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202. Casino – Summer of Scorsese (#141)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Jay Coyle and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Aoife Martin, 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 Casino.

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, After Hours, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman. The Summer of Scorsese season offers a trip through his filmography via the IMDb‘s 250.

Against the backdrop of the seventies, the mob pushes westward. Hustler and gambler Sam “Ace” Rothstein is sent to Las Vegas to oversee the mob’s holdings in the Tangiers, and he discovers an unspoiled paradise just waiting for exploitation. However, Sam doesn’t count on the inevitable complications that will bring that house of cards crashing down.

At time of recording, it was ranked 141st on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – His Way (Review)

His Way doesn’t so much straddle the line between sweet and creepy as play hopscotch across it.

There is a lot to like about His Way. There is a palpable enthusiasm to the episode, a charm and energy that excuses the indulgence. After all, His Way uses the holosuite to create facsimile of sixties Las Vegas populated by a self-aware crooner who spends a solid chunk of the episode hitting swing band classics. It is a ridiculous set-up, yet one entirely in keeping with the interests of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Suited to the task…

Deep Space Nine never felt like it belonged in the nineties. It felt a much stronger connection to Star Trek than to Star Trek: The Next Generation, as evidenced by episodes like Crossover and Blood Oath. It built entire episodes around a classic Hollywood aesthetic, from the broad noir pastiche of Necessary Evil to the more specific plot references of Profit and Loss or Meridian. This is a television show that made repeated and extended references to Julian Bashir’s affection for James Bond in episodes like Our Man Bashir or A Simple Investigation.

There is a genuine warmth and affection that shines through His Way, something at radiates through the episode from Jay Chattaway’s lounge-tinged ambient soundtrack through to James Darren’s giddy performance. There is a sense that everybody involved in the episode is having such a good time that it would be churlish to begrudge them this small diversion. After all, Deep Space Nine is much closer to the end than to the beginning, and the production team have accomplished so much that they deserve an indulgence.

The hands-on approach.

At the same time, His Way has not aged particularly well. It is the episode that eventually gets Odo and Kira together, but it suffers from the problem affecting many of the episodes leading into the relationship. His Way is told almost exclusively from Odo’s perspective, reducing Kira to an object of fascination or desire. His Way invests a lot of energy in the idea that Odo can “win” Kira, but it never affords Kira any agency. This was okay in Crossfire, an episode explicitly about how unhealthy Odo’s unrequited and unexpressed obsession was. It works less well in His Way.

His Way plays almost like an episode about a pick-up artist, about that creepy subculture in which insecure and nerdy men effectively try to trick women into sleeping with them through a complicated series of performance pieces and psychological warfare. Rene Auberjonois and James Darren make a charming enough duo that the episode doesn’t tank outright, but His Way still feels decidedly creepy in its approach to the question of courtship.

Vic’s story is life.

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Non-Review Review: Casino

You didn’t see the scam? You didn’t see what was goin’ on?

Well, there’s no way to determine that, Sam.

Yes, there is. An infallible way! They won!

Sam explains how Las Vegas works to Ward

If you ask a bunch of people to name their favourite Scorsese film, you’ll get a bunch of different answers. Some will go for his iconic gangster tale, Goodfellas. Others will go for the superb drama of Raging Bull. Some might even opt for the unforgettable Taxi Driver. I, on the other hand, am probably the only guy in the room who is going to opt for Casino. Conventional wisdom would argue that Casino is merely a bloated and over-loaded attempt to re-tread ground Scorsese already covered in Goodfellas, but I can’t bring myself to agree with that. While Goodfellas feels like a personal tale of greed and corruption, and the implosion that inevitably followed, there’s something grander to Casino. Offering the social history of Las Vegas, the rise and fall of the mob’s empire, it feels like large-scale tragedy. There’s just such an impressively epic scale to Scorsese’s film that I can’t help but admire it.

No dice...

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Viva Los Vegas…

I saw The Hangover last weekend, and it occurs to me: has there ever been a truly great Las Vegas movie? A movie (or even a show) that fully captures the feeling of living in a city that glows with neon glare twenty-four hours a day? I can name at least a dozen movies using Vegas as a backdrop: there’s the obvious ones like Viva Las Vegas, Leaving Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and maybe even Casino. Then there are the smaller films like Jon Favreau’s Swingers or The Cooler which are set in the city. I’m not sure that the film has received definitive treatment on film.

Bright light city gonna set my soul on fire...

Bright light city gonna set my soul on fire...

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Non-Review Review: The Hangover

We caught a late screening of The Hangover at Cineworld last night – which started ten minutes late and had twenty minutes of trailers attachmed (most of which were for movies that didn’t look particularly interesting), which led to us missing our rides home by about five minutes, but that’s a different rant. Still, it was kinda total worth it – like the eponymous hangover itself.

Three Men and a Baby it is not...

Three Men and a Baby it is not...

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