28 March 2008

Filmbook Preview: In the city of blinding lights

One of my perennial subjects of interest when I'm looking for books is the city of Las Vegas. Its history and architecture and culture are completely fascinating to me. I went there for the first time in 2006 (for which I packed many books about Vegas) and had a great time, and not in that "Lindsay Lohan and I danced on the banquette" sort of way. My favorite thing I did there was walk through several casinos (noting what the waitresses and the pit bosses wear and what the decor looked like) en route to the Elvis Museum, located forlornly in an empty strip across from a grossly sized mall and within shouting distance of the Stratosphere.

So I'm really looking forward to the new movie "21," opening this weekend, about MIT students who moonlight as mega-gamblers in Vegas. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that the adorable Jim Sturgess is the star.) As is my custom I picked up the nonfiction book it was based on, Ben Mezrich's BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, and mean to finish it before I see the movie this weekend. So far, I'm enjoying it -- it's a fun, turn-your-brain-off read that manages to simplify what these math geniuses can do to control a blackjack table and come out with a better than average percentage of winnings. It helps to know what blackjack is, but you don't need to have played it to understand what's going on. The author was a thriller writer prior to this book, and his writing has many "thriller" aspects to it -- sometimes overdramatizing things like the main student's breakup with his girlfriend in an airport -- but it doesn't detract too much from the writing.

After I see the movie I'll write more about BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE and "21" next week. Incidentally, I got my copy of BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE on a mass-market rack, so it should be in drugstores everywhere.

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