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Nick's Pics
Nick Nicholson
Film & Home Entertainment Critic
 

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.
 
CASINO ROYALE  

Casino Royale is based on Ian Flemin’s novel of the same name. Published in 1953, it was the first book in his James Bond series. This latest installment in the Bond franchise introduces Daniel Craig as the legendary secret agent, 007. Martin Campbell directs this picture, the 21st in the 44 year franchise.

Casino Royale introduces James Bond before he holds his license to kill dossier. But Bond is no less dangerous, and with two professional assassinations in quick succession, he is elevated to “00” status.

Bond’s first mission takes him to Madagascar, where he is to spy on a terrorist, Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan). Not everything goes to plan and Bond decides to investigate, independently of MI6, in order to track down the rest of the terrorist cell. Following a lead to the Bahamas, he encounters Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) and his girlfriend, Solange (Caterina Murnino). He learns that Dimitrios is involved with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the wold terror organizations.

Secret Service intelligence reveals that Le Chiffre is planning to raise money in a high stakes poker game in Montenegro at Le Casino Royale. MI6 assigns 007 to play against him, knowing that if Le Chiffre loses, it will destroy his organization.

“M” (Judi Dench) places Bond under the watchful eye of the beguiling Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). At first skeptical of what value Vesper can provide, Bond’s interest in her deepends as they brave danger together and even torture at the hands of Le Chiffre.

In Montenegro, Bond allies himself with Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), MI6’s local field agent, and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who is representing the interests of the CIA. The marathon game proceeds with dirty tricks and violence, raising the stakes beyond blood money and reaches a terrifying climax.

Forget everything you have heard about Daniel Craig and his perceived shortcomings regarding the James Bond franchise. Craig definitely hits the nail on the head in this role. The acting is magnificent. Whether blond hair and blue eyed or not, Daniel Craig is unquestionably on par with Sean Connery as our beloved James Bond returns. You know what? Craig might actually be better than the original!

Casino Royale Starring: Daniel Craig & Eva Green Director: Martin Campbell Company: Sony Now Showing: In area Theatres MPAA Rating - PG-13 Grade: A.


DVD Picks

BODY HEAT - Warner

As a lawyer, Ned Racine (William Hurt) is a disaster, the type of well-meaning shyster who will find some way to screw up even the simplest case. But he’s also a strapping, handsome lad who makes up in bedroom talents what he lacks in courtroom skills. He’s not terribly bright, but, then, he doesn’t need to be. For unhappy, wealthy housewife Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), that this hot babe is kind of a shambling wreck makes him the perfect lover. As for what he sees in her, there’s the sultry voice, the long legs, and the flawless body. Mutual lust and a hidden agenda mix explosively when these two hook up during a Florida heat wave, and it’s what propels Lawrence Kasdan’s sensual neo-noir Body Heat. Twenty-five years after Hurt and Turner steamed up movie theaters with their incendiary chemistry, the movie is out in a new special edition DVD, poised to seduce a new generation of film buffs. This movie is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the transfer is quite good. There are numerous extras included in this package that simply aren’t to be missed. Check this dvd out today.

THE MALTESE FALCON - Warner

In many respects, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon was the first film noir picture. This 1941 masterpiece represents a true American art form. Falcon stars Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Mary Astor in this classic whodunit story. Sam Spade (Bogart) is a partner in a private-eye firm who finds himself hounded by police when his partner is killed whilst tailing a man. The girl who asked him to follow the man turns out not to be who she says she is, and is really involved in something to do with the ‘Maltese Falcon’, a gold-encrusted life-sized statue of a falcon, the only one of its kind. This three disc special edition has been cleaned up for all to enjoy. There are numerous extras included in this set that are absolutely invaluable.

GUNSMOKE - Paramount

Marshal Matt Dillon is in charge of Dodge City, a town in the Wild West where people often have no respect for the law. He deals on a daily basis with the problems associated with frontier life: cattle rustling, gunfights, brawls, stand over tactics, and land fraud. Such situations call for sound judgment and brave actions: of which Marshal Dillon has plenty. Gunsmoke is one of those classic Westerns that you just can’t help but love. Spanning almost two decades and entertaining countless millions of viewers, this show ranks in the “Lexus” classic of Prime Time classic TV. James Arness is Marshall Matt Dillon keeping order in the town of Dodge City with his trusty sidekick, Chester played by Dennis Weaver. Later in the series Ken Curtis would replace Chester in the role of Festus Haggen. The whole cast is brilliantly chosen with Amanda Blake as Kitty Russell and Milburn Stone as Dr. Adams. The stories are all entertaining containing all of the ingredients necessary for a great Western. This is show suited for the whole family. Where the mini-series “Deadwood” shows you the true gritty West with all of its realism, Gunsmoke lightens the “reality” and replaces it with good, clean entertainment.

The DVD Director’s Collection spans the twenty seasons of the show with one or two episodes per season complete with commentary and radio spots. The previous two volume set released last year does not contain the same episodes making for a more complete series. 15 episodes make up this collection with bonus features including Radio Broadcasts for various episodes, Amanda Blake interviews, soundtrack information and a “Have Gun-Will Travel” clip with Ken Curtis. All three volumes have attractive artwork and an episode synopsis. Article by Richard Maher.

FREAK OUT - Anchor Bay

Shawn of the Dead, this is not. I had high hopes for this British spoof, but Freak Out fails at an attempt to even meet the low standard set by the U.S. teen comedy horror films such as the Scary Movie Trilogy. Packed with countless classic and modern horror movie situations and scenes, the film is somewhat witty. Merv (James Heathcote) is a hapless horror film junky. This nerd spends his free time split between scaring children at the video store and creating lame excuses to ignore the remotely attractive video store clerk who has a crush on him. Merv and his sidekick, Onkey (Dan Palmer), stumble upon a mental institution run away. Unfortunately for them, their new find is less than scary... and is in fact a vegetarian. After much toil and pointless plot development, the dangerous duo turn their new subject into a raving homicidal maniac in just under a week.

Needless to say, they were not the model for “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” as the town is literally butchered before them. In the end, as corny as conceivably possible, they reign victorious over the “monster” they created. Shamelessly lame jokes, British wit, and some originality push this film just above tolerable. I was hoping for a fresh witty version of Shawn of the Dead, I would have settled for another terrible installment of Scary Movie part 8. Instead, I was “freaking” let down. Article by Nathan Herrington.

THE FOUNTAIN - Warner

Spanning over one thousand years, and three parallel stories, The Fountain is a story of love, death, spirituality, and the fragility of our existence in this world. It is not a movie that you get to just sit back and relax at. The actors are very good and the scenes are

dark and yet very appealing to the eyes. Most of the movie is pitched in a dark setting with the bright objects really standing out. There are tons of symbolisms used throughout the movie that make it all the more interesting. People get face with things to think about throughout the whole movie. Things like religion, science (stem cell research), love, death, and history (exploration and colonization of the world). It is probably a better movie for those people that have read the book. The modern day setting of the movie with the views of ancient and futuristic times were very well done. They flashed back and forth throughout the movie to keep the audience guessing, but yet the ending did not seem to connect everything. There were lots of discussions after the movie as to what the ending meant and there seemed to be an ending, but it just wasn’t clear to the normal movie watcher. I think that is where the people that read the book will have more clarification. We heard comments walking out like “Glad it was Free.” We thought it was good, but would not pay money to see it in the theatre again. This may be a future rental just to see if we could catch some more things. Article by Owen Hurt.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  December 27, 2006