THE FIRST TIME I traveled to Las Vegas my friends explained what I needed to do to play Blackjack. I already knew how to play but I was not familiar with the non-verbal communication between dealer and player. There were hand signals I needed to know; such as a quick drag of two fingers towards me on the felted playing board meant I wanted another card or moving my hand above my cards in a horizontal way meant no more cards. What they did not tell me was how fast the game would go once I was seated. When I flew out and got settled into my hotel room I went downstairs into the casino, confident I would remember all the different signs I was taught. I had $30.00 worth of chips (yeah, I am a big spender) and stacked them in front of me like everyone else did at the blackjack table; I did not want them to know I was a newbie, though I am sure it showed on me. In approximately 6 minutes I lost all of my chips. EVER SINCE THAT TIME I have never gambled again at any of the tables in Las Vegas. That feeling of giving my money to a business and not getting anything in return was one I never wanted to feel again. Sure there are some people who are lucky or even skilled that walk away with more money than what they started with, but I am not one of those individuals. It is funny because I knew several people who more times than not came home with extra money no matter the venue. Now I will tell you I enjoy watching the people in Las Vegas gamble because it is fascinating to see how much money goes into play at some of the tables. I stand there and try to figure out what these people do for a living, where they can make $1000.00+ bets. The other aspect that intrigues me is the camaraderie that forms between some of the players. I am not familiar with which game it is, but there is one where all the people sitting at the table are rooting for one particular player. Everyone cheers depending on what that player did and you would swear these people have no care in the world. It is a foreign concept to me and despite my lack of knowledge I was captivated by this biographical drama. FROM A RANDOM NON-DESCRIPT job former Olympic class skier Molly Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Crimson Peak), took a chance in hopes it would pay off big. The game was poker and she was determined to come out on top. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV) I thought the script was smart and precise. It was certainly adult dialog though at times I thought it was getting too wordy. With Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, Thor franchise) as Charlie Jaffey, Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures, Black or White) as Larry Bloom and Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) as Player X; I thought the acting was of a high caliber. Jessica was amazing in this role and I felt Kevin put in one of his better performances. The story was incredible and I found myself getting into the nitty gritty of the poker games. I did not feel there was any lag time between any of the scenes; each one offered something of interest to watch and hear. Due to the high level of acting in this picture, I do not think you will lose if you choose to gamble on seeing this film.
3 ½ stars
This may come as a surprise but it turns out celebrities do not walk on water, even though some of them think they do. Part of the problem is the public’s fascination with these bigger than life characters. I do not understand why people will buy merchandise simply because their favorite celebrity endorsed it. Now I know some of you must be thinking who am I to talk with me contributing to actors’ bank accounts by going to see their movies. All I can say is I watch movies for medicinal reasons; they are therapeutic for me. This does not mean I approve of celebrities acting out in public. As far as I am concerned; there is no difference between them and the rest of us, they have the same body functions as we do. If a celebrity should fall on hard times, there are some people who get a sense of satisfaction in seeing these stars brought down to human level. Now if you want to laugh at a celebrity’s predicament and not feel guilty about it, this is the movie to watch. Essentially playing themselves I admired all the actors who took part in this wickedly funny comedy. Even those who only had cameo roles helped to knock down this facade or fascination we might have about their public personas. During a party at James Franco’s (Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers) house, what was originally thought of as an earth tremor turned into something of catastrophic proportions. I was taken by surprise by how good the writing was for this part parody, part satire, crazy fantasy film. Too many stars to list, the major players were Seth Rogen (The Green Hornet, Pineapple Express), Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, Superbad), Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up), Craig Robinson (Peeples, The Office-TV) and Danny McBride (Up in the Air, Your Highness). I have to give a shout out to Michael Cera (Juno, Youth in Revolt) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter franchise, My Week with Marilyn) for their small hilarious roles. Though some of the jokes got tiresome, who knew the end could be so funny. Warning: Strong and crude language used throughout the film.
3 1/4 stars
The title of this movie triggered memories of my own rebellious youth. I know in the scheme of things, my ways of asserting myself were rather tame–I would wear copper metallic pants my parents disliked and as soon as I graduated high school, I let my hair grow long, similar to Angela Davis in her heyday. Pretty much it is a given when Michael Cera (Juno, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is chosen as he was for the role of Nick Twisp/Francois; we can expect wry humor with spot on comedic timing. Honestly, I think he has already been typecast for these type of characters. On a getaway trip with his mother and her current boyfriend, Nick encountered beautiful Sheeni Saunders, played by Portia Doubleday (Legend of the Mummy, Almost Kings), at the trailer park where they were staying. She became the object of his desires. But how far would he go, to make her the vessel that would lift him away from his burdensome virginity? There were no surprises in this movie; the performances were good and some scenes stood out for their humor. Overall, it was an enjoyable movie, there was just nothing new added to the story. I guess depending on how rebellious you were growing up will determine how much you enjoy this movie.
2 1/4 stars — DVD