Posts Tagged ‘Film’

New Netflix Movie “Win It All” The Next Great Gambling Film?

 New Netflix Movie “Win It All” The Next Great Gambling Film?

It isn’t very often that movies about gambling – and especially poker – come across any of the forms of media from Hollywood. Arguably the best known of this genre is the seminal poker film Rounders and there are few other examples that would compare (for comedy, check out The Grand and, to help Matt Savage’s retirement fund, go for Lucky You). A new effort that didn’t even go to the silver screen is now drawing attention for its realistic look at gambling and poker.

One of the best things that has come from the streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix is that they are now developing their own programming. That’s where a fan of gambling films can find Win It All, streaming on Netflix basically any time that the viewer wants to watch it. The movie has a 95% approval rating on the movie website Rotten Tomatoes (based on 20 reviews) and an average rating of 7.5 out of 10, while it also garners a 78 (on a scale of 100) on the website Metacritic.

The movie focuses on Eddie Garrett (Jake Johnson, known for his work on the Fox comedy New Girl), a gambler whose day job is parking cars at Wrigley Field in Chicago (for anyone who has ever tried to park in the neighborhood surrounding the home of the Cubs, you’ll understand the job) and who by night is, as his Gamblers’ Anonymous sponsor Gene (Keegan-Michael Key of the Comedy Central program Key & Peele), someone who has “never won.” But things are about to change for Garrett after he does a favor for a friend of his named Michael (Jose Antonio Garcia):  hold onto a duffel bag while he is incarcerated, but don’t look inside it.

While it should be easy to do a favor, curiosity gets the better of Eddie and he eventually cracks open the bag to find a crapload of money inside. And, naturally, because he is a compulsive gambler, Eddie eventually blows the money in the bag through a variety of gambling means. Where the twist comes to the movie is when Michael calls Eddie from prison to let him know that he’s being released early and Eddie must come up with the money that he’s lost in the only way he knows – gambling.

The premise may not be appealing to those who consider themselves “professional gamblers,” but Win It All works because of the directing of the film. Director Joe Swanberg gives the film a great look at how the underground gambling scene works (he also films it very well), but Swanberg also doesn’t shirk scenes away from the “world of gambling.” Win It All is as much a look at the gambling world as it is a glimpse into the mind and psychology of a person who tries to do the right things but sometimes steps awry.

It may be a better effort than what could be coming down the pike soon. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has finished his directorial debut in Molly’s Game, his adaptation of “The Poker Princess” Molly Bloom’s story of working in the world of underground poker. The story of Bloom is well known to most in the poker world, how she went from a former Olympic hopeful to the organizer and host for the biggest high stakes cash games in first Hollywood and then New York. The problem with Molly’s Game? Sorkin doesn’t plan to tell the whole story.

On many occasions, Sorkin has stated he will not delve into the players who took part in the games, going as far as to not name them at all. That would mean ignoring (or at least putting on fictitious players) vast swaths of Bloom’s book where she talks about such power players as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire and other Hollywood producers and businessmen. Sorkin has also said that Molly’s Game isn’t about the poker but about “Bloom’s journey to finding who she is.”

The problem for Molly’s Game is that it has lined up some A-list talent for what might be a horrendous story. Two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain will play Bloom, with Idris Elba slated to play her attorney and be a major plot driver. Others such as Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Jeremy Strong are also a part of the project, which is slated for release later this year.

Until the Sorkin film premieres, we might have to do with Win It All to satisfy the jones for gambling movies. If the reviews are correct, it may be the better of the two films.

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Actor Jessica Chastain Rumored to Be Front-Runner for Sorkin Poker Film Based on “Molly’s Game”

 Actor Jessica Chastain Rumored to Be Front Runner for Sorkin Poker Film Based on “Molly’s Game”

Although it has been rumored to be one of his next big projects in Hollywood, screenwriter/playwright and producer Aaron Sorkin – one of the most prolific writers in Tinseltown who has seen his award-winning work on both television and the silver screen – has reportedly chosen his lead for his next big film. That film is Molly’s Game (it allegedly has a longer title, but let’s keep it simple here), based on the expose written by former “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom, and the actor supposedly set to fill her stilettos is two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain.

Chastain is best known for her work in the Academy Award winning film Zero Dark Thirty, in which she played a CIA intelligence analyst who hunts down terrorist Osama bin Laden over the span of a decade. That performance earned Chastain her second Oscar nomination (she would lose to Meryl Streep), following up on her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2011 for her work in The Help (Chastain would be defeated by Melissa Leo). She has also starred in films like Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, Crimson Peak, and The Martian.

To say that Sorkin’s body of work is also outstanding would be an extreme understatement. He was the playwright who penned the play and movie A Few Good Men and parlayed that success into a long career in theater, television and cinema. He was the screenwriter for Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, and Moneyball, while also taking to television for some of the most critically acclaimed television series’ of our time. Sorkin was the creator and writer of Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Newsroom, all of which have found outstanding success on a variety of television networks. In 2015, prior to moving on to the potential Bloom film, Sorkin was the screenwriter for the film Steve Jobs (the good one with Michael Fassbender, not the crappy one with Ashton Kutcher).

It is precisely because of this success that Sorkin has the option to choose what projects he wants to work on and, as the world learned during the Sony e-mail hacks, it hasn’t necessarily been pretty. In 2014, the Sony e-mail hacks released a trove of information to the general public, including information on actors’ salaries and the inner workings of the different studios around Hollywood. Sorkin’s name – and, by extension, Bloom’s – came up in a rather ugly e-mail that resulted in a studio head losing their job.

Then-Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Amy Pascal, in a blistering e-mail to an underling, discussed projects that Sorkin wanted to work on, one of which was a screen adaptation of Bloom’s book. In her e-mail, Pascal accused Sorkin of being “broke” and that the company had already taken care of him (“paid his insane fee”) on another film that he decided to pass on to pick up Bloom’s book. Pascal also insinuated that Sorkin and Bloom were involved in a sexual relationship, thus Sorkin’s interest in writing the screenplay for what Pascal called “the poker movie.”

Whether it is actually a poker movie or not is the big question. Bloom was the organizer and hostess for some of the biggest cash games on both coasts in the mid-2000s, serving Hollywood A-list actors and directors, New York businessmen and hedge fund managers and the ilk. The job saw Bloom rise from the shadows of her brother, former Olympian Jeremy Bloom, to pulling in sometimes six figures nightly, simply for organizing poker games for wealthy people.

It also put her at tremendous risk, especially after moving her game from the West Coast to the East Coast. She was violently robbed and beaten just prior to her arrest on federal gambling charges, which she pled guilty to in 2013 and received a light fine and probation. The stories in her book – if brought to light in a movie – would cast some prominent Hollywood figures in a highly negative light (that is, if the studios allowed Sorkin to actually use the names that Bloom dropped).

If it is true, the choice of Chastain is an intriguing one in that the red-headed actor doesn’t look anything like the raven-headed Bloom (at 38, however, they are roughly the same age). Chastain also has a pretty full dance card for 2016, with two films in post-production, two in pre-production (including a rumored role that could nab her an Oscar as country music legend Tammy Wynette) and one movie filming (the political thriller Miss Sloane). There is also currently no word on if the script has been completed by Sorkin, a studio has picked up the option for the film or when it would begin filming.

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