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Glitz and Glamour on the Big Screen

The alluring world of gambling is a common theme in movies and one of the biggest factors that's shaped its perception in popular culture. Watching the scenes of large, sophisticated casino floors busy with activity and excitement has always kept viewers hooked to the screen. Of course, the glam is often followed by action, intrigue, and even the harsh truth behind the flashy casino life. All in all, getting immersed in the exciting atmosphere of casino venues never gets old, and the following list of movies proves they can get you there in no time.

Las Vegas movies

What Makes Casinos so Captivating?

People from different cultures have been attracted to gambling for ages, and identifying with iconic film characters as they engage in some of their favourite games is a thrill. There's a particular kind of excitement involved when watching a character take risks in a game of poker, roulette, or blackjack. The tension of waiting for the outcome of a high-stakes table game keeps viewers hooked, and the popularity of on-screen gambling has also helped the growth and proliferation of online operators across the globe. Today, fans can find equally immersive and entertaining games in one of the latest online casinos in South Africa, as well as in other countries around the world. Whichever your favourite game, you’ll be able to scratch that casino itch as soon as you're done watching them.

Casino Royale (2006)

If you’re interested in seeing an action movie that pairs glamorous casino life with espionage and other secret agent activities, Casino Royale is not to be missed. Directed by Martin Campbell, it showcases the world of exciting high stakes, wealth, and class, combined with the usual danger and risk involved with the spy genre. The plot revolves around James Bond who's portrayed by the steely-eyed Daniel Craig. The agent finds himself on a mission to prevent Le Chiffre from winning a high-stakes Texas Hold ‘Em poker session at the glamorous Casino Royale in Montenegro. Like all other James Bond movies, it features a turbulent mix of intrigue, violence, romance, and clever mind tricks.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Ocean’s Eleven was directed by Steven Soderbergh, one of the most iconic heist movies out there. The leading character Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gathers a group of talented individuals in order to pull the biggest Las Vegas heist of all-time. The team is on a mission to steal from the three biggest establishments in the city - the Bellagio, the MGM Grand, and the Mirage. Throughout the movie, you can see scenes of luxurious life in the three legendary Vegas casinos, and even Danny Ocean’s band of thieves is always impeccably dressed, supporting the idea of the sleek spirit of Sin City. Another point that adds to the film’s appeal is the star-studded cast, which includes: Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Elliot Gould. And if you like this version of Ocean's Eleven, you should also check out the 1960 original, where Danny Ocean is portrayed by none other than Frank Sinatra!

Casino (1995)

Even though Martin Scorsese may not seem interested in gambling in particular, his profound interest in people helped him craft an exciting film called Casino. The story revolves around two mobsters (Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro) portrayed by equally iconic and eccentric actors - Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. The movie is set in the early 1970s, and Ace is a low-level gangster who was sent to Las Vegas to run the Tangiers Casino. Initially, he is very successful with the job, but after a few years, problems arise. Ace falls in love with an ambitious woman who is not to be trusted (Sharon Stone) and eventually ends up in conflict with Nicky Santoro, his hotheaded pal, and a number of corrupt politicians. Not only do we get to see the rise-and-fall of most of these characters, we’re also treated to a fantastic representation of what the evolution of Sin City was like from those early days until today.

21 (2008)

21, directed by Robert Luketic, is a true story about a group of brilliant MIT students and their mentor (Kevin Spacey) who came up with an elaborate card-counting scheme that's supposed to make it impossible for them to lose. Their plan was to enter the tumultuous Las Vegas casino scene and score millions by using what seemed like a bulletproof blackjack strategy. In the beginning, it all runs smoothly, but as the scam continues, the group’s scheme unravels and their lives become much more complicated. While their plan remains effective for nearly a decade, during which time the characters are involved in many high-roller sessions, the arrival of casino enforcer Cole (played by Lawrence Fishburne) threatens to put the whole operation in jeopardy.

People have been drawn to the extravagant world of casinos and casino games for decades, and the movie industry seems to be finding endless inspiration from the subject matter. With the four films listed above, you’ve got a solid base from which you can springboard and discover the many other productions that have since been inspired by and will undoubtedly continue to inspire writers and filmmakers to keep coming back to the casino!

The Crow: 30 Years After Brandon Lee's Death

The Crow was released in 1994, making it 30 years since Brandon Lee's tragic death and almost three decades since the dark gothic thriller's grand unveiling. Based on James o' Barr's comic of the same name, it was adapted into a film by David S. Schow and John Shirley, and directed by Alex Proyas. The Australian filmmaker embarked on The Crow as his second feature, after being instrumental in the making a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film debut with Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds.

Following it up with Dark City four years later, Proyas went on to direct Garage Days, I, Robot and Knowing before his promising run culminated in the ill-fated Gods of Egypt. Having directed two short films recently, including Mask of the Evil Apparition set in Dark City's cinematic universe, it seems as though he's trying to resurrect his film career with one of his stand outs.

The Crow, however, remains a film that probably inspired the world-building of Dark City, a story about a dark avenging angel who comes back from the dead to seek revenge and reunite with his beloved. It's a fascinating concept, which will probably have a remake in the not-too-distant future with young audiences discovering these old school gems but craving a modern treatment. Starring Bill Skarsgård, who played Pennywise the clown in It, it should draw waves of renewed interest in the character. Trying to find out if The Crow is a DC or Marvel entity, it's clear that the supernatural aspect to this dark "superhero" type cult classic still holds weight in an age where superhero fatigue is weighing in.

Steering into the realm of Doctor Strange, it's not a bad time for something with a touch of horror to get this kind of treatment, based on the divisive yet still promising reception of Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. As it stands, The Crow has its old school charms, attracting a Heath Ledger type infamy based on Brandon Lee's untimely death with echoes from the incident on the set of Alec Baldwin's western gone wrong, Rust. Even the Joker's make up effect echoes the scary clown face killer idea of Eric Draven or The Crow, a film that probably also inspired movies like Boondock Saints, Constantine and possibly even The Purge and The Matrix.

Using a great deal of strobe effects, The Crow should probably come with a warning, especially considering how dark the rest of the film is, having The Crow moving between the city's long shadows. While effectively a western with the idea of a stranger coming to clean up the streets, Lee's involvement capitalises on martial arts as well as tipping the hat to the popularity of The Highlander with a bit of swordplay.

The Crow - Brandon Lee

Coming out just before Strange Days with the common denominator of the oh-so-90s villain, Michael Wincott, this was also a time when disillusioned alternative music was at an all-time high with the likes of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains ripping up the music charts. Together with Natural Born Killers, these film soundtracks were some of the most emotive and powerful alternative "mix tapes" of the era, resonating strongly with Draven's role as the lead guitarist of a band.

The Crow literally features a crow, which serves as a spirit guide and companion to Eric in his invincible state. Featuring quite frequently, it becomes the mascot for this iconic action thriller. An impressive feat considering how often filmmakers warn against working with children and creatures. It's difficult to figure out when Lee's tragedy happened based on the film being complete. However, as with many films they aren't necessarily shot in chronological order, which makes it interesting to note that the shot that led to his death was in the apartment scene where he and his fiancée were attacked by thugs.

While Lee wears makeup on his face, his present performance captures the bloodlust and manic disposition of the character, at a time when superhero movies weren't taken nearly as seriously as the age of Batman Begins. While the sequence of kills and villains are over-the-top at times, aiming for a stylised violence to make revenge an art form... The Crow still holds up in spite of its choppy edit and full crank dialogue. Dated by its moody music and grunge era affectations, there's a playful spirit - harnessing Edgar Allan Poe and malevolence of the anarchy-laden ritual that is Devil's Night.

A world not too far removed from this one, which probably originally took some notes from Gotham City, The Crow remains a curiousity. A dark vision, inextricably linked to the era by music and made all the more enigmatic by the undercurrent of tragedy left in the wake of its lead's death, it's fuzzy aura, comic book sensibilities, cult appeal and throwback charm keep it relevant almost 30 years later. While Miramax took a bold decision to release the final product when many studios took a wide berth, it just seems like a greater tragedy would have played out if it never found its way to screen.

Movies with the Best Sound Design in Hollywood

It´s hard to find a good movie that stands by itself only by the quality of the acting, or power of its script. There are some other very important elements that transform a good movie into an unforgettable one. Those factors are embedded in a film's soundtrack, music on the one hand, but mostly sound, since there´s no suspense without sound. Imagine watching a movie without the evocative sounds of a creaking door, footsteps on floorboards or a ticking time bomb.

That´s why many studios invest so much in sound technicians as well as engineers, since they need to ensure that the sound in their movies is the best. In fact, many of the action blockbusters out there would fall to pieces if their sound wasn't up to scratch. This can be easily applied to sci-fi and horror movies, which are heavily reliant on the execution of immersive SFX to engage the audience beyond the visuals.

Sound Engineers Have a Key Role in Movies, Photo: Jonas Zürcher

In fact this is of such importance in the film industry that there's an Oscar category of awards called "Best Sound Mixing", in which the movies nominated have outstanding sound design. A great deal of importance is placed on the way these industry professionals design and mix sound in film, since there´s no real interest if it's out of tempo, or the levels are out. A good note of sound is as good as a great guitar chord, since it provokes a variety of emotions in a single second. From fear of the unknown, to the familiarity of those sounds that remind us of earth, like hearing rain and thunder through earphones in deep space, sound has the power to transport us in a split second, even while travelling millions of miles away from our planet.

Some of the Predictions for 2023 Oscars

Some movies nominated for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories at for 2023´s Oscars are the tip of the spear for this year's awards. Since 2022 was a great year for movies, presenting some epic blockbusters and much anticipated titles, fans of sound editing and mixing are patiently waiting to hear what the judges decide.

One of the favorites this year is Top Gun: Maverick, the continuation of the 1986 success Top Gun, presenting the story of Maverick a great fighter pilot of the F-14 Tomcat, and the latter part of his career aboard an F-18. Both planes have very distinct sounds, and the sound effects department in both films did a superb job. The great success of the 1986 movie is deeply connected to the music score with the Kenny Loggins hit 'Danger Zone', but also the impressive sound design. While delayed, the Top Gun sequel released to much fanfare, racking up record-breaking box office figures and delivering amazing sound, reinforcing the film's epic visuals presented on screen.

Another hot favourite is the German movie All Quiet on the Western Front, a transportative and gritty film about World War I, from the perspective of a German soldier. Passing from great battles to quiet moments, this movie features great sound design and many critics anticipate that it might be amongst the big winners at this year's ceremony, including Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

The Movies with the Best Sound Design

Apart from the Oscars, there are some great examples that had us glued to the cinema chair thanks to their immersive sound design. For starters, a good example is the Oscar-winning movie Interstellar, directed by none other than Christopher Nolan, with Gregg Landaker and Gary Rizzo as the audio engineers. Together they created one of the most memorable films in recent history, with sound design that goes in the direction of what the movie has to offer, creating some truly memorable moments like the ticking of the clock as the crew of the Endurance visits a distant planet with every second representing the passing of a full day on Earth.

The list of powerful cinematic moments created by sound in film goes on. The great Hans Zimmer, is one composer who knows how to set colour notes that interlace quite beautifully with the soundtrack. The composer of some of Nolan's masterpieces, such as the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, Zimmer's worked with Nolan to present some of the finest examples when it comes to the best use of sound design in film.

Ridley Scott is also known as a director that not only recognises, but celebrates the great pairing of sound with action. This is best exemplified in one of his masterpieces, 2001´s Black Hawk Down, a pseudo-realistic film that shows the events of the Somali revolution in 1992, in which a few Sikorsky UH-60 helicopters where downed in Mogadishu. In such an action movie, the sound design and mixing is key to recreating the ambience not only of the fight scenes, but also the tense moments leading up to them. This is another feather in the cap for Hans Zimmer, who also composed the soundtrack, which pairs quite masterfully with the sound effects.

There are also two more movies in which sound played a key role in their success. One is the South African sci-fi adventure thriller District 9, depictnig a unique alien invasion, mixing sounds to create a completely new language for creatures from outer space. Finally, the sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie Children of Men, is another excellent example of great sound design in a movie, with some brilliant key notes of sound in very delicate scenes, particularly in deep action scenes, keeping audience on the edges of their seats.

Talking Movies with Spling on FMR Reaches 500th Episode

Spling is recording his 500th episode of Talking Movies on Fine Music Radio on 25 February 2023 at 8:15am... that's 500 consecutive, individual broadcasts of 3 movie reviews in just as many weeks without fail. In spite of food poisoning, Spling endeavoured to keep his 500-in-a-row tally in tact. This has always been important to him, continuing to get the show together for the loyal listeners who have come to enjoy his take, whatever it takes.

Having started at Fine Music Radio almost a decade ago, the Talking Movies show format hasn't actually changed all that much. The recording started in the studio with Spling visiting the Fine Music Radio studios at the Artscape on a weekly basis. When the worldwide pandemic struck, Spling was already geared to keep recording Talking Movies remotely. Having moved the recording to a "home studio", he developed a number of hidden skills from the setup and voice recording process to the edit. Spling switched to recording at nighttime to avoid navigating the ambient sound of ambulances, trains, pigeons, dogs, loud conversations, weather and yes... even chainsaws.

Talking Movies 500th Episode

Having been under the watchful eye of three station managers over this time, it's been an interesting journey as FMR has gone from strength-to-strength. While most radio stations in sitcoms and movies lend themselves to pure drama, Fine Music Radio is one of the more pleasant places to work. Full of absolute characters, it hasn't short of fun or spirit but is generally just a nice space.

Spling has tried to tailor his review slate and style of reviewing for the FMR audience, which has meant leaning more into arthouse and more substantial film titles or at the very least, reviewing movies in such a way that they can be appreciated for the review itself. In a world of animated family movies and superhero blockbusters this hasn't always been as easy as it sounds!

Spling has had one or two complaints over the years... someone was offended by my review of a sexually-charged movie and there have been a few unfounded mutters of too much "skiet, skop 'n donner". However, it's the compliments that have encouraged him to keep going with word like "erudite", "spontaneous" and "succinct" being thrown around. Having met some people who didn't know what Spling looked like, people have said they thought he would be blonde, older, taller... radio is a funny game.

Talking Movies 500th Episode

Spling says that what he's "loved most about doing the Talking Movies show" is that he's "always been given a great deal of creative freedom: able to curate my review line up with relative freedom, write without limits and keep the show's integrity as a true independent". After 500 episodes, he's hoping to mix things up a bit. The film critic adds that "while the recent line-up change has meant Talking Movies has been limited from Fridays and Saturday broadcasts to Saturdays-only, it's now able to be syndicated, which means I'm going to be looking to make it more accessible, or creating a shorter variation that I can broadcast on other local or international stations".

Spling calls his efforts "a labour of love" and hopes that people have enjoyed listening to the show over what's coming up for 10 years. To make just one 6 minute Talking Movies episode per week takes roughly 8 hours to watch the films, write the script, voice record, edit and facilitate the broadcast.

Fine Music Radio's resident movie critic is planning on doing something special for the 500th episode, not straying too far from what people have come to expect but going for something completely different within that framework. While Spling's reaching a milestone for his radio career as a presenter, he's also readying a book called 'The Essence of Dreams' for publication this year, another sign of a great many good things to come.

While Spling has been the driving force behind Talking Movies, often doing everything just short of the final mix, he wouldn't have been able to do it alone. His father was instrumental in arranging a meeting with the station, which turned out to be serendipity when they discovered FMR were on the lookout for a new presenter for the review show. Since it was scheduled to air at 8:20am on Fridays, Spling realised that it would be best to pre-record the show rather than try to rush through Cape Town's notorious Friday morning traffic to get to the station on time. His wife has probably listened to the most Talking Movies episodes, eager to hear the latest edition and serving as a sounding board for rehearsals with an ear for final touches.

When it comes to studio assistance over the years Spling says "Mawande, Ewan, Wesley and now recently JP have been my wingmen at various points and I've always enjoyed the camaraderie of working with them over the years." He also acknowledges Francis Slabber & Associates (The Hearing Clinic) for their continued support and loyalty as a sponsor of the show for over many of those years. While the show is currently looking for a new sponsor, Spling's sure that Fine Music Radio's high LSM audience and the elevated film conversation that has become Talking Movies is sure to appeal to an array of brands looking to associate with a tried-and-tested, reliable, trustworthy and expert movie afficiando.

While Spling can't promise there will be another 500 episodes of Talking Movies, he is excited to see what lies around the corner and is eager to ensure the Talking Movies show remains relevant, informative, insightful and well-respected. To celebrate this milestone Spling donated 500 DVDs to TEARS animal welfare, an amazing rescue organisation who are caring for animals as much as Saint Francis of Assisi would've wanted. Please support them by donating towards their efforts and visiting their charity shops.

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