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


Viewed – 24 April 2008  DVD

I had heard many good things about this fantasy adventure film, and even though I had my doubts in Director Mathew Vaughan’s talents following humble beginnings in gangster yarns like Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells and Layer Cake – I didn’t have him cut out to tread similar ground to say Peter jackson and to an even greater extent (due to this films tone) the great Terry Gilliam – but fear not!

This rather gently told fable of boy meets fallen star girl on route to winning the heart of his true love, is the stuff of every good fantasy novel way back to the days of J.R.R. Tolkien, and even though this seriously lacks the granduer of a Lord of the Rings film, at its heart is enough magic, fun and enchantment to keep you amused – oh and wicked witch Michelle Pfeiffer steels the show at every turn.

It’s english routes (probably something to do with Vaughan again) do threaten to turn the whole thing into Monty Python at times (even though I did find Robert DeNiro prancing about in a dress rather funny), with various cameos from british comedy (including the never ending guest appearances in bloody everything lately of ‘comedienne’ Ricky Gervais).  Yet despite this, in the end (and by that, read ‘spectacular’ end) the whole recipe is served up deliciously, and topped off with Take That’s chart topping theme.  Ok it is as predictable as hell, but I’ll forgive that when it comes together so perfectly.

Just don’t expect an enduring masterpiece, and you’ll still get a gem.

Verdict:  4 /5