New Bond is the best Bond

Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press (MCT)

I was relieved when I discovered that Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman ranked "Casino Royale" in his 2006 Top 10 films list. I thought maybe I had gone too far out on that critical limb. But with the exception of best picture winner "The Departed," I had no better time at the movies this year than with this smart, savvy reboot of the James Bond franchise.

Daniel Craig reminded us of what 007 really was; not a technophile or bon vivant with a tuxedo pocket full of bon mots, but a trained assassin for his country's secret service, with all the psychic baggage the job carries.

"Casino Royale" is now released as a two-disc "Special Edition" in full-screen or wide-screen (4 stars, $28.96); as a film-only single-disc ($28.96); in BluRay ($38.96, on which I will almost certainly and happily spend my own money) , and in a double-pack coupled with Craig's fine and little-seen 2004 crime thriller "Layer Cake" (3 stars, $43.95).

"Casino" was adapted from Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, and this is fairly true to the original tale, though it is has been updated from 1952 to the present.

It sends Bond -- having just completed his first kill under the new 007 license issued him by M -- to Uganda, where he makes a botch of his first secret mission, rendering it decidedly un-secret.

From there it's off to the Bahamas and an unofficial hunt for a terrorist cell, and then to Montenegro, where he will take on -- under the watchful eye of a beauteous bean-counter (Eva Green) assigned to keep him and the budget in line -- the terror ring's money launderer La Chiffre. Their battleground? A casino table, playing Hold ` Em poker.

It's a welcome back-to-earth for the franchise. For my chips, there's never been an actor more suited to the role of Bond than Craig, even with Sean Connery's irresistible charmer legend looming large.

He's slightly haunted, morally compromised, realistically romantic and, especially in those retro swim trunks, should have little problem regaining the female fandom that eroded over the last two decades.


Also new:

"The Holiday" (3 stars, Columbia-TriStar, $28.95) with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet trading homes and finding new loves.

The intense streets-of-L.A. drama "Harsh Times" (3 stars, MGM, $28.95) stars Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez.


TV on DVD:

The final installment in the "I Love Lucy" reissues is titled "The Complete Series 7-9" (4 stars, Paramount, $38.99), but this extremely welcome four-disc set will be best remembered to baby boomers as "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour," the title that was later given to the one-hour specials.

The series was extended to hour-length so the Ricardos and the Mertzes, now ensconced in Westport, Conn., could travel (episodes are set in Mexico, Alaska and Japan) or to showcase big-name guest stars. (One show is a cross over with Danny Thomas and the cast of "Make Room for Daddy.")

The big news for fans here is the complete version of the "I Love Lucy" feature film intended for theaters, then shelved in favor of "The Long, Long Trailer." Even the extras are special; there's a few minutes of color footage that was secretly taped by a member of the live audience.

Also out:

A new, adult version of the Robin Hood legend is due to show up soon on the tube, but the BBC got there first in the 1980s: "Robin of Sherwood Set 1" (3 stars, Acorn, $59.99) collects the 13 episodes that made up Seasons 1 and 2 of this well-acted, often mystical drama with Michael Praed as Robin and the great Ray Winstone as a crazed Scarlet.

"Bosom Buddies -- The First Season" (Paramount, $31.99), the sitcom that unleashed a cross-dressing Tom Hanks on the world.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- Original Series Season 4" (Lionsgate, $39.98), a five-disc set of the animated series.

"The Pretender 2001/The Pretender -- Island of the Haunted" (Fox, $29.98), the two made-for TV movies intended to wrap up the story lines after the series was canceled in 2000.


Family film of the week:

The BluRay must-have of the week is, for once, not an action movie. It's the best sports movie ever made, "Hoosiers" (4 stars, MGM, $39.98), looking better on your high-def TV than it ever did in theaters, and released right in time for March Madness.

Gene Hackman plays the college coach who takes a last-chance job at a small-town Indiana high school in the 1950s, and proceeds to turn a rag-tag high school team into winners.

Dennis Hopper is the alcoholic parent who volunteers to be his assistant.

The understated yet sweeping heartland cinematography and Jerry Goldsmith's emotion-tugging score are greatly enhanced by BluRay, and all the extras that were included on the still-available two-disc Collector's Edition ($29.98) are here as well. A regular single disc version ($14.98) is available.

One version belongs in every family library.





Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".


The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?


Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.


Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.


Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.


Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.


Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.


Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.