Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This Bond Bleeds

There have always been franchise films in Hollywood. From the old Hope & Crosby Road pictures to the Planet of The Apes series in the early 70's. The longest running and most known throughout the globe though has to be the Bond series.

The run that began with Dr. No in 1960 has now reached the 21st film of the series, and in my opinion one of the best, Casino Royale.

In the past when we've reached the final film with a particular Bond actor, it's very apparent that a change is necessary. Connery's final, Diamonds Are Forever was OK, but Brosnan's last go as Bond (Die Another Day) and Moore's finale (A View To A Kill) were horrendous pieces of crap that made you want to bludgeon yourself to death as you watched every miserable minute in the theatre.

Yes, they were that bad.

But the follow up, the next Bond film with a new Bond actor are usually well worth the wait, and made up for the miserable dreck that preceded.

Daniel Craig's first outing as Bond, Casino Royale, finally answers the question, can anyone play Bond as good as or better than Connery in his heyday?


The makers of Casino Royale smartly introduce Craig by taking us back to the beginning of Bond's career. How he "earns" his 007 distinction is revealed in a clever up front way that sets the tone for the entire picture.

No sooner has the film started then we're greatly entertained by an incredible foot chase through construction sites and building tops that put many car chases to shame. The film's plot? The new double-naught spy must find terrorist banker, La Ciffre (another creepy Bond villain, this one weeps blood) and defeat him at an extremely high stakes poker game.

Along the way an old friend is revealed (well, an old friend to long time Bond viewers) and Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd, the gorgeous accountant who's there to keep track of Bond (and the Queen's) funds.

While watching a high stakes poker game may not sound interesting (and hell, you could easily stay home and watch it on ESPN) there's enough going on that makes this game especially deadly.

The romance in this film reminds me of Bond's relationship in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where 007 met, married then lost the love of his life. The relationship in this film helps to stabilize the raw, headstrong spy and REALLY helps to set up the ending.

Ah....movie endings. How many films have we sat in darkened theaters watching, enjoying and (dare I say) loving until WHAM!!! we have to endure a putrid, pathetic, HORRIBLE ending that helps to ruin the previous 2+ hours.

But not here.

While watching Casino Royale, even though I was enjoying the picture something felt off, it seemed as if it was missing something. Then came the ending.

YES! The last 10 minutes of Casino Royale not only ties up the picture but more importantly leaves you with a huge grin on your face and the thought, "I can't WAIT for the next Bond picture!"

Sure, the series is 21 films old, but like fine wine, with new blood Daniel Craig and a back to the basics approach, it's not getting old, it's getting better!

I give Casino Royale a shaken, but not stirred:

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