Last Vegas (2013): Fogies Having Fun

Main Cast of Last Vegas
Okay, so it has been an “in fashion” thing over the last couple of years for films to focus on older folks having fun and Last Vegas features four childhood friends who are now old fogies celebrating their last singleton giving up the life. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and starring Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Mary Steenburgen the film is about Douglas’s character finally tying the knot with a woman half his age.

The four friends meet up in Las Vegas for a bachelor party and along the way Paddy (De Niro) and Billy (Douglas) patch up their differences. When Paddy’s wife Sophie died, Billy never went to the funeral and the two former best friends have never reconciled that fact.

There is a lot to like about the film, Douglas playing his age, for instance and Martin Freeman cutting the rug pretty convincingly. Kevin Kline is on top form and De Niro manages to be pretty convincing as the down-in-the-mouth widower who misses his wife. Steenburgen looks terrific and manages to be alluring as ever.

Is the film hokey? The answer is a resounding yes, but…

It entertains and it hits all the right notes. The “Flatbush Four” are cute together and while there are no in-depth moments reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet or anything by Ibsen, there is never a dull moment and 50 Cent has a brilliantly funny cameo. Some of the gags in the film never quite mesh, but who cares? It is four old guys who are having fun and not worrying about whether their Depends are working properly.

The underlying theme of being as old as you feel works well and Douglas’ character’s romance with Steenburgen’s August torch singer works much better than the one with Diane Keaton’s similar torch singer in And So It Goes (2014). The son of Kirk seems to be attempting to play closer to his age and doing a pretty respectable job of it.

A comedy of oldsters that ends on a hopeful note and allows Douglas’ character to admit that the whole idea of marrying the younger woman was his fear of being old and alone. Again, not quite Shakespeare but still pretty good stuff set against the superficial glitz and glamor of Las Vegas.

The entire cast appear to relish their time in the casinos and playing the part of old men getting to feel young again. That said, none of the characters are over 70 and in this day and age that is not really too old.

All in all, Last Vegas is a fun little film with a cast to die for and performances from actors who rarely, if ever, disappoint. (Never mind the disastrous miscasting of Douglas in the above mentioned film.) A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and watching the film is time well spent. The only shame was having the brilliant Michael Ealy do little more than roll his eyes and worry about his father Morgan Freeman. Watch this one if you don’t mind seeing old folks misbehave.

Justified: The Toll Payback Is a B*tch (Recap/Review)

Justified: The Toll Payback Is a B*tch (Recap/Review)

In this week’s episode of Justified: The Toll it looks like payback is going to be a b*tch for more than one person in Harlan. After Boyd decides not to “deal” with the little prison guard who set his wife up, he prepares for a meeting with Winn Duffy and Picker about the heroin and Crowe problem. Art goes to take Alison into protective custody and as they start to leave they come under fire from an “unknown” person. Art is hit and Alison calls 9-1-1 for the stricken lawman.

The Help…Mississippi’s Burning in a skirt

Actress Emma Stone is certainly very busy these days. It seems like only yesterday she played the love interest in the nerd-rom-com that was Super Bad. Now, when she is not being wooed by Jim Carrie via YouTube, she seems to be in everything.My daughter Meg pointed out this film to me. She then rented it from iTunes and pretty much insisted that I watch it. I am glad I did.
Set in Mississippi during the civil rights unrest that was the sixties Emma plays Skeeter Phelan. Skeeter has graduated from college and now wants to be a writer. She returns to her home town to re-establish ties with old friends and to check on her mother who has cancer.

The first thing Skeeter does is get a job with the local paper, ghost writing for the Agony Aunt columnist who is having a baby. Viola Davis plays Aibileen Clark one of the many black ladies who work as “the help” to the white members of the community. The whole cast work brilliantly in this ensemble film. I will admit that I was overjoyed to see Cicely Tyson in a big-ish cameo as Skeeter’s family maid. Of course I have to mention Sissy Spacek  who has the small role of Hilly’s long suffering mother. She is delightful to watch.

Now amazingly the film’s main  plot deals with the issue of toilets. The local white community follows Hilly Holbrook’s lead on the “separate but equal” practice which was prevalent in the sixties. Hilly has gotten the local government to pass a law that makes it a criminal act to use the white residents bathroom. The help must instead use an outside one specially made for them.

As played by Bryce Dallas Howard, Hilly is a nasty piece of work. A bully who is sly, malicious, and vengeful Hilly rules over her little flock of the Ladies Club with an iron fist. It seems that while the black community might be good enough to clean the white folks’s houses, cook their meals and look after their children, it is not okay to use their employers bathroom.

Skeeter is outraged at this new law and decides to write about the ‘separate but equal’ travesty. She teams up with local housekeeper Aibileen with the idea of writing a book. This book will be filled with all the terrible, funny and sad things that the black workers have encountered . At first the only “help” that will work with Skeeter is the slightly hesitant Aibileen, but as events in the Mississippi town get worse she finds herself inundated with offers of more stories.

Mary Steenburgen has a microscopic role as the editor Elain Stein who encourages Skeeter to write her book and guides her toward publication with her company. It was nice to see Steenburgen on screen again and I do wish they had used her a bit more.

I loved this film. It has the same feeling as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and Driving Miss Daisy. This film made me angry, made me laugh and made me cry. I cannot begin to express how well this film was presented. The sets, the location, and the costumes all felt like the south in the sixties.

The characters as they were written also felt right. Overall a real gem of a film. It attempts to show that some people were racially aware in the civil rights fraught sixties. I think it does this very well, without resorting to bloodshed or gun play.

And on a closing note, never has the phrase “Eat my Shit.” been so appropriate and funny.