November 18, 2006
"Casino Royale"

I held off on this one until seeing it with an audience last night. The 11:45 Burbank crowd was rowdy and stoked (and sent over the edge by the "Spidey 3" trailer).

Anyway, I hate the Bond movies. More often than not, they bore me to tears. The one time I actually sat down to watch one with any sort of critical eye was "Tomorrow Never Dies," in preparation for an interview with Julian Fellowes. These films just don't work for me. The camp value of the old stuff is - sometimes - beneficial, but it's just not my bag, baby.

"Casino Royale," however, kicks a whole lot of ass. All over the place. The action in this film is extremely creative (though handled in a clunky fashion at times by director Martin Campbell), and Daniel Craig is the real deal. Stone cold badass, the way Bond is supposed to be. It's a fantastic movie-going experience through and through, until the last act just unravels like a loosely-knit sweater. At least one of those "cutesy" endings needed to be cut if, for no other reason, because of repetition's sake. But the otherwise solidly hammered out script just boils down in those final scenes, leaving an awkward taste in the mouth.

In addition, the second act bogs down after a while, and if you aren't a fan of poker, you might be shifting in your seat. Sure, there's plenty of plot to push this section of the film forward, but I don't know - some more "adapting" needed to be in the mix.

I think "Casino Royale" is a solid enough actioner, however, and a great re-boot for the franchise. It establishes the character nicely and forces him into that "trust no one" state of mind that is applicable throughout the franchise.


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