Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Gambling

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. If you don't know the deal by now, join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them! If you do know the deal by now, then why aren't you playing along yet?

This week on Thursday Movie Picks, we're going gambling. True story: I love gambling. When I was at summer camp, there was always one Casino Night per session, and I always killed at craps. In college, friends held a monthly poker night and had we been playing for actual money I would have made a very healthy sum. On my thirtieth birthday, I went to Atlantic City and doubled my money playing Roulette (granted, I didn't put out a whole lot of money, BUT it paid for a really nice dinner, so there's always that)! Like anything else, gambling can be a lot of fun in moderation. If you go to far, well.... let's just say things don't always turn out so well.

21 (Robert Luketic, 2008) One game I'm not very good at is Blackjack. Maybe it's because I never figured out how to count cards, like this team of MIT students did. Yes indeed, this film is based on a true story of college students who beat the casinos at their own game. Pretty impressive! The film is fun, especially whenever Kevin Spacey is onscreen, but mostly forgettable (Jim Sturgess is a nothing, #SorryNotSorry). I remember the basic plot and that I mostly enjoyed watching it, but nothing else.

The Cooler (Wayne Kramer, 2003) William H. Macy is what's known in the Vegas lingo as a "cooler" - a man so unlucky that he turns people's good luck into bad just by standing near them. Turns out, that's because he's a sad-sack lump of a man. But when Maria Bello's cocktail waitress takes an interest in him, his luck starts to turn, and his abilities as a cooler with it. The three central performances (Macy, Bello, and Alec Baldwin, Oscar-nominated for his role as the casino boss Macy works for) really make the film (which is not nearly as much of a comedy as this trailer suggests).

Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1998) Clive Owen is the hotness, and that's all I will say about this excellent film, which has a plot so twisty and weird that it deserves to be seen as unspoiled as possible.

13 comments:

  1. I also chose 21, but I didn't care for it that much. I haven't seen your other two. Croupier now has my interest though.

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  2. I LOVE Croupier!!! Can't believe it didn't occur to me...I own it for God's sake! Completely concur about Clive Owen, this was the film that put him on my radar and while I don't always love his films I'll watch something if he's in it. Aside from him the film is a solid one which is as you said very twisty.

    I enjoyed 21, too bad about Sturgess being so bland with a more magnetic lead the picture would have been more memorable. As it is whenever Spacey shows up the rest of the cast vanish.

    I liked but didn't love The Cooler. Great cast and a decent story but it was just a little low-key for me.

    I'm not much of a gambler. My mom always said it was throwing money away when I was a kid and it stuck but I do like to go to casinos and watch people play and also films about it. My extra was the first film I thought of but it didn't fit in with the other three therefore it got bumped to last but I love it and couldn't leave it out.

    The Gambler (1974)-College professor Axel Freed (James Caan) seems to have a good life but is caught in the grip of a severe gambling addiction which threatens not only his job but all his relationships and perhaps his life when he gets in deep with loan sharks.

    The Lady Gambles (1949)-Joan Boothe (Barbara Stanwyck) accompanies his reporter husband Dave to Las Vegas when he goes there on a story. At loose ends and thinking she might find a story of her own she pokes around the hotel casino with a hidden camera. The owner at first thinks she’s a hustler but realizing she isn’t gives her a few chips to play. Thinking it’s a lark she takes them but finds she can’t stop once she’s begun.

    Gambling Lady (1934)-Lady Lee (Barbara Stanwyck) is determined to beat the gambling syndicate who drove her father to suicide at their own game while staying true to her dad’s insistence to always remain on the up and up. She’s extremely successful but complications arise when she becomes involved with the married Garry Madison (Joel McCrea) who could possibly be a murderer.

    Honorable Mention:

    The Cincinnati Kid (1965)-Professional poker player The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen) is a young man moving from game to game in 30’s era New Orleans looking to establish himself as the best and torn between two beauties, the worldly Melba (Ann-Margret) and innocent Christian (Tuesday Weld). Ultimately he goes up against a legend of the sport, Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) in a high-stakes poker game. Wonderfully atmospheric drama with a powerhouse cast most of whom have fantastic monikers: Lady Fingers (Joan Blondell), Shooter (Karl Malden), Slade (Rip Torn) and Yeller (Cab Calloway) among others and a strong lead performance from that King of Cool McQueen.

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    1. Totally agree on the like-but-not-love feelings for The Cooler and 21. I'm with you on Clive Owen, I'll watch him in almost anything.

      I ALMOST went with The Lady Gambles this week but decided to go all contemporary. I want to see Gambling Lady now, too. LOVE me some Stanwyck! I can't believe I still haven't seen The Cincinnati Kid.

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  3. 21 was nothing special but it was entertaining. I haven't seen the other two, but now I'm interested in both.

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    1. Yeah, that's pretty much 21 in a nutshell. Both The Cooler and Croupier are very good, but Croupier is better.

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  4. That's pretty cool you're into gambling! Oddly enough I think I've only seen one or two gambling films.

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    1. If I had more money, I would definitely go gambling more often. It can make for a fun night out if you know what you're doing and limit how much you shell out.

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  5. Another for The Cooler - great but depressing film. I had a film studies teacher in college who went on about The Croupier, saying how great it was but only made £45 at the box office. I remembered it has Gilly from Monarch of the Glen in it ...

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    1. Yeah, Croupier totally deserved a better reception from audiences than it did.

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  6. I have seen 21 and thought it was good if forgettable even with the wonderful Kevin Spacey. I have not seen The Cooler and from what I have read, it is not a comedy like it presents itself. I have not see The Croupier but it looks excellent and it has the under-rated Clive Owen.

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    1. Definitely see Croupier. If you like William H. Macy and Alec Baldwain, then The Cooler is also worth a look.

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  7. You've totally got me interested in the Croupier, I love a twisty plot.

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