Casino appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A mostly strong transfer, a few concerns kept the picture from greatness.
Sharpness largely seemed strong. A smidgen of slightly soft shots emerged, but these remained minor, so the vast majority of the flick looked concise and accurate.
No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I thought the image showed some light digital noise reduction. In terms of print flaws, I saw sporadic specks. These weren’t heavy, but they popped up more often than I expected.
Movies shot in Vegas usually show off the vivid neon hues, and Casino followed that trend. The colors were bright and vibrant at all times. These tones offered the movie’s strongest elements, as they consistently looked terrific.
Blacks were deep and tight, while low-light shots demonstrated nice definition and density. Without the print flaws and other small issues, this would have been a strong transfer, but given current Blu-ray standards, it ended up as a “B-“.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Casino displayed some issues as well, and the main one stemmed from the erratic localization of narration. While the movie’s dialogue seemed appropriately placed, the narration tended to blend to the sides.
Because everything else popped up in the correct spots, it seemed possible this was done intentionally, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why that would be. The strange localization of the narration became a real distraction and was the main issue that cost the track points.
Not that Casino would have made it to “A” territory anyway, as the mix didn’t shoot for the stars. Most of the audio stayed strongly placed in the front, and it stayed with general environmental material. Even with the casino settings and all the violence, there wasn’t a lot that happened here.
The track boasted pretty good movement in the front, but the rears did little more than echo the actions. That became a disappointment due to all the opportunities for lively information. The surrounds occasionally added a little more zing, but I can’t recall any standout sequences.
Audio quality seemed fine. Speech showed a little edginess on a few occasions, but the lines usually came across as clean and distinctive.
Music was an omnipresent element and duplicated the many songs well. They varied due to source materials but mostly sounded clear and full.
Effects contributed some dimensionality, at least during the smattering of louder scenes. Those elements were consistently accurate and concise.
Bass could be slightly tepid, and I didn’t hear much from the subwoofer. Ultimately, enough worked well to make this a “B-“, but it remained something of a disappointment.
For reasons unknown, the disc’s producers refer to its audio commentary as “Moments With…”. That title made me think it might be a scene-specific track, but it’s not, so while the commentary’s edited from a bunch of different sessions, the chatting covers the whole movie.
We hear from director Martin Scorsese, actors Sharon Stone and Frank Vincent, writer Nicholas Pileggi, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, producer Barbara De Fina, and costume designer Rita Ryack.
At the start, we learn about how Scorsese came to the project, and we also get notes about Pileggi's research, the reality behind the story and development of the material. In addition, the commentary covers the writing of the script, cinematography and editing, casting, the film's structure, music, the emphasis on "excess", voiceovers, complications shooting in Vegas, clothing, the flick’s violence and the actors’ work and interaction on the set.
All the contributors add a lot, but Pileggi and Stone provide the most useful material. Pileggi gives us a great look at how fiction relates to fact, and we get nice stories like his memory of watching the movie with the real Ace. Stone digs into her acting and what it’s like to work with the others in a very rich manner.
She comes across as thoughtful and intelligent as she lets us know her insights. Only a little dead air occurs during this mostly lively and engaging discussion. It’s a terrific track.
Four Deleted Scenes last a total of two minutes, 59 seconds. Two of them involve Nicky and some stories about the old days, while the others show outtakes.
We watch Don Rickles joke and we also see additional shots of Scorsese’s mother Catherine. There’s nothing substantial here.
A historical featurette, Vegas and the Mob goes for 13 minutes, 42 seconds. Created for NBC News, Josh Mankiewicz hosts it and looks into how the Mafia helped develop Las Vegas.
We hear from Mayor Oscar Goodman, UNLV history professor Hal Rothman, and former mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the character on whom Casino’s Ace was based. The show covers the origins of the glitzy Vegas and goes through the Mob’s rise and fall there.
Obviously the program’s length precludes great depth, but the piece nonetheless offers a tight and involving look at its subject. Goodman’s personal recollections of many mobsters makes the show especially interesting.
Taken from the History Channel, a documentary called History Alive: True Crime Authors: Casino with Nicholas Pileggi fills 43 minutes, 45 seconds. Pileggi discusses the origins of Casino and then we go into the life of Rosenthal as well as that of Anthony Spilotro, the man on whom they based Nicky.
We also get some comments from Rosenthal and learn about the long-time Rosenthal/Spilotro relationship plus Lefty’s move to Vegas and his exploits there.
This means we learn more about the Mafia impact and Rosenthal’s romance with Geri McGee, the woman on whom they based Ginger. “Alive” shows where the movie adhered to fact and where it shifted into fiction. It provides a solid examination of the history behind Rosenthal’s story and creates a very nice complement to the film.
Under U-Control, we find a picture-in-picture track. This mixes behind the scenes materials and interview clips. We hear from Scorsese, Schoonmaker, De Fina, Stone, Ryack, Vincent, Pileggi and actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
“U-Control” looks at the opening credits, how Scorsese came to the film, story/character areas, cast and performances, editing and music, costumes, and the film’s reception. Some of the material repeats from the commentary but a smattering of new details emerge, so “U-Control” merits a look.
Note that the 2005 DVD included four featurettes that fail to appear here. Some of their content gets wrapped into “U-Control”, but not nearly all of it. Those featurettes ran almost an hour in total, and there’s no way the “U-Control” clips fill that much time.
Essentially GoodFellas 2, Casino feels like a wan imitation. While it comes with enough positives to keep us reasonably engaged, the movie still becomes a letdown. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio along with a nice array of bonus materials. Casino offers second-rate Scorsese.