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Why 'Last Vegas' should be your first choice for 2014

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Is Last Vegas soggy Christmas fare plumped up by some leftover sultanas or is it a piece of savvy storytelling straining under the veneer of a benign and recycled road-trip genre?

Why 'Last Vegas' should be your first choice of 2014...

Douglas, DeNiro, Freeman and Kline...

Boom.

A weigh-in registering these four gets no heavier in Hollywood especially when you consider what must have been a lacklustre scenario as the script was first laid out on ankle high coffee tables. Four old(ish) comrades get together for a last gasp vavavoom in Vegas, courtesy of soon to be hitched silicone man (Douglas). Blah, blah, blah.

Cue ensuing hilarity based on the fumbling’s and fun of three serving stereotypes; bitter/angry man (DeNiro), warm/beardy man (Kline) and smoothed out/born to do it man (Freeman).  The quips are cheap but inviting and lift more than a few titters. The notion of knowing what you wish you could have known 40 years earlier and then acting up as young/old men is quite apparent in all but one. The exception being Billy (Douglas) who’s own journey in Vegas is one that could have, in reality, been avoided by recognising his ever- ripening stock and living his life accordingly.

In  all fairness, there are probably very few men of his vintage that have not, at one time or another, considered regressing and plunging headlong into the possibilities of a more radical choice of partner such as one 30 years to the junior.

The film is glossy, dated and without the four actors to pull the beef, could have been buried long before it even had chance to breathe. The redeeming quality is one of Jon Turteltaub directing a quartet of actors in a truthful portrayal through the tragedy of ‘forced fun' (think New Year’s Eve in a nursing home) There are multiple points of reflection for all actors in most films which hopefully ring true on some level if not profoundly so; but in Last Vegas, it’s this reliance on truth that makes it funny.  All four actors must be considering how many films are left in them before the tap runs dry.

Michael Douglas' acting is raw... especially when one considers the frailing health of this iconic star.

There is a beautiful scene as Douglas packs his suitcase and vocalises his thoughts on aging and the speedy passage of time which although clichéd, is poignant considering Douglas’ recent  health problems. It literally feels like you are in the room with the aging star, and one cannot help but gather an increasing presence of thought that Douglas was not acting.  If he was......and found himself able to dis-associate himself from a monologue that deals with mortality after suffering so recently with tongue cancer, then that in itself deserves an award.

Does the film deserve any accolade? Probably not.  Did it mean to be at all poignant? Probably not.  Is it even poignant at all?!  If you found Dumb and Dumber poignant, then yes. And yet Last Vegas has an appeal that is timeless, like the stars featured within. Without them, this is another drab, Vegas-laden, love-lingering offering; but with them, Last Vegas is as pure as Morgan's voice - a sweet soliloquy that carries as much honesty as it does humour.

Released here in the UK on the 3rd January, it's one we cannot recommend enough - a great way to start 2014. However, should you need a bit more of a push, here are five reasons why the golden oldies deserve your attention...

Integrity

A wise Morgan Freeman (or 'Archie' on this occasion) passes down his timeless advice to Dean (Jerry Ferrara)...You have to respect the older generation. Be it the way they cut the lawn or the way they lead us down the path of existence, they do so with an unassuming respect, both of themselves and the task in hand. As such, any film being told by the old school immediately has a leg up into the heady heights of longevity.

Here, our four Hollywood greats act...but in a way that only they can. The script is weak on its own, but with the gravitas of their presence - and the (you used it) integrity of said performances - it makes for extremely easy viewing.

Simply put - they talk, we listen.  Even if they are wrong.

Wrinkles

Any photographic genius will tell you that in a face, earnest or joyful, deep set lines convey more of a soul than any fresh-faced college pretty boy can fake. Obviously Botox throws a spanner in this working, but no amount of self-inflicted railroading can detract from a wily ol’ wink.

Need more evidence? How about Clint Eastwood - the man got meaner with age; a dirtier Harry than we had ever experienced. Or perhaps Michael Caine as Alfred - a performance so moving, much of which has to be accredited to his age, that his tearful episode caused me to do the same; or even God himself, Morgan Freeman (aka Nelson Mandela to the ignorant Twitter youth) - does this man not keep getting better?

So, we say forget your fountain of youth - we seek the fontane of knowledge.

Dancing

In any comedy containing an elder, there is always the chance of some elusive dad dancing.

The lesser known dad dance is a rare breed of embarrassment captured for comic purpose. Witnessing dad dancing in a film is doing so at a safe distance in a sanitized environment - an OAP haven. Plus, the moves on show here - especially from the likes of obvious soul King Morgan Freeman - are timeless.

Of course, dancing alone doesn't constitute a film (isn't that right Step-Up?) but when used in the right way it's certainly an aphrodisiac for a good time.

Journey

The boys - ie Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas - suited and booted on their incredible journey...

Film is about journey. Mainly the actor’s and how you interpret the character and their choices, but a journey of some sort is certain.

To be told a bedtime story by your granddad is so much more fulfilling than your eldest brother going through the motions, in a rushed attempt to get back to his date on the settee. So, consider four grandpas, each with their own opinions and discrepancies, retailing you with talk of promiscuity, friendship and groove...doesn't that sound like something that you'd pay through the nose for? I thought so...

I want grandpaaaaaaaaa!!

Cologne

Morgan Freeman is a distinctive, musky cologne.

Cologne is the new Eau De Toilette.

Imagine Magnum popping out to the shops and buying anything that didn’t resemble a decanter for the post-shave splash.  Go out and buy a nice Sandalwood cologne and you will understand why old guys are the new young guy in film.

The smell of success is in the air for Last Vegas, and it's not even trying...


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