Where to find Vegas on your TV, Feb. 28 – March 5
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Race to Witch Mountain (March 1 @ 2 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on TBS): Can you resist a flick that gives you both Red Rock and The Rock — with the Vegas Strip generously tossed in? If you can’t — and if you want to give your brain cells a sugar rush — give a viewing to this 2009 “reimagining” of Disney’s 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain. This version casts Dwyane (you can call him The Rock) Johnson as a down-on-his-heels cabbie who cruises the Strip for fares and lives in a fleabag hotel (pure fantasy — Vegas has no such establishments, thank you).
One night, he picks up two siblings who offer him 15-grand to drive them near Searchlight, which is when this UFO-centric sci-fi tale takes off into outer space. You see, the sibs have paranormal abilities and our Vegas cabbie has to protect them from a nefarious organization with evil plans and there’s a deadly alien cyborg, and well, you get the outta-this-world idea.
Red Rock plays host to the more alien/Spacely Sprocket-type shenanigans (‘natch). But the cabbie’s in-town wanderings zip us around the Strip (notably Planet Hollywood) and Downtown. As is a tradition with many movie scenes shot in Vegas, the director (Andy Fickman) could use a GPS — say, when a head-spinning car chase on the Strip zooms around a corner to pass El Cortez on Fremont Street.
But at least Fickman reportedly took the trouble to do ride-a-longs with Vegas cabbies to catch the vibe — and gather their stories to flesh out Johnson’s character— to add a pinch of realism to a flick meant to be anything but realistic.
High Plains Drifter (March 4 @ 8 a.m. on HISTW): Flash back to 1973 for this Clint Eastwood classic, as he directs himself as a mysterious stranger (typecasting, huh?) dispensing justice in a corrupt frontier mining town. Although it was largely filmed on the shores of California’s Mono Lake, Eastwood also lugged his camera lens and crew to our state’s Winnemucca Lake, and Reno for a few scenes. After all, you don’t make a Western and not squeeze us in somewhere.
The Las Vegas Story (March 5 @ 7:05 a.m. on MOVIES!) Onscreen? Intermittently entertaining and ultimately forgettable. Offscreen? Politically polarizing and ultimately historic. Such is the legacy of The Las Vegas Story, a noir-ish 1952 crime drama that is forever linked to the infamy of the Hollywood blacklist during the dark-hearted chapter of American history known as McCarthyism. Read all about it here: https://www.lasvegasnewswire.com/behind-the-camera-the-las-vegas-story-pitted-producer-howard-hughes-against-controversial-screenwriter/
NHL Hockey: Los Angeles Kings at Vegas Golden Knights LIVE (March 1 @ 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN): Wait … In L.A. they’re Kings, but we’re merely Knights? Well, you can put that misconception on ice because the VGK are going to prove who the real royalty is in our own T-Mobile Arena. Kings, schmings — you’re just peasants in our presence.
BIG-SCREEN VEGAS THIS WEEK:
Lethal Weapon 4 (Feb. 28 @ 2:30 a.m., 5:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 3:15 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. 28 @ 3:25 a.m. on STARZ): 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.
Con Air (Feb. 29 @ 1:30 a.m. on PARAMOUNT): You’ll wait for the grand finale set piece, but this 1997 actioner is worth it when homebound con Nicolas Cage and his not-so-merry band of airborne miscreants (including John Malkovich, Dave Chappelle and a comically creepy Steve Buscemi) crash their plane on the Vegas Strip, shearing off the famed guitar atop the Hard Rock sign. As con/pilot Swamp Thing (M.C. Gainey) declares during their uncontrolled vertical dive: “Buckle up, ladies, we’re going for a night out in Vegas!” [RELATED: https://www.lasvegasnewswire.com/behind-the-camera-conair-features-one-of-vegas-most-memorable-movie-moments/
Midnight Run (Feb. 29 @ 9:50 a.m.; March 2 @ 6:50 p.m.; March 3 @ 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.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.
Rush Hour 2 (Feb. 29 @ 12:15 p.m.; March 5 @ 3:25 a.m. and 6:25 a.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.
Smokin’ Aces (March 1 @ 1:25 a.m., 11:10 a.m. and 7:05 p.m. on STARZ channels): 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.
Heat (March 1 @ 1:50 a.m.; March 3 @ 10:15 a.m. on STARZ): Vegas gets considerable screen time —virtually all of it, in fact — in 1986’s film-noir Heat (not to be confused with the superior Pacino-De Niro 1995 thriller of the same title, but with a different plot entirely). Burt Reynolds is a soft-hearted but violence-prone bodyguard/gambler in Vegas out to protect his pals, including a prostitute abused — in particularly disturbing ways — by a bratty junior crime boss. Vegas is everywhere, from the Strip — dig the Dunes and the Sands — to dive coffee shops to casino interiors to the Las Vegas Club to the Plaza. But it’s a downbeat and somewhat cursed exercise — it rotated through several directors and earned a meager $2.8 million, of which $2 mill alone went to Reynolds’ paycheck — but is graced mostly by one of Reynolds’ most nuanced performances. His natural charm is unforced and laid-back, if a tad morose. Still, enjoy the local travelogue.
Jason Bourne (March 1 @ 11:30 a.m. on FX): This Matt Damon spy sequel actually managed to close down the Las Vegas Strip. One look at the car-chase crackup and you can see why. Learn all about it — and how the Nevada Film Office works with top-flight Hollywood productions of all kinds to make the cinematic magic happen — right here: Built by association.
The Hangover (March 1 @ 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on E!): 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/\
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (March 1 @ 10:35 p.m.; March 2 @ 3:20 p.m. on RETRO): 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.
Sgt. Bilko (March 2 @ 11:20 a.m. and 10:10 p.m.; March 4 @ 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!
The Cooler (March 2 @ 4:15 p.m. on EPIX): Though set at a fictional casino just off Fremont Street (the Shangri La), this touching 2003 tale about a sad-sack loser (William H. Macy) whose mere presence brings bad luck to gamblers, and his romance with a waitress (Maria Bello) was primarily filmed in Reno. (The producer reportedly got a great deal to film and house the cast and crew at Reno’s Golden Phoenix Hotel.) Yet atmospherically, this one is Vegas-centric all the way, plus there are scattered aerial shots of Las Vegas. Oh, and for implosion fans, the demolitions of the Aladdin, Sands, Landmark and Dunes unspool over the closing credits.
Showgirls (March 3 @ 1:30 a.m. on STARZ): 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: https://www.lasvegasnewswire.com/diary-of-a-mad-movie-was-vegas-centric-showgirls-a-camp-disaster-or-a-cult-classic-or-both/
Honeymoon in Vegas (March 4 @ 12:25 a.m. and 3:25 p.m. on MOVIEPLEX): 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 (March 4 @ 1:35 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.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (March 5 @ 8 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.
VEGAS HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE:
Beverly Hills, 90210: Lost in Las Vegas (Feb. 28 @ 4 a.m. on POP)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Feb. 28-March 5 @ 6 a.m. on USA; March 2 @ 7 a.m. on OXYGN; and March 5 @ 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on SYFY)
ShoBox: The New Generation — From Las Vegas (Feb. 28 @ 10:45 p.m. on SHO)
Friends: The One in Vegas, Parts 1 and 2 (Feb. 29 @midnight and 12:30 a.m. on NIK)
Flipping Vegas (Feb. 29 @ 7-10 a.m. on A&E; March 2 @ 3 p.m.-1 a.m. on FYI)
Top This Party: Las Vegas (Feb. 29 @ 10 a.m. on LRW)
Roseanne: Vegas Interruptus (Feb. 29 @ 4 p.m. on TVLAND)
Dog the Bounty Hunter: Vegas or Bust (Feb. 29 @ 10 p.m. on WGNA)
American Ninja Warrior: Las Vegas Finals (March 2 @ 5 p.m.-midnight on NBCSN)
Pawn Stars (March 2 @ 10 p.m.-midnight; March 3 @ 1 -2 a.m., 3 a.m., 7-11 a.m. on HISTW)
— Steve Bornfeld
All listings are subject to change and are Pacific time. Also check for listed programs on streaming and on-demand services.