On Quantum of Solace, part two.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and do not wish to have any clue or hint revealed unto you, don’t read this post. Also, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time editing this one, so… yeah.

First, Quantum of Solace (hereafter QOS) is not the typical 007 flick. There’s no “Bond, James Bond.” No “Shaken, not stirred.” No Q. No Moneypenny. The film doesn’t open with the white dots and the gunbarrel motion. The women’s names aren’t double-entendres, and he doesn’t sleep with all of them. His final disposition of the major villains is not what you’d expect. It’s not as escapist as other films in the series. Some folks’ll be disappointed.

Second, QOS is a true sequel; it picks up right where the last one left off–and the filmmakers assume you’ve seen the last one, Casino Royale. They don’t rehash everything about White, Vesper, Le Chiffre, or “the organization”; they refer and allude and move on.

I enjoyed it. Despite having more action than Casino Royale did, QOS is actually one of the more subtle and thoughtful 007 flicks (if such a thing exists). You don’t see every kill on screen. You don’t hear every conversation. You don’t get every question answered. You only get a hint of what that bad guys are up to, and they barely even mention the name of the organization, “Quantum.” Perhaps best of all, they don’t bother to explain the title—they trust the viewer to figure it out.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. They obviously named the bad guys “Quantum” to match the title—which was totally unnecessary, and distracts the viewer from the real meaning of the title. The producers should have come up with a different name, such as… oh, I don’t know, SPECTRE? Since that’s clearly what Quantum is supposed to be? The Broccoli family needs to shell out some bucks so they can use SPECTRE again. Then the next movie can open with the villains having a meeting where the first order of business is re-branding. Number One can execute one of his underlings for purchasing thousands of new business cards with the wrong watermark.

The featured baddie was one Mr. Greene, smarmy and diabolical without being psychotic or cartoonish, but it was clear that even he was only one small part of Quantum. We only got a glimpse of the rest of the organization; Bond flushes them out at a viewing of Tosca (a scene that was probably the most artistic piece in any Bond movie), and then they disappear.

Speaking of the artistry, I liked most of the graphic effects by MK12. The moving font in the title sequence was cool. The title sequence itself was a nice return to good old-fashioned naked women squirming around as bullets fly all over the place and silhouettes fall from the sky. I liked the stylized title cards for each new location. I loved the different colored subtitles when the cabbie was speaking Spanish and Mathis was speaking Italian—yes, it’s a crack in the fourth wall, but I laughed when I saw it.

I don’t remember any of the silly lines we’ve come to expect in Bond movies thanks to the Moore and Brosnan films. In fact, Bond is robbed of a cheap joke at Agent Fields’ expense, because her ridiculous first name (Strawberry) isn’t revealed until the closing credits. I liked “Don’t bleed to death.” Bond’s take on Fields’ cover story and his line about finding the stationery reminded me of Fleming’s novels, where the humor was wry and dry.

The music was fine. I barely noticed the score, which means it didn’t hurt the movie. I think the highlight is a cool little piece at the end of the closing credits called “Crawl, End Crawl” by Four Tet. It’s a remix of parts of the score, and makes for good walkin’-outta-the-theatre music. But the title song? Well, I can appreciate that they tried to carry over some motifs from “You Know My Name,” but it sounds like Jack White and Alicia Keys are singing karaoke. They should’ve just left out the vocals and gone instrumental. Actually, I’ve heard the theme song from the QOSvideo game; it sounds better than White and Keys, and it fits the theme of the movie a bit better.

One major complaint: I hated a couple of the action sequences because I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on. Sure, I knew that there was a car chase, or that Bond was chasing Mitchell, or that there was a fight—but Forster needs to hold the camera further back so that I can actually make spatial sense of the action. Yeah, I know, the lightning-fast cuts are exciting and reflect the speed and confusion of the fight, but it made the movie less enjoyable to me.

And another thing: I can accept that the filmmakers tinkered with the gunbarrel sequence at the beginning of Casino Royale. However, going two consecutive movies without the gunbarrel sequence is tempting fate. Those two white dots and that gunbarrel are supposed to trumpet the arrival of roughly two hours of Bondian awesomeness. What MK12 did to it at the end of this movie seemed more fitting for a video game or an advertisement. For the next one, just put it back where it belongs at the beginning of the film and no one will get hurt.

There’s plenty more to be said, but it’s late, so I’ll close on an underwhelming note of approval: I half-expected to walk out of this movie feeling suicidal, like I did after seeing Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day. That didn’t happen, so Quantum of Solace was good enough that I didn’t question the purpose of my own existence. It wasn’t as good as Casino Royale, but this fan of the Fleming novels (i.e., I) thought it was still pretty durn good. It’ll hold me over for the next two years.


  1. 4B Says:

    Happy birthday Mr.V!!!
    Don’t forget to study that Econ!!

    November 23rd, 2008 at 4:09 pm
  2. Mr. Ugamoogahumbabanoonga Says:

    By “shaken not stirred”, are you referring to the rap by Kevin Gnappor from ‘mean girls’?

    December 3rd, 2008 at 7:06 pm

On The Dark Knight, part two.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and do not wish to have any clue or hint revealed unto you, don’t read this post.

The more I think about this movie, the more I think of edits that could have made it better (in my humble, non-Oscar-winning, never-been-trusted-with-a-$185-million-budget-and-delivered-a-great-movie opinion), and the more I marvel at Lucius Fox’s moral/ethical code. To wit:

Providing material support to a vigilante? Okay.

Providing material support to a vigilante who violates the law? That’s fine.

Providing material support to a vigilante who violates the law and illegally arrests other vigilantes? No problem.

Providing material support to a vigilante who violates the law and illegally arrests other vigilantes and works with a police division whose stated policy is to arrest him? Kosher.

Providing material support to a vigilante who violates the law and illegally arrests other vigilantes and works with a police division whose stated policy is to arrest him and kidnaps foreign nationals? Hey, you do what you have to.

Providing material support to a vigilante who violates the law and illegally arrests other vigilantes and works with a police division whose stated policy is to arrest him and kidnaps foreign nationals and defrauds the investors in Wayne Enterprises? Look, do you want Gotham to be overrun by terrorists or not?

Providing material support to a vigilante who violates the law and illegally arrests other vigilantes and works with a police division whose stated policy is to arrest him and kidnaps foreign nationals and defrauds the investors in Wayne Enterprises and beats detainees in efforts to coerce information? Lives are at stake, here, man. The world is a hard place, and evil must be defeated.

But working with DOD to use cell phone signals to sniff out the Joker before he kills several hundred people?

Wrong. Immoral. Unforgivable. That’s where the line must be drawn. The only right thing to do is tender your resignation.

Okay, do it just this once, but never again. Destroy the machinery. After all, what are the odds it would ever come in handy again? This is Gotham.

It reminds me of high school. Of all the civil liberties, the time-honored right to use a cell phone is held most dear.


  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:

    I have not seen the movie, but quasi-spoilers ahead since I read the redacted portions:

    So, is this typical Hollywood? Civil liberties can be violated left and right as long as it’s not the government doing it?

    There seems to be a theme here – one man standing up against the System can do whatever he wants. As soon as the government uses similar tactics, it is bad and evil.

    I’m as skeptical of big government as any good right-of-center person should be. However, the same protections should apply to individuals infringing upon the rights of other individuals. Sorry, Dom, I’m going to offer that statement without defending it.

    August 13th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

  • Vincent Viscariello Says:

    I’m not sure why you’re apologizing (probably because I’m dead tired). Are you suggesting that individuals who violate others’ rights should be protected, given probable cause that a crime is imminent or was committed? Or are you suggesting that individuals rights should be protected from being violated by other individuals? If it’s the latter, then you’re crazy–how else could Batman save us?

    I wasn’t really making government infringment of civil liberties the point (after all, the D.A. and the police themselves abet Batman, right?). It’s the cell phones. For God’s sake, don’t mess with people’s cell phones. Has any other invention ever become such an inviolable element of the self so quickly?

    August 13th, 2008 at 10:49 pm


  • Asim Abbasi Says:

    Speaking of individual liberties and the inviolable element of the self, I just thought of a great quote that is missing on your front-page.

    “I put my pants on, just like the rest of you, one leg at a time. Except once my pants are on, I make gold records.” (Christopher Walken as Bruce Dickinson on Saturday Night Live)

  • August 15th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    On The Dark Knight.

    WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and do not wish to have any clue or hint revealed unto you, don’t read this post.

    ADDENDUM TO WARNING: Thanks to a new plug-in, I can now hide text with the “spoiler tag.” If you want to read the spoiler text, move yer mouse cursor over the hidden area. I don’t think I give away too much here, but I want to try out the spoiler tag anyways.

    Since Batman Begins Again has already been reviewed to death, I’ll make but a view comments…

    1. Forget the sympathy vote–Heath Ledger legitimately deserves an Oscar nomination. His may have been the best interpretation of the Joker that I’ve seen or read.

    2. Chris Nolan might get nominated for Best Director. I think he’d deserve it, but I don’t know how many would agree. Aaron Eckhart might deserve an Oscar nod as well. Every actor in this movie was great–or at least good enough that their mediocrity didn’t stand out amongst the surrounding awesomeness.

    3. Nolan and David Goyer might get a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay. There I was in the theater, enjoying a perfectly good film, and then came a twist that absolutely dropped my jaw. Blew me away. Made everything that had happened so far seem like a warmup. That doesn’t happen often in movies. I won’t discuss the twist aside from saying that it reminded me of how the writers of Star Trek II handled the rumors of Spock’s death: they faked the audience out early. That may not make sense if you don’t know that story, and it may not seem worthy of unveiling this newfangled “spoiler tag,” but I had to break it in at some point.

    4. Heck, I’ll use it again now. My only complaint about The Dark Knight (for now; I’ve only seen it once so far): I thought the editing could have been much better. It felt rushed at times, like I was watching a trailer for the movie instead of the movie itself. In stageplays, in television, in movies there are certain moments that need time to sink in. Sometimes we need to spend a few extra seconds watching a character ponder an idea or absorb a feeling before cutting to the next scene, or to the next line in a given scene. I think there were several scenes here and there that should have been just a little bit longer than they were–as little as two or three seconds, so we could really see the wheels turning in Bruce’s (or Harvey’s, or Gordon’s) head as he mulled his next move. The reactions were the right reactions for the characters and their circumstances–it’s just that the reactions came too quickly, almost mechanically. The perfect example of this came at the veddy veddy end–I won’t be any more specific, even with the spoiler tag.

    To correct this would mean making the movie even longer… which would be fine by me. Where would you find the extra 10-15 minutes necessary to make the movie irreparably perfect? Simple: cut out the trailers–except those for Quantum of Solaceand WatchmenHoly crap, the Watchmen trailer was awesome. It looked good enough to warrant its own journal entry; it looked good enough that Alan Moore might entertain the thought of letting them put his name on it, even if only for the briefest fraction of a second; it looked good enough that I might not make it out of the theater next March if it disappoints. Here’s how good it looked: I mentioned the Bond trailer only in passing.

    Anyhow, back to Batman. I’d love to discuss the ethical, moral and political implications of the film, but I’ll have to wait until everyone’s seen it, which should occur sometime in the middle of next week.

    In short, this movie was so good that now I’m depressed because I don’t see how the next one can be as good, never mind better. I hope the producers ensure that Nolan comes back for a third movie, and they take their time making the next one… this one’s going to be damn tough to top.


    1. Andy Says:

    ** Spoilers below, you’ve been warned **

    I concur, what a fantastic movie. I had no clue where things were going, and several times during the movie I felt that ‘wow, that was great…I guess they are going to start wrapping it up now’ and then a new subplot would develop. This movie makes Tim Burton’s Batman seem so one-dimensional and hokey, and I like that movie! I sure hope that talented auteurs like Christopher Nolan keep getting chances to make adult-oriented FILMS that just happen to have superheroes. This movie is deep man…most superhero movies deal with the villian just bent on destruction and killing lots of people. Not this one…while the Joker does indeed like killing people, his ultimate plan is to just kill a select (important) few and then drive the rest towards total anarchy. Harvey Dent is such a crucial figure in this story; I never would have guessed but he is the pivot point of the whole movie. Batman’s belief in him and what he stands for leads to him making two BIG decisions, one of which makes his life as Bruce Wayne miserable and one of which makes his life as Batman miserable.

    The Joker is SMART and people just keep getting complacent because he acts like a madman. This is a villian worthy of a smart, ruthless Batman and he is one step ahead of Batman pretty much the whole movie.

    Best moments:
    1) The disappearing pencil
    2) The swinging dead fake Batman
    3) The Batman interrogation of the Joker…
    4) …followed quickly by Batman’s decision.
    5) Tiny Lister’s scene
    6) That freaky distorted tone that would always play right before the Joker did something ‘Joker-ish’.

    July 19th, 2008 at 11:22 am

    1. Loopy..yes me!! Says:

    Hey you jerk!

    Did Chip tell you I am getting married? Oh yeah I graduated and may or may not be working for HAbitat for Humanity as a all around video lackey.

    hit me up.

    To quote Mr. D.F. Jackson “All I’m sayin’ is…” While I haven’t seen This new Batman movie it cant be as good as Iron Man.

    Just sayin.

    July 22nd, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    1. Vincent Viscariello Says:

    I haven’t seen Iron Man, but I suggest you tread lightly nonetheless.

    Congratulations on yer impending nuptuals… wait, it’s not Wendy, is it? You know Wendy?

    July 22nd, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    1. Asim Abbasi Says:

    **** More Spoiler Warnings – Do Not Continue If You Haven’t Watched This Movie ****

    Some excellent observations, Dom and Andy. This was definitely a movie which is very dense in terms of storyline/plot, visuals and themes. It’s going to take at least a couple of viewings (perhaps, not in the theater though) to absorb it completely.

    Dom: good point about that twist in the middle of the movie. When Batman makes that choice about who to save, I was expecting a wind-down with the end of the movie. But then, the Nolans ramp it up and introduce a second villain. Having stayed away from any news or information about this movie in the media, I originally thought that Harvey Dent was going to become Two-Face at the end of the movie: but Two-Face had his own complete storyline. I agree with Andy: this movie might have been about Harvey Dent/Two-Face with Batman and Joker fighting around him, each trying to convince him to remain good/become evil.

    Andy, I agree with you about that discordant tone that plays in the background right before the Joker does something really really really bad: very eerie and very cool.

    Oh, and the other reason to watch this movie multiple times is that my friend Chris from Chicago (who you’ve met, Dom) was with his wife in one of the parade scenes.

    The question I have for you though, is what choice Michael Keaton’s Batman would have made if faced between saving his girl versus Harvey Dent?

    July 25th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    1. yeah Says:

    I would have to agree with all of your Oscar suggestions there, particularly the screenplay one. I watch more movies than is probably healthy and am fairly current with my Marvel/DC canon… that being said, I thought “Holy crap, WTF?” on more than one occasion during my viewing experience. I look forward to reading your interpreted social/political/ethical ramifications/implications on the movie, because God knows it was full of them.

    July 26th, 2008 at 2:17 am

    1. Loopy..yes me!! Says:

    NO not Wendy, her name is Fred and she works at our local Big Lots as a bag boy….er girl.

    Surriusly, her name is MAggie and she is super rad.

    I have to talk to you about this phone conversation I had a week ago, you will laugh.

    July 29th, 2008 at 2:12 am

    On Quantum of Solace, part one.

    They’ve announced the title of the next 007 flick: Quantum of Solace. It’s an interesting choice, because it was the title of a short story that had nothing to do with spies, explosions, gadgets, or any of the staples of the James Bond series. In fact, his only involvement is as part of the frame story: a seemingly boring old man tells Bond a seemingly boring story–but after hearing it, Bond thinks his own adventures trite.

    It is one of my favorite stories of all time, and certainly my favorite Ian Fleming story. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Fleming novels, but generally they’re just better-than-average adventure stories. Like a critic said, he churned those books out at a rate of about one and a half per year, and you could read them at a rate of about one and a half per night. But “Quantum of Solace” was different; it showed that Fleming had real insight into the nature of relationships, abusiveness, forgiveness, and how cruel even the most innocent of us can be. It showed that he could write more than mere pulp.

    It will be interesting to see how they fit those themes into the movie, if they even bother trying. More likely they’ll just use the title. And here’s hoping they continue the one-movie-old tradition of not trying to cram the movie title into the theme song lyrics.

    Part Two of this article will be out the day after the movie premieres in November.

    On The Simpsons Movie.

    SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know oh come on. The show’s been on forever, which means that you’ve essentially already seen this movie.

    Once upon a time, there was a very funny TV show called The Simpsons. It was well-written, clever yet unpretentious, and was always good for at least one bout of hysterical, side-splitting laughter per episode.

    A show by the same name is still on the air, but for the last several years, it hasn’t been funny. They started making episodes that I could smirk at, or maybe chuckle at if I stretched it, but none that would elicit a good belly laugh. There were rarely any jokes worth remembering, much less telling anyone about at work the next day. There were so many guest stars occupying so much screentime that the show came to resemble Scooby Doo—which was never known for its wit. I could go on and on about how badly The Simpsons has sucked during this millennium, but I’d like to address the movie.

    The movie was good; far better than the show’s been in years. It had a few touching moments. There were several moments that made me laugh out loud. There were hardly any guest stars, and they were almost negligible. It was absolutely worth seeing in the theater; in fact, some of the gags are funniest seen in a theater.

    That said, there were a few moments that, to me, would seem more at home in a South Park show or movie rather than a Simpsons production (specifically: Bart’s privates, Homer’s fingers, Otto’s drug use, Marge’s “G-d damn”). Why? The Simpsons (at least, back when I watched regularly) was rarely, if ever, vulgar or harsh–rather, it was suggestive and sly. Perfect example from an old episode: Homer is suddenly infuriated and asks the kids to step outside. They scurry away in fear. Homer takes a deep breath, brings his lower lip back to his top teeth, begins to say, “Fffff–” and is cut off by the blast of the church’s organ pipes as birds fly away from the house. The town comes to a halt. It was hilarious.

    On the other hand, South Park is deliberately harsh and vulgar in its satire–in fact, vulgarity is often a major plot point (see the movie or the “Words of Curse” episode). When they want to get something past the TV censors, they’ll merely use black bars, blurring, and bleeps. The creators of South Park simply would’ve had Homer say the “F-Word” and bleeped it out. No organ pipes. No birds. No shocked onlookers. No cleverly placed fig leafs, so to speak.

    But I nitpick. The Simpsons Movie was fun. It was good to once again watch these characters in action and actually laugh, rather than pray for the show’s swift and merciful cancellation.

    My God, the Celtics might actually be good again before I die. Please let this trade go through.

    2 Responses to “On The Simpsons Movie.”

    1. Andrew Jackson Says:
      August 9th, 2007 at 9:23 AMAye, indeed.

      I must proclaime, however, that the funniest gag was the “Titanic”-inspired sinking of the Green Day concert barge.

    2. VDV Says:
      August 9th, 2007 at 3:49 PMThat was amusing.

      I noticed that in one scene where the townsfolk were looking up at something, one of the mayor’s girlfriends/secretaries/whatevers was dressed and posed as Raquel Welch from One Million Years B.C., a.k.a. the chick from Andy’s last poster in The Shawshank Redemption.

    Regarding humanity’s role on this planet.

    About two months ago, I wrote that “Humans are more important than all other living things combined and multiplied by a bazillion.” Well, a lot’s happened since then. After watching and reading about all the hoopla leading up to last weeks’ major media event, I am ashamedly forced to admit that I was wrong, and that I’ve been wrong all along about how mankind relates to other life on this Earth.

    Humans are not as important as Transformers.

    SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know that the Autobots emerge victorious over the Decepticons, stop reading now.

    I am not alone in having denied this fundamental truth for too long—Michael Bay is just as guilty. At first, I thought he’d be the ideal director for a movie that should have been nothing but gigantic robots fighting and blasting the living daylights out of everything. But he managed to screw it up. Here’s how:

    There were too many humans in this movie. I didn’t care about the humans, and I didn’t want to care about the humans. The humans should have been doing nothing other than screaming and trying not to get smooshed by the fighting gigantic robots. Instead, we got what seemed like only 45 minutes or so of action, and 100 minutes of blah blah blah trying to justify the action.

    Michael Bay should understand by now that things like screenwriting, plot, theme, and character development are not his strong points, and thus he should avoid them. As a favor to him—should he look into making a Director’s Cut of this movie—I’ve done a little editing and fine-tuned the human dialogue for him.

    Here’s Transformers as written by Vincent Viscariello:

    And then a quick cut to 172 minutes of battle scenes, starting off with Blackout wiping out the army. Then Bumblebee fights Blackout. Then Scorponok jumps in. Then the rest of the Autobots and Decepticons jump in. Transformers fight and chase each other all over the place, with battles in the following locations: New York City, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, Mount Vesuvius as it’s erupting, Siberia, Area 51, the Amazon Rain Forest, the Grand Canyon, the Arctic Circle, Antarctica, the Moon, and on the surface of Halley’s Comet. Transformers trash-talk each other incessantly, with lines flat-out stolen from kung fu movies, professional wrestling, and Superman II (e.g., “Come to me, Prime! I defy you! KNEEEEL before Megatron!”).

    Optimus Prime and Megatron square off early in the action, with Prime losing and narrowly escaping death. Starscream tries to overthrow Megatron, fails, and weasels his way back into Megatron’s good graces. Ironhide gives Prime an inspirational speech stolen from any Rocky movie. Prime tracks down Megatron and defeats him in a deafening 27-minute battle so jaw-droppingly, saliva-droolingly, eyeballs-drying-out-because-if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-somethingly awesome that they retire the Academy Award for Special Effects. The End of what would have been the greatest movie ever.

    Really, Mike, writing this film shouldn’t have been that difficult. Call me when it’s sequel time, I work cheap.

    4 Responses to “Regarding humanity’s role on this planet.”

    1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
      July 11th, 2007 at 6:41 AMI believe that I said at NIT (Nurse-in-training) Hmnahmna’s apt that I was excited about a Transformers movie until I saw that Michael Bay was the director. Then I knew it was going to suck.

      Now here’s a QUALITY Transformers movie. Yes, kids, this movie starred the voice talents of Leonard Nemoy, Orson Welles, Eric Idle, Robert Stack, and Judd Nelson, with a rockin’ 80s soundtrack!

    2. twink Says:
      July 13th, 2007 at 6:53 PMSorry, but it’s taken over the number 2 spot on Twink’s favorite movies list. My only issue was that they never once said “Autobots… TRANSFORM”.
    3. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
      July 14th, 2007 at 8:56 AMAnd here’s another Transformer that was apparently cut from the movie . . .

    4. aabrock Says:
      July 21st, 2007 at 4:52 PMSo I saw it last night…initial reactions:

      1) Agree with Dom, too many people talking and not enough Transformer battles. However, this may be because most of the battles become confusing and hard to tell who was who. For instance, I had to wait for the end speech to realize the identity of the dead Autobot.

      2) Not that it mattered, as the Autobots were given nearly ZERO personality so I really didn’t care too much.

      3) Megatron is a big gun, not a plane. We have a plane already. Starscream. The most awesome Transformer ever.

      4) Starscream is the most awesome Transformer ever. But I had to wait until the final battle before he even shows up? Weak. At least he lived to fight and then run away another day.

      5) Optimus Prime was incredibly cool and the original voice was a master stroke.

      6) I cannot recall a performance so incredibly annoying and yet likable as Shia Labeouf’s turn as Spike.

      7) Bumblebee’s lubricant. Why????

      8) No human can utter the phrase “I am not leaving without Bumblebee” without sounding completely ridiculous.

      9) John Turturro’s character was hilarious.

      10) As a general note, it sucks that these 100+ million dollar movie franchises WASTE a good portion of the first movie with exposition.

      11) Most of these are minor quibbles, I really enjoyed the movie and look forward to the next one.

    On Casino Royale.

    WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and do not wish to have certain elements of the plot revealed to you, don’t read this post. I mean it.

    ADDITIONAL WARNING: If you haven’t seen the movie yet and have no intention of doing so, I hate you.

    When I was ten, I began reading the James Bond novels, in as close to the correct order as I could manage. That meant starting with Casino Royale—the only one of Ian Fleming’s novels that hadn’t been made into a real movie.

    Technically, it had been put on film twice, first as a one-hour television special back in the 1954, with Barry Nelson as an American “Card Sense Jimmy Bond” and Peter Lorre as LeChiffre. Aside from having the best-cast Bond villain ever, it was forgettable. The second production was the 1967 comedy with Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, JacquelineBisset, Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen, and a Burt Bacharach theme—you can imagine how that turned out.

    But for years, the people that made the real Bond movies did not own the rights to Casino Royale, and Bond cinematic canon would remain incomplete… until last week.

    Did I like it?

    Well… Let’s just say that my biggest complaint was that I didn’t like the rifling inside the gunbarrel in the famous motion logo.

    Aside from that, great flick. This was the movie I’d literally been waiting twenty years for.

    For starters, it was closer to the source material than any Bond movie since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The novel’s plot was almost totally intact. The writers changed the bad guys (it’s 2006; SMERSH and the Soviets are no more), added an hour or so of background and a cliffhanger to lead in to the next movie. The only thing noticeably absent was Bond’s flirtation with relativism during his convalescence, before being abruptly snapped back into the reality of the Cold War.

    I must humbly apologize for my October 2005 post suggesting that Daniel Craig might be a wuss. In that post I wrote, “Bond is supposed to be a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, mildly cruel, womanizing badass.” I don’t remember seeing any cigarettes in the movie, but Craig nailed the rest. Maybe it’s unfair that Brosnan, Dalton, and Moore didn’t have the benefit of great writing and a shot at character development like Craig did, but too bad. Craig is the best Bond since Connery, period.

    I did not, as feared, have any difficulty telling the two major Bond girls apart, because the first one was dead before the second one was even on screen. Nice and easy. Vesper was beautiful and vulnerable, Solange was available and disposable. Vesper was also a step or two ahead of Bond… just like she was supposed to be.

    Mads Mikkelsen was great as Le Chiffre; an evil, amoral, cruel, nervous, desperate middleman, the link to a greater evil: Mr. White’s anonymous employer. Mr. White was good as the stand-in for the novel’s SMERSH agent. But the last time we saw the SMERSH agent, he was carving Cyrillic letters into Bond’s hand and walking away—Mr. White was not quite as fortunate.

    I’d heard that there wouldn’t be much action in this movie. Wrong. The fight scenes were brutal. The free-running at the construction site was jaw-dropping. The airport chase was pretty good, and Bond’s smirk at the end was classic. The building collapse in Venice was an interesting way to go after the bad guys, and was capped by the closest thing to a tender scene you’ll ever see in a Bond flick.

    I’d also heard that there were no gadgets. That’s not totally accurate, because it turns out that having a biometric tracker in your arm and a defibrillator in your glove compartment can come in pretty damned handy.

    I’m shocked that they included the torture scene—I thought for sure that the producers would weasel their way out of that one. But they stayed true to the novel there, too. I was cringing the whole time, but at least it wasn’t a real carpet-beater. I will say that as much as I loved this movie, it’s disgraceful that it wasn’t rated R. That scene did not belong anywhere near a PG-13 movie. If Licence to Kill was an R, then this was an R.

    Now, to evaluate the staples of the Bond movies:

    Pre-credit sequence: pretty good. The most original one we’ve seen, for several reasons: it was the first black-and-white action we’ve seen in Bond movies, the first use of flashback, the first time the gunbarrel motion logo was at the end rather than the beginning, and it was Bond’s veddy firstest mission.

    Credit sequence: cool, different. I liked the playing-card motif better than the scorpion motif from Die Another Day, or the oil motif from The World is Not Enough, or the transparent-plastic-water-pistol-lookin’ crap from Tomorrow Never Dies. I liked the brief flash of Vesper’s face.

    Title song: whatever complaints you may have about Chris Cornell’s song, let’s just be thankful that they didn’t try to cram the movie title into the lyrics. It’s an okay song, and certainly better than that Madonna abomination from the last film.

    “Shaken, not stirred”: nice little change-up, though I think it slipped right past the audience.

    “Bond, James Bond”: near-perfect application of the line. Mr. White is in an awful lot of trouble.

    Aston Martin: cool car; I love that he won it in a card game, but did I see correctly that the steering wheel was on the left side? That’s wrong.

    “M”: I think they should’ve gone with a new M, since they recast everyone else. But I did like the somewhat motherly treatment of Bond; it mirrors M’s fatherly treatment of Bond in the novels. I also liked the reveal that M is an initial rather than a standard code. The original M was Admiral Sir Miles Messervy.

    When I watch a movie, I usually think about what they could have done to make me like the movie better. With Casino Royale, I’m hard-pressed. It was just about as good as it could have possibly been. I would’ve liked to see them make a poster in the style of the Signet paperbacks, or similar to Fleming’s own design for the hardcover—that would’ve been cool.

    I was thrilled that this movie was finally going to be made, and I’m thrilled that they made it as well as they did. Here’s hoping that they put the same effort into the next one.

    2 Responses to “On Casino Royale.”

    1. aabrock Says:
      December 8th, 2006 at 1:15 PM

    Finally saw it…thought it was great. As some of you may know, I have totally burnt out on the Bond movies that place the survival of the human race and/or world financial system on the line so thank goodness we have a more realistic (!) plot with a serious James Bond. To add further fuel to the fire, I think both of the Dalton movies are excellent partly due to Dalton playing the role as serious as Moore played it hammy, and the plots were smaller in scale. Especially “License to Kill”, which has taken ‘carpet beater’ treatment by most of the people with whom I discuss it.

    But back to Casino Royale…I come at it from a different perspective because I never read the book, although I did watch the two film incarnations (totally forgettable, and I mean that as I have absolutely no recollection of them anymore). I’ll be seeing it again, but the comments I have for now are:

    Worst things first:
    – Horrid title sequence…the song, the card theme, ugh. Did not like it.
    – Vesper at the end in the elevator…probably the most graphic depiction of a person drowning I have ever seen, very disturbing but then that is my problem.
    – That’s about it

    Great things:
    – Daniel Craig as serious, impulsive, non-omnipotent Bond
    – Vesper’s (what a cool name) character development – when Bond said ‘Please, allow me’ I didn’t think there could be anything to make me sympathic towards her again, but I found myself feeling sorry for her anyway.
    – The whole Bond-parkour sequence at the construction site. Slick. If you like this kind of thing, check out Luc Besson’s ‘District B13′.
    – The atypical ending…what happens at the end of EVERY other Bond movie (except for the second best Bond movie OHMSS)?
    – “Yes, considerably” – that is my kind of Bond, in a nutshell

    1. gatorbob Says:
      December 11th, 2006 at 5:34 PM

    I agree – best Bond in yonks. I never doubted that Craig had the chops because I’d seen him a lot of British films. Best bet – check out “Layer Cake,” which got a limited release last year. But avoid “The Mother,” in which Daniel hooks up with a septugenarian widow. Blech!

    “Why is there one red star on the ceiling?”

    On Wednesday, I watched Superman Returns. It was an absolutely wonderful movie.

    When that familiar, triumphant John Williams score opened the movie, when those electric blue-outlined credits started whooshing past the screen, I was five years old all over again: back in Mrs. Elmes’s kindergarten class on Movie Day, watching Christopher Reeve defeat Zod, Non and Ursa; running around my house in Manassas wearing Superman Underoos and a red cape; flying my Superman action figure around the three-foot wooden Fortress of Solitude my dad built for me.

    Hearing little kids in the audience react to the movie made me realize that I can’t wait to show this movie to my own children, and show them the first two movies, and explain the red star, and explain why Don Corleone is in the walls, and so on.

    This movie achieves what George Lucas hoped to achieve with the Star Wars prequels: fleshing out a modern-day mythology, and introducing it to a new generation—of course, Superman Returns has an advantage in this department because it didn’t suck. I wonder whether Joseph Campbell would have used different movies as references in The Power of Myth if he had known how bad the prequels would be.

    It is reverently reminiscent of older Superman productions: movies, comic book covers, even the George Reeves TV show–that’s the 1953 Lois Lane as Gertrude and the 1953 Jimmy Olsen as the bartender. It picks up where Superman II left off, and mercifully ignores III and IV. Seriously, you can forget that those abominations ever happened. “Good Clark versus Evil Superman in Garbage Dump” never happened. “Superman versus Nuclear Man while Destroying All Nukes” never happened.

    The acting was good all around. I was a little worried that some of the choices (that means you, Miss Bosworth) were risky, but after seeing the movie, I’d take the new Lois, Jimmy and Perry over the old ones. Brandon Routh is good enough as Superman and Clark, and there were times when it was like watching Christopher Reeve. Kevin Spacey was sardonic, charismatic and diabolical as Luthor. I think he was better than Gene Hackman, for two reasons: Spacey didn’t wear the silly wigs throughout the movie like Hackman did, and Hackmanhad to play Abbott to his henchman Otis’s Costello.

    Even so, in the first movie Gene did have one perfect moment of utter inhumanity that Spacey just didn’t match in this one. Lex has just told a helpless Superman that nuclear missiles are headed towards the San Andreas Fault and Hackensack, New Jersey. His girlfriend, Miss Tessmacher, overhears this, and says, “Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack.” Lex checks his watch, raises his eyes to Miss Tessmacher, shakes his head, and walks away. That’s it. What a bastard.

    Bryan Singer is an excellent director, and watching this movie reminded me that he was the biggest difference between the first two X-Men movies and the lamentable third one. He’s made great movies, and proven that he can be trusted with a $200 million budget. The special effects were Oscar-worthy—actually, I’m not sure that’s a compliment, so I’ll say that they were spectacular. Spectacular, but not overdone; sometimes the explosions, booms, zaps and pows were terrifically loud, and sometimes they were handled with just the right subtlety—e.g., the fiery landing of the spaceship in the beginning. Singer made the action scenes look and feel like Alex Ross paintings brought to life.

    Superman Returns has just the right mix of power and grace, action and romance, the familiar and the new. Please fork over your hard-earned money to see this film, that we might see even more like it.

    One Response to ““Why is there one red star on the ceiling?””

    1. aabrock Says:
      July 1st, 2006 at 8:36 PM

    Watched it today…I really enjoyed it. High points:
    – the 747 rescue…that was bloody AMAZING
    – James Mardsen…you really root for the guy and wish they could have found Cyclops something to do in the X-Men movies
    – the piano
    – the opening credits (if I were more up on my DC comic lore I am sure I would recognize some of the planets zooming by, Apokolips maybe?)
    – Superman in space listening to the world

    I really appreciated the homage to the first 2, but please chart new territory with Superman Returns II…bring on Brainiac or Darkseid. No Zod or Bizarro Superman! Perhaps the death of Superman arc…now that would pack a punch.