Tag Archives: gambling

Movie Review – Win It All (2017)

Life’s just one big gamble, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s “Win It All.”

I caught this film by accident, scrolling through Netflix’s never-ending list of offerings when all of a sudden, the premise just appealed to me.  It’s simple and from a writer’s perspective, simple is good.  Simple isn’t necessarily easy but sometimes simple doesn’t need you to keep a variety of plates spinning in the air the way more complex films do.

Eddie (Jake Johnson) is a down on his luck, degenerate gambler.  His only source of income comes from his lowly job as a parking lot attendant (but only when the Cubs are doing well and fans need spillover parking.)

Addict that he is, his life is in a downward spiral, largely because whatever money he is lucky enough to get his hands on, he immediately takes it to an underground casino club to gamble it all away.

On one fateful night, a rather scary looking loan shark who Eddie has tangled with in the past makes an offer.  He’s been sentenced to relatively short prison sentence and wants Eddie to hold onto a bag of money, no questions asked.  Keep the dough safe and at the end of the bid, 9 months to a year tops, the crook will reward Eddie with 10,000 bucks.

I know.  It is a rather gaping plot hole that anyone would trust a degenerate gambler with any sum of money, but then again, the loan shark may not have a large number of trustworthy people to turn to and frankly, his menacing appearance would be enough for most people to avoid screwing with him but alas, Eddie’s addiction is that severe.

Long story short, Eddie gambles away a large chunk of ill-gotten loot, and as you might imagine, the rest of the film circles around Eddie’s various attempts to get himself out of hot water.

The middle of the film has a nice message.  SPOILER ALERT, at that point, Eddie has lost a large sum yet it isn’t an insurmountable amount.  He works out a deal with his brother to take a job with the family landscaping business, and he devotes as much as he can from each paycheck towards refilling the bag of money.

In doing so, Eddie starts to feel good about himself.  He’s doing productive work.  He’s achieving goals.  His confidence soars, so much so that he meets a nice woman.  Suddenly, he’s got a job, a girlfriend, reasons for being…what a turn around.

I assume the message there is that when it comes to anything good in life, the long game always beats the short one.  You’ll get better health through daily exercise than you will through a one-time sip of that snake oil supplement you saw advertised on late night TV.  You’ll find a more meaningful relationship through a longtime partner than you will with a one night stand.  And while your paycheck doesn’t seem like much, save enough over a long period of time and you’ll get somewhere.

Alas, SPOILER ALERT AGAIN, shenanigans ensue, Eddie can’t beat his addiction and like the alcoholic who can’t shake the booze, he keeps dipping his hand into that bag and keeps losing, and losing and losing.  Like the fast food addict who knows his love of Big Macs will eventually lead to a coronary, Eddie knows that pissing away a murderous criminal’s cash is going to wind up with him six feet under but sadly, that addiction is calling and hey, surely there’s enough time to turn it all around before that inevitable bad ending right?  Come on, just feed the addiction beast one last time, ok and another last time, and one more time…just two or three or twenty last times, tops and then let’s quit cold turkey tomorrow.

I don’t want to give away the ending but there was a part of me that thought it might have defied the typical gambling movie genre by letting Eddie beat his addiction through that “build yourself up from the rock bottom day by day” routine we all hope to master.  Ironically, Eddie beats his addiction by feeding his addiction and while it made for fun viewing, I’m not sure that’s the best message for addicts out there.

Comedian Keegan Michael Key stars as Eddie’s sponsor or at least, friend, because as he notes, sponsors can only help recovering gamblers who are working the program steps and Eddie isn’t, at least at the film’s beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie.  My main critique is that in many ways, it comes across as a shoddy student film.  There are many parts where the dialogue seems improvised and wrap ups of plot points seem thin but I on the whole, I liked it and I think it did have a good message, i.e. the constant ware we all face between instant gratification (do the bad thing that gives us a tiny bit of happiness right NOW and who gives a shit if it fucks up our future later) vs. forcing ourselves to be that little turtle.  He’s slow.  He’s steady.  Progress towards a happier you seems like it is taking forever and will never happen but years later, you look around and you see yourself with a nice house, a great job, a loving family and you’re happy you took the time to solve this puzzle, one little piece at a time.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Pop Culture Mysteries: Smeller vs. Denier (Part 4)

PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES..

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3

AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…

Sergei Yakubovich chomped on a cigar and studied his hand like a sinner looking for a loophole in the bible.

“You are bluffing, Mr. Hatcher.”

“There are two things I never do, Sergei,”  I said.  “Bluffing’s the first.”

The Muffster

The Muffster

“And the second?”

I took a hearty swig of of scotch.

“Drink with a commie.”

I motioned for the waitress to fetch me another.

“But in your case, I’ll make an exception.”

Sergei had a permanent dour glare on his face, as if someone was perpetually pooping on his party.

He looked down his nose at me over a pair of circular spectacles.

“You are full of the shit of a bull, American swine.”

Yakubovich held himself out to the world as a legitimate businessman, though it had long been rumored that he had secretly made his scratch by using his politburo contacts to obtain and sell Russian arms on the black market.

One of the many reasons why I despised the pinkos.  The guys who always got on their soapbox about how the villagers should share toilet paper rations were always the first ones to get all capitalist when it came to their own personal wealth.

“Only one way to find out.”

The waitress, a darling auburn haired lovely in a skimpy black dress, set another scotch down in front of me.

I flipped her a chip.

“Keep ’em coming, doll.”

“Oui oui, monsieur.”

Muffy rested her chin on my left shoulder.  One whiff of her perfume was all I needed to feel like a man.

“I thought I was your doll?”

“You know you are, my sweet souffle.”

Sergei pushed a large mound of chips into the already heaving pot in the center of the table.

“Prepare to be crushed, comrade.”

Count Rickard tossed his hand down on the table and backed away.

“Mr. Hatcher,”  my former client said as he stood up and fastened the top button of his coat.  “If there’s one lesson I learned when you bailed me out, it’s how to not be drawn in by greed a second time.”

Signora Isabella Bellavenuti was quite a sight.  She was an Italian fashion designer of world renown, though what passed for trendy finery back then always amazed me.

Coincidentally, it still does today.

She wore a white mink stole, likely produced from the pelts of a hundred deceased varmints and an elaborate hat, festooned with feathers and miscellaneous plumage, curving at various, oddly chosen angles.

PETA would be up her ass with an electron microscope if she were around today.

“This is, how you say, ‘Too rich for my blood?'”

She too backed off and sucked on her filtered cigarette as if it were her last.

Yakubovich and I engaged in a stare off.  Neither one of us was going to budge

“Your will is like that of your countrymen, Hatcher,”  my Soviet adversary said.  “Bloated, lazy, and soft.”

I belted down my newly arrived scotch.

Then, I pushed the remainder of my chips in.

“Au contraire, Yakubovo-whatever,”  I said.  “Your resolve is like the Communist Party’s motto: sacrifice is great, especially when the other guy’s doing it.”

The tension between us grew thick and palpable.  You could cut it with a knife, eat it up and still have enough left over for seconds.

Signora Bellavenuti lightened the mood.

“Marone!  Had I wanted to witness a pee pee measuring contest, I’d of watched my last two lovers duel over my hand!  Show your cards already!”

Yakubovich splayed his cards out on the table.  Eight, seven, six, five, four.  All hearts.  A straight flush.

The looky lous who’d gathered round the table emitted a collective gasp.

“Sacre bleau!”  Muffy cried.

Old Sergei had played better than I gave him credit for.

“What in the name of Barbara Stanwyck’s underpants?!”

The Russki snickered and started raking the pot towards his side of the table with his hands.

“I guess I underestimated you, Yak-a-boo-boo.”

“Is Yakubovich,” my nemesis said.  “And yes, you failed to recognize Russia’s might, just as your leaders will when we fly the hammer and sickle over the White House.”

“Over my dead body,”  I said.

“That is idea.”

I stood up.  I looked around the room.  All eyes were on me.

The French waitress brought me another shot.  I drank it, then slapped the empty glass down on the table.

“That’s good,”  I said.  “That’s really good.”

“Do not embarrass yourself, Hatcher.  Take your lumps like a man.”

“Say Yaka-bo-bo, what did the Queen do after she dropped a big steamer?”

I tossed down my hand.

Ace.  King.  Queen.  Jack.  Ten Spot.  All clubs.

You could have knocked that Bolshevik over with a feather.

“A Royal Flush?”

Cheers.  Applause.  Accolades.  And most of all, money.  Sweet, glorious cheddar.

It was mine.  All mine.

Twenty-five thousand smackers.

I know, 3.5.  That sounds good, but not life changing, right?

Wrong.  Adjusted for inflation, I was staring at the modern day equivalent of a quarter million.

Muffy hugged me like she wanted to push herself through me.  She planted her lips on mine and we sucked face like a pair of flounders who’d just crashed into one another on the ocean floor.

And not for nothing, but as soon as that bread was the property of yours truly, a lot of chickadees in that joint started giving me that look.  You know the one.  Like we were on the plains of the Serengetti, they were jaguars, and I was a nice, ripe, juicy caribou butt that they wanted to sink their teeth into.

But as far as I was concerned, Muffy was the only kitten I was interested in.

Outraged, Yakubovich slammed his fist on the table and stormed off.

Count Rickard shook my hand and it was congratulations all around.

An attendant gathered up my chips.

“I’ll cash you out sir.”

I accepted adulation for awhile until Fabian’s wife, Arianna, the Countess Rickard, found us.  She was an average looking broad.  Wouldn’t knock your socks off but you wouldn’t turn her down in a pinch either.  She had a slight hair lip, though it was nothing that a little hot wax couldn’t have cured.

“Muffelia!  I’ve been looking all over for you!”

The Countess had taken a real shine to my better half, treating her like the daughter she never had.

“Come dear,” the Countess said.  “I simply must introduce you to the Duchess of Shropshire.  I think you will both get along famously.”

“Merci.  Excuse moi, Jacob.”

The missus wasn’t gone for more than a few seconds when I felt a strong hand slap me on the shoulder.

I turned around.

“Frank?”

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Pop Culture Mysteries: Smeller vs. Denier (Part 3)

Monte Carlo

June 1952

I was having a ball.

Muffelia

Muffelia “Muffy” Bordeaux aka the Second Mrs. Hatcher

No really, I was in attendance at an actual, bonafide ball.  I was wearing a fancy white tuxedo and everything.

Toward the front of the room, a conductor whirled his baton about, back and forth, leading strings, winds, and all manner of instruments in a breathtaking waltz.

Meanwhile, the second Mrs. Hatcher and I were cutting a rug on the large, luxurious floor.

“You dance divinely, mon cheri,” my partner whispered in my ear before nibbling ever so suggestively on my lobe.

“You’re not too shabby yourself, my little creme brulee.”

Muffelia “Muffy” Bordeaux.  She was a sultry Cajun coquette, the type of woman who made men’s hearts overflow with passionate lust.  Like the bayou she was born and bred on, she was mysterious, mischievous…and oh so dirty.

Sorry 3.5 readers.  I didn’t mean to scandalize you.

I love it when a broad wears her hair up, mostly because I spend the whole evening in anticipation of when it comes down.  And Muffy was the Queen when it came to finding out what made my blood pump.

Her lips were red, full, and so very kissable.  Her hair was blacker than a coal miner’s boots and that night, she wore a silver gown with dangly earrings to match.  Men aren’t that hard to please, ladies.  We like shiny things.

For the first time in my life, I was on top of the world.

I’d left the LAPD and put up my own shingle.  Hatcher Investigations was in full swing and in the City of Angels, there was no shortage of wealthy folk with problems that required a man with my special skill set.

My secretary, Connie Connors, who I swiped away from my former boss, Capt. Thaddeus Talbot, was back home holding down the fort.  I owed my success to her.  She kept the business running like a well oiled machine, did all the filing, filled out all the paperwork, and most importantly, played nicey nice with the clients

Thus, all I had to do was the sleuthing.

My bank roll was fat, my car was sporty, and best of all, I had the type of wife who, with just one look, could make a man pitch a tent faster than a master outdoorsman.

Today, at ninety-five, I realize that’s not the only quality a man should be looking for in a significant other, but forgive me, because back then I didn’t know any better.

In my defense, the Muffster excelled at switching off a man’s brain.

Her accent made me putty in her hands, and she never missed an opportunity to bend me any which way she wanted.

She insisted on calling me Jacob, but she pronounced it, “Zsa-Cob.”  “Zsa,” like Zsa Zsa Gabor, the actress from Green Acres, and “cob” like what you hold when you’re eating corn.

“I want you to hold me in your arms forever, Jacob.”

“You don’t have to ask me twice, baby.  You make me feel like a million bucks.”

SPOILER ALERT:  I’d later learn that the “forever” Muffy had in store for me was a mere six months and coincidentally, she’d shoot me six times and leave me for dead over the same amount of money, not to mention run off with Roscoe, my lousy excuse for a kid brother, God rest his soul.

But put all of that out of your mind for now, 3.5.  That night, I was convinced we were both happy.

And why wouldn’t we be?

We were on our honeymoon.  A free honeymoon.   A glorious fortnight in Monaco, the tiny European principality where all the beautiful people of the world gathered to hob knob, rub elbows, trade gossip and measure each other’s bank accounts.

We were the guests of Count Fabian Rickard, heir to a lavish Hungarian dynasty, and between you and me, a bit of a gullible old goose.

He’d managed to get nearly his entire fortune tied up in an elaborate real estate swindle and hired me to track down the fraudulent huckster who bilked him.

The nogoodnik was hiding out in LaLa Land and yours truly located him, put him behind bars, and most importantly, reunited the Count with his cabbage.

He was so grateful that when I mentioned I was about to tie the knot, he insisted that the new Mrs. Hatcher and I be his guests at his chateau, a vacation home he visited quite frequently.

The Waltz wrapped up and the band took a powder.

Our benefactor strolled up to us with a bubbly champagne flute in each hand.  He offered them and we accepted them gladly.

“Ahhh, young love,”  Count Rickard said.  “What I wouldn’t give to return to the days when the Countess and I gazed at one another the way you two do.”

The Count had a devilish black beard that came down off of his chin in a point and a heavily waxed mustache that curled up on both ends.

“Come now, Fabes.”

Fabes.  A little nickname I had for him.

“I bet whenever you’re gone, the little woman counts the seconds until you return and stir her goulash.”

Count Rickard looked at me, trying to figure out what I meant.  Then he let the guffaws fly.

“Oh Mr. Hatcher, you are a card.”

“He is an ace!”  Muffy added.

As jokes go, it wasn’t that funny, but Muffy was hotter than the surface of the sun, so we laughed anyway.

“Come my boy,” the Count said as he wrapped an arm around me.  “You must try your luck in the casino.  Are you a betting man, Mr. Hatcher?”

“Oh, I don’t know,”  I replied.  “Pa Hatcher always told me that games of chance are the devil’s work.”

Muffy looked at me with those dark, hypnotic eyes and straightened my bow tie.

“Come Jacob.  It will be fun.”

Yep.  All it took for me to ignore the sage advice of the wisest man I ever knew was a coy pout from a Southern belle.

Oh well.  Men had done worse things for far less.

“Lead the way, Fabes. ”

Copyright (C) 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

Image courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.

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