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Flash Movie Review: Casino

HERE IT WAS NIGHTTIME AND I was sitting in a bus in the middle of a traffic jam. Normally, I would be aggravated but since I was on vacation, I was enjoying looking out the bus window at the sights.  In the short distance we had traveled, I had already seen an erupting volcano and a sinking pirate ship. It was my first-time visiting Las Vegas and everything I had heard about it was true. There were throngs of people from all walks of life, neon lights and light bulbs everywhere and the constant noise of bells and tumbling change in every hotel. I could not get over the amount of people out and about along the strip. There were hawkers lined up on every block; each trying to shove their pamphlets into tourists’ hands. I got a kick out of each hotel taking on a theme of some kind. Besides the volcano and pirate ship, there was one hotel that had an Arabian theme and another a Roman one. I had never seen anything like it before and wanted to take in as much as I could for the short time I was visiting. That is why I decided to take a bus ride; I figured it was the best way to see everything on the strip while traveling to the downtown area.      WHERE THE BUS ENDED ITS ROUTE was in an old type of garage; I could not call it a bus terminal. It was inside what looked like an office building. The garage had a circular drive so the buses could easily enter and exit the place. As I left through the exit doors, I noticed there were no lights or neon anywhere. I was on a dark street with a couple of lone streetlamps that looked tired. No sign of any hotels or attractions, just non-descript store fronts. There was a pawn shop that had a faded wooden sign above its door. Next to it was a gun shop that had metal bars across its windows. This was not exactly the experience I envisioned when I decided to visit Las Vegas. There was something gritty and dirty about the area I was walking in. As far as I could tell this area looked a lot older than the hotels that were on the strip. It looked like a lost version of Las Vegas without the flash and pizzazz. I had heard and read a few things about how Las Vegas came to be, and it looked like I had stumbled into that rough and tumble time as the city was dealing with an influx of celebrities and criminals. What I envisioned was similar to what I saw in this Golden Globe and film festival winning crime drama.      SAM “ACE” ROTHSTEIN, PLAYED BY ROBERT De Niro (The Irishman, Cape Fear), was sent to make sure the hotel’s operations in Las Vegas were running quietly and smoothly. He should not have brought his close friend Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) with him then. With Sharon Stone (Fading Gigolo, Basic Instinct) as Ginger McKenna, James Wood (The Virgin Suicides, Any Given Sunday) as Lester Diamond and Don Rickles (Kelly’s Heroes, CPO Sharkey-TV) as Billy Sherbert; this Academy Award nominated film was bursting with amazing performances. There was not one actor who was pushed into the shadows of another; everyone grabbed the viewer’s attention. I thought the sets and costumes were perfect as the story traveled across its timeline. There were violent bloody scenes that came close to overpowering the rest of the story, where I started to expect them in almost every scene. Though the film is long, I did not find my mind wandering; however, I did feel there was the lack of depth in multiple scenes. Overall, this was a good old fashioned “gangster” picture depicting a past era.

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Fading Gigolo

There is a force that is more powerful than any drug; that can turn us into valiant, strong fighters and yet can also bring us down to our knees, wallowing in a puddle of our lost dreams. Love is the force that can make and turn us into so many different variations of ourself. There are some people who love to be in love, where the person they are with may not be the sole focus of their affection. I have seen couples like this, where one person is not motivated to do kind gestures from their heart; they have seen or read about it and are just copying it. An example would be surprising your significant other with tickets to, let us say, a play or sporting event. The fact that they do not know if the other person would like such things does not matter; they just know it is something one is supposed to do. Then there are some people who are driven by their love of something, like money or food. Love can make people do such a variety of things and you will be able to see it for yourself in this dramatic comedy. John Turturro (Barton Fink, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) wrote, directed and starred as florist Floravante in this film festival winning movie. Since he was having a hard time making ends meet, Floravante agreed to the plan concocted by his friend Murray, played by Woody Allen (To Rome with Love, Deconstructing Harry). Floravante would be a male escort for a select group of clients. He would discover everyone had their own definition of love. My first reaction to this movie was it felt like it was trying to be a Woody Allen film. There was the same vibe and look to it and even had Woody playing Woody. I did not find much else in common, finding the script to be odd and disconnected in parts. Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall) and Sofia Vergara (Machete Kills, Modern Family-TV) as Dr. Parker and Selma were not believable in the least. All I saw on the screen was Sharon and Sofia, not there characters. A nugget of interest was generated with the story line involving Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) as Dovi and Vanessa Paradis (Heartbreaker, The Girl on the Bridge) as Avigal but it never evolved and I disliked what happened to them. There were scenes that were amusing and others that were dull, making an unevenness that led to boredom. I think i knew what John was trying to do in this film but I did not love it.

 

2 stars

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