Viewed – 08 May 2015  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Special Edition

I first saw this acclaimed mob drama a number of year’s ago, and even though I knew it was based on a true story, only recently have I learned about the real-life events the story follows.  Robert DeNiro plays professional gambler Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who gets the opportunity to run the Tangier’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in the late seventies.  He makes a big pil o’ cash for the mob ‘back home’ and attracts former childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) who also has ideas of making a killing on the strip…literally and figuratively.  Meanwhile Ace falls for glamorous hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone) who soon complicates everyone’s lives.


A spiritual successor to director Martin Scorsese’s other famed mob classic Goodfellas, reuniting DeNiro with Pesci … who pretty much plays the same type of unhinged psycho that nabbed him an Oscar in ‘Fellas.    DeNiro however, despite his character’s connections to the mob, is more the straight guy trying to avoid any sort of ‘heat’ – and his presence here commands the movie from beginning to end.  Stone is a welcome inclusion to the Scorsese mob-movie fold and adds her usual sexy sass and grit in a role that pretty much enables this movie to have it’s own voice.  At a butt-numbing three hours it can sometimes drag, yet the situations, strong performances and the whole glitz of the setting (not to mention a stellar soundtrack) make for great entertainment.  It’s incredibly violent at times, to the point of being gratuitous (especially towards the end) and the story isn’t as engrossing as it thinks it is.  Also some of the ‘artistic licence’ with the facts remain puzzling (Tangiers is fictional, based on the famed Stardust hotel) and DeNiro and Pesci’s character names are made up, but based on Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro respectively.  Yet to quibble at this is to do the movie a disservice, as it remains another decent, if familiar mob drama from the true master of the subject.

The Blu-ray, re-issued for the movie’s 20th anniversary has a very nice image quality, retaining grain and detail even if some shots (especially in door and night time scenes) get a little fuzzy.  The sound in DTS HD Master Audio, which is very dialogue-driven is mostly excellent and the fantastic soundtrack really brings this one to life.  Vegas looks incredible also.  The extras consist of a ‘moments with the cast & crew’ option which has pop up interviews as the movie plays.  We also get a couple of detailed documentaries, as well as a few deleted scenes.  However, there doesn’t seem anything here that wasn’t on previous releases … making for a bit of a cash-in.


(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Broken Flowers

Viewed – 06 April 2014  Netflix 

Bill Murray for me is one of those comedy actors I sometimes am not sure if I find funny.  Back in the 80s yes he had some interesting movies (most notably Ghostbusters) and is a fairly likeable actor … but funny?  His style of dry, understated humour goes a little over my head.  Here he stars as a world-weary business man who receives an anonymous letter in the post one day from an old girlfriend, telling him he has a nineteen year old son who may or may not be trying to track him down.  With the help of wannabe private eye next door neighbour Jeffrey Wright, he embarks on a journey to track down various old flames in the hope of discovering who wrote the letter.


Directed with a gentle, whimsical style by Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog, Dead Man) and with a quiet but enjoyable turn by Murray I found this involving and enjoyed the various encounters and characters that crop up, including a trailer-trash Sharon Stone and a hippy-new age Jessica Lang.  The story itself was fascinating and certainly got me thinking of the various people we might affect in our lives without knowing.  Think of a cross between High Fidelity and Lost In Translation, even if this movie remains in both their shadows.

That being said it is also a story that like the main character, might leave you perplexed, chasing dead ends and not getting anywhere.  It was also in need of some larger than life situations and sharper dialogue (although Jeffrey Wright steals the show).  I was left with the impression this was meant to be a movie you just relax and take in, which I suppose makes for perfect Sunday afternoon viewing.

Verdict:  3 /5


Viewed – 05 February 2014  Online rental

The biographical story of one of the world’s most infamous porn stars, made famous by starring in the biggest ever adult movie.  Linda Lovelace was the poster girl for a new sexual revolution, but behind the glamour was a woman trapped in an abusive marriage.


Starring the always enjoyable Amanda Seyfied (Mama Mia, Les Miserables) as the title star, this 70s set story of one woman’s brush with fame in a seedy, exploitative business was entertaining even if personally I had little knowledge of the real-life person being portrayed other than the legendary status of the movie ‘Deep Throat’.  Much has been documented and spoken about regarding that movie, along with the documentary ‘Inside Deep Throat’ which I never actually saw.  Yeah I’ll admit to seeing a few porn movies, what guy hasn’t and am a big fan of the movie Boogie Nights which explores the same industry and period.  Yet this is more a warts and all movie and shy’s away from much of the sex and titillation (bar some nudity) to focus on a woman clearly in with the wrong crowd, or more accurately the wrong man.  Co-starring an unrecognisable Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s strict mother and even James Franco appearing as Playboy millionaire Hugh Hefner – there’s certainly plenty going on here, and the acting is decent (especially Seyfried).  Yet at the end of the day it’s little more than an abusive relationship tale – playing it safe for the most part.  Sad definitely, but not really anything we haven’t seen on a dozen made-for-TV dramas.

The truth be told Deep Throat and it’s success were probably more fascinating than Linda Lovelace’s story, so perhaps check out the doc, and give this a miss … unless you have a particular interest in the person herself.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Total Recall

Viewed – 20 July 2012  Blu-ray

Ultimate Rekall Edition

With the prospect of yet another remake of a classic movie on the horizon, I thought it as good a time as any to rediscover one of my favorite sci-f action movies of the nineties.  Around the time (1990) you couldn’t avoid big budget event pictures starring Austrian hulk and now former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger … and one of his best was this adaptation of the novel by Philip K Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report).

Arnie plays Douglas Quade, a construction worker who is always fantasizing about living on Mars.  Yet when he decides to realize his dreams by having a memory implant done by shady company ‘Rekall’ he soon finds his perception of reality radically altered as a gang of mercenaries and a band of resistance are suddenly out to find him.  This is classic sci-fi … a great, mind bending concept, futuristic technology, aliens and government conspiracies.  Arnie is perfect in a role that gives him a lot more to do than just flex his pecs and mow down bad guys.  Under the direction of Paul Verhoeven this also becomes something else.  Having proved his sci-fi skills with cult favorite Robocop, the Dutch helmsman dresses up proceedings in his trade mark sleaze, unnecessary violence and b-movie excess, but aided by a real Hollywood budget.  The effects still look good, most notably Rob Botin’s brilliant make-up designs that still hold their wow-factor.  Some of the early CGI however looks dodgy, but considering this movie is over 20 years old, that’s an easy thing to forgive.

Supporting cast including a before she was famous Sharon Stone and henchman for hire Michael Ironside are both good, and genre stalwart Ronnie Cox returns with a similarly villainous turn as he delivered in Robocop.  In this age of superb effects and stunning, anything is possible technology, the movie is showing its age and the over-the-top feel and Verhoeven’s style seems a tad distasteful and to an extent, absurd (a machine gun wielding midget prostitute, anyone?).  So a product of it’s time, but this remains a great deal of fun … and worthy of seeking out, even if you’ve watched it a dozen times already (like me).

The Blu-ray, whilst not a disaster image-wise, tends to look a touch too bright in comparison to previous DVD versions and that eighties / early nineties soft-focus look does rear its head.  Close-up detail is good though and overall this is still a very nice looking presentation, free of edge enhancement or noise reduction.  The 5.1 DTS Master Audio track is serviceable without being particularly impressive, with a somewhat hollow sound to the dialogue.  Extras consist of the same commentary from the DVD re-release a few years back with Arnie and Verhoeven, as well as a new interview with the director, archive featurettes and documentaries.  A good package then even if the movie’s treatment in HD could have been better … but for fans its still one for the collection.


(the movie): 4 /5

(the Blu-ray): 3 /5