Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Gambling


There it was, the Jack of Spades. Already having four spades in my hand, I had turned in the lone odd card in hopes of being gifted a flush. When I laid eyes on him, ol' Jack was the most handsome man I'd ever seen. We were about five hands deep into what would be an all-night poker game between a handful of fellow soldiers. I had won an earlier pot of about thirty bucks. Now, Jack fell from heaven and caressed my fingers as he sat quietly and formed a quintet with his brethren. Better yet, he fit perfectly in the order of value to create a straight flush. Round and round the bidding went until finally, it ballooned to almost two hundred dollars. I laid 'em down, they all wept as I swept that pile of dough from the center of the table. The world could not have been a better place...until it wasn't. I don't think I saw another good card the rest of the night. By the rest of the night, I mean another hour and change as I lost those winnings plus my entire paycheck. I couldn't stop before then because another great hand was coming. I FELT IT. Unfortunately, I ran out of money first. I had no choice but to sit on the sofa since my roommate and ride was still playing. With nothing else to do, and lots of booze around, I got drunker than I've ever been, passed out, woke up to vomit all over myself, then passed out again right in the mess. The next afternoon I woke up and remembered the puke, but had to be told what happened in the aftermath. As embarrassed as I was, I wouldn't change one second of it because that was the night I had THAT HAND. Wisely, I think, I retired from my gambling career shortly after this. Okay, I still play fantasy football every year, but I kinda have to. It would be totally un-American to not play. Right?

If you couldn't tell, this week's topic for Thursday Movie Picks is gambling. As always, we're hosted by the outstanding Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves. Lots of great movies on the subject. Let's see if I can find three for you. Oh, try to spot the theme within the theme.


White Men Can't Jump
(1992)
We meet Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson), a random white guy who shows up in random black neighborhoods and joins random pickup basketball games. Quite often these games are for money. Most days, Billy ends up walking away with it all. He's a former college ballplayer using the stereotype that white guys can't play basketball to hustle anyone who allows him to join their game. He forms an uneasy friendship with Sidney Dean (Wesley Snipes) and the two travel around the greater Los Angeles area scheming street ballers out of their money. It's the only living Billy knows. Unfortunately, it's gotten him in deep to some mobster types who want the money he owes them.Therefore, he and his girlfriend Gloria (Rosie Perez, drool) are constantly looking over their shoulders while Billy tries to earn enough to pay them off.


Money Train
(1995)
John (Wesley Snipes) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson) are adoptive brothers who also happen to be partners on the police force. Their big case is trying to catch a nutjob who is going around to token booths at various subways around New York City, setting them on fire and killing the clerks who work in them. However, that's secondary to what's happening in their personal lives. Charlie has a serious gambling problem and owes fifteen thousand bucks to some very dangerous people. Eventually, Charlie decides the best way to get the loot to pay off his debt is by hijacking the Money Train, the train carrying all the cash collected on a given day. It's a bit of a cheat because it's not really about gambling, but this is a very fun action-comedy. Think of it as Lethal Weapon meets Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Okay, it's not as good as either of those, but it is very fun. Why yes, there's a girl coming between them. It's J-Lo. And that's enough for me.


Kingpin
(1996)
Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) was once a pro bowler with a promising future. Trusting the wrong person got him into a game trying to hustle the wrong people. When the smoke clears, Roy has lost his right hand and spends the next seventeen years scratching out a meager existence. However, things change when he finds another big time bowling prospect, Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid), in an Amish colony of all places. Roy takes the kid under his wing in hopes of helping him turn pro. Going pro requires money, so Roy tries to raise it the best way he knows. He takes Ishmael on the road and teaches him to hustle amateurs. This is one of Woody Harrelson's best (and most underrated) performances and Randy Quaid is perfectly oblivious as the Amish guy venturing out into the world for the first time. I'll admit that in my perfect world, his part is played by Wesley Snipes, but whatever. Finally, in another underrated turn, we get a marvelous villain from Bill Murray. For my money, this is the pinnacle of the Farelly brothers filmography with the exception of There's Something About Mary.



16 comments:

  1. A Woody Harrelson triple-feature. 2 great films and one alright film. Kingpin is hilarious as it's one of my favorites from the Farrelly Brothers (before the abomination that was Shallow Hal). Money Train is alright as I think it's a good film with some flaws. White Men Can't Jump. A classic as I'm more surprised the fact that both Terrence Malick and the late Stanley Kubrick are fans of that film. The latter of which I read picked it as one of his all-time favorite films.

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    1. Woody is awesome. I don't think he gets nearly as much credit as he deserves for his career. I can believe Kubrick was a fan of WMCJ, but Malick I'm surprised about.

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    2. Then I guess you either forgot or never knew that one of Malick's all-time favorite films is Zoolander. One of Stanley Kubrick's favorite comedies is The Jerk. Geniuses have weird tastes but that is what makes them so interesting.

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  2. A theme within the theme! I love those although I'm not the biggest Woody Harrelson fan. I liked all three of these though I can't say I loved them. White Men Can't Jump is probably the one with the sharpest observations and best direction but all fit the theme perfectly.

    Mine also have a theme within the title except my extra, which was the first one I thought of for the week but didn't fit with the others but I love the film so much I had to include it.

    The Gambler (1974)-College professor Axel Freed (James Caan) seems to have a good life but is caught in the grip of a severe gambling addiction which threatens not only his job but all his relationships and perhaps his life when he gets in deep with loan sharks.

    The Lady Gambles (1949)-Joan Boothe (Barbara Stanwyck) accompanies his reporter husband Dave to Las Vegas when he goes there on a story. At loose ends and thinking she might find a story of her own she pokes around the hotel casino with a hidden camera. The owner at first thinks she’s a hustler but realizing she isn’t gives her a few chips to play. Thinking it’s a lark she takes them but finds she can’t stop once she’s begun.

    Gambling Lady (1934)-Lady Lee (Barbara Stanwyck) is determined to beat the gambling syndicate who drove her father to suicide at their own game while staying true to her dad’s insistence to always remain on the up and up. She’s extremely successful but complications arise when she becomes involved with the married Garry Madison (Joel McCrea) who could possibly be a murderer.

    Honorable Mention:

    The Cincinnati Kid (1965)-Professional poker player The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen) is a young man moving from game to game in 30’s era New Orleans looking to establish himself as the best and torn between two beauties, the worldly Melba (Ann-Margret) and innocent Christian (Tuesday Weld). Ultimately he goes up against a legend of the sport, Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) in a high-stakes poker game. Wonderfully atmospheric drama with a powerhouse cast most of whom have fantastic monikers: Lady Fingers (Joan Blondell), Shooter (Karl Malden), Slade (Rip Torn) and Yeller (Cab Calloway) among others and a strong lead performance from that King of Cool McQueen.

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    1. By the way I meant to mention that's quite the opening story! It's amazing that sometimes you can get completely wrecked and still have an excellent time. Unfortunately you usually pay for it big time the next day.

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    2. No Kenny Rogers? Lame.

      Just kidding.

      I have seen the Kenny Rogers The Gambler, not the James Can version, though I hardly remember any of it. Sadly, I haven't seen any of your actual picks, though I really want to see The Cincinnati Kid.

      I paid really big with a hangover the next day and no money for the next two weeks.

      By the way, not sure if you've seen the announcement post, but it is time again for the annual Against the Crowd Blogathon. I would love for you to contribute as you did last year. If interested, click the Featured Post in the upper right corner "sign up." You can email me your entry at dellott@yahoo.com and I will get it posted for you.

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    3. Don't know how I missed about the blogathon Dell, well yes I do it's been a crazy week!!, but I'll get right on it.

      I have seen the Kenny Rogers Gambler too and for what it is it was alright. The Caan one was remade by Mark Walhberg (poorly) the year before last. Definitely catch Cincinnati Kid, you just can't match a cast like that and it's an excellently made, entertaining film.

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    4. Great! I'll be waiting with baited breath.

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  3. I haven't seen any of these films, but now I want to. I'm usually not interested in gambling movies at all.

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    1. If it helps, none of these involves a casino or even a deck of cards.

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  4. Lmao I love how you picked all Woody Harrelson films! Haven't seen any of these or many films of him actually, but great picks!

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    1. I'm a fan of Woody. He's so underrated, in my opinion. And pretty easily the best part of that bloated Hunger Games franchise.

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  5. Yay for Woody! Of these movies I've only seen White Men Can't Jump, but it was a long time ago--I barely remember it.

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  6. OMG White Men Can't Jump!! LOVE IT.

    That opening story is the story of OH so many poker nights for me - one unbelievably great hand followed by one disappointment after another. Only without the whole drinking so much I puked thing. That's why now whenever I do play poker, I play only one more hand after I win big then cash in my chips.

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    1. That should've been my strategy, but I was young and dumb. Oh well.

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