Las Vegas
Decks and Violence

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Swizzle shtick

We zoom down the Strip during the day, because if we saw all the neon, that might raise the question, "Why are we spending all this time inside a hotel when we could be outside checking out the fake New York skyline, or the fake Parisian cafés, or anything else at all?" Because this show is like a casino, that's why: planned to make you wander around in an achronous daze, bereft of any orienting landmarks that might actually tell you where you are or how you got there, until you forget about actually leaving. Or, in this case, changing the channel.

Anyway, the computer-generated sign for the Montecito comes up, and we see that the casino is hosting an eponymous world-poker championship and featuring the magic of Vanko and Vera. The entertainment cup has runneth over, huh? But boy, does Dreamworks need to shift some money from the show's zippy-camera department to the Photoshop monkeys: that sign looks like something I'd get forwarded in an email message along with pictures of kittens held at gunpoint.

Then, just in case you didn't get to read the sign, we zoom inside the Montecito so we can see some security guard standing next to another sign announcing the poker tournament. Well, give these clowns' general incompetence when it comes to keeping an eye out on live humans, I guess it's best to let them practice on inanimate objects.

And on with the poker. Two announcers VO that this is one of the biggest poker events of the year, the stakes are high, the players are skilled, blah blee blah. We see a bunch of people the forum folks say are actual professional poker players, and then we see someone with the kind of poreless skin and symmetrical cheekbones that scream, "ACTOR!" The actor is acting all nervous, and we see a little bead of sweat run off his sideburn, drop, and turn into a prism reflecting the rest of the casino. And this is where someone needs to sit down the special effects department and tell them, "Just because you can do the transition doesn't mean you should do the transition." Also: it seems like copious flop sweat would be one of those tells that poker players would try to avoid. Deranged Hollywood types and socialites already Botox their armpits and feet so they don't sweat all over their fancy-schmancy dresses and shoes; why wouldn't poker players try to Botox their troublesome tell sites?

The magical droplet of all-seeing sweat lets us see all the poker players and the sign -- AGAIN! Because we are all apparently too stupid to put together the outdoor sign + the indoor sign + the voice-over announcers + the people sitting around at a table holding cards + the CARD DEALER and conclude that maybe we're watching a poker game. The sweat finally drops, perhaps as insulted as I, and then Nessa strolls across the floor to deliver one of her three contractually obligated lines of the week with, "Okay, dealers: shuffle your cards, cut them up and put them in the year." Ladies and gentlemen, that was Nessa. It's understandable if you blinked and therefore missed her.

Then we get a super-awkward transition from shuffling cards to Vanko levitating Vera in the air. At least, I hope that's Vera in the air, but a magician's assistant in drag might actually be a nice variation on the ol' babe-in-tights routines. However, we see a damn drop of sweat hammer home the whole "You're watching poker. It's not a fancy game of Go Fish. It's poker! Did I mention it's poker?" point, and then there's no transition between what will clearly be two separate plot lines? It makes no sense. Anyway, Vanko does the usual lame-assed magician business -- "Check out my hands! I'm moving them around because, like house cats, people are easily distracted by shiny moving things!" -- and reminds me that the only two magicians I like at all are named Jonathan, and one of them's made up: Jonathan Creek, of Jonathan Creek, who's more into inventing magic tricks than prancing around performing them, and The Amazing Jonathan at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, who is like the angry, drunken uncle magician, and staples things to his assistant's forehead. Well, Mary and Sam seem to appreciate Vanko. Then again, they appreciated Cosme and his Wayne Newton act until they got bored, or got their memories wiped like Ben Affleck does in his upcoming movie, because we haven't seen the Fresno ex-pat and Montecito employee since.

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Las Vegas

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