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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Just Mercy’ on HBO, an Earnest Legal Drama Brought to Life by Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx

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HBO’s Saturday night movie this week is Just Mercy, a based-on-a-true-story drama about a young, idealistic lawyer’s fight to get an innocent Alabama man off death row in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Michael B. Jordan stars as Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard Law graduate who wrote the bestseller Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which detailed how he helped acquit Walter McMillian after he was wrongly convicted of murder charges levied against him by racist cops. The book is the foundation of the movie, which debuted in theaters in late 2019, and carries some added dramatic gravitas here in 2020.

JUST MERCY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: Monroe County, Alabama, 1987. McMillian (Jamie Foxx), known as Johnnie D. by his friends and family, had just finished a day’s work as a lumberman and was driving home when he came across police barricading the road. Their guns were pointed at him. Months prior, Ronda Morrison was murdered in the small-town laundromat where she worked. An overwhelmingly white jury convicted Johnnie D., a Black man, and gave him a 30-year sentence, which a judge, improbably but appropriately named Robert E. Lee Key, overruled in lieu of the death penalty.

Two years pass. Bryan Stevenson, a whip-smart young Harvard Law grad originally from a poor rural area in Delaware, moves to Monroe County. He teams with legal assistant Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) to help death row inmates who received inadequate legal representation. Jackass cops strip-search Bryan on his first visit to the prison, and maybe it goes without saying that they’re white and he’s Black. He sits down with six inmates, most notably Herb (Rob Morgan), a mentally ill Vietnam War vet who unwittingly killed a girl with a homemade explosive, and Johnnie D., who doesn’t want to go through more inevitably disappointing legal appeals. He turns down Bryan flat.

Bryan wins his soon-to-be client over by visiting his family. “I lived down a dirt road just like that,” he tells Johnnie D. Bryan digs into the case. Johnnie D. is no saint — he was targeted by white cops because he had cheated on his wife with a white woman. But Bryan finds a whole mess of weaknesses in the prosecution. He and Eva trip over and/or hurdle a variety of roadblocks put up by locals as they get their legal ducks in a row. Bryan is pulled over and harassed by cops; Eva endures an anonymous bomb threat against her family.

Meanwhile, Herb’s execution date draws near, and Bryan fights for a stay of execution. They pour over books, dig through files and shake down the primary witness in Johnnie D.’s trial, Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson), a career criminal who appears to have given false testimony in exchange for being moved off death row. Bryan officially opens up the Equal Justice Initiative, with an office and receptionist. Will Bryan and his growing pack of allies navigate this thorny and complicated scenario and save their clients from the electric chair?

JUST MERCY HBO REVIEW
Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Just Mercy has all the elements of decades of legal/courtroom dramas, drawing obvious comparison to To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s no Anatomy of a Murder or Inherit the Wind, but it’ll hold up better than all those cornball John Grisham adaptations from the ’90s. It also wraps in elements from death-row drama Dead Man Walking, and thematic tones from Werner Herzog’s searing anti-capital-punishment documentary Into the Abyss.

Performance Worth Watching: Foxx landed a supporting-actor SAG nom for his performance, which makes the most of his character’s blend of despondency and conviction. But Jordan once again cuts through any of the film’s moderately boilerplate drama with his SINCERITY LASER, which he wielded so effectively in Fruitvale Station and Creed.

Memorable Dialogue: Eva, after police search her home for explosives: “Maybe people will stop trying to kill us once they realize how charming we are.”

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: Just Mercy is a rock-solid legal drama whose undeniable earnestness makes up for its lack of frills. Director Destin Daniel Cretton (the extraordinary Short Term 12) tonally situates the film in a comfortable spot between melodrama and procedural, and maintains a calm, steady, firm grip on our interest. He handles intense moments set on death row with appropriate gravitas — a scene in which Foxx’s Johnnie D. steadies Herb during a panic attack is quite moving, and a grueling scene in the execution chamber quietly courses with the passionate subtextual assertion that what we’re seeing is ethically barbaric.

The film steers clear of violent displays, but there’s no way we can avoid the overwhelming discomfort we feel when we see white cops pull over Black men and draw their guns. Such scenes are even more difficult to watch now than they were six months ago, even in a relatively middle-of-the-road movie like Just Mercy (they’re even more disturbing in Queen and Slim). Such is our world now. But Just Mercy is fueled by the real-life Stevenson’s understated charisma, and the film asserts that buoying calm rationalism with strong emotion is prudent in instances of great injustice and cruelty. It carries a simple, but effective message: It’s easy to tell the truth, and it’s very hard to tell a lie.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Just Mercy isn’t a groundbreaking film, but it’s an optimistic one. If you need a little hope and emotional release these days, this movie will give you some.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

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How Las Vegas became the world’s casino capital

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These days, it’s impossible to think of Las Vegas without the image of the lights on the strip and glamorous casinos coming to mind. But the Vegas we know of 2020 wasn’t always that way; and it took a long, long time to get its reputation for being the world’s casino capital. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and get to the root of how Las Vegas became the city that never sleeps.

A historical journey

It’s hard to believe these days, but the Las Vegas region was once an abundant marshland stock full of rich vegetation. That is, until the marsh receded, and the waters disappeared, transforming the landscape into a desert, with the trapped water underground sprouting life and forming an oasis.

It was during the 19th century that the explorer Antonio Armijo from Mexico foraged the way from New Mexico to California on the first commercial caravan. It was a member of the group, Rafael Rivera who rode west to find water and venture through the desert, setting his eyes upon Las Vegas Springs. Las Vegas was therefore named ‘the meadows’ after the grasses found growing there.

Years went on and both Mormon and Mexican settlers began to filter through. In 1890 it was decided by railroad developers that Las Vegas would serve as a spot along the San Pedro, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles railroad route as well as connecting to major cities along the Pacific Coast. From there on, Vegas boomed with stores, boarding houses and saloons popping up around the area. This was the beginning of the Las Vegas as we know it — with railroad workers and ranchers enjoying the gambling and drinking through illegal speakeasies and bootleg casinos operating despite the ban on gambling in Nevada in 1910.

In 1931 gambling once again became legal in the state, with new casinos and showgirl venues opening up along Fremont Street to entertain the thousands of workers who flocked the city during the construction of the Hoover Dam. The first hotel, El Rancho Vegas, opened up in 1941 along Highway 91. Its success inspired others to open up their own hotels along the highway which would one day become the strip. Tourists began to flock to the city over the next few decades to enjoy the casino scene and see incredible artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra perform.

The birth of the mega resort

It was in 1966 the businessman Howard Hughes purchased the Desert Inn hotel; this was followed by over a dozen more hotel purchases, pushing out the mobster-owned hotels that had previously dominated Las Vegas. The concept of the mega hotel came about in 1989 when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage as the first hotel resort in the city. By 1994, Las Vegas was the home of more than 86,000 hotel and motel rooms with 13 of the 20 largest mega resort hotels in the world. It was during this era that the Strip became populated with more hotels and casinos, with developments inspired by the iconic cities and countries of the globe including Egypt, Paris, New York and Rome.

Las Vegas in the 21st century

The Las Vegas of today is well and truly established as a home for entertainment and casinos — which remain the biggest source of income for the city. However, there’s no doubt that Vegas faces more competition than ever before from the virtual world, with more people than ever before opting to play at an online casino, rather than play in the old fashioned way, but Vegas will always have the advantage. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime trip that an online casino can’t replicate, but do the online equivalents help to increase interest in Vegas?

The bright lights of Vegas is attracting billions of dollars in investment as many try and get a slice of the revenue that the sector has to offer. During 2019 over 42.52 million people came to visit Las Vegas from all around the world. Domestically, it was shown to be the second most popular destination for U.S. traveller’s dream spots after New York.

These days, Las Vegas continues to thrive and be a source of entertainment for millions of visitors from around the world looking to experience what the city has to offer. With new generations becoming interested in casino games — and some incredible musical residencies continuing to be announced — Las Vegas surely will continue to be one best places to go for a unforgettable dream destination for many.

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Land-Based Casinos

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What can people find at some of the biggest land-based casinos in Canada? From Niagara Falls to Toronto, there is something for everyone at casinos in Canada, including table games, slots, roulette, blackjack, and other games. There are also many poker and blackjack tournaments held throughout the year and it is easy to find jackpots or slots with free spins at the casinos. Many casinos also have hotels, bars, and numerous restaurants which are perfect for players seeking some comfort. A relaxing casino experience for all ages can be found in many different places in Canada. Choose one from below.

Choosing a casino depends on your tastes and location within Canada. Do you want to experience the grandeur and splendour of nature while placing a bet? Then head to Niagara Falls. Do you want to see a show? Choose a casino with a show that will be perfect for you. If you are looking for pure relaxation, then check out some of the casinos with spas and world-class dining. Entertainment is also a large part of the casino experience in Canada. Musicians, bands, comedians, and other types of entertainment continue to be found at all of the biggest casinos.

Some Big Casinos Near Nature

Casino Niagara is located in one of the most beautiful places in Canada and the world. People from all around the globe come to experience the best of both worlds at Casino Niagara. Players have access to beauty and scenery while spending time at one of the biggest casinos in Canada. The casino has two floors with over 1200 slot machines, poker, and other table games. There are also many different restaurants and even a comedy club. The sports bar and casino was refurbished back in 2017, meaning that it has not lost any of its charm and shine.

ST Eugene Golf Resort: Casino of the Rockies is a golf and nature lovers’ paradise. The location could not be any more splendid. People can find the casino between the Rockies and Purcell Mountains. Furthermore, the casino has an interesting history after it was converted from an Indian Residential School. It was then opened in the early 2000s. St Eugene has table games, electronic roulette, baccarat, and blackjack. There is also a golf course, restaurant, bar, spa, and hotel that is highly rated in Canada. Overall games are limited so most people come for golfing and betting fun.

Caesars Windsor is famously located on the riverbank in Windsor, Ontario. Visitors from both Canada and the States frequent the casino and hotel. Players can see the Detroit and Michigan skyline from the area. There are two floors of slots, table games, and plenty of poker tables. Blackjack, baccarat, and roulette are also available at the casino. It has beautiful restaurants, a gym, bars, slots, and live sports. Check out the Titan 360™, a 10-foot tall slot machine with 5800 pounds of wins at the click of a button. It’s the largest slot machine in the world and great fun.

  • Enjoy the size of Casino de Montreal and Hard Rock Casino
  • Enjoy the big and beautiful Casino Niagara or ST Eugene Golf Resort
  • Enjoy High Culture at Elements Casino Brantford

River Rock Casino Resort – In Transit

Are you passing through Vancouver Airport and have a long transit? Hire a cab and spend some time enjoying slot machines at River Rock Casino Resort. There are slots galore and the different themes make it an enjoyable visit for all. There is even a Dungeons and Dragons slot for gamers. A fourteen-table game room can be found at the casino and international poker tournaments are held regularly. Other features include a VIP area, spa, live music, 24-hour food and drink, as well as other entertainment. Richmond is also worth a quick visit, especially for some delicious seafood.

Casino de Montreal – The Big Gun

Casino de Montreal is 526,488 square feet of casino excitement. The casino has around 20 thousand visitors each day and is one of the biggest casinos on the globe. If you are still unconvinced about the size of the place, then imagine five floors of slots and table games. 3,000 machines and 111 table games make the casino seem even more mammoth. Casino de Montreal games can be played in a smoke-free environment and many players comment on the user-friendly games and helpful staff. Complimentary drinks and top-rated gourmet food is all part of the experience at Casino de Montreal.

Hard Rock Casino – Another Big One

Hard Rock Casino is another large casino located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The casino is over 80,000 square feet, making it a big one in Canada. Hard Rock has gaming tables, slots, baccarat and a poker room. The casino includes 70 casino tables and 1,000 slots. Private rooms and high roller areas are also available. However, the Hard Rock name is known for excellent food and this is what people love about this casino. Many players comment on the quality of the food here. It even has a 1,000 seat theatre, making it great for dining and a show.

Elements Casino Brantford – Enjoy High Culture

Elements Casino Brantford is a historical gem for culture in Ontario. It is a charity casino that was established last century. It includes the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, which is a high society entertainment venue in Ontario. The centre is well known to performing arts enthusiasts in Ontario and Canada. Players come to see a show, enjoy some gourmet food and a game. The casino also has plenty of slots, table games, blackjack, baccarat, sic bo, three card poker, roulette, and other games. There is also a 14-table Texas Hold ‘Em poker room. Enjoy all the excitement.

River Cree Resort and Casino – Sports Lovers

River Cree Resort and Casino is a sport and gaming venue located in Edmonton that should not be overlooked. It has 39 tables of various money limits and over 1,000 slots. There are also a few different places to dine while enjoying a bet and other things to experience. There is a fitness centre, spa and a 200 room resort. However, the most interesting feature of this casino is the two hockey rinks, which are often used by the Edmonton Oilers for practice. It is possible to watch the team practice and go for a meal and some gaming fun.

For the ones who fancy playing online we recomend visiting canadiancasino.org!

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Top 8 Online Games That Kids Can Play Without Much Parental Supervision

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The gaming industry has been quite widespread since its inception. With the advent of globalisation and technology, this industry is reaching new heights. Kids these days are more inclined to the internet than they are to books. 

The internet has more information about everything than anywhere else and is very easily accessible. This further makes some parental control necessary. Most parents are worried about their kids playing violent video games that can further affect their mental health. 

Nevertheless, you cannot stop a kid from finding ways to log in to the internet, nor can you keep them away from playing video games. You can always supervise them on their media consumption. But that also gets tiresome after a point. This is when it gets necessary for you to introduce them to games that are not only kid-friendly but are also of their liking. 

If you are in a similar situation, looking for a way out, this article will surely help. Further mentioned are a few games that you can let your kid play while you concentrate on your work and well-being.  

1. Gummy Drop

Finding games that you can let your kids play without supervision is quite a task. With games like Gummy Drop, you do not have to worry one bit. With beautiful graphics and interesting gameplay, it does not take long for your kid to get hooked to the game. 

With new cities and interesting content being added almost every day, this 3 puzzle game is a good choice for your kids to play. It also connects to your Facebook account, letting you play with your other friends. It is also a nice way for your kids to improve their general knowledge and problem-solving skills. 

2. Skribbl

If you were a fan of Pictionary when you were growing up, you should definitely introduce your kids to this game. While the rules of Pictionary remain the same, this game improves on the visual aspect. With all of their friends in the same server, your kid can easily get hooked to this game. 

Easy and fun to play – once the server is set up, each player will get a word that they have to draw on the screen. The motive of the game is to help the other players guess your word. Each round chooses players at random. While it is advised that you use a tablet and a stylus to play this, you can always sketch with your finger. 

3. Ludo Supreme

A classic in every sense of the word, online ludo needs no introduction. There are some new features that are added in the game version of this app. It lets you connect to your Paytm account and earn real money while playing the game. 

Along with such amazing features, you can also play it for fun with your family or friends. It has other versions as well that come in different languages, especially in India, given the diverse nature of the country. You can download the LUDO for your android phones

4. Houseparty

There is no doubt that Houseparty has been one of the most popular downloads this pandemic. This is a networking app that lets you add as many as seven friends and play different games face-to-face via video calls. 

The novel approach of phone gaming made this a very widely chosen app. While playing games with your friends is always fun, this app lets you see and talk to them as well. Some of the most played games in this app include Heads Up!, Chips and Guac, Trivia and Quick Draw. With such amazing features and games, this is a worthwhile download for your kid. 

5. Monopoly

Monopoly is a very interesting game, which you can get your kids. Along with being fun, it can be played by any age group and is always stimulating your brain. This board game is an all-time classic that is now available on mobile platforms. 

The good thing about it being on the phone is that now your kids can play it with their friends as well, and all from the convenience of your home. 

6. Rocket League

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to play soccer but with cars, this game is exactly that. You get to pick a car at the beginning of the game in an oversized field with an oversized ball. Then start the five-minute matches where you have to score goals against them. 

To make it even more fun, this game allows the player to add up to three friends on the same server. It also has options where you can choose between casual play and ranked online play. Nevertheless, in both gameplays, you can earn new cosmetic looks for the car and get a chance to score more goals. 

7. UNO

Another all-time classic, UNO has been a very celebrated game all these years. The original company of UNO came out with the online version that is available on both iOS and Android devices. Since they are the copyright holders, you already know, the gameplay cannot get any better than this. 

Nevertheless, since it is a multiplayer game, you can play it both against your friends or strangers. It’s fun aesthetics, and new rules make it more interesting. It now has different modes of play and tournaments as well. You can also partner up and play 2v2 to win together. With servers available all around the world, you can connect to anyone you know. 

8. Guess The Word

Very obvious from the name itself, this game is known to be one of the most popular downloads in this list. It not only helps your kids spend some unsupervised time with themselves but also ensures that they learn new things in the process. 

The game contains different levels which get harder as your kid progresses, further making it more interesting and attractive. If you have some free time on your hands, you can also jump in and play with your kids.

Final Thoughts

So, these are the 8 games that kids of all ages can play without any tension. Above all, parents don’t have to panic or keep an eye on them all the time. 

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