Monday, April 29, 2019

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)

Gambling Addiction Movie #3
Synopsis: Nicholas Cage makes some really bad decisions in Sin City….no, that’s the Synopsis for Leaving Las Vegas. Um…. Nicholas Cage wears loud clothing and struts around a casino….no, that’s Snake Eyes. Um....ok, Nicholas Cage acts like Elvis and falls apart when somebody comes between him and the cute blonde he, that's Wild at Heart. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Featuring a glittery Las Vegas atmosphere, lush Hawaiian scenery and a bevy of Elvis impersonators - including a flock of light-the-night-sky parachuting Elvises(!) - Honeymoon in Vegas is a 'hunka hunka burnin' fun' (Houston Post) and 'an absolute don't miss' (Marilyn Beck) that's sure to 'make you laugh a lot' (The Wall Street Journal)!"
What Did I Learn?: 1) A straight flush is not quite unbeatable. 2) Nothing in this world is fool-proof aside from a Coupe de Ville…and hookers! 3) People get married and then they do the most hideous, unbelievable things to each other. 4) Yellow, then red. 
Really?: 1) Wait – Jack (Cage) has a straight flush and still manages to lose to Tommy (Caan), who also has a straight flush, and we’re assured the game was legitimate? That seems awfully fishy. 2) Gee, Tommy suddenly transforms an abusive and controlling villain rather late in the third act, doesn’t he? 3) So, Jack is a private investigator back in New York. It’s strange how he uses none of his surveillance or tracking skills, and his odd profession is never mentioned past the second act. 4) Holy shit, over how many days does this film take place? Tommy’s prize is a mere weekend with Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker), yet Jack somehow manages to criss-cross the entire country. Come to think of it, where does he get the money for those flights? I thought he was basically broke. 5) What was the point of Peter Boyle’s character? 
Rating: Honeymoon in Vegas is a highly contrived, and rather uninspired romantic comedy that feels as though it went through a number of re-writes and some of its elements don’t mesh well with others (see: “Really?”) The film is sporadically funny in places (I’ll admit that I liked the exchanges between Cage and Pat Morita), and Caan is great as the charming-yet-menacing professional gambler, but he’s a little too old to play a convincing suiter for Parker’s character. Meh. 5.5/10 stars. 

Owning Mahowny (2003)

Gambling Addiction Movie #2 (I could have used this for my tribute to movies about Atlantic City a few years ago. Oh, and please click the link to read my reviews of several addiction-themed films) 
Synopsis: Surprisingly grubby bank manager develops out-of-the-box solution to finance his hobby. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “The true story of a mild mannered banker and his magnificent obsession.”
What Did I Learn?: Top-level bank executives are apparently really, really dumb. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You really miss Toronto in the early 1980s. 
Really?: 1) Owning Mahowny is based upon a true story, so I’m going to tread lightly in this section. 1) See: What Did I Learn?” More specifically, I had a hard time believing Mahowny and his bosses could sit down with the Selkirks to change the terms of the agreement when each party has a wildly different understanding of the money that had been borrowed, and nobody ever mentions a dollar amount. 2) See: “Synopsis.” Come on, could such an unkempt, badly dressed guy who drives a crappy old clunker car really be taken seriously by senior managers at a stuffy bank? 3)  Ok, Victor Foss (John Hurt) is an oily, and completely insincere casino boss – I get that, but capriciously firing Bernie twice just struck me as over-the-top. 
Rating: Owning Mahowny is a surprisingly compelling biopic, especially considering that aside from his obvious addiction to gambling, we learn next to nothing about the motivations of the title character. Ordinarily, I would give this film seven or eight stars, but I loved its authentic depiction of Toronto in the early 1980s, and I’ll admit that I howled with laughter when one of the characters mentioned treating Mahowny and his girlfriend to dinner at Swiss Chalet. 9/10 stars.

Finding Amanda (2008)

Gambling Addiction Movie #1 (Please click the links to read my reviews of The Cooler, Vig/Money Kings, One Way Out, The Runner, and The Music of Chance) 
Synopsis: Matthew Broderick portrays a likeable, fun-loving gent who hides a secret life from his loved ones….no, that’s the Synopsis for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Um…Television honcho really dislikes the project he’s working on….no, that’s The TV Set. Um…troubled addict finds caring prostitute with a heart of gold in Sin City….no, that’s Leaving Las Vegas
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “She’s his niece. Really!”
What Did I Learn?: 1) Vegas call girls apparently earn so much dough they can afford to buy drugs, drinks in expensive nightclubs, designer clothes, numerous vehicles, and financially support abusive boyfriends who don’t work. (Come to think of it, I’m not sure it makes sense for Taylor to remain so committed to his goal of putting Amanda in rehab and getting her away from prostitution when it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t have a drug problem and her career options are a tad limited). 2) When Ed Begley Jr. isn’t happy, people lose their jobs. 
Really?: See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) So, is Taylor a wealthy guy who can afford to get fired from his “last chance” in the TV biz and drop $100 grand in the casino, or not? This is never made clear. 3) Ok, I realize Taylor has a serious gambling problem, but does he seriously think he can steal a $100,000 cheque from his wife and then lie about it to her? 
Rating: Finding Amanda is a wildly uneven misfire; it delivers a few laughs, but it’s not funny enough to work as a comedy (the film is difficult to categorize), and I couldn’t help myself from thinking that Broderick (who does his best with the material, but his character is a little too sleazy to be terribly likeable) and Tiffany Snow appear to be acting in two different movies. 6/10 stars.

Kids in the Hall: Same Guys, New Dresses (2001)

Synopsis: Once-edgy comedians come back for another cross-dressing, head-crushing, eeeevil North American tour. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: "Same Guys New Dresses records the action on and off the stage as the five original Kids In the Hall embark on a high pressure North American in an attempt to rebond as a performing group six years after the run of their successful TV series and rebound from the experience of Brain Candy, their one feature film." 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Based upon his obsession with including a robot dog in the Buddy Cole routine, and his bizarre decision to cancel an appearance on the Conan O’Brien Show at the last minute, I’d say Scott Thompson is a bit of a flake. 1b) Robot dogs aren’t funny. 
Really?: 1) Funny how the footage focuses almost entirely on Thompson, Dave Foley, and Kevin McDonald. Was Bruce McCulloch less-than-enthused about making a documentary?  2) Why in the world would Foley schedule laser eye surgery for the day of a performance? 
Rating: As a long-time Kids in the Hall fan, I was a little disappointed with Same Guys, New Dresses for the simple reason that it seems confused; we see bits and pieces of the team’s stage show, as well as a few of their backstage interactions, but there are far too many “the making of…” scenes of the Kids learning choreography or trying on makeup (and all taking at the same time!) for my taste, and the audience isn’t given that much insight into their interpersonal dynamics. 6/10 stars