles his usual suspects — Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Catherine O’Hara and about five others — and makes another team mockumentary. 1996’s “Waiting for Guffman” was desperate small town genius, but “For Your Consideration” disintegrated into being plain old mean. (Suzanne Tenner / Warner Bros.)
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“The Breakfast Club”: If it takes a minimum of five stars, each with an equal amount of screen time to make an ensemble film, then John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” totally counts. And if, as earlier stated, “Ocean’s 11” is the quintessential ensemble film of our time then this film about a nerd, a jock, a popular girl, a freak and a bad ass stuck in detention for a day wins for the ‘80s. (Universal City Studios)
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“Pulp Fiction”: The key to a good ensemble film is a director with a strong vision. Paul Thomas Anderson had it in “Magnolia,” Wes Anderson had it in “The Royal Tennenbaums” and Quentin Tarantino had it big time in this film starring Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, and of course John Travolta. Tarrantino knew exactly what he wanted to do and who he wanted to do it. No wonder this film catapulted him to fame. (Linda R. Chen / Miramax Films)
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“The Cannonball Run I and II”: The easiest way to deal with a large ensemble cast is to send all of them on some sort of quest — a search for treasure like in the above mentioned “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” a manhunt like “Smokin’ Aces” or to win a crazy race like in this 1981 film (and its sequel) starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Sammy Davis Jr. Dean Martin, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan and plenty of fabulous others. ()
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“Grand Hotel”: Ensemble films often do well come Oscar time — take last year’s “Crash” for example, and perhaps this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” This 1932 Oscar winner about a group of people staying at the most expensive hotel in Berlin is widely considered the first of the great ensemble films. It stars Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery and two Barrymores — John and Lionel. (Los Angeles Times)
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“The Towering Inferno”: One of the great disaster films of the ‘70s (‘Earthquake’ was another) this movie imagines what would happen if the tallest building in the world went up in flames on the same night that a fabulous party was being held on its rooftop. The star studded cast including Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Fred Astaire. ()
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“Deconstructing Harry”: Woody Allen’s weird public self-flaggelating film “Deconstructing Harry” was a disappointment, even if it did have a whole host of stars including Kirstie Alley, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Elisabeth Shue, Demi Moore and Robin Williams. A sad shadow of his earlier giants of ensemble like “Hannah and Her Sisters.” (J. Clifford)
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