Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Las Vegas Film Festival

Sadly, I did not attend a film festival in Las Vegas anytime recently (or ever, for that matter!) I am, however, heading out to Sin City in a few days so I decided to get myself in the mood by watching some movies featuring the great city of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Perhaps the all-time most iconic Las Vegas picture is 1964's Viva Las Vegas. The first 30 minutes of this film play as a travelogue of vintage Vegas as Elvis Presley and his buddy go hopping from resort to resort looking for a girl they ran into earlier. This is a super lightweight affair with only a hint of a story. The film is a classic and it's a great memorable romp for three reasons. #1) There's plenty of footage of the Vegas of past. Most of the properties featured in the film have been torn down and rebuilt so many times they are recognizable by name only. Other locations in the film have been lost to time all together. #2) The music is simply great. If you like Elvis or not, you won't be able to resist tapping your toes to some of the numbers in this flick. Catchy, upbeat and full of energy - this is what movie musicals should be like! #3) The ridiculous, unadulterated hotness of co-star Ann-Margret. It says something for a performer when they can not only hold their own performing next to the King of Rock and Roll but in some cases Ann-Margret upstages Elvis with her singing and (especially) her dancing. She lights up the screen every time she's on. If you only know her as Ann-Margrock, the one-time babysitter for Pebbles Flintstone, you'll be surprised to see how much of a 60's sex kitten she was. Youch! Great fun! I give it a Vegas Film Festival rating of 4 out of 5 dice!

I have a casual acquaintance with James Bond. I've seen a handful of his movies. Some I've really dug, others I've had no idea what was going on and fell asleep. In 1971, master spy James Bond appeared in his 7th filmed adventure, Diamonds Are Forever. The story takes Bond to Las Vegas where the bad guy is stock piling diamonds to run some satellite that does something bad. As always, I couldn't quite follow the story but the tone is light, the one-liners are funny and the action is quite engaging. In this current era of loud over the top explosions and sound effects it was nice to see a fight scene played out with no music or punching sound effects. The movie doesn't make love to the city of Las Vegas as other films set in the town do, but there are again some nice shots of the Vegas of yesterday. The McCarran International Airport of 1971 looks like a vintage model railroad buidling compared to the modern airport of today. The bad guy's hideout is the fictional Whyte House Casino which is reality was played by the Las Vegas Hilton. And there were scenes shot at Circus Circus, which if you go in there today you can still smell the cigarette smoke in the air from 1971! Although not as flashy and coherent as a modern day thriller, this early Bond entry is still fun. We'll give this outing a Vegas Film Festival Rating of 3 out of 5 stars.

Now I gotta be honest, I don't remember Saved By The Bell Wedding in Las Vegas being this much fun but I really enjoyed revisiting this TV-movie from 1994. First off I need to mention that this movie is from my own personal DVD library on a double feature DVD with the first Saved By The Bell movie: SBTB Hawaiian Style - which I love! Great DVD I picked up for $3 at an Ollie's Bargain Mart. Back to the movie...the gang from Bayside High take a road trip to the Neon City for the quickie wedding of Zack and Kelly. Slatter, Screech and Kelly are all along for the journey. Jessie is absent from the proceedings and isn't even mentioned until the end of the film when she makes a cameo along with a few other players from the SBTB universe. It's fun seeing the gang get into adventures too big for a sitcom. Eventually, they all end up on the run from the mob and a car chase ensues showing Freemont Street before it was closed off to traffic and covered with a giant television set. The legendary Stardust Resort plays host to Zack and Kelly's wedding party and there are plenty of shots of what the the casino, lobby and porte cochere of the hotel looked like before it closed in November of 2006. There is also a scene that was shot at Debbie Reynold's Hollywood Hotel & Movie Museum which closed in 1999 and is now a Clarion Hotel. In addition to the great recent vintage Vegas footage, this is a fairly well done, fun TV movie that's worth checking out if you are (or were) a fan of the series. Vegas Film Festival rating: 3 1/2 dice out of five.

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