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PCR # 347  (Vol. 7, No. 46)  This edition is for the week of November 13--20, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Casino Royale"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

The Tampa Film Review for November áby Chris Woods and Nolan B. Canova
The Tampa Comic Con and Indie Film Fest IV áby Nolan B. Canova
"Casino Royale" áby Mike Smith
The Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival (M.I.F.F.) Returns to the East Coast....Holy Family Catholic School Celebrates 50 Years ľ A Reunion....The Florida Collectibles Show featuring Will Moriaty, Dennis LeBrun, and Charlie Carlson áby Andy Lalino
Passing On .... Thanks, Rush!... Do They Know It's Christmas? ... $60,000??? ... Juiced? ... Happy Birthday .... My Favorite Films, Part 46: "Goodfellas" áby Mike Smith
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Columbia Pictures     
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 24 mins

My very first film memory occurred in the summer of 1964 when I accompanied my parents to the drive in to see the latest James Bond film, "From Russia With Love." What makes the memory so vivid is that, after we were back home and I was safe in my bed, I couldn't go to sleep because images from the film "flickered" on my bedroom wall as I lay there in the dark. I know, weird. Forty two years later I've gained another great film memory thanks to "Casino Royale."

In the mold of last summer's "Batman Begins," "Casino Royale" introduces us to agent James Bond. Just agent. He has yet to earn the "00" status which, we learn, is only given after two confirmed kills. Bond's introduction is presented in black and white, all mood and shadows. Of course, it's only a matter of time before Bond becomes agent 007. And when he does, his first assignment is a doozy!

As with other well known characters, much was made over the casting of Daniel Craig as Bond. For most film fans of my generation, Sean Connery was, is and always will be James Bond. Fans in their thirties probably best relate to Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton didn't hang around long enough to make an impression. Same with George Lazenby, who played Bond in between Connery contract problems. My son and his friends were raised on Pierce Brosnan. Each actor contributed something to the role. But in "Casino Royale," Craig takes the part and makes it his own. When we first meet him, he's not the suave and sophisticated agent everyone knows. He's crude, crass and very impulsive. He angers his boss, M (Dench), by not only breaking into her apartment but discovering her real name. The sophisticated agent has yet to develop. When he orders a martini and the bartender asks him if he'd like it "shaken or stirred" he replies, "Do I look like I give a damn?" When he shows up to play cards in a beautifully fitted tuxedo he has no qualms about displaying the scraped and bruised knuckles, the evidence of his latest mission. Craig plays Bond the way I always imagined him from reading Ian Flemming's novels.

The story follows Bond (Craig) across Europe as he tracks down Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker who launders money to finance international terrorists. Le Chiffre uses the money to enter a high stakes, winner take all poker tournament in Montenegro. M convinces the treasury to supply Bond with the $10 million entry fee, knowing that if Bond wins then Le Chiffre's organization will be destroyed. Along with the money comes treasury agent Vesper Lynd, who must not only keep an eye on Bond's card playing but fight off his advances (apparently Bond hasn't developed his wooing skills either). Also involved in the game is CIA agent Felix Leiter (Wright) and seven other high rollers. As the cards are dealt, each player does their best to figure each other out. What are their "tells," what do they do when they're bluffing? As the game progresses, the stakes get higher, with millions being bet at one time. Nice way to spend your first assignment.

Credit director Campbell and an outstanding script written by, among others, Paul Haggis ("Million Dollar Baby," "Crash") with keeping the film in line with the original novel. Gone are the traits of Bonds' past. No invisible cars or rocket packs for this up and coming spy. Here Bond uses his wits and his fists to get the job done. The stunt work is outstanding and the action non stop. The signature Bond humor is there as well, like when Bond tells Vesper that her undercover name is Tiffany Broadchest. It's not, of course, but it's a nice tip of the hat to some of the female names that Bond has come up against in his younger days. And it's those days that the film takes you too. Or, as M informs Bond when he asks why he was assigned to the case he's on, "I knew you'd be you!" No matter how you look at it, "Casino Royale" is possibly the best Bond film ever made!

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Casino Royale"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Casino Royale" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.