'Casino' is a long, but nonetheless engrossing, mobster/gambling film from the long-standing and talented director/writer Martin Scorsese which, ignoring the disc-format it exists on (Blu-ray for this review), would get 5 stars from me. Amongst his more recent work, this film dates from 1995, it remains the last time that both Robert De Niro and Jo Pesci starred in one of his films after many regular appearances over previous years....
Despite being multi-stranded, the plot of the film is actually quite simple and perfectly well outlined in the Amazon synopsis - so I recommend you give that a glance if required. Suffice to say that whilst being a little similar to the earlier 'Goodfellas' (and not just because De Niro and Pesci were in that film as well !) due to the same overall mobster theme and use of a character voice-over, you can rely on Scorsese and the cast to 'entertain' you with a well directed/produced and acted film which is often ultra-violent but occasionally amusing.
And so to the Blu-ray.....
I was looking forward to watching this film in an HD format, especially after reading several laudatory reviews from professional sources - boy was I disappointed !
Yes, whilst the picture and sound both benefit massively from the higher resolution Blu-ray can offer, as far as I can see absolutely no effort has been made by the manufacturer Universal to 'clean-up' the image. It sounds great and looks sharp, clear and has beautifully vivid colours - but it is awash with those tiny little white 'specklies' that one normally associates with aged film stock.
Universal have simply ported over the footage to Blu-ray to present the film with the higher bit rate offered by this newer format, with the problem being that the HD resolution amplifies the print damage (occurring exactly at the same points where they appear on the DVD, but as that format is SD the damage is less noticeable !). The disc extras offers nothing new, with the production laziness extending to the existing featurettes simply appearing in a different guise courtesy of the Blu-ray 'U-Control' feature instead.
It is so crushingly sad to admire a wonderful slow-zoom close-up in HD of, for example, the face of the De Niro character only for it to be marred by the intrusion of randomly placed white specks. Similarly, a glorious panoramic shot in the Nevada desert, with a deep/lush blue sky and pin-sharp landscape, is eventually marred by a 'meteorite shower' of white glitter....
Shame on Universal for destroying the potential of a fantastic presentation of such a marvellous film - and into the bargain making no additional effort to bring anything new to the feature-count, instead of just relying on what existed on the 10th anniversary DVD and re-hashing them to appear in-movie.
Normally I write more in a review about excellent films, but since Universal have made little effort I shall reciprocate. By all means, get this Blu-ray to enjoy an undisputed improvement in overall presentation for this 'modern' Scorsese classic, but (unless your eyes or TV have built-in print-damage filters) expect to be distracted by the regular intrusion of white specks to spoil your enjoyment. If I can now get a remastered DVD boxset of the charming TV series 'Jeeves and Wooster' with a revitalised appearance, you would have thought that a major production such as 'Casino' would get a rejuvenation for a Blu-ray issue - wrong.
Feel free to sample other reviews of this Blu-ray, but when so many fail to mention the print damage but, for example, state the extras are 'decent' (when they are exactly what existed on the earlier DVD) take heed, and instead save your money and, like me, cross your fingers that a newer Blu-ray issue will at some point be made.
Don't believe me ? Then pay attention during the opening scene of the camera zooming over the desert with the Sam/Nicky voiceovers, the scene where the same characters having their secret chat in a desert diner or the aforementioned desert scene from when Sam starts talking all the way to the end of the argument between him and Nicky and you should notice the problem.
Finally, although I have a fully updated Panasonic BR player and have not experienced problems with any other discs (incl those which are 'feature heavy', such as 'Watchmen' and 'Terminator 2 Skynet Edition'), after the initial disc-loading 'messages (such as, bizarrely, an FBI copyright warning and the US film classification description - for a UK disc !) and language selection page this disc took some 3 minutes to then load the menu page, in-between displaying a completely blank/black screen and 'playing' the disc - weird. With hindsight this unusual, extended, wait was not worth it !