77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2006
This new "Special Edition" is a watered down version of last year's Anniversary Edition. Usually this is a bad thing. However, since Universal can't seem to figure out how to make a DVD-18 work properly, it's actually good they have seen fit to release this title as a single-sided, dual-layered DVD. Unfortunately, in doing so they have dropped most of the extras found on the Anniversary Edition. Still found on this release are the deleted scenes, the commentary and one of the featurettes.
Why they didn't decide to do 2 DVD-9's for this is beyond comprehension, but at least they've dropped the list price a few dollars.
My rating is for the overall the release, although in my opinion both the film and the transfer on this release get 5 stars. Colors are vivid and rich, and detail is very fine.
In closing, if you're not a "special features" junkie, definitely get this release, as it's much more likely to play properly. If you must have the Anniversary Edition, make sure you play the disc right away, because most likely, it will have problems.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2006
Perhaps a little more well known for "Wiseguys", the book that became the movie "Goodfellas", Nicholas Pileggi is as good as they get when it comes to writing about the Mafia, its people and the drama of living the life. It is unfortunate that he doesn't work very fast - more books would be welcome.
"Casino" is the true story of Vegas in its heyday prior to the mega resort/casinos we see today, like Excalibur, New York New York, The Luxor, etc. Before large corporations turned Las Vegas into a theme park with casinos, the Chicago mob pretty much controlled the then famous casinos of the day, like the Stardust, where the movie "Casino" disguises it with the fictional name of The Tangier. Skimming the profits was the mob's business. Perhaps the greatest handicapper of all time, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, ran three major casinos and ran them well. Chicago sent out the legendary Tony Spilotro to keep an eye on "Lefty" and protect him and the moolah. Spilotro, however, had ideas of his own and soon became mired in a horrendous mess, dragging Rosenthal and eventually all the mob controlled casinos to their demise with him. Rosenthal still lives, and even has a web site, but Spilotro at books' end learns the hard way that being insubordinate to the mob and skimming their skim has dire consequences.
Pileggi is a master at showing a picture of the lives of these people, the shady deals, the threats from every corner, from the state, other criminals and the Mob, and how difficult life is for those who choose the gambling scene as a way of life.
It's morbid but fascinating reading. A must for fans of organized crime books.
71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
I was born in Chicago, and my father went to Stienmetz high school with Tony Spilotro, the mobster portrayed in this film by Joe Pesci. I grew up listening to stories about "the Ant" (not flattering), and when he was finally whacked, my old man (a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times) wrote what amounted to his obitiuary. In it he recalled such charming Spilotro antics as the time he threw acid at a girl who had rebuffed his advances and the time he tried to split open my dad's head, and thus prevent my birth, with a T-square during shop class. To top it off, I recently discovered my Dad's old yearbook (1955 or so), in which he and the future boss of Las Vegas are standing in true 1950s glory (slicked hair, plaid shirts, everybody wearing horn-rimmed glasses) next to each other on picture day.
So I guess you could say I had a personal interest in seeing how Marty Scorcese and his "Goodfellas" crew would tackle the subject of transplanted Chicago mobsters in the neon desert. My final verdict: they all did a hell of a job.
Pesci, as "Nicky Salerno" (all the names have been changed to protect the guilty) is just as horrifying and vicious here as he was as "Tommy DiVito" in "Goodfellas"; Pugnacious, bloodthirsty, bad-tempered, arrogant, and paranoid, but also capable of humor, loyalty and a certain weird charm. Some would say he was just playing the same character again, and yeah, he is, but he's so damn good at it, who cares?
Bobby D is superb (what else?) as "Ace Rothstien" -- the micro-managing, ego-maniacial Chicago handicapper and casino boss who trades in on his friendship with mobsters to become a big time player in Vegas, and promptly realizes he's let the snake in the manger. Nicky is what mobsters call a "Cowboy" -- a crazy, reckless hoodlum who thinks with his fists (or his gun, or the sharp end of a pen, or a telephone, or whatever's handy) and creates more wreckage than profit. He also attracts the attention of the Feds and the Nevada Gaming Commission, who soon make Ace's life miserable, and more importantly, begin to interfere with the Mob's ability to "skim" Casino profits back to Chicago. And if you know anything about the Outfit (as it is called there), you know N - O - B - O - D - Y is going to interfere with their profits and get away unscathed.
"Casino" is one of those movies where you watch bad guys get their hands on something really big, and drive it straight into the ground. Things blow up, people get beaten and whacked, fortunes are made and squandered, and monster egos crash against each other like bumper cars. There are many similiarities to "Goodfellas" except the stakes are much higher, and like "Goodfellas" there is not a character you really can root for -- Ace is miserly, controlling, egocentric and arrogant, Nicky is a straight up homicidal maniac, and Stone's character is your typical scheming, treacherous hooker-hustler. A lot of people felt this movie was the same thing, with the same cast, done not quite as well, and indeed, "Casino" is not as good as "Fellas" but it is a very good movie all the same. If "Fellas" had never been made, this might be a top-5 Mob movie of all time. I recommend it to anyone with a gangland fetish, 80's nostalgia and strong stomach.
And by the way, the actor Frank Vincent, who gets revenge on Pesci in this film (with a baseball bat) for twice getting the best of him in previous Scorsese movies ("Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas"), actually bears a stronger resemblance to the real Tony Spilotro than Joe Pesci does....wierd.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2004
This book IS NOT fiction. It is the true story that the movie Casino was based on.
In the book, the names have not been changed and there are a few more details than in the movie.
If you like the movie, I suggest reading the book to get the whole picture of what went down.
77 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2004
Casino is nothing less than a Scorcese masterpiece, based primarily on the true story of the violent life and death of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, who was the mob's chief enforcer during the early 70's, while protecting the mob's gambling interests run by Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. As someone interested in the development of the American mafia, Casino is a brilliant translation of the building of Bugsy Siegel's vision in the desert up to the gaudy haven for high rollers that it was during the 70s. This movie brings the dusty pages of Las Vegas history to life. Spilotro was the real thing; Joe Pesci gives us only a taste of how brutal he really was. His death in a mid-west cornfield was the final act of this particular chapter in Las Vegas history. This is perhaps Scorsese's most underrated film, Casino contains one of De Niro's finest performances--his Sam Rothstein is controlled, nuanced, quiet, contemplative, depressed, ambitious, and furious. De Niro plays all these sentiments at once, and he ultimately creates a character that may not be Scorsese's most likable but is certainly his most mesmerizingly believable. The film's rare dual voiceover is so well executed, as Pesci and De Niro's characters fight for control over the storytelling just as they battle for power over Vegas. This film is flamboyantly stylized-In many ways it is about style. There are as many flashy whip-turns and ironic soundtrack selections as there are peach blazers and white pantent leather loafers. If you want a film that is at once great entertainment and moving art, watch Casino, and let Scorsese transport you back to a rare moment in American history: "The last time tough guys like us we're ever given anything that 'effing' valuable."
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2007
The movie is without doubt a perfect union with mean streets and goodfellas. But let's face it, why do we click into a certian HD DVD on amazon, we know whether or not we like the movie, right? We want the goods on the picture quality! Let me tell you something even if you can't take the needed violence in this movie, get it. Even if you can't stand all the foul language, get it. Even if you think Sharon Stone got her acting degree out of a cereal box, get it! Let me tell you something, this three hour epic looks mind numbingly stunning. I literally sat in awe at the sheer beauty of it, I mean what could possibly show of HD DVD picture quality than vegas' bright lights and scorsese' masterful direction? Casino, that's what. Do yourself a favor and get this disc right now because if you don't; Nicky will come back with a bat and if you beat him with a bat, he'll come back with a knife and you beat him with a knife, he'll come back with a gun and if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him because he'll keep comin' back, and back until one of you is dead.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2005
Note this book is not fiction, nor a novelization of the film Casino. Like Wiseguy, it's the real account that Scorsese fashioned into a film (with Pileggi's help again).
Casino tells the story of the Chicago mob's major role in running Las Vegas, how it happened, and how it more or less ended (or appeared to) in the 1980s. Instead, corporations (institutionalized gangsters) took over, and now we're to assume that gambling is a respectable, fine industry. It's hard to cheer for the state 'gaming' officials as they pursue mobsters who are skimming a casino, of all places. A character in the film says it best when he exclaims, 'You mean the money we're robbing is bein' robbed?!'
A good read before or after the excellent film. Readers will note that the basis for the Frank Vincent character (Frank Marino in the film, Frank Cullotta in real life) provides much of the info here, certainly on Tony 'the Ant' Spillotro, the basis for the Pesci character. There's quite a bit of detail as far shady business dealings, politics, and mob bosses go, but less of the nitty gritty mobster detail from Wiseguy.
Hard to know whether to weep for the old or new Las Vegas. While it was mobbed-up in the past, it's now a neutralized Disneyworld and a respectable holiday destination for families. One wonders who the real greedheads are.
A good, if overlong account.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
No plot summaries here, just a review of this great movie's transfer from SD to the current Blu Ray version. Included here is a DVD digital copy and the Blu Ray Disc. I already have the Standard Def version on a previously purchased DVD and have not looked at the SD digital copy, so this review covers only the Blu Ray copy.
The video transfer is the star of this film as Universal really seems to have put some real effort into bringing out the best possible imaging onto this blu ray disc. The colors just pop all over the place with no artificiality at all. In the beginning of the film there is a lot of red on the carpets and elsewhere. Any one who knows about filming and editing and such knows that the color red is very difficult to reproduce due to color bleeding and artifacting. This is one reason why you rarely see red used in credits. However, the reproduction on Casino is gorgeous. There is no grain that you will notice nor stair-stepping of any kind which you might have seen in previous versions especially when the strip in Las Vegas is shown with all the different lights down the street. No aliasing or artifacts anywhere. A great transfer to Blu Ray. 5 stars.
The audio is lossless DTS HD MA and sounds like it. The audio score envelopes you in so many places. While this film is mainly dialogue via narration, most will be coming from your center speaker and there is little for the LFE sub channel to work with, however, the surrounds are subtly used for ambience as well as the score. There is very little use made of your discreet channels and hardly any directional foley fx which is a shame as in the casino you would think there would be plenty. While following the film, you forget about this, still more discreet directionality from the surrounds might have be included. Never the less, the audio levels are perfect so set it the way you want and kick back. The audio, I would give 3.5-4 stars. The movie as a whole, including the transfer to Blu Ray stays at 5 stars for me.
The extras include a few outtakes which they say are deleted scenes, a 15 minute documentary on the real gangsters and start of Las Vegas and a nice 45 minute reprint of a History channel documentary about the truth of the story and characters portrayed in Casino. I had no idea this movie had really happened in real life.
All I can say is that the video transfer to blu ray is DEMO worthy and the upgrade from Standard Def to Blu Ray is well worth it. I just need to know what to do with my mint condition Standard Def disc.
All my movie reviews are of this nature and focus only on the quality of the transfer to BluRay so check them and see if they are of help as well.
Hopefully, this review has been of some help to you in determining your purchase, hope I am on the correct path with a review of the transfer quality as opposed to providing plot summaries.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
For years, Lefty Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro were two of Las Vegas's heaviest hitters, Chicago boys who moved West to take advantage of easy money and short odds. Lefty was bright and worked through the system, however corrupt. Tony was a bully who shook things up while looking out for himself.
The two characters are the center of Nicholas Pileggi's "Casino", a true-crime account of Vegas during the 1970s and 1980s, when organized crime used the gambling mecca as its own private money tree.
Published in 1995 as a tie-in to the Martin Scorsese movie, "Casino" the book is slightly different in that it offers the real story rather than the fictionalized version seen in the film. The characters don't pop off the page the way they do off the screen, but they are better grounded by reality.
As with his earlier book "Wise Guy" (made into another Scorsese movie, "Goodfellas"), Pileggi works with a lot of first-hand testimony. He captures a sense of really hearing these guys as you read the pages, tuning into their hard world. But a couple of serious problems soon present themselves.
The first is that Pileggi doesn't have the same kind of story he did with "Wise Guy". Instead of the record Lufthansa airport heist memorably depicted there, you get a long story about how Tony got mad when someone failed to show Gregory Peck's secretary a good-enough time in Vegas. Pileggi offers this as an example of the scut work that made Tony restless and difficult within the Mob, but it's also the kind of smallball that makes "Casino" feel less vital over time. People coming to this after seeing the movie are going to be surprised by the relative lack of violence here. How many times can you read about crimes that largely occurred inside balance books?
The second issue is Pileggi's way of relying almost exclusively on first-hand testimony, especially from Rosenthal. Lefty comes across as a charmer, but also by his own account too removed from the illegal aspect of the story. That may be Rosenthal's own spin; the guy who was Rosenthal's nominal boss calls him a liar and psychopath who was at the center of the mob skims. Rosenthal denies any knowledge of skims.
This flies straight in the face of the portrait Pileggi paints, of Lefty being so detail obsessed he counts blueberries in the muffins his casino restaurants serve. Yet Pileggi leaves Rosenthal's denial unchallenged in his minimal narration. In fact, he doesn't provide much textual background for anything in "Casino", including how important Rosenthal and Spilotro ultimately were to the Mob in Vegas, just that Rosenthal was good at gambling while Spilotro knocked over some jewelry stores.
Pileggi also gets a lot of mileage out of how Tony two-timed Lefty with Lefty's gorgeous gold-digger wife. Geri Rosenthal's probably the most interesting character, a force of will who demands everything she can from life. She isn't sympathetic, but neither is anyone else in this one-note book. That kind of grates after a while.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
I mean that statement in two ways. First, in my humble opinion, this is Martin Scorcese at his finest. This is better than Goodfellas by a wide margin. All of the regulars give awesome performances in this (even Sharon Stone, who I can't stand!). If you like mafia pictures, this is the BEST one to own. I also mean that it's a great picture due to the fact that it's on HD-DVD. The picture is astonishingly vivid and clear and the lights of Las Vegas really jump out of the television. It's almost 3-D ! The extras are ample, but I'd say adequate. That's the reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5. There is the obligitory commentary, deleted scenes, and a couple featurettes. It's all whipped cream and a cherry on top of an excellent sundae ! I do like that you can watch the extras and the movie at the same time with commentary running. This and Batman Begins are the reasons you should own an HD DVD player ! Note: I have the HD DVD drive attached to my Xbox 360 and it works brilliantly !