Screen Junkies » rounders Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:52:46 +0000 en hourly 1 7 Greatest Card Sharks In Movie History Wed, 30 Jan 2013 20:30:56 +0000 Jame Gumb You gotta know when to hold 'em.

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“In the poker game of life, something something something something.”

My grandfather taught me that. Only my grandfather was a baptist who didn’t drink, so he was probably dangerously under-qualified to make up sayings involving poker.

Which is ironic, because poker represents so many facets of life that you’d think religion would embrace it. High drama. Conflict. Intuition. Risk. Defeat. Victory. Movies about war, sports, or poker are always more likely to compel than those that aren’t. Consequently, the dead-eyed, cocky card shark is one of TV and cinema’s most enduring characters. They can’t all be winners, but they can all go down in history with a victory OR a bad beat.

Mike McDermott – Rounders

It pains all of us that only two Rounders characters made the cut, as the seminal film speaks more to the seedy poker lifestyle and a generation much more than any of the older films on this list.

And at the forefront of the Rounders cast of characters is Mike McD, a former rounder gone good, enrolled in law school with his affluent girlfriend. It seems as though he’s a lifetime away from the other characters, but no sooner does his friend Worm get out of jail than Mike gets sucked into the life again, resorting to dealing from the bottom of the deck, hustling trust-fund babies, and taking down golf pros to pay off a friend’s debt.

He’s got a heart of gold, but that doesn’t keep us from loving the end of the film when he decides which path he wants his life to take.

Worm – Rounders

The yin to the yang of Mike McD, Worm completely represents the seedy element of underground gambling. He’s got the chops, which he honed in prison, but as Mike McD says, his judgment’s off, which gets him in quite a pickle. And by “pickle,” I mean “getting kicked repeatedly while curled up in the fetal position after getting caught scamming cops and whatnot.”

You know, “pickles.”

Judgment aside, watching Worm team up with Mike and lay waste to those yuppies, all under the guise of being an overwhelmed loser is a classic and hilarious scene.

Maverick – Maverick

It seems like a lifetime ago that Mel Gibson played someone you could root for, but in his take on the James Garner classic Maverick, he played a fast-living, lovable card shark that set to woo Jodie Foster (also playing against what we now consider type). Bret Maverick went through hell to get to that poker tournament, and that’s impressive, considering other poker players can barely be bothered to tuck in their shirt, take off their headphones, or remove their sunglasses.

Ben – 21

While the adaptation of Bringing Down the House may not offer the most stylized account (how stylish can M.I.T. kids be, anyway?), it’s a true story, which is more than can be said for the other entries on this list. Ben’s got the math skills to keep up with card counting as he and his team take casinos for all they can, but it takes an education in the game and judgment to put rubber to road and get on with the charade.

Ben hits his ups and downs, but in the end, it’s hard to imagine a more formidable collection of scammers than some brainiacs from Boston.

Henry Gondorff – The Sting

In order to set up a long con on mobster Doyle Lonnegan, Henry Gondorff needs to work his way into Lonnegan’s private high-stakes card game. Not only that, but he needs to win the game, which is already rigged. It takes a true card shark to out cheat a cheater at his own table, but Gondorff manages to do just that.

Eric “The Kid” Stoner – The Cincinnati Kid

I don’t care if you’re making a list of the greatest British nannies in film – if Steve McQueen played the role, then he should make the best-of list. It also doesn’t hurt that he played what was probably the quintessential card-sharkin’ hustler until the fellas from Rounders may have knocked him off his throne.

Steve McQueen plays his usual aloof hotshot self, attempting to take down “The Man” (you have to love these character names), played by no less than Edward G. Robinson.

I don’t want to share how it ends, but I will say that it’s pretty remarkable that poker films almost universally avoid the traditionally happy endings.

Eddy – Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Eddy can shuffle with one hand, and can own a roomful of pros, but even he isn’t able to beat a cheater. Everyone’s got an angle in this movie, and poor Eddie just wants to play cards. He’s good enough to take everyone in the room, but when he saddles up with his friends’ hard-stolen money it’s hard not to get anxious and sweaty palms.

He’s got the cards and the acumen, but what he doesn’t have is a wireless buzzer and a camera that can see your cards. It doesn’t end well in the game, despite Eddy’s chops. In fact, nothing in that film ends particularly well.

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8 Cinematic Choke Jobs That Billy Cundiff Would Appreciate Tue, 24 Jan 2012 15:00:00 +0000 Penn Collins Ironically enough, the Sam Rockwell film 'Choke' doesn't make the list.

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While it wasn’t the worst kicking choke in NFL history (thank you, Scott Norwood), Billy Cundiff will certainly have an unpleasant week after hooking a 32-yard attempt wide left, effectively handing the Patriots the trophy while Ravens fans just stared slack-jawed. While some may argue that a miraculous last-second play best demonstrates the drama of sports, I would argue that a memorable choke does just as good a job, even though it might not be as fun to remember.

Though chokes are most common in the sporting world, failure to meet the moment can come in all walks of life, making the choke a pretty common device in storytelling. Nothing is quite as moving as the abject heartbreak a character suffers when he snags defeat from the jaws of victory.

Mike D – Rounders

The choke here wasn’t choosing to go head-to-head with Teddy KGB, or even playing out the hand that he had. Those were both decent decisions, as Mike McDermott is/was a very solid poker player. The bad move here was not being able to see KGB’s obvious “tell,” which isn’t totally clear, but I think has to do with the fact that he would set down his Oreo without eating it if he had the cards.

It might seem hypocritical that I’m judging Mike for not picking up on a tell (the first time, anyway) that I can’t determine, but I’m not gambling $30k on a hand of poker, and he is.

Gordon Bombay – The Mighty Ducks

The wunderkind of the Hawks had the table set for his moment of glory, in a position to secure yet another championship for the perennial juggernauts. However, he let down Coach Reilly and his teammates by hitting the crossbar. Sure, he’s just a little kid, but that’s no excuse. Hawks win. If you don’t like it, go be a Duck or something.

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