Where to find Vegas on your TV, Feb. 14-20
IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
Sugartime (YouTube): Happy Valentine’s Day/89th birthday to longtime Vegas sweetie/resident Phyllis McGuire, a legend in this city, both for her persona-around-town and as one-third of the iconic McGuire Sisters. In her honor, we suggest you head over to YouTube to view HBO’s 1995 cable flick, Sugartime (not available on streaming services), which depicted the (purportedly) true, turbulent romance between McGuire, portrayed with sexy charm by Mary-Louise Parker, and mobster Sam Giancana, as interpreted by the always intense John Turturro.
Based on the book Man Against the Mob, by William F. Roemer Jr., the FBI agent who tracked Giancana, it includes portrayals of Frank Sinatra, Dan Rowan, Dick Martin and Bobby Kennedy. As Los Angeles Times critic Howard Rosenberg, described it upon its debut 25 years ago:
“HBO’s Sugartime is a diverting mobster-moll movie that leans heavily on a docu-comedy narrative in which humor and hit men surface about equally. … If director John N. Smith has Mary-Louise Parker playing McGuire a bit too wide-eyed, John Turturro is a commanding Giancana, whether exploding in rage or silently glowering. Even the air around him seems heavy with menace and danger, making his capitulation to the initially wholesome singer all the more intriguing.”
BIG-SCREEN VEGAS THIS WEEK:
Rush Hour 2 (Feb. 14 @ 9:40 p.m.; Feb. 15 @ 12:40 a.m.; Feb. 16 @ 9:45 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Feb. 18 @ 8:35 a.m.; Feb. 20 @ 6:30 p.m. on HBO channels): 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.
Lethal Weapon 4 (Feb. 15 @ 10:15 a.m. and 11:50 p.m.; Feb. 17 @ 3:50 p.m. and 6:50 p.m.; Feb. 18 @ 10:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on STARZ channels): “OKAY! OKAY! OKAY! WHATEVER! WHATEVER!” … Joe Pesci’s comic catchphrase, anyone? With his acclaimed, subdued — and Oscar-nominated — performance in this year’s The Irishman, this may be a good time to remember the actor’s frantic comic chops in the fourth edition of the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover cop-shop franchise from 1998. As for Vegas? Well, you can revisit your traffic nightmares in that nutty car-truck highway chase scene that was shot on our own Interstate 215, from Pecos Road to Windmill Lane. That stretch was closed for two weeks to film Gibson beating the snot out of baddies in vehicular traffic while an exasperated Glover tried to keep pace. Give the filmmakers credit, though: In exchange for inconveniencing us, they hired 50 local extras to drive on the roadway during the scene, and donated $5,000 to Child Haven, the local shelter for abused children — and gave them a tour of the set.
Resident Evil: Extinction (Feb. 15 @ 10:45 a.m.; Feb. 17 @ 2:50 a.m.; Feb. 20 @ 7:50 a.m. on STARZ channels): OMG! Post-apocalyptic ruins of Las Vegas! We suffer a rather dire fate in this 2007 installment of the horror franchise, in which Milla Jovovich and company cross the Mojave Desert while fleeing a zombie apocalypse. What survives? The Luxor stands. So does New York-New York, though the Statue of Liberty takes a substantial hit, as does the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, while the Tropicana is still standing, shakily. Others? Excalibur? Wynn Las Vegas? Bally’s? Bye, bye and bye. Perhaps when these undead invaders finish creating mayhem, they can do double duty at Planet Hollywood’s Zombie Burlesque.
Lost in America (Feb. 15 @ 4:45 p.m. on HBO): Take a time-travel excursion back to the affectionately-remembered Desert Inn hotel-casino in 1985’s just-as-affectionately-remembered road comedy, Lost in America. Delight anew as Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty blow their cash on a spin of the roulette wheel, then try to persuade casino manager Garry Marshall to give back their money. The pitch: It would be a terrific advertising promotion for the DI. Yeah, right. Brooks’ creative plea: He and the missus are different from “all the other (a particularly colorful Yiddishism) who come here to see Wayne Newton.” And for a marital spat, the film plops the frazzled couple at the concrete arch at Hoover Dam. Vegas is honored to be a part of this classic Brooks entry, which is ranked No. 84 on the American Film Institute list, “100 years, 100 Laughs.”
Hot Shots! (Feb. 16 @ 5 p.m. on STARZ): As a fond remembrance, keep an eye out for fleeting glimpses of the late, much-loved Dunes Hotel (may it rest in peace) in this 1991 Top Gun spoof. A pre-“tiger blood”-ed Charlie Sheen stars, along with Carl Elwes, Valeria Golino, Lloyd Bridges and Sheen’s future Two and a Half Men cohort, Jon Cryer.
America’s Sweethearts (Feb. 16 @ 6:15 p.m.; Feb. 17 @ 12:40 p.m.; Feb. 20 @ 10:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on STARZ channels): Hey Henderson — take a bow. You were a real sweetheart for hosting so much of the star-studded, Hollywood-insider romantic comedy, America’s Sweethearts from 2001. And you were rewarded with the presence of such mega-watt personalities as Billy Crystal (co-writer and co-star), Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Seth Green, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken.
Despite that power-packed lineup, it’s a mild, forgettable diversion at best, about a publicist (Crystal), frantic to conceal the romantic split of the co-stars (Cusack and Zeta-Jones) of his new flick. Solution? Hold the press screening in a more remote locale to keep pesky reporters at bay. Enter what at the time was Henderson’s Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas — and is now The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa.
Within those lush environs are the scenic pleasures to be had for local viewers, with much of the resort — including the restaurants, the golf club and the Casbah Villas — getting ample lens time, graced by its Moroccan-style décor. Apparently, Lake Las Vegas provided superior service to the movie cast and crew, who were treated to a welcoming party at one of its fashionable restaurants.
Honeymoon in Vegas (Feb. 16 @ 7:35 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. on STARZ channels): 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.
Sgt. Bilko (Feb. 17 @ 1:15 a.m. and 8 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!
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (Feb. 17 @ 4:30 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.
The Godfather (Feb. 17 @ 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on AMC) and The Godfather Part II (Feb. 17 @ 1 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on AMC): C’mon, you remember this 1972 classic’s Vegas connection, don’cha? Ya know, when the Corleones in Part I muscle in on the territory of Bugsy Siegel-inspired Moe Green (Alex Rocco) — who is later shot through the eye (Bugsy-style!) but not before he accuses Corleone weak link Fredo (John Cazale) of, um, making love to (not exactly his phrasing) cocktail waitresses two at a time. It’s coming back to you, right? Yes, that’s the Tropicana hotel-casino featured in the original, with some interior scenes shot at the former Riviera. Catch glimpses of The Desert Inn in 1974’s Part II — and in a nod to the northern reaches of our state, stretches of Lake Tahoe smile for their closeup in the sequel.
Midnight Run (Feb. 17 @ 10:40 a.m. on MAX): 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.
Leaving Las Vegas (Feb. 17 @ 5 p.m.; Feb. 18 @ 11 a.m. on THIS): It’s a downer — alcoholic Nic Cage comes to Vegas to drink himself to death and finds comfort in the arms of call girl Elizabeth Shue — but it’s brilliant. And it won Cage a well-deserved Oscar. Read all about it in detail here: “Behind the Camera: Leaving Las Vegas.”
Showgirls (Feb. 17 @ 8:50 p.m. and 11:50 p.m. on STARZ channels): Is it the most notorious stinker about Las Vegas ever made … or the most devilishly clever cult film about Las Vegas ever made? Or both. Read all about it here: “Diary of a mad movie.”
Smokin’ Aces (Feb. 18 @ 10:10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on STARZ; Feb. 20 @ 9:25 p.m. on INDIE): Would you settle for Nevada on TV with a plot nod to Vegas? Then add 2007’s Smokin’ Aces up your DVR sleeve. At least it’s about a Vegas character even if he’s not in town. This dark, comic action entry posits that a Vegas magician played by Jeremy Piven — and named Buddy “Aces” Israel (yup, we’re serious about that) – has become a mob informant, with a $1 mill bounty on his noggin while hiding out in a Lake Tahoe hotel. Among those trying to either protect the prey or collect the bounty for his rubout are characters played by Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Common, Andy Garcia, Taraji B. Henson, Ray Liotta, Chris Pine and Mathew Fox — plus singer Alicia Keys in her acting debut. Writer/director Joe Carnahan grew up near Lake Tahoe, and this is his cinematic love letter to its scenic wonders. Its MontBleu resort (formerly Caesars Tahoe) is cast as the “Nomad Casino.” Multiple action scenes were staged in and around Stateline, with the cooperation of the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, that included aerial shots, car chases and gunplay. But if you’re insistent on a true Vegas icon, wait for a cameo by Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton. That alone makes this flick Vegas on TV.
Now You See Me (Feb. 18 @ 11 a.m.; Feb. 19 @ 8:30 a.m. on FX): Gallop along with a bunch of magicians known as The Four Horseman, as they pull off mid-performance bank heists and bestow the money on their audiences. Liberally sprinkled with stars — including Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman — this 2013 thriller features a cool Vegas travelogue of scenes filmed the at the Golden Gate hotel-casino, the Fremont Street Experience, the Aria hotel-casino and the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse. Oh — and scenes shot at the Neon Boneyard didn’t make the final theatrical cut, but do show up on the DVD.
Independence Day (Feb 18 @ 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on PARAMOUNT): “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.
The Boss Baby (Feb. 20 @ 3 p.m. on FXX): Vegas in a computer-animated 3D comedy about kids? Sure, why not? We frown on letting actual children in casinos, but this is the movies, and in this one, they wind up in a bachelorette party limo and sip some Long Island Iced Tea. Oh, and there’s an Elvis impersonator — naturally. But hey, the kids are pretty much grown-ups in diapers anyway.
VEGAS HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE:
No Passport Required: Las Vegas (Feb. 14 @ 2 a.m., Feb. 15 and 16 @ 4 a.m. on PBS)
Futurama: Viva Mars Vegas (Feb. 14 @ 10:05 a.m. on COMEDY)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Feb. 14-16 and 18-20 @ 6 a.m. on USA; Feb. 20 @ 7-noon on SYFY)
My Lottery Dream Home: Reinvention in Las Vegas (Feb. 14 @ 8 p.m. and Feb. 15 @ 3 a.m. on HGTV)
Flipping Vegas (Feb. 15 @ 7-10 a.m. on A&E; Feb. 17 @ 3 p.m.-1 a.m. on FYI)
Top This Party: Las Vegas (Feb. 15 @ 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on LRW)
Property Brothers: Forever Home —Las Vegas Classic (Feb. 15 @ 3 p.m. on HGTV)
Property Brothers: Forever Home — Suburban Vegas Upgrade (Feb. 15 @ 4 p.m. on HGTV)
UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington from Las Vegas (Feb. 16 @ 11 p.m. on ESPN 2)
The Profit: Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix (Feb. 17 @ 8 a.m. on CNBC)
Vanderpump Rules: Vegas With a Vengeance (Feb. 18 @ noon on BRAVO)
American Ninja Warrior: Vegas Finals (Feb. 20 @ 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on NBCSN)
— Steve Bornfeld
All listings are subject to change, and are Pacific time. Also check for listed programs on streaming and on-demand services.