Monday, May 21, 2007 

Flickadaweek: Casino Royale

I have kids. I have a writing career that pulls me in seventy-three different directions. As a result, I generally don't get to see many movies in the theater. So I'm pretty much seven months behind the rest of American society when it comes to the Movies You Must See. (Exception: I saw Spider-Man 3 the weekend it came out. When it's a summer movie, you gotta love the energy of a crowded theater. Any other time, you're tempted to test that limits-of-free-speech bit by lighting a fire in the sticky underseat goo.)

But anyway. I finally got around to seeing Casino Royale, the new Bond flick, and man, was it worth the wait. Hands down the best Bond flick ever, and probably one of the top five action movies ever. Bond-o-philes, that desperate crew of Dwight Schrutelike wannabe secret agents, wailed and moaned when relative unknown Daniel Craig was tapped to be the new Bond. Turned out to be a franchise-saving move. Pierce Brosnan brought a haunted, evil edge to Bond, far better than anybody since Connery, but Craig gives him the empty conscience of Tony Soprano, but with a stronger moral code.

The plot -- well, this is kind of like "Bond Begins," in that we see Bond before he's ever earned his "Double-0" status. He's tasked to bring down Le Chiffre, a French financier whose cataracted eye is the only nod to camp in this whole movie. In the course of the movie, you've got unbelievable chase scenes, both by car and on foot; the requisite (but still astonishing) hairsbreadth escapes, and an agonizing post-Abu Ghraib torture scene that will have you clutching your own double-0s.

Plus, the flick does what 24 has never seemed to figure out -- heightens the tension by breaking it now and then. Early in the movie, Bond and a nameless villain are fighting atop a crane. The villain empties his gun, then in classic '30s bad guy style, throws the gun. Bond catches the gun and fires it back, Roger Clemens-style, right at the bad guy's skull, nearly knocking the guy off the crane. Great stuff...and not a single Bond-gadget scene with Q.

Anyway, you see this, and it gives you hope for intelligent action movies. Highly recommended.


Monday, March 19, 2007 

Flickadaweek: The Black Dahlia

L.A. Confidential is one of the finest movies of the last 50 years, and I'll beat anybody who says different. Thus, any movie that treads in the same gumshoes has a huge mountain to climb. Of any contender, The Black Dahlia from last year brought the most storied pedigree to the table--the source material was the book of the same name by James Ellroy, the same cat who wrote L.A. Confidential. But the movie comes off as a TV-movie version of the same '40s-era Los Angeles.

Basic plotline: a couple of L.A. cops in love with the same gorgeous sex bomb find themselves enmeshed in a horrific crime investigation--a young would-be actress is vivisected, cut in half, and left along the side of a road. Naturally, there are no true "good" guys, and everyone owes a debt that comes due--often in bloody fashion--by the end of the movie.

The thematic structure is similar to Confidential, as well, which does Dahlia no favors--Josh Hartnett is a watery copy of Russell Crowe; Scarlett Johannsen is smokin' hot but doesn't have the black widow charisma of Kim Basinger; Aaron Eckhart is the best of the bunch but still can't match the manic intensity of Guy Pearce. It's got some fine and creepy moments--you can't go wrong with a bisected, leering corpse--but it also dissolves into some serious scene-chewing camp by the end of it all.

It's not a bad movie, certainly; director Brian de Palma nails the look of the era. But we're in the midst of a crime-drama renaissance on TV, so movies have to be much better than "not bad." This one ain't.



Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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