Rated: PG-13 for violent action and s*xual content (it's a James Bond movie, folks -- s*x, booze, and violence are de rigueur)
First, let me say that I am deliberately skipping a review because we did watch A Prairie Home Companion last week. To be more specific, Rob watched A Prairie Home Companion, while I saw the first fifteen minutes and the last fifteen minutes, with a siesta sandwiched in there. If you have heard Garrison Keillor on the radio, then you pretty much know what the dialogue of this movie is like: lots of Guy Noir and Midwest Lutheran jokes, plus Lindsey Lohan not hopped up on crack, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as a singing sister act, Virginia Madsen as a ghost, and Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as a pair of singing cowboys. It was directed by Robert Altman, and I also fell asleep during Gosford Park, which was also directed by Robert Altman. Since all the film buffs rave about Robert Altman, what does that say about me? Either I am a Mensa reject, or I am chronically sleep deprived. Actually, I'm probably both. I won't give PHC a real review, except to say that the parts I saw were good, and if you like Garrison Keillor or Robert Altman, then you will probably enjoy this film (as long as you are a well-rested member of Mensa). Now, back to the review of a movie that I did watch.
Rob was incredulous when I told him that I had never seen a James Bond movie. I have seen bits and pieces of the franchise over the years; I know the catchphrases, the suggestive names of Bond's Flavor of the Month, and I am embarrassed to admit that I've devoted too much brain space to the lyrics for Goldfinger, but a James Bond movie in its entirety? Nope, not a one. So to balance out the chick flicks and art-house films we have in the old Netflix queue, I added Casino Royale as my primer for 007. Biggest takeaway lesson learned from Casino Royale? Daniel Craig as James Bond = smokin' hawt.
Besides being an awesome, pulse-quickening action movie in its own right (eat your heart out Mission:Impossible), Casino Royale really does happen to be a great introduction to James Bond. The film begins with Bond's promotion to 007 status, which basically means he's at liberty to do some serious damage in the form of deadly force, and quietly introduces us to all of the familiar Bond-isms that have become a fixture in subsequent movies. Shaken not stirred? Got it's start in Casino Royale. CIA operative Felix Leiter? He introduces himself in this film. Beautiful woman with a wacky name and a shady past? Draped over him for half the movie. Tricked out Aston Martin? Purring like a kitten in the Casino Royale parking lot. We even hear the penultimate Bond line for the first time in this film. You know it by heart: Bond. James Bond. All the good stuff starts right here.
The plot is a standard one: Bond must stop creepy-Eurotrash-poker savant-villain, Le Chiffre, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Why? Oh yeah, because Le Chiffre is also a banker to the world's terrorist organizations. Plus, Bond is playing with 15 million government funded smackers, so no pressure there. There is also the requisite torture scene, which Rob informs me is a regular ingredient to a good James Bond flick, although this scene will make men squirm, guaranteed.
The only downside to this movie is that now I will always expect to see Daniel Craig wearing the ultra-cool tuxedo and sipping the martini. I love Sean Connery, and Pierce Brosnan isn't half bad either, but I thought Craig really nailed the character of Bond. Witty, urbane, but with that core of menacing brutishness. I don't understand why so many fans were so adamantly opposed to Craig as Bond, but I am also not a Bond-phile. And for what it's worth, there will never be another M for me but Judi Dench. She's so coolly aristocratic that she rocks my world. I love to watch her in anything - well, except maybe the Chronicles of Riddick, but I like to think that Vin Diesel spiked her drink at the table read for that one.
There you have it - me likey. As action movies go, this was a good one, and as Bond movies go - well, I can't say, since I have nothing with which to compare this one. But Rob said it was very good, and he has seen other James Bond movies, so you can take his word for it.
I'm giving it a Mother Load rating of 4 and a half baskets, peeps! Rent it and enjoy it - even if it's only for the stomach churning chase scene that doesn't involve a single car (or for Daniel Craig stalking out of the surf in what amounts to boxer briefs. Either way.)