Where to find Vegas on your TV, Dec. 20-26
IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
Viva Las Vegas (Dec. 20 @ 7:45 a.m. on TCM): It’s Elvis, part of the eternal soul of this city. It’s “Viva Las Vegas,” our forever (if unofficial) theme song. And it’s 1960s Vegas, baby — 1964, to be exact — in a classic flick that celebrated its 55th anniversary in 2019.
You know the drill: Race car driver Lucky Jackson (Elvis), in town for the “Vegas Grand Prix,” woos fetching swimming instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret); toils as a waiter; enters a talent contest to earn money for a new car engine; and fends off a rival racer, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), who also sets his romantic sights on Rusty.
Studio’s understated promotional pitch? “The swingin’est, singin’est, grooviest, lovin’est, entertainment sensation it has ever been your luck to enjoy!”
Along the way, you get a scenic Vegas feast: Fremont Street; the Flamingo’s Champagne Tower, the then-unfinished Landmark Hotel; the Sands; the Stardust; the Tropicana (with the marquee for Folies Bergere); then-McCarran Field; Lake Mead; the UNLV gymnasium (now the Marjorie Barrick Museum); Mount Charleston trails; and Little Church of the West.
Read even more about it in the Las Vegas Newswire story, “Behind the Camera: Viva Las Vegas’ 55th anniversary”
Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Washington (Live: Dec. 21 @ 4:30 p.m. on ABC; Repeat: Dec. 25 @ 3 p.m. on ESPNU): The Big Game at Sam Boyd Stadium. Wipe away the sniffles and get ready for the excitement as the final Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium kicks off. Be there — at least electronically, if not in actuality — or be very, very, very square.
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (Dec. 22 @ 11:10 p.m. and Dec. 23 @ 11:50 a.m. on STARZ): For the Vegas-curious, there’s only one reason to take in this 1991 critical/box office fizzle: that admittedly stunning moment when the lead characters make an escape by leaping off the roof of the late, storied Dunes hotel into a pool (that may or may not have been the actual Dunes pool). Otherwise, this biker opus starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson as hog-straddling buddies who rob a bank’s armored car, unaware its cargo is actually a new street drug, leaves little impression. But if you sit through it, you can do a bit of costar-gazing, with sightings of Giancarlo Esposito, Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin and Vanessa Williams.
BIG-SCREEN VEGAS THIS WEEK:
The Great White Hype (Dec. 20 @ 6:25 a.m. on MOMAX and 9:25 a.m. on MAX; and Dec. 23 @ 5:40 a.m. on Movie MAX): The MGM Grand gets a major promotional workout, albeit in a flick that reviewers and audiences were more inclined to think of as The Great White Tripe. This limp, 1996 wannabe sports-comedy stars Samuel L. Jackson (as a Don King caricature named Rev. Fred Sultan) and Damon Wayans (playing a boxer named James “The Grim Reaper” Roper). And it’s the MGM that plays host to the doofus boxing matches between characters played by Wayans and Peter Berg. Satirical points about racism miss their targets and hit the comedy canvas with a resounding thud, but some fun is to be had thanks to contributions from Jeff Goldblum as an anti-boxing crusader and Jon Lovitz as a PR toady.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Dec. 20 @ 7:45 a.m. on IFC): In this 2013 Strip-magicians-at-war comedy, marquee prestidigitators played by Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi (and partially based on Siegfried & Roy) take on an aggressive, hipster challenger practicing a danger-brand of street magic, played by Jim Carrey (partly based on Criss Angel). MGM magic maven David Copperfield served as a film advisor and shared a few confidential secrets with the filmmakers —for which they had to sign secrecy contracts. Look for scenes shot at Bally’s Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Fremont Street, Binion’s Gambling Hall and exterior shots up and down both the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas.
Rush Hour 2 (Dec. 20 @ 8:40 a.m. on HBO2): Cop cutups Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker somehow wind up in our town (don’t ask how) at the “Red Dragon” hotel-casino to solve a counterfeit money laundering scam in this 2001 martial arts laugher-sequel. Guess who played the Red Dragon? The now-defunct Desert Inn, which had already closed before filming began, but was all dressed up in a Chinese-palace theme.
Vegas Vacation (Dec. 20 @ 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on BBC America; and Dec. 26 @ 1 p.m. on AMC): The hapless Griswold family headed by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo — and featuring those kids who are recast in every movie to play, well, their kids — come to town in this 1997 Vacation series sequel. (Or, being the fourth one, perhaps it’s a “four-quel. Scenes were shot at The Mirage (including the Siegfried & Roy show), MGM Grand, the Riviera, the Klondike, the Sands, the Neon Museum, the Fremont Street Experience, the Hoover Dam and Club Paradise. Cameos include: Christie Brinkley, Sid Caesar and Vegas resident/1992 Playboy Playmate of the Year Corinna Harney-Jones, who must endure Chase’s come-on at the blackjack table. Oh — and Wayne Newton and his Casa de Shenandoah estate. Stray tidbit: A highway sign in the flick says Chicago is 1,880 miles from Vegas. Actually it’s about 1,700. But what’s 180 miles between friends? [RELATED: Vegas Vacation Behind the Camera]
Sgt. Bilko (Dec. 20 @ 9:45 a.m. and 6:25 p.m. on STARZ): This 1996 throwaway, with Steve Martin trying to step in for the legendary Phil Silvers in the sitcom role that is etched in TV history, features a scene shot at the Mirage. Perhaps you want to see it for that. Then again, perhaps not. A box-office bomb-e-roo, it also grabbed the award for “Worst Resurrection of a TV Show” at the 1996 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. YEESH!
Midnight Run (Dec. 20 @ 9 p.m., Dec. 21 @ midnight, and Dec. 23 @ 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. on MAX channels): Co-stars Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin and Las Vegas split the laughs in this 1988 odd couple-buddy action comedy that bubbles from the unlikely but very real chemistry between bounty hunter De Niro and mob-embezzling accountant Grodin. Revel in several scenes featuring totems of Classic Vegas, including the Blue Angel Motel (and Betty Willis’ iconic signage) and the Aladdin Hotel; catch the camera finding the signs for the Stardust and the Dunes; and wander the cavernous environs of McCarran International Airport, where the departure terminals and ticketing lobby host some of the action. Oh, and anytime you see the famously grizzled face of Dennis Farina, you know you’re in Vegas — the late actor filmed all his scenes here, as he was headquartered in Vegas while shooting the TV series Crime Story at the time.
Very Bad Things (Dec. 20 @ 9:40 p.m. on Starz): Though we’d never claim the title of this pitch-black comedy as a marketing slogan, it’s an apt description of what develops in this vicious 1998 thriller that is more or less The Hangover in hell. A cast including Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern and Jeanne Tripplehorn topline this tale — about a third of which was filmed here — in which a group of party-hearty pals invade Vegas for a bachelor party. However, when a prostitute is killed, bodies begin piling up and buddies turn on each other as a coverup escalates. But hey — we do get to enjoy scenes including the merriment on Fremont Street and the vistas of Red Rock Canyon.
Honeymoon in Vegas (Dec. 21 @ 6:20 a.m. and 10:45 p.m. on STARZ): Nicky Cage is back (yes, if you add in Leaving Las Vegas and Con Air, he’s got a thing for us, since he lives here, at least some of the time). In this 1992 laugher, gambler/con man James Caan wins $65K from broke PI Cage, so fiancée Sarah Jessica Parker goes off with Caan to pay off the debt. Comic hilarity ensues when Parker falls for Caan and Cage must win his gal back.
Casino (Dec. 21 @ 11:05 a.m. and 9 p.m. on STARZ): Robert De Niro’s genius bookie Ace Rothstein (based on Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal), Joe Pesci’s brutal mob enforcer Nicky Santoro (based on Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro) and Sharon Stone’s gorgeous, greedy hustler Ginger McKenna (based on dancer/socialite Geri McGee) form the compelling triumvirate in director Martin Scorsese’s intense 1995 classic about the building and destroying of a casino empire, the fictional Tangiers (based on the Stardust). (And don’t forget Oscar B. Goodman, portrayed by — and played by — Oscar B. Goodman!) The Tangiers was re-created at the Riviera and the Landmark properties. What else will you see? Oh, how about … the Peppermill, the Jockey Club, Las Vegas National Golf Club, the La Concha Motel, the Regency Motel, Piero’s restaurant, Bally’s hotel-casino, Tony Roma’s restaurant, the Glass Pool Inn, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, McCarran International Airport, Fremont Street and Valley of Fire State Park. And who else will you see? Oh, how about … Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Dick Smothers, Frankie Avalon, Alan King, James Woods, Jerry Vale and Don Rickles. It doesn’t get more Vegas-y than this one, folks.
Bugsy (Dec. 21 @ 2:50 p.m. and Dec. 26 @ 7:30 p.m. on EPIX): First, the minuses: You won’t see much of honest-to-goodness Las Vegas in director Barry Levinson’s 1991 gangster epic that purports to chronicle Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s rise in our town and his “creation” of the Flamingo hotel-casino. For one thing, it was mostly shot in California, where a full-scale, time-warp replica of the Flamingo was built near Palm Desert and La Quinta. And for another, the mob dynamo gets more credit than history allows by the film never mentioning William Wilkerson, who actually conceived of and built the resort, and owned nearly half of it (Siegel only got involved as it neared completion). We know — details, details. But Bugsy remains a triumphant piece of film-making, thanks largely to the towering lead performances of Warren Beatty as Siegel and Annette Benning as gal pal Virginia Hill. And Siegel’s embrace of Las Vegas (and checkered life) has helped fuel the mystique of Vegas to this day. An old expression applies here: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And film it, too.
Independence Day (Dec. 21 @ 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on IFC): “Kick the tires and light the fires, Big Daddy!” — so sayeth Harry Connick Jr.’s hotshot pilot, who winds up as sky-high roadkill in this campy 1996 defend-the-planet blockbuster, which features scenes set in our own Area 51. Here’s some trivial trivia on that: In the briefing room scene, a night vision pan shot of the base is an actual photo taken by a conspiracy theorist at “Freedom Ridge,” an area no longer accessible to the public. Why? … The truth is out there. (Oh wait, that’s from some paranoid alien-conspiracy show, isn’t it?) By the way, D.C gets leveled in this flick, not Vegas. However …
Godzilla (Dec. 22 @ 4 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. on IFC): What did we ever do to tick off Hollywood? They destroy us in the 2014 reinvention of Godzilla. Hey Hollywood, go pick on someone else — Washington, D.C. perhaps. They haven’t had a good movie wipeout since the aforementioned Independence Day. Actually, scratch that — D.C. is doing a pretty stellar job of blowing itself up these days.
Another Stakeout (Dec. 22 @ 10:30 p.m., Dec. 23 @ 9:15 a.m., Dec. 25 @ 11:10 p.m. and Dec. 26 @ 2:10 a.m. on MAX): Vegas makes a few appearances — highlighted by some shots of the Plaza Hotel — in this underwhelming 1993 sequel to the original 1987 Stakeout. This time out, squabbling cops Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez are back on the gig, tracking Cathy Moriarty, the missing witness in the case of a (guess what?) Vegas mobster. Not that it (Heaven forbid!) trades in clichés or anything.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Dec. 26 @ 4:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on POP): Oh behave! Well, that’s no fun when you’re vacationing in Vegas, is it? But Mike Myers’ orthodontically-challenged spy is all over our town in an absurdist 1997 comic stew that takes us a local tour of spots including the Stardust, the Riviera, the Imperial Palace (now the Linq) and even good ol’ Burt Bacharach, doing his swingin’ cat thing on a double-decker rollin’ down the Strip.
The Hangover (Dec. 23 @ 6 p.m. on TNT): Cinematically speaking, our city is still hung over from The Hangover, the raucous 2009 comedy about a missing groom and a bachelor party gone off the rails that is a veritable Vegas smorgasbord. Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifanakis and Heather Graham (as a stripper/escort, of course) headline this Strip joyride that gives us such sights as a tiger in a bathroom, a chicken in a living room, a baby in a closet, a mattress impaled on a Caesars Palace statue and a naked man in the trunk of a Mercedes. … Oh, and Mike Tyson. (And no … no one dies.) More, you say? Read https://www.lasvegasnewswire.com/behind-the-camera-caesars-palace-lindsay-lohans-boo-boo-and-an-embarrassed-actor-part-of-the-hangover-legacy/
VEGAS HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE:
UFC 52 (From 2005) Couture vs. Liddell 2: From Las Vegas (Dec. 20 @ midnight on ESPN2)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Dec. 20 and 23 @ 6 a.m. on USA; Dec. 23 @ 7 a.m. on OXYGN; and Dec. 26 @ 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on SYFY)
Mecum Auto Auctions: Muscle Cars & More: Las Vegas (Dec. 20 @ 10 a.m. and Dec. 25 @ 9:30 p.m. on NBCSN)
Hard Time Locked Up: Losing Las Vegas (Dec. 20 @ 1 p.m. on NatGeo)
Monster Jam: All-Star Las Vegas Saturday (Dec. 20 @ 8 p.m. on NBCSN)
Flipping Vegas (Dec. 21 @ 7 a.m. -10 a.m. on A&E; and Dec. 23 @ 1 p.m.-1 a.m. on FYI)
Top This Party: Las Vegas (Dec. 21 @ 10 a.m. on LRW)
American Ninja Warrior: Las Vegas Finals (Dec. 21 @ 1-4 p.m. and Dec. 22 @ 5:30 p.m. on NBCSN)
The Profit: Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix (Dec. 22 @ 2 a.m. and Dec. 23 @ midnight on CNBC)
Property Brothers Forever Home: Suburban Vegas Upgrade (Dec. 22 @ 7 a.m. on HGTV)
International Swimming League: Las Vegas, USA (Dec. 22@ noon on ESPN2)
Pawn Stars (Dec. 23 @ 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on HISTW)
Property Brothers: Hometown Vegas (Dec. 25 @ 5 p.m. on HGTV)
— Steve Bornfeld
(All listings are subject to change, and are Pacific time. Also check for listed programs on streaming and on-demand services.)