When it was announced Pierce Brosnan would no longer be filling the tux of Bond, James Bond, the chatter among industry insiders and the blogosphere reached a kind of critical mass. Would it be Clive Owen? What about Colin Farrell? When little-known actor Daniel Craig was chosen, the response was swift and sure: Who’s this Craig? Why Craig? Ugh . . . Craig. He certainly can’t play Bond, he’s blonde for cryin’ out loud. What in the name of George Lazenby are they thinkin’?
As it turns out producer Barbara Broccoli knew exactly what she was doing, and Casino Royale is the best Bond film since Goldfinger.
By going back to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first book in the Bond series, we get to see how Bond became BOND. Sure, he’s suave and a bit too sure of himself, but he’s also learning the job and making rookie mistakes along the way.
After being elevated to Double 0 status by M, again played by Judi Dench (the only returning cast member from the previous installments), Bond is tasked to play a high-stakes poker game against the world’s most notorious arms dealers.
The updated Casino Royale substitutes poker for the original game of Baccarat because a) Texas Hold-em is hot right now, and b) who the hell knows what baccarat is anyway?
That’s not the only noticeable change in the franchise. Sure, there’s still plenty of globe hopping with gorgeous locations and the requisite Bond girl, Vesper Lynn played by Eva Green, but with Q and Moneypenny nowhere to be found, this is a much darker, much grittier Bond. Case in point: the scene in which bad guy Le Chiffre tries to get Bond to reveal a bank account password makes the laser scene in Goldfinger look positively quaint. There’s no way on earth Roger Moore would have done a scene like that.
What Craig brings to the role is something that Connery, Lazenby, Moore, the underrated Tim Dalton, and Brosnan never quite seemed to pull off — he’s the first Bond that you truly believe would kick your ass just for looking at him wrong. That’s kind of important, if you’ve got a license to kill.
The two-disc set includes features on Craig’s work to get into the role, a closeup look at the stunt work, and an AMC special on the Bond girls of the past and present.
With Craig and Casino Royale, the franchise looks to be in good hands.
While one franchise looks boldly to the future, another of Hollywood’s most successful is given the fitting sendoff it so richly deserves.
Sylvester Stallone was never happy with the way Rocky V, the film originally intended to bring the Rocky story to a close, turned out. And, quite frankly, neither was the audience. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the campy Rocky III or the jingoistic Rocky IV, it was merely forgettable.
Sixteen years later, Stallone decided to remedy that, resulting in Rocky Balboa — the best film in the series since the original.
Balboa finds the champ mourning the loss of his wife Adrian, and dealing with the resentfulness of his now grown son — Milo Ventimiglia of TV’s “Heroes”. After seeing an ESPN computer generation of who would win a fight between Balboa and current heavyweight champ, Mason “The Line” Dixon (played by real-life boxer Antonio Tarver), Rock believes that he still has a little juice in the tank for an exhibition bout with Dixon.
Stallone does a fine job as the film’s director, centering more on the personal battles the aging fighter faces in his post glory life than with the actual fight in the ring. And, as the film’s writer, he makes an extremely good call by elevating a very minor character in the first film to co-star status here.
The disc offers a plethora of special features, such as a good commentary track by Stallone, deleted and alternate scenes, and a blooper reel among others.
The film’s climactic fight with Dixon is a bit too over stylized, and is a bit jarring when compared with the tone of the rest of the film, still, Stallone can rest easy, knowing he finally got the ending right. Even if it took two tries.
Film: **** Features: ***1/2
Film: ***1/2 Features: ***
– Timothy Hiatt
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