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And at the end of the day -- which is really the beginning of a new life for the James Bond 007 franchise -- only Judi Dench as boss lady "M" survives. "Q" and his "do be careful with this double-oh seven" gadgets are gone. The bevy of beauties has been reduced to one. The tacky opening theme song is, well, less tacky. The Bond signature theme and self-introduction and other beloved bits and pieces have been taken out of the mix. The wide range of exotic locations is still wide ranging if not as exotic. That's what you get when you strip a 40 years old franchise of everything that made it spurt or chug or clunk or stagger through the 40 years. Months ago, after actor Daniel Craig was cast as Bond for the new millennium, the fanboys shook their heads in bewilderment and mumbled:
"Blonde. James Blonde" CRANKY SEZ: Say it to his face and Bond'll break yours.
IN SHORT: 85% of the way to an even better Bond - along Connery lines. [Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity. 144 minutes]
And before anyone starts to roll their eyes and think "How can they NOT do [such and such] or [so and so], trust Cranky. What you want is here. Just not in the way it's been spoon fed to us all over the last forty (shudder) years. That's a real good thing.
With nary a Jimmy in site, Casino Royale v.2006 introduces us to British Secret Service (MI-6) Section Chief James Bond (Daniel Craig) who is working his way up to "double 0" status by putting bodies into the ground. His superior, "M" (Judi Dench) has her doubts about this Bond's ability to function with "00" status but, hey, we don't have to tell you any of this stuff, right?
Casino Royale is a reboot that introduces tough guy Bond to his first tux (so to speak), the image that Ian Fleming may have imagined half a century ago. So, nix to the fanboys. Daniel Craig makes a great Bond. Cranky only wishes he (meaning Cranky, not Mr. Craig) hadn't taken a street lamp to the head eighteen years back 'cuz we could barely follow the story of Casino Royale as it caroms from first kills to an incredible tease involving "M"; Greek terrorists; African strongmen; a new "moneypenny" who isn't a secretary or even properly named Moneypenny at all -- she's called Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and the less we say about her the better it is for your viewing pleasure.
Ultimately it is all about an assignment to take down the mysterious Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker for terrorists; Bond and Lynd are aided by a local MI-6 inside man called Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and we'll continue to leave stuff out about him, too. There will be, of course, a double cross and plenty of death and torture and a new Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright as the CIA agent once played by Jack Lord) arriving in the nick of time for the de rigueur high stakes card game. Really high stakes. There are the new cars and one very cherry Aston Martin. And that tux. And, finally, the classic Bond theme.
The franchise has been stripped bare -- literally -- for the ladies, this time it's Bond that gets stripped to the bone. Men with weak stomachs won't want to watch what comes next. Heck, men with strong stomachs are gonna cringe, too. It's worse than the ol' laser beam thingee . . . Cranky's got a fairly strong stomach -- we want to see Bond try to get around for six months in a Halo brace as we did a long time ago -- but Casino Royale pushed me to officially apply for membership in F.O.G., the Friends of Gumby, a conciliatory organization formed by Monty Python alumni for old fogeys whose brains hurts. 'Twasn't just Cranky left bewildered by the goings on in Casino Royale. All the way up the aisle to the line for the bathroom stalls the conversation was all one person explaining what happened to their buddy. F.O.G.
But you know what? That's fine. The last half dozen Bond flicks left us thinking, on the way out of the theater, yeah OK been there done that. Casino Royale turns the tables on all of us. Needing to shake loose our mental cobwebs, we'll probably be planting for a second view down the line. Martin Campbell, known for the Zorro movies has delivered something new -- a Bond film that forces us to pay attention (even we of feeble brains)
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Casino Royale, he would have paid . . .
Casino Royale is a guy friendly dateflick, even with the usual bevy of babes on hiatus. Of course, those of y'all not lost in the F.O.G. are free to mutter about how stupid Cranky is. We like this Bond. We like seeing the franchise shaken, not stirred, to its very core -- and some of the biggest laughs and "oos" and "ahs" come when those kind of Bond-isms are messed with. That's why the long ago Timothy Dalton remix of films failed to win fans. No humor. This Bond has enough rough edges to sail the franchise smoothly, for a while.
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