Matthew Lickona 2:02 p.m., Sept. 23
Las Vegas fairy tale, from first-time director Wayne Kramer, full of hand-me-down ideas about the old-school gangster who still believes in busting kneecaps to keep order, the failed showgirl and the tail-for-sale, the poor-man's Sinatra and "the next Harry Connick, Jr.," the changing economic landscape: "There comes a time to decide whether you're running a museum or you're running a casino." The title character, tailor-made for William H. Macy, is not so smudgingly marked by fingerprints: such an accursed loser that he is employed by the Golden Shangri-La to contaminate its customers by his mere presence, like the passing vampire who withers the flowers in his path. After one good roll in the hay with a willing cocktail waitress (Maria Bello), he loses his "magic," however. And suddenly the always empty creamer for his coffee is brimming over, and his flattened hair has acquired some fluff. Completely unacceptable, completely unswallowable from its opening premise to its final outcome (one hates to agree with the hero's ne'er-do-well son: "It don't compute"), the textbook script lays tracks for an emotional roller coaster, depressing in its regularity and predictability. Because the film is an "indie," the sex is smellier than in the mainstream, but the sentiment no less flowery: "You put me up on a pedestal. It sure puts the gutter in perspective." Alec Baldwin, Shawn Hatosy. 2003.