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Reviews of Las Vegas Movie DVDs

On July 17, 2003 Ralph Garman came out with his list of the top 5 Las Vegas Movies before the KROQ trip to Vegas. His picks are as follows(click on the titles for information on purchasing the DVDs:


Viva Las Vegas ASIN:B00004TJUC Review by Amazon.com reprinted with permission
Amazon.com essential video

It's pretty tough to beat Jailhouse Rock in terms of sheer entertainment, but Elvis lovers are particularly fond of this 1964 hit. The Big E plays race-car driver Lucky Jackson, who arrives in Las Vegas for an upcoming Grand Prix race. Lucky's car needs a new engine, so he gets a waiter job at a casino and starts working his crooning charms on Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). It's their on-screen chemistry that makes this flick a lot of fun; Presley never had a better costar than Ann-Margret, and their race-car romance is quintessential 1960s fluff. Then there are the songs, of course, including the snappy title tune, a rockin' rendition of Ray Charles's "What'd I Say?," and "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Viva Las Vegas is one of the Elvis movies that stands the test of time, when the legend was still at his peak. And if you're wondering if the King gets his car fixed in time to win the race, well, check out this digital video disc to find out. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to the DVD edition.


Honeymoon In Vegas ASIN:0792844831 Review by Amazon.com reprinted with permission

Writer-director Andrew Bergman is capable of funny, funny stuff, but this movie runs out of jokes long before it runs out of comic ideas. The result is a series of comedy concepts that never get past the one-liner stage and are distinctly unsatisfying. Still, there is plenty to be amused by in this story of a reluctant bridegroom (Nicolas Cage) who finally agrees to marriage, only to lose his fiancée (Sarah Jessica Parker) in a crooked poker game to a professional gambler (James Caan). The rest of the movie deals with his frantic attempt to get his fiancée back, while coping with a Vegas in the throes of an Elvis-impersonator convention. That's the funniest thing about the whole movie (most notably the team of parachuting Elvises at the end), but even that is drawn out in ways that are more clever than laughter inducing. --Marshall Fine --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.


Leaving Las Vegas ASIN:0792838068 Review by Amazon.com reprinted with permission

One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1995, this wrenchingly sad but extraordinarily moving drama provides an authentic, superbly acted portrait of two people whose lives intersect just as they've reached their lowest depths of despair. Ben (Nicolas Cage, in an Oscar-winning performance) is a former movie executive who's lost his wife and family in a sea of alcoholic self-destruction. He's come to Las Vegas literally to drink himself to death, and that's when he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a prostitute who falls in love with him--and he with her--despite their mutual dead-end existence. They accept each other as they are, with no attempts by one to change the other, and this unconditional love turns Leaving Las Vegas into a somber yet quietly beautiful love story. Earning Oscar nominations for Best Director (Mike Figgis), Best Adapted Screenplay (Figgis, from John O'Brien's novel) and Best Actress (Shue), the film may strike some as relentlessly bleak and glacially paced, but attentive viewers will readily discover the richness of these tragic characters and the exceptional performances that bring them to life. (In a sad echo of his own fiction, novelist John O'Brien committed suicide while this film was in production.) The DVD features uncut, unrated footage that was not included in the film's theatrical release. --Jeff Shannon


Casino ASIN:0783225792 Review by Amazon.com reprinted with permission
Amazon.com essential video

Director Martin Scorsese reunites with members of his GoodFellas gang (writer Nicholas Pileggi; actors Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Frank Vincent) for a three-hour epic about the rise and fall of mobster Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro), a character based on real-life gangster Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. (It's modeled after on Wiseguy and GoodFellas and Pileggi's true crime book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas.) Through Rothstein, the picture tells the story of how the Mafia seized, and finally lost control of, Las Vegas gambling. The first hour plays like a fascinating documentary, intricately detailing the inner workings of Vegas casinos. Sharon Stone is the stand out among the actors; she nabbed an Oscar nomination for her role as the voracious Ginger, the glitzy call girl who becomes Rothstein's wife. The film is not as fast paced or gripping as Scorsese's earlier gangster pictures (Mean Streets and GoodFellas), but it's still absorbing. And, hey--it's Scorsese! (Additional note: the digital video disc has a "layer switch," allowing you to watch the entire film without interruption.) --Jim Emerson


Oceans 11 ASIN:B000062XH9 Review by Amazon.com reprinted with permission
Amazon.com essential video

Ocean's Eleven improves on 1960's Rat Pack original with supernova casting, a slickly updated plot, and Steven Soderbergh's graceful touch behind the camera. Soderbergh reportedly relished the opportunity "to make a movie that has no desire except to give pleasure from beginning to end," and he succeeds on those terms, blessed by the casting of George Clooney as Danny Ocean, the title role originated by Frank Sinatra. Fresh out of jail, Ocean masterminds a plot to steal $163 million from the seemingly impervious vault of Las Vegas's Bellagio casino, not just for the money but to win his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) back from the casino's ruthless owner (Andy Garcia). Soderbergh doesn't scrimp on the caper's comically intricate strategy, but he finds greater joy in assembling a stellar team (including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Carl Reiner) and indulging their strengths as actors. The result is a film that's as smooth as a silk suit and just as stylish. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to the Theatrical Release edition.
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