Finally! The newest, coolest flick of the year has arrived. Happy Feet stars Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johannson and a brave movie columnist in a Jack Daniels-induced game of strip-poker suddenly turned murder mystery. The four are at a remote tropical beach resort attending a butler convention and finding the killer proves quite daunting. Then zombies turn up… Oh, wait. That Happy Feet, doesn’t exist yet. The one that’s opening this week at the Village 8 is an animated flick about a little penguin that can’t sing to attract a mate so he adapts by dancing around and acting goofy. I don’t think there’s any Jack Daniels but it is a good cartoon with some pretty clever social-political messages about difference.
Sticking with primal male fantasies though, isn’t it about time for another Bond flick? Damn straight, and, after 20 previous 007 pictures, isn’t it time to go way back to the first Bond novel Ian Flemming ever wrote? And how about they toss in a brand new actor who’s tougher, grittier, and much more badass than any James Bond we’ve ever seen? Sounds good to me.
Introducing, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as a young Bond on his first big mission. This Bond is not a suave, polished, sexual predator like the 007s of old. Craig’s Bond is gritty, brutal, almost rude. He actually looks like a guy who could really smack the living hell out you then quickly jaunt downstairs and meet a hot chick for a drink. And this Bond doesn’t give a shit whether it’s shaken or stirred.
Casino Royale, truly is based on the original book, which focused on a climactic poker game between Bond and “Le Chiffre”, a subtle, drier Bond villain who funds terrorists for financial gain, not to take over the world. The second half of the film centres on the high stakes game, in which Bond is using government money and would be funding terrorists should he lose. Conversely, the first hour or so is action packed, including a rooftop chase sequence of “Partour”, that weird free-running thing where people jump and twist off all sorts of crap and climb walls and stuff. While the French are trying to pass it off as a sport it does work pretty well in the film, something new at least, (albeit somewhat Jackie Chan).
Is this the Americanization of James Bond? You bet, Britain’s manners, charm, and properness are replaced with brute force, blond hair, icy eyes, and a ripped physique. But is the Bond franchise better for it? Certainly. After 20 films (and two knock-offs) the same old stuff was getting pretty tired. What I’m looking forward to a few years down the road is The Bond vs. Bourne film, where 007 goes up against Jason Bourne (Matt Damon- Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy.) Hey, it almost worked for Freddy and the other Jason.
Back in the present, Royale’s 144-minute running time is a hindrance, as is the fact that much of the action is unexpected, popping up and explained later on, but all in all, this new Americanized James Bond actually goes a lot deeper into the character and we get to witness the Bond personality as it is being formed, including a love interest scene where an emotionally vulnerable Bond chooses the woman over the job.
From the film-noir styled opening scene down to the classic last line of the film, Casino Royale , with the raw, back-to-basics Bond is male fantasy at its best. It might not have Angelina but new Bond-girl Eva Green, who gets a more fully realized role as well, picks up the slack quite nicely. Hot enough to make a penguin dance, that girl. Happy Feet indeed.
At Village 8 Nov. 17-21: Casino Royale; Happy Feet; The Queen; Borat; Departed; Stranger than Fiction; Rushed Away; Nov. 22-23: Deck the Halls, Déjà vu; Casino Royale; Happy Feet; The Queen; Borat; Stranger than Fiction.