Casino Royale

Had real misgivings about this James Blonde reboot when i saw the first trailer, started to think it might be alright when the second one came out, and actually really enjoyed most of it when i actually got to see the whole thing.

Won't go into too much detail here, as (unless you've read the book) the plot hasn't come out too much, and it's fun watching it unfold. suffice to say, for once, it's not about foiling some daft plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD, more a small-scale operation (well, relatively - it's still Bond) involving terrorist funding, hitmen, slick boats, glammed-up women, men in tuxedos, guns, bombs, and lots of Texas hold 'em (007's caught on to the poker boom).

It's all pretty crunchy action, with a brutal couple of kills to get things rolling. Much less emphasis on the arched-eyebrows "hey, i'm delivering a line in a BOND FILM NOW" wink-wink lines that made the Brosnan era so uneven.

Daniel Craig steps into the tux with a thuggish style that seems to fit; he's not the suavest dude in town, but there's a weight to the way he flips between cold killer, and icy charmer working his "emotions? me?" lines on Eva Green.

Judi Dench is back as M, but moneypenny's only referenced in a throwaway line, and there's no Q, which works - there are some gadgets, but they're not really there to save the day as much as before - no "if only i had my magnetic belt on right now i could totally save this hot chick" moments.

Cameos to watch include Richard Branson and some VIRGIN planes, producer Michael G Wilson as a corrupt police official, and Jeffrey Wright in what could be a recurring role if he plays his cards right (ho ho). He's also recently found himself on the "him again?!" list at Chimp Towers, after popping up in The Manchurian Candidate (pretty lame really), Syriana, and Broken Flowers.

There's also a lot of product placement going on - not quite as much as the last few maybe, but still lots of totally unnecessary screen time looking at brand names. I'd like to thank VIRGIN, ROLEX, FORD, VERSACE, ASTON MARTIN, SONY ERICSSON etc for annoying me in this film.

BIt of an odd moment where some misc African guys manage to smuggle machetes into Montenegro; yup, that's what they all do…

The only other major downer is a truly awful nu-rock theme tune from Chris "Soundgarden" Cornell and David Arnold, which totally ruins a great animated opening sequence full of playing cards melting into each other with Daniel Craig looking generally louche. What a waste. Think the themes have been the worst things about the recent films; this one makes you think Madonna's effort was ok. It would be so easy to find something classy that would fit, rather than trying to get all modern and do that terrible processed rock sound.

film: ***.5 - solid effort, James Blond = Royale without the cheese, like to see more
soundtrack: * silence would be goldeneye next time
product placement: * we know you can afford some expensive toys James, stop showing us them all the time