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Notes from the back row

Bond's newest birds and bombs

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Although Bond girls are the best, the original James Bond was really into birds. And I’m not trying to be clever with some cockney slang, I mean actual birds with beaks, wings and beady eyes.

James Bond was an American ornithologist who wrote the book “Birds of the West Indies.” Author Ian Fleming had a copy on hand at Goldeneye, his Jamaican estate, and chose the name because he was looking for a dull, plain sounding name for an exotic, exiting new hero. Since then, James Bond the MI6 super spy, has starred in 22 theatrical releases and some fans claim the last one, 2006’s Casino Royal , featuring Daniel Craig as a harder, tougher, blonder Bond, was the best.

Its sequel, Quantum of Solace , opens Friday at the Village 8 and it grieves me tremendously to report that although this film picks up mere hours after Casino Royale ends, this next chapter is not as good.

Which isn’t to say that the newest Bond is a total loss. You’re still dealing with a bad-ass JB out for revenge on whoever killed his love, Vesper Lynd. The usually suave Bond has no problems knifing people in the throat and tossing dudes off rooftops. As well, the film is chock full or action set pieces and car/boat/airplane/high crane chase sequences peppered by explosions and gunfire. Plus there are two new Bond girls, both hot, and a whole new organization of villains to hate on. So in many respects Bond is back, but there just isn’t that much of a story tying all this together, and that, ultimately, is James’ toughest foe.

Bond is out for revenge against a new, secretive and dangerous criminal organization and he chases it all over the globe, killing at will and pissing off his superiors back at MI6. That’s about as deep as the story gets. Director Marc Forster ( Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball) isn’t known as an action guy but he does a decent job with the exciting bits (a few of the action sequences are jumpy and a bit speedy) but he also injects some retro visual style and shots reminiscent of the old Sean Connery Bond movies.

Of the two new bond girls, Gemma Atherton brings the most spark and energy to the film, playing British Agent Fields, sent to keep an eye on James. Her performance really zings and is also a bit of a throwback to the old Bond. Stunningly gorgeous Olga Kurylenko, plays Camille, a new type of Bond girl, one with her own agenda and not afraid to get in the middle of things. Bond only nails one of them this time around but I’m not saying which.

Discerning movie goers will definitely notice parallels between Quantum’s man-of-few-words, revenge-driven James Bond and Jason Bourne from the Bourne Identity franchise and a few of the action scenes appear, lets say ‘heavily influenced’ by those we’ve seen Bourne do already. After Casino Royale I had high hopes for this one and was a bit let down with the lack of character, smart dialogue and exciting villains. This Bond ain’t the best, but it still easily beats any of the Timothy Dalton stuff.

The DVD of the week is a new one – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army . Director Guillermo Del Toro brings such imagination and creative visuals to his dark and moody super hero movie it makes most of Marvel’s flicks look like kiddie-fare for the kids with no imagination. The last Hulk movie sucked ass, this is how it should be done.

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