Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

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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Daniel Negreanu Documentary “KidPoker” Premieres on Netflix

 Daniel Negreanu Documentary “KidPoker” Premieres on Netflix

A documentary that was a couple of years in the making, detailing the life of poker professional and Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu, is now seeing its premiere over a major streaming service. The documentary KidPoker, produced by PokerStars Original Films, premiered on the streaming service Netflix last week and has already generated some decent buzz in the poker community. It has also done well so far on Netflix, drawing a four out of five-star rating from the streaming service.

The 90-minute documentary details out Negreanu’s life, from his birth in Toronto to immigrant parents from Romania, to his greatest achievements in his poker career, particularly his 2014 induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. The story of the early years of Negreanu’s mother and father is arguably one of the best in the film, with Daniel recounting how they came to Canada with $ 5 to their name and were able to build their family into an upper middle class success story. “My parents – my Mom was always the type to make sure you were fed and my Dad was always the one to make sure your glass was full,” Negreanu remembers about his parents.

Another star of the movie is Daniel’s brother, Mike, who also offers his commentary about growing up Negreanu. He remarks how Daniel, knowing he had an older brother, would “often let his mouth get him into situations” that required his brother’s help to avoid a serious beating. Mike Negreanu also remembers how smart Daniel was, talking about how he always excelled at everything that he did.

Daniel’s life as a pool hustler gets a slight touch, as does his experiences in the poker rooms of Toronto, but a major focus is in how he continually drove himself to be the best poker player possible. Negreanu himself recounts how, on many occasions, he would go to Las Vegas with a meager bankroll (of around $ 3000), only to return to Toronto with nothing in his pockets but lint. Eventually, however, the stays in Las Vegas became longer and longer until, in 2000, Negreanu decided to make the transition to calling Las Vegas home.

For those of you knowledgeable about Negreanu’s career, this was AFTER he had already won a World Series of Poker bracelet AND the U. S. Poker Championship in Atlantic City.

The entirety of the film is interspersed with stories from friends who have been by Negreanu’s side over the 20-plus years he has been in the poker world. Such luminaries as Phil Ivey, European Poker Tour founder John Duthie, James Hartigan, Antonio Esfandiari and fellow Poker Hall of Famers Jennifer Harman and Phil Hellmuth (just to mention a few) open up about Negreanu’s passion for the game, his drive to succeed and, Harman in particular, the difficulties that he faced following the death of his mother in 2009 following several severe strokes.

There are areas that aren’t touched on in depth about Negreanu. His marriage to wife Lori (Weber) ended in 2007 and it isn’t discussed much in the film, but Negreanu has admitted in the past that she helped him become a better man (it is also possible that she is the person that Negreanu speaks of in discussing how the Choice Center helped him in his life). And, although she shows up in photos and videos throughout the documentary, former paramour Evelyn Ng is not mentioned at all.

For those that expected a fluffy piece of confection, KidPoker is exactly that, a “documentary” that speaks glowingly of its subject without uncovering too many thorns. For those in the normal world who have never heard of Daniel Negreanu, they will learn about a man who wants to do more with his life than just be remembered for playing cards for a living. Even for those of us that know Negreanu’s history well, it is a pleasant trip down Memory Lane that was well done overall. There will be those out there, however, that are looking for something to “bring Negreanu down” and those people aren’t going to be very pleased with the movie.

I found myself enjoying KidPoker, even though I knew everything that the documentary touched on in its story. It was more like an extended Pokerology, the poker documentary series on Poker Central, but with a bigger budget that made it well worth checking out. If you find yourself with some time to spare and an itch for a poker-related movie offering, KidPoker might be up your alley.

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