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Casino Themed Movie Remakes That We Would Like to See


These days pretty much every movie ever made seems fair game for a remake. In recent history, classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, and Ghostbusters have all had the full reworking treatment. For movie makers, remaking a vintage favourite allows them to show (or more appropriately, sell) an existing title to a whole new audience. However, those who fondly remember the original content, are often disappointed with the new representations of their old-time favourites.

That said, some movie remakes excel. Thanks to advances in special effects over the years, directors are given a whole new tool box with which to work. Modern audiences might struggle to enjoy something that was spectacular to their parent’s generation because they’re used to far more immersive visual effects on film these days. It’s reasons like these that make the concept of retelling a story appealing to directors and producers alike.

Despite their usual lack of outlandish special effects work, casino-themed movies haven’t been exempt from the remake treatment. Take Ocean’s Eleven for example. The classic casino-heist flick was given a new lease of life in 2001 with megastars Brad Pitt and George Clooney taking the lead roles. In fact, some remakes have been so popular that game developers have launched video games and slot machines that are available for free.

There’s an absolute stack of great gambling movies out there from yesteryear that we feel should be high on directors’ lists of potential candidates for a twenty-first century revamp. We’ve rounded up some of the best below.

Casino (1995)

It’s probably sacrilege to mess around with a movie as well-loved as Casino. It’s one of the most well-known casino films out there, and topping the original would be a tall order. However, the Martin Scorsese classic is over twenty-two years old now. Perhaps it could be revamped for the modern day. Unfortunately, the Stardust Casino and resort shut its doors for the last time in 2006, so that probably rules out Las Vegas for a remake...

Here’s a wild idea. What about a modern version of Casino based around a gaming facility outside of Vegas. Now, where else has enormous resort-style gambling complexes, as well as sprawling metropolises and more than their fair share of vice? Of course, South Africa springs to mind. Imagine a Casino remake set in Johannesburg at Gold Reef City. It’d be marvelous. If any native movie directors are reading this, we reckon our homegrown favourite, Charlize Theron, could more than fill the role of Sharon Stone’s iconic character, Ginger McKenna.

A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)

There’s loads of scope with this one. Poker being as popular as ever, and the original being set in the Old West, a modern version could see the action unfold in twenty-first century Texas. Rather than cowboys, the high rollers could be oil tycoons or other such magnates. We reckon the story of a feisty female taking it to the boys at a typically male-orientated game would go down beautifully with modern, liberal audiences. There’s no shortage of potential leading ladies for such an empowering role either – we’re thinking someone like Emma Watson would be ideal.

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

Set in 1930s New Orleans, The Cincinnati Kid’s title character is played by legend of the silver screen, Steve McQueen. As with many of McQueen’s iconic portrayals, Eric Stoner is a heartthrob to ladies and a threat to gentlemen. The original theatrical trailer described the character as one whose “luck is a temptation to every woman... and is a challenge to every gambling man.” Whilst unmistakably cool, The Cincinnati Kid is a bit dated now.... it’s over 50 years old. A complete remake is surely in order. The sentiment of this tale of a plucky young underdog taking on “The Man” is pretty timeless, and modern audiences might get a real kick out of it.

Thanks to poker’s enduring popularity, particularly following the online boom at the beginning of this century, the world could probably use another silky-smooth operator at the tables – we’re sure there would be many actors in Hollywood who’d relish the opportunity of playing one of McQueen’s personas too!

California Spirit (1974)

California Spirit is one of our lesser known picks, but it’s a cracker nonetheless. The story is of Billy Deny and Charlie Waters, the former a part-time gambler, and latter a full-time small stakes player with the bravado to convince others he’s in the big leagues. Friendship blossoms between the two over their love of cards and gambling. It’s over a wrongful accusation of collusion at a casino that they really bond though. The movie is a classic tale of two gamblers’ travels between rags and riches. They decide to pawn everything and head out to Reno for the game of a lifetime. It’s there that they encounter poker legend Amarillo Slim (playing himself). It was largely the cameo from Slim that prompted us to include this somewhat hidden comedic gem in our list of casino-movie remakes. Just imagine Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey filling the role of Reno’s resident card shark!

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Directed by Stuart Rosenburg, this pick is less of a casino or gambling movie. It does have some action in it, however. It’s also just too good for us not to include here. The film stars Paul Newman, George Kennedy and JD Cannon. It tells the story of a man who refuses to conform to the rules in a local prison. It’s basically one of those classic 1960s rebellion flicks that remain popular today.

Now, there’s only one scene of card playing but it’s a real iconic one. It’s also vital to the legendary movie’s plot. The game is five-card stud, and the inmates involved all show their naivety to the nuances of such a game. The finale of the hand we witness between Luke and fellow prisoner Koko has some dubious reraising with almost no hand whatsoever – that’s just how “cool” Luke’s hand is. The bluff is epic with the benefit of hindsight but Koko turning down his pot odds of 13/1 (give or take a little) is shameful strategy that he probably deserves locking up for.

Critiques over the way the two play the iconic hand aside, the scene is great and full of suspense. We can’t be too rough on the players either. They’re prisoners after all, not hustlers. The scene is of course the one, which prompts the movie’s title and our hero’s nickname. The unbridled rebellion, and of course the nail-biting card scene are just two of the reasons we think this one would make a cracking remake.

 
Talking Movies with Spling - Detroit, Krotoa and The Sense of an Ending


Spling reviews Detroit, Krotoa and The Sense of an Ending as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: Krotoa


One of the most written about women in South African history, Krotoa has become the subject of a documentary, a play, a poem and now a film by Roberta Durrant. Krotoa is a South African historical drama based on a young Khoi woman, who was removed from her tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck and assimilate the Dutch language and culture in the mid 17th century. Based on historical facts, the screenwriters have essentially adapted and dramatised a historical overview of the influential interpreter and mediator, who experienced many challenges adapting to life between the Goringhaicona tribe and the household of the first Governor of the Cape Colony.

Largely ignored for more than two centuries, scholars now regard Krotoa (also known as Eva) as a woman who shows a universality in terms of her treatment under the colonial system worldwide. The renewed interest in her story, an international focus on race relations and a resurgence in female-led films made this seem like the perfect time for this drama biopic to emerge. While important and underwritten by good intentions, Krotoa struggles to leverage powerful themes and compel itself as a drama. Laden with contentious topics such as colonialism, culture, environment, gender, politics, race, rape... you'd expect a powder keg of a drama. Yet, the film-makers have opted for a safer journey, extrapolating a history lesson in the form of a docile character portrait.

The film's stellar cast includes: Crystal-Donna Roberts as Krotoa, Armand Aucamp as Jan van Riebeeck, Roeline Daneel as Maria van Riebeeck, Brendon Daniels as Autshumato, Jacques Bessenger as Pieter Van Meerhof, Marcel van Heerden as Wagenaar and Deon Lotz as Roelof de Man. Roberts gives an earnest and impassioned performance that sets the tone for the rest of the talented ensemble, who chime in with a sense of trepidation or uncertainty.

While fictional, this paradise turned imperial conquest has been criticised for its simplistic representation of the Khoi people. Much like any historical recreation, the onus is on the film-makers to endeavour to capture an accurate and respectable representation of people, places and events. While "based on historical facts" gives some creative freedom, it doesn't necessarily guarantee documentary realism or nuance. Durrant's made a concerted effort to effect an authentic picture of the Cape of Good Hope during this time. Shooting on-location, using naked landscapes and natural lighting, she's maintained a lush feeling and a pioneering spirit. Shells, beads and traditional animal hide garments juxtapose against the jauntier fabrics and hats of the Dutch, giving Krotoa a diverse pageantry. There's a valiant attempt to use the traditional dialect of the Khoisan, while the Dutch contingent speak a modernised version of Afrikaans.

Krotoa

"..."

The culture clash, sweeping landscapes, arrival of horses and wide-brimmed hats give Krotoa a Western vibration. While at first, the regal dress sense and pomp give it a camp quality, this mostly dissipates as Krotoa becomes more accustomed to the foreign culture. While this low budget film stands firm, its lack of depth makes it comparable with Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman for quality when it was probably aspiring for the pensive grandeur of a film like Silence. A lack of perceived character development, tension and nuance make it dramatically inert against some beautifully photographed visuals. With little camera movement, the film stagnates even further, dramatising chapters from Krotoa's "cursed" life as if transposing oil paintings.

There's such a keen awareness around capturing authentic visuals that the storytelling and subtext becomes secondary, an afterthought obscured by contrivances. This element is best exhibited by the choice to re-enact a famous Charles Davidson Bell painting of van Riebeeck's arrival. It's further evidenced as a commander comes to the rescue from nowhere, a woman interrupts a conversation as if eavesdropping and a companion happens to be a doctor. This is to the detriment of the dramatic sensibility, struggling to realise the dormant power of scenes and giving Krotoa a stale air. Without much nuance, it becomes a simplistic and dull retelling - diffused by earnest performances from a solid cast and an eclectic, magical and indigenous soundtrack.

It's encouraging to see this chapter of South African history inspiring film-makers and there's so much thematic material, it could easily warrant a TV series. Krotoa demonstrates, much like a pilot, that there's scope for this story to be adapted for television. Taking this angle would allow more time to explore Krotoa's unique experiences in more biographical detail, give the writers room to explore the ethics, morality and multitude of curious characters on both sides, and even siphon more thematic staying power from the historical retrospective.

Durrant's ambitious undertaking shows great potential, but with so many moving parts, there's only so much you can roll into one film. Krotoa features a solid cast, earnest performances, sweeping landscapes, rich historical detail, an eclectic soundtrack, poetic sentiment and the story remains important as ever. Unfortunately, it struggles to entrench the illusion - lacking nuance, story focus, an immersive environment, compelling characters and heartfelt drama.

The bottom line: Dormant

 
Movie Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard


The Hitman's Bodyguard is a buddy movie from Patrick Hughes, the director who brought us Red Hill and The Expendables 3. Loosely based on the same dynamic as Midnight Run, we are quickly introduced to prolific hitman, Darius Kincaid, who is paired with an elite bodyguard, Michael Bryce, commissioned to get his new client to a trial at the International Court of Justice. Fresh from Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds has repositioned his star alongside the action genre, allowing him to headline a hard actioner opposite screen veteran and Tarantino regular, Samuel L. Jackson.

While their chemistry is far from magical, their constant bickering and one-upmanship forms the core of the film's intrinsic entertainment value. Trading on these two established stars, The Hitman's Bodyguard leverages much of their trademark style with a smooth-talking Reynolds and a straight-talking Jackson. While it's the sort of movie terrain you'd expect to see Jackie Chan flexing his mix of martial arts and incredible stunt work in, we are relegated to watching two big shots mouth off. To their credit, Reynolds and Jackson tap into previous roles to add texture, trying to inject charm and spruce up some pretty generic and egotistical characters.

While it aims to get by on action and comedy, the tone is rickety and the comedy isn't polished, leaving a lot of responsibility on the action component. The Hitman's Bodyguard's biggest challenge is its struggle to determine whether it's a tongue-in-cheek or dead serious action film. The intense violence and strong use of language is frequent enough to suggest we are bearing witness to a fierce action movie, yet the situational comedy, flippant attitude, constant tussling and silly scenarios say otherwise. As a result, it's difficult to get in on the joke or feel the full weight of the suspense, making this a mixed bag in terms of entertainment value.

"Say Double Team 2 again. We double dare ya."

We coast on the star quality of the co-leads and supporting character actors, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek. Oldman is okay as a hellbent Eastern European war criminal in Vladislav Dukhovich while Hayek gets tough (and kinda icky) as the no-nonsense Sonia. Reynolds is Mr. Wisecrack again, while Jackson covers his age well with a little help from a bullet. While almost any movie would be lucky to have this ensemble, it just feels lacklustre with each of the stars delivering average performances. Perhaps the film's generic quality lent itself to middling performances, yet despite their attempts to engender passion and genuine sparkle – it just falls flat. The egomania parade makes it difficult to identify with the characters, making it a fairly alienating series of stand-offs.

The Hitman's Bodyguard is a competently filmed actioner, yet struggles to justify the inclusion of its stellar cast. The seesawing tone leaves the film dangling in an uncomfortable middle ground and diminishes the overall impact. The snarky characters are softened by the actors, but are ultimately difficult to get behind. The frequent violence and bad language isn't justified, cheapening the final product and offsetting the comedy. Then, the film is generic and struggles to distinguish itself from a slew of better action comedy buddy movies... making it more of the same.

The bottom line: Forgettable

 
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