• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

“There’s Nobody Here to See Us”: The Untamed Frontier in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, continued our belated Summer of Scorsese last week with a look at Goodfellas. This week, we’re looking at Casino. It is a fun and broad discussion that is well worth your time, but it spurred some of my own thoughts about Martin Scorsese’s 1995 gangster classic.

When Casino was released, it experienced something of a minor backlash.

Part of this backlash was motivated by the film’s perceived similarities to Goodfellas – Scorsese had made another soundtrack-heavy period-piece mob movie starring both Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, adapted from the work of Nicholas Pileggi. To a certain extent, this was fair. There were legitimate concerns that Scorsese was simply repeating himself, and that any comparisons to Goodfellas did not flatter Casino.

These problems were compounded by content. At time of release, Casino was Scorsese’s longest movie, clocking in at just shy of three hours. That is a lot of mobster movie, particularly if that movie felt in anyway derivative of the appreciably shorter Goodfellas. There were also rumblings of the movie’s brutality and violence, which was seen as being particularly excessive and graphic. These complaints circulated even before Casino hit cinemas. Peter Travers summarised the mood, “Even before Casino opened, the black cloud of letdown hung over Scorsese’s epic tale.”

However, time has been kind to Casino. Although the film undoubtedly still exists in the shadow of Goodfellas, it has come to be recognised as one of the great crime films and to merit some appreciation on its own terms. Casino is a fascinating piece of work. It is bold and ambitious, epic and sweeping. However, what is most striking about Casino is not how it compares to Goodfellas, but how it contrasts. The differences are instructive.

Casino is often categorised as a mob movie, and it is definitely that. It is a story about gangsters and organised crime. However, it is also a western. It is perhaps the closest that Scorsese has come to making a traditional western in his entire cinematography. More than that, while Goodfellas is anchored in the character of Henry Hill, Casino lacks a similar hook. Both Sam and Nicky are much more oblique characters than Henry; Sam is less proactive, and Nicky is much more brutal. They are harder to invest in, tougher to root for.

However, this allows Casino to take a much wider view of this world and the people that inhabit it. Casino is arguably a religious parable, a story about mankind’s destruction of paradise and the inevitable exile that followed. In that sense, Casino feels like more of a bridge between Goodfellas and Scorsese’s more overtly religious-tinged parables like Bringing Out the Dead or Silence than it initially seemed. This is a story about heaven on earth, and the fallen sinful human beings who turn that heaven into a nightmarish hell.

Continue reading

200. Goodfellas – Summer of Scorsese (#17)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Jay Coyle and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Jenn Gannon, with Andy Melhuish, Jack Hodges and others, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, continuing our Summer of Scorsese season, Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

Martin Scorsese is one of the defining directors in American cinema, with a host of massively successful (and cult) hits that have shaped and defined cinema across generations: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Colour of Money, The Aviator, The Departed, Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street. The Summer of Scorsese season offers a trip through his filmography via the IMDb‘s 250.

As far back as he could remember, Henry Hill always wanted to be a gangster. However, the life that Henry leads doesn’t turn out exactly as the young hoodlum might have expected, as he finds himself navigating a web of betrayal and violence involving his closest friends.

At time of recording, it was ranked 17th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

Continue reading

189. White Heat – w/ The Movie Palace – Independence Day 2020 (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

This week, a special crossover episode with The Movie Palace Podcast, a film podcast hosted by Carl Sweeney taking a look at the classics of Hollywood’s golden age. Carl suggested a crossover episode taking a look at the list, and particularly some of the classic movies listed on it.

So this week, Raoul Walsh’s White Heat.

Fleeing the authorities after a train robbery that resulted in two murders, Cody Jarrett latches on to an unconventional scheme to evade detection. Jarrett turns himself into the authorities for a crime he didn’t commit, earning a lesser sentence and putting him in the clear. However, things are changing rapidly for Cody, and the ground is very quickly shrinking out from under him.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

113. Once Upon a Time In America (#70)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.

Drawn back to New York City from a decades-long exile, retired gangster David “Noodles” Aaronson discovers that the past is not buried nearly as well as he might like. Navigating a complex web of secrets and betrayals, “Noodles” is forced to confront sins past; both his own and those dearest to him.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 70th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Millennium – Omertà (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

It might not feel like it – particularly while actually watching the episode – but Omertà does represent something of a shift in the third season of the show.

Although it was the ninth episode of the third season to be broadcast, it was the eighth produced. It was held back so that it could be broadcast closer to Christmas, in keeping with the themes of the show. As a result, it was the first episode of the third season not to be produced by Michael Duggan. Chip Johannessen is the only “executive producer” listed before Chris Carter at the end of the episode. In a way, shuffling Michael Duggan’s script for Human Essence back earlier in the broadcast order might have been a good thing; it makes for a cleaner break.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Black."

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Black.”

Omertà is not a great piece of television, by any measure. It is not even a good piece of television, by most measures. However, it does mark a point of transition for the third season of Millennium. Omertà begins a run of episodes that deal substantively with the legacy of the show’s second season, and which engage with grand themes of death and spiritual rebirth. The third season of Millennium is a thematic mess, but Omertà represents a point where it seems like the creative team might finally be getting a grip on things, almost half-way through the year.

None of this makes Omertà any easier to watch, but it does provide an intriguing prism through which the episode might be viewed.

"Tonight, we're gonna party like it's 1989!"

“Tonight, we’re gonna party like it’s 1989!”

Continue reading

Star Trek – A Piece of the Action (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

A Piece of the Action is the last script credited to Gene L. Coon.

Of course, Coon would write two episodes for (and contributed two more stories to) the show’s troubled final season under the alias Lee Cronin. However, A Piece of the Action could be seen as the last hurrah for Gene L. Coon’s vision of Star Trek. The writer and producer had helped to shape and define many of the ideas that Star Trek fans take for granted. A lot of the core Star Trek ideas that have permeated into popular culture – the Federation, the Klingons – originated with Coon.

Dey call his Boss Koik...

Dey call him Boss Koik…

While Coon is often overlooked when it comes to crediting those responsible for creating Star Trek as fans have come to know it, history has tended to gloss over his wry subversive streak. In many ways, Coon could be said to be the godfather of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Had he not passed away at the tragically young age of forty-nine, Coon might have been coaxed back to write a first season episode of Deep Space Nine alongside Dorothy Fontana. Coon was, after all, the first Star Trek writer to shrewdly and knowingly problematicise the Federation.

So it feels appropriate that the last Star Trek script credited to Coon should have Kirk proposes the Federation as an intergalactic racket.

Top gun...

Top gun…

Continue reading

Tintin: Tintin in America (Review)

In the lead-up to the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I’m going to be taking a look at Hergé’s celebrated comic book character, from his humble beginnings through to the incomplete post-modern finale. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Tintin in America was the earliest Adventures of Tintin book I read as a child, and I owned the entire collection from this point on (for obvious reasons, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo were not recommended childhood reading). That said, I’ve always regarded Tintin in America as one of the weaker entries in the series, perhaps because my childhood imagination yearned for something relatively more exotic than a trip to North America, or perhaps because the saturation of American pop culture made all the elements Hergé was spoofing seem like old hat. I’m not entirely sure, but I have to admit that the story hasn’t improved too much on re-reading.

America, %&#! Yeah!

Continue reading