CASINO (1995)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese
Based on the Book “Casino” By: Nicholas Pileggi
Cinematography: Robert Richardson 
Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker 

Cast: Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Frank Vincent, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak, Pasquale Cajano, Richard Riehle, L.Q. Jones, John Bloom, Dick Smothers, Vinny Vella, Melissa Prophet, Bill Allison, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Frankie Avalon, Jerry Vale, 

A tale of greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia enforcer and a casino executive compete against each other over a gambling empire, and over a fast-living and fast-loving socialite.

This movie is a grand opera. Though its stage seems grand, you can tell at heart it has a central story that is a drama. That concerns a core small group but their actions affect way too many for it to barely be noticed. It charts everyone’s downfall. As really the film is a tragedy.

It feels like it might pack too much into the story and take as it tries to be partially a history lesson. As well as tell a story to these particular characters and how their Affairs and behavior brought down or exposed the mafia in Las Vegas. 

Now while this film is epic and told In Quite the same way what makes it so strong and magical is how much in the small details everything feels right and paid close attention to. It might not be as satisfying a gangster film as his previous film GOODFELLAS, but this is more a tale of greed and corruption that happens to have gangsters in it.

Everything presented here is over the top, even the cast. Which is peppered with Las Vegas entertainers in various roles. As well as big names sprinkled throughout. 

The film stays true to the true story being told but also has many subplots that might seem like distractions at first but eventually come together to show that these minute seeming trivialities are what makes everything come together to a clash eventually. 

Sharon Stone has never been better than Playing ginger. The hustler wife to Robert DeNiro’s casino runner. At first idealistic beauty and then is slowly addicted to alcohol and drugs who proves to be a bad bet for him. Who has always been a winner and picked them and as soon as he gets involved with her. Slowly things begin to crumble due to excess and ego.

It has been a little too familiar for Joe Pesci playing a likable killer sociopath again who is as funny as he is scary. Even though a different temperament and Robert DeNiro is quieter and less violent a character but more know it. Whose ego is his worst problem.

While this film Shows how Las Vegas and the mob rules Las Vegas with an iron fist. So that the house always won. It also shows how things have changed over time and how drugs and morals began to affect everything. Went so far as to include an ending where at the time they show how my body Vegas has changed and that the time they ruled was the end of an era. Even if corrupt how much fun it was or could be.

This film is certainly a grand vision painted with a paintbrush of all colors. As cinematographer Robert Richardson seems to go all out with lenses, filters, scopes to emphasize how crazy and exact things were at the time. At that point usually worked for director Oliver Stone. This was his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese and it seems a match made it. Heaven especially with this tale.

Though for as big as the film is it couldn’t be told any other way. Even when it tries to stay on certain stories and characters it can’t help but give the audience the whole picture so that they can understand exactly what all went into actions and decisions. Even throughout the film the narration changes to certain characters, even minor ones to help explain situations.

The soundtrack almost runs over each other in the changing scenes, moods, and tones. Though always seem to be playing the right song and cue 

While not exactly a masterpiece this is a big picture. That is hard to describe but it has all the elements that are needed for a soap opera only here treated more seriously. Filled with flawed and shady characters where the only close to innocent ones are just less shady than others.

The film tries to show that not all that glitters is gold and even if you try and gold plate it the tarnish is never quite fixed.



Directed By: John Badham 
Written By: Lem Dobbs & Daniel Pyne 
Story By: Lem Dobbs & Michael Kozoll 
Cinematography By: Don McAlpine & Robert Primes 
Editor: Tony Lombardo & Frank Morriss 

Cast: Michael J. Fox, James Woods, Stephen Lang, Annabella Sciorra, LL Cool J, Delroy Lindo, Luis Guzman, Penny Marshall, Mary Mara, Christina Ricci, Lewis Black, Kathy Najimy, Yasin Bey, Michael Badalucco 

Nick Lang is a famous Hollywood actor, well known for his action movies. For his next movie, he needs the proper motivation and inspiration for his role. Thus he teams up with the reluctant New York policeman Lt. John Moss. Not only does he have to put up with Nick, who is laborious and out of touch with realities, but he also has to catch a coldblooded murderer.

This is a film I remember being heavily promoted on the radio, television and talk shows and I was really looking forward to it. I am sure the buzz helped as this was LL Cool J’s first major film role and he had an album coming out around the same time with a hot single that was on the soundtrack for this film. The good old days of movie tie-ins and marketing that you just don’t see as much now. Especially when it comes to soundtracks.

LL was a big part of the marketing. It helped bring in a more youthful and urban audience as this was his major acting debut. Even if the role was smaller and supporting. Though he also gets to be the more streetwise detective who is more the joker of the crew.

Now it also helped that I am and was a huge Michael j fox fan. As at the time it seemed like while his movies not a sure thing when it came to success. He was always starring in something and I was more the. Willing usually to go see it. As I had been a huge fox fan from his films but beginning with the sitcom FAMILY TIES.

I believe I always liked up to him as he was funny, had great comedic timing, was short like I am, and still managed to be a heartthrob as well as being energetic and charismatic. Everything you looked for in a star and also what I had hoped to grow up to be. This is one of his most Beloved films for me. Where he had smaller roles like CLASS OF 1984 which was a totally different pace and MIDNIGHT MADNESS. As well as his starring TV-movie HIGH SCHOOL USA. In fact, one of the rare films he starred in that I haven’t seen is still Paul Schrader’s LIGHT OF DAY with Gena Rowland’s and Joan Jett

So obviously this film was kind of a big deal as it was more an action film that I had seen him before. It also had a hard grit and it seemed the first time he was trying something a bit more gritty and challenging though a comedy at heart since the films CASUALTIES OF WAR and BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY.

The film of course is instantly dated and makes fun of Hollywood to a degree and the image of a movie star. Though quickly turns into a more urban action buddy comedy.

It’s a high concept film that seems to be written by the marketing committee. As it is violent and a rated R film. It remains innocent enough to never qualify as a film to keep kids away from. In fact, it seems more aimed at teenagers.

It is certainly a film that couldn’t be made today and if it was. Never would it be such a random team-up of lead actors. It would also more be either cutest with more comedy if made today. Making it even more unbelievable or it would be a big-budget film where they have to take anything offensive out of the film and as this film aspires to have a steamy grittiness it wouldn’t work as well any other way.

Universal Studios originally wanted Kevin Kline and Gene Hackman to star. Which wouldn’t have had the same ring, nor the same kind of hard-edge the film seems to have and go for. Which makes it a perfect time capsule to ’80s/90’s new York and times square in particular where the final action set-piece takes place.

Shot on the streets of New York it seems like the filmmakers went overboard in making it look super dirty and dingy to match the toughness of the so-called reality of the films New York City. Whereas in the few scenes in Hollywood everything is clean and overly lit.

James Woods is good and believable in the lead and matches Fox comedically beat to beat, but can also be dangerous and touch when need be. Both characters teach each other lessons throughout that will help each of them to achieve what they seek to get ahead. There is a romantic subplot with James Woods dating Annabella sciorra and not being successful mainly because he can’t really talk to her or charm her daughter.

This is also the first movie I remember seeing Stephen Lang In a film and being quite impressed. As he seemed to be a one dimensional as far as his mission, but his performance was flamboyant enough that he seemed serious but also was making fun of it at the same time. He seemed to have a sense of humor about all of this. Though still stayed scary almost like an early iteration of the Joker from Batman.

The comedy sticks even if the action plays off as basic and the film seems to seek to have a more urban feel. The film has a very hazy look about it that makes most scenes seem filled with steam and making everything not look sharp but more moist and bland. Though truthfully it also looks like a film that is not quite as sharp or visually talented as director Tony Scott while trying to copy its style.

Though it does offer a look at the old New York before it became so polished and gentrified.

Director of photography Robert Primes was fired halfway through filming by director John Badham and replaced by Donald McAlpine. Badham thought Primes was working too slowly; he had similar complaints during the filming of BIRD ON A WIRE, their previous (and first) movie together.

The film seems to go for a hard edge in the action scenes that make it feel a bit excessive and like it is going over the top at times but quickly reigns it in with the aftermath. Not necessarily an adrenaline junkie movie but one that seems to make you want to feel the bones crunch. It wants to be a tough movie. Though still feels like Hollywood.

While reminding one of the grittiness of New York at the time, though not quite as bad as the movie makes it out to be. At least not in my experiences.

Like the character Michael J. Fox plays it wants to be smooth and likable, but like the character James woods plays is more gritty and tough. That it makes a Compromise but is never clearly defined in either way.

This film as directed by John Badham who seemed to be a go-to Director in the ’80s and 90’s for action films and who o noted every time he made a film. As I could never make a decision as he made some more gritty action films as far as the violence and action but they all seemed to have a heavy gloss that made them look too polished that and usually, their plots seemed so ridiculous that they were hard to believe, but with this film and the remake of LA FEMME NIKITA named POINT OF NO RETURN starring Bridget Fonda. Which I saw before LA FEMME NIKITA so to me point was so original and soulful. Now watching it. It obviously pales in comparison, but as is often you usually are more a fan of something we’re introduced to first even if not the original. So while I love LA FEMME, I have a soft spot for the remake. That I still find watchable despite its flaws.

The film is a hallmark of 90’s action comedies. While not a legendary one. For those who saw, it remains memorable as it follows and introduces a formula. While not rising to classic or great standards. It is good and a worthy watch even if you probably won’t end up adding it to your collection.

Grade: B-



Directed By: Luis Llosa
Written By: Alexandra Seros
Based on The Specialist series of books By: John Shirley
Cinematography By: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Editor: Jack Hofstra 

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Eric Roberts, Rod Steiger 

 Ray Quick is a bomb expert who worked for the CIA along with a guy named Ned Trent, who’s extremely demented. When they have a falling out, Ray becomes a freelancer who lives off the grid. A woman named May Munro contacts and wants him to kill the three men who killed her family years ago, who work for the Leon crime family. Ray does it and after killing the first one, the Leons need to find the one who did it and it turns out Ned is now working for them and they task him with finding the bomber. The Leons get him to work with the police and he looks for the bomber. In the meantime Ray, while working on getting the others, can’t help but follow May wherever she goes.

Continue reading “THE SPECIALIST (1994)”

BE COOL (2005)


Directed By: F. Gary Grey
Written By: Peter Steinfeld
Based on the novel by: Elmore Leonard
Cinematography By: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Editor: Sheldon Kahn 

Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Kietel, Christina Milian, Kimberly J. Brown, James Woods, Cedric The Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Vince Vaughn, Steven Tyler, Danny DeVito, Robert Pastorelli, Dwayne Johnson, Arielle Kebbel, Scott Adsit, Gregory Alan Williams, Paul Adelstein, Debi Mazar

Streetwise mobster-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer is back, but this time Chili has abandoned the fickle movie industry and veered into the music business, tangling with Russian mobsters and gangsta rappers and taking a talented, feisty young singer named Linda Moon under his wing. From the recording studio to an Aerosmith concert to the MTV Music Awards, he manipulates events to watch them play out the Chili way, using his signature blend of wiseguy skills and negotiation tactics. It’s a dangerous business, and everyone’s looking for their next big hit.

Continue reading “BE COOL (2005)”