Michael Douglas

Last Vegas

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2013

Good Universe/CBS Films

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Produced by Laurence Mark and Nathan Kahane

Written by Dan Fogelman

If you saw the trailer for LAST VEGAS you probably thought like me: that it would be a raunchy, senior citizen version of “The Hangover.” I imagined that Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline got together after seeing the “Hangover” movies and said; “Let’s show these guys how it’s really done.” And you’d be forgiven for thinking that way because that’s precisely how the trailers sold the movie. Nothing could be further from the truth. LAST VEGAS is two things: a Lifetime movie made for men and a 105 minute commercial for Las Vegas.

Michael Douglas is Billy who decides at a funeral for a friend that he wants to get married and proposes to his girlfriend. He contacts his three best friends: Paddy (Robert DeNiro) Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) who decide to throw him the best bachelor party ever in Las Vegas. They also think they can talk him out of marrying a girl young enough enough to be his granddaughter.

The situation is complicated by a couple of things: Paddy is still mourning for his wife who passed away a year ago. And he’s still pissed off at Billy for not coming to her funeral. Archie has to break out of his own house as his overprotective son won’t let him do anything since Archie had a minor stroke. Sam is bored to death living in a retirement community and sees the trip to Vegas as a way of getting back his zest for life.

This aging wolfpack heads to Las Vegas where they quickly become friends with lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen) and she joins the guys on their last big adventure while becoming attracted to both Billy and Paddy and the two of them find themselves really becoming attracted to her.

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Trust me on this, I’m making LAST VEGAS sound a lot more than it really is. Considering the star power in this movie I expected a really outrageous comedy but what we get is a predictable, flat product. I’ve watched episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” that were raunchier than this movie. Which is really disappointing. I’ve seen these guys cut loose and get crazy in other movies and I was hoping to see that here. Nope. This is a movie made for senior citizens who don’t like to see violence, sex, drug use or a lotta cussin’ in their movies. It’s as bland as white bread with butter. And not that that’s a bad thing. I’m glad to see that Hollywood is acknowledging that there’s an audience out there who isn’t interested in seeing superhero movies, CGI blockbusters and hyper-violent action thrillers and are making movies for them so that they can get out and enjoy an afternoon or evening at the movies like everybody else. It’s a good thing.

To give them credit, Kevin Kline, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Mary Steenburgen all look like they’re having fun working together. I only wish that Joanna Gleason had more to do here as she’s a very talented actress and what she has here is little more than an extended cameo as Kevin Kline’s wife.

The guys spend the movie flirting with young cuties, showing the kids how to get down and party, drinking, playing blackjack, teaching life lessons to a bully (Jerry Ferrara) judging a wet bikini contest and just hanging out in Vegas, making it look like a really hip and fun place to be. Like I said earlier, it’s a commercial for Las Vegas and on that level, it’s a pretty good one.

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Of course by the end of the movie, the guys have all resolved their personal problems, Paddy and Billy have kissed and made up and Diana ends up with one of them. There’s not a single surprise in the movie and it’s so structured by the numbers that you can safely predict what is going to happen and when. That’s not to say it isn’t amusing or cute. It is fun seeing DeNiro, Freeman, Douglas and Kline working together and they do their jobs. They’re just not stretching themselves. They’re basically doing riffs on their patented screen personas and they do it well.

No need to draw this out. Wait for LAST VEGAS to come to Netflix. Or if you really have to see it, then catch a matinee.

105 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

20th Century Fox

2010

Directed by Oliver Stone

Produced by Edward R. Pressman and Eric Kopeloff

Screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff

Curious thing about WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS.  The whole movie is about money.  People in this movie talk about it constantly, obsess over it, worship it, and revere it.  But never once in the movie do we actually see anybody handling money or using it to purchase anything except for one important scene.  And I’m inclined to think that Oliver Stone excluded the actual appearance of money for a reason.  Instead we see the things that money can buy.  The luxurious condos and lofts.  The elegant mansions.  The beautiful clothes and stylish cars.  The exclusive restaurants you can eat in and the clubs you can party at.  And we see the effect the pursuit of money has on people as well.

But as Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) himself says, money even isn’t the point.  It’s playing the game.  The game is all there is and the more money one has is just the way the game players tell who’s winning and who’s losing.  And who should know better than him?  The character of Gordon Gekko became the symbol for Wall Street in the 80’s and 90’s.  Michael Douglas has said in interviews that for years after he made that movie, young stockbrokers would come up to him and tell him they got into the game because of his performance.

The movie picks up on one time corporate raider Gordon Gekko after he’s done time in jail following the events of “Wall Street”. Upon his release he writes a successful best-selling book and goes on the lecture circuit.  It’s at a book signing he’s approached by Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf) a hungry and ambitious young trader who also happens to be engaged to Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan).

Jake wants Gekko’s help to get revenge on Bretton James (Josh Brolin) CEO of a major investment bank.  James engineered the collapse of the investment firm Jake worked on.  The collapse of the firm and the humiliation of the way it was done caused the managing director and Jake’s mentor Lew Zabel (Frank Langella) to take his own life.  Gekko’s willing to help, working behind the scenes to gather information and advising Jake on the best way to use it to get back at James.  But in return, Gekko wants Jake’s help so that he can reconcile with Winnie who wants absolutely nothing to do with her father.

Jake is walking a fine line here as Winnie tells him plainly that her father is not to be trusted and he’s only using Jake for some reason.  But Jake is undeniably attracted to Gekko’s uncanny business insight and knowledge and is eager to know what Gekko knows.  It’s an unenviable position to be in.  Especially when Jake learns first-hand that James is as manipulative and cruel as Gekko himself.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS is one of those movies where I didn’t understand a blessed thing the characters were saying when it comes to stocks and trading and securities and anything having to do with that world.  But on the other hand I felt smarter listening to them talk.  And it’s to the credit of the screenwriters that they break it down so that you can follow who’s doing what to whom and who’s manipulating what and why without making the characters sound as if they were dumb.

Michael Douglas is clearly having a ball playing Gordon Gekko.  He’s all smiles and charm with a ‘Hail and well met, good fellow!’ type of cheerfulness.  I didn’t get the impression he was trying to top his legendary performance in “Wall Street” but instead simply slipped back on Gordon Gekko’s skin and walked around in it.  It’s an effortless performance that provides the movie with a lot of the best lines and best scenes.

I’m still not sure how I feel about Shia LeBeouf as an actor.  He’s professional, sure.  And he’s enjoyable to watch.  But he hasn’t yet mastered the knack of disappearing into his role and letting the character do the work.  Josh Brolin is always worth watching and he doesn’t disappoint here.  No matter what he’s in, I’m guaranteed a good performance.  Carey Mulligan holds up her end quite well but her character is a puzzle and even in the movie other characters wonder why she’s engaged to a Wall Street guy when she hates her father so much.  There are also a couple of cameos in here that are worth looking for.

If there’s any surprise here, it’s in Oliver Stone’s direction.  He’s mellowed out as a director and the man who directed such angry movies as the original “Wall Street” “Born On The Fourth Of July” or “Salvador” isn’t directing this movie.  He’s gotten more thoughtful and even-handed I think.  And it shows in his solid direction.  I love a director who puts the camera down, doesn’t jiggle it all over the place, puts the actors in front of the camera and lets them act.  And that’s what Stone does here.  But he seems to have relaxed a bit and his usual political slant isn’t in evidence here or at least I couldn’t see it.  In fact, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS plays out as a more-or-less conventional drama set in the financial world and isn’t the searing indictment of Wall Street and the nation’s current financial crisis I expected it to be.

So should you see WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS?  I think so.  It’s entertainment that has enough of modern day relevance to provide just enough of thought to edge it out of the “it’s just a popcorn movie” tier.  And it is fun to see Michael Douglas give life to his most famous movie character again.  It’s not as good as the original “Wall Street” but after all these years it’s a whole lot better than it had to be and that’s something right there.

Rated PG-13

133 minutes