Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)

Also known as: 007: Casino Royale (alternative international title), Bond 21, Bond XXI, Bond Begins, James Bond 21 (working titles)
Release Date: November 14th, 2006 (London premiere)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Based on: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Ivana Milicevic, Jesper Christensen, Richard Branson (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Eon Productions, Casino Royale Productions, 144 Minutes

Review:

“[tied to a wooden chair as he is being tortured] I’ve got a little itch, down there. Would you mind?” – James Bond

As much as I loved this movie in 2006, I think I forgot just how damn good it was. It’s also aged exceptionally well while possibly being the greatest movie in the Daniel Craig James Bond era. I really like Skyfall a lot but this is in the same ballpark and my brain will probably debate which one is actually superior until the day I die. But I’m allowed to love them both, equally.

The film starts off with a bang and this really is a Year One type of story for the James Bond character, as it starts with him becoming a Double-O agent and then follows him on his first big mission.

The story is well crafted and one of the best in the entire franchise. This movie also sort of reboots the series and the character in a more serious tone after the Pierce Brosnan era films became cheesy, goofy, hokey and mostly terrible following his initial outing in 1995’s GoldenEye.

Speaking of which, Martin Campbell, the director of GoldenEye, returned to direct Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, as well. He also showed that he could do a much more serious and realistic Bond film in the wake of other directors ruining what he started with the first Brosnan era picture.

Getting back to the tone, this character and these films desperately needed a change, if they were going to survive for future generations. While I know that some James Bond traditionalists didn’t like the gritty realism, most people did and that’s why this was such a hit after the deplorable Die Another Day.

While I’m still not sure if Daniel Craig was the best casting choice at the time, I do like him as Bond. My only real issue with him is that he lacks that suaveness that other had before him. Sure, he’s tough, he’s badass and he looks great in a suit but he does lack a certain charm. That’s also not to say that he’s charmless, it’s just really damn hard to follow Pierce Brosnan, who was stupendous in that department and maybe the best Bond in that regard.

That being said, Craig was great for what this picture needed but I don’t know if his seriousness was best for the franchise over multiple films, as he never really seems to be too comfortable or natural in being a real charmer. Although, his chemistry with Eva Green in this film is really good but I also think that’s because both of them are damn good actors.

Not known at the time, this film’s story sets up the return of SPECTRE, the massive, worldwide terrorist organization that was front and center as the antagonists of the Sean Connery era. There had been legal issues surrounding the use of SPECTRE and I’m not sure that they were resolved when this film was made but this did lay the foundation for their return and the return of top Bond villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The only thing that hurts this film a bit is the long, drawn out poker sequences. While those probably worked for most people and they exist in the novel, they took away from more energetic storytelling. But on the flip side of that, the action sequences in this film certainly make up for the duller moments.

While there really isn’t a perfect James Bond film, this is one of the few to get pretty damn close to it. Plus, it’s one of the best looking movies in the long film series.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Bond films of the Daniel Craig era.

Documentary Review: The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA (2006)

Release Date: November 21st, 2006
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Cast: Eric Bischoff, Nick Bockwinkle, Jim Brunzell, Greg Gagne, Verne Gagne, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Mike Graham, Bobby Heenan, Larry Hennig, Hulk Hogan, Jack Lanza, Jerry Lawler, Vince McMahon, Baron Von Raschke, Dusty Rhodes, Michael Hayes, Bob Windham

WWE, 109 Minutes

Review:

I was too young to experience the American Wrestling Association in its heyday. However, I was old enough to see how well its talent did on a larger, worldwide stage once Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation became a global phenomenon in the mid-’80s. A lot of the WWF’s success was built off of the talent that established themselves in Verne Gagne’s AWA.

Being produced by WWE, one might think that this has a slant to it and while that may be true to some degree, it features interviews with a ton of people from both sides of the conversation. Although, it does mostly feature talent that has worked for both, which makes this feel more honest.

Plus, this includes Verne Gagne and Greg Gagne talking about all the events that led to the fall of the AWA from their perspective. And I guess the coolest thing about this is that it lets Verne talk about it pretty candidly. Sadly, just a few years after this, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Vince McMahon gives his perspective too, which is interesting, especially coming off of all the tales that were told in this documentary.

I think the whole thing is a highpoint though, as it goes through the history of the AWA, discusses its biggest stars and ultimately, how they left and how they contributed to the wrestling business overall.

By the end of this, you leave with a clear understanding that the professional wrestling landscape would have been vastly different if not for the existence and the legacy of the American Wrestling Association.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other WWE historical documentaries.

 

Film Review: Superman Returns (2006)

Also known as: Superman V, Superman Reborn (working titles), Red Sun (fake working title)
Release Date: June 21st, 2006 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: John Ottman, John Williams (original themes)
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, Sam Huntington, Kevin Spacey, Marlon Brando (archive footage), Richard Branson (cameo)

Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Peters Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Warner Bros., 154 Minutes

Review:

“You can print money, manufacture diamonds, and people are a dime a dozen, but they’ll always need land. It’s the one thing they’re not making any more of.” – Lex Luthor

I haven’t seen this film since it first came out. There were things I liked about it but I never had much urge to revisit it. Seeing it again, twelve years later, I was reminded why.

To start, this is a motion picture that had it’s heart in the right place. It was an homage to the style and tone of the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films. In fact, this is a loose sequel to those; it ignores SupermanIII and IV.

But while this does have its heart in the right place, it was lacking a soul. It tried quite hard to pull off the magic that existed in the first two Reeve films but it lacked its spirit and its charm.

That being said, I did like Brandon Routh as Superman and I thought his Clark Kent was good. But if I have to compare him to Reeve, he is short on personality. I don’t think that’s his fault though, as he is pretty damn charming in a lot of other films and television shows he’s been in. He’s one of the shining stars of Legends of Tomorrow. But I feel like he was sort of forced to give an understated performance here. And maybe the studio was too afraid to make him too Reeve-like but if he is playing the Reeve version of Superman, there should be some consistency.

I wasn’t crazy about most of the cast, despite the fact that most of them are talented. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane also seemed to lack the energy and spirit she needed. She didn’t have the spunk of Margot Kidder and felt less like that version of Lois than Routh felt like the Reeve version of Superman.

Kevin Spacey was okay as Lex Luthor but he also didn’t feel like the Gene Hackman version.

So are you starting to see the problem here?

This film exists as a new Superman III but the new cast doesn’t quite fill the shoes of the first two movies. I think that this comes down to the script, as none of the characters are written in the same way as they were in those Richard Donner directed classics from 1978 and 1980.

Another big issue I have with this is that the story is boring and Lex’s evil scheme is mundane. Maybe this was all done to setup something bigger in the future but since this didn’t get any of the planned sequels, all we got was a lot of drama and Superman throwing a continent into space. Hell, the scheme in the real Superman III was much better than what they came up with here.

As far as positives, I did like the score and the inclusion of the original John Williams themes. Honestly, the Williams theme immediately gets you pumped up during the credits and it actually makes this film better. Ultimately, as I said, the heart was there and the tone felt right. But then again, the tone sort of loses its essence. As the film rolls on, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere and we’re given a threat that doesn’t create any sort of exciting battle or action.

Most of the action in the film is vehicle action: a runaway car, a seaplane in danger, an out of control airplane hauling a space shuttle and Lex’s helicopter escape.

This film came out in a time when digital effects could do anything but all Superman really did was lift a large land mass. They could have had him fight Darkseid, Brainiac, Metallo, Mongul, Doomsday or any other great villain from his large rogues gallery.

I wish that this would have been a great film. I wish it would have birthed a new series of films. It just didn’t resonate with me, most critics and or the audience.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the first two Christopher Reeve starring Superman films and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.

Film Review: See No Evil (2006)

Also known as: Eye Scream Man, Goodnight, The Goodnight Man (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 2006
Directed by: Gregory Dark
Written by: Dan Madigan
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Kane, Samantha Noble, Christina Vidal, Luke Pegler, Michael J. Pagan

WWE Films, Lionsgate Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[to Jacob. Referring to Kira in the cage] I’d like you to tell me… why is that whore still alive?” – Margaret

I have yet to see a single movie that has made me believe that WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) should be in the motion picture business. And really, they aren’t in the real motion picture business, they are just using the medium to try and make their stars more relevant and to try and draw new audiences to their product. The only way that See No Evil could possibly succeed at this, is due to the fact that WWE’s wrestling programs are actually better than this abhorrent film.

I never wanted to see this but since it was on Shudder and incredibly short, I finally gave it a watch.

Whatever low bar I had for it though, wasn’t low enough.

So Kane, the WWE wrestler and current Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, plays a brutish beast of a man that is obsessed with mauling and mutilating people. He likes to take their eyes and he keeps a nice collection of them. He also uses a meat hook on a chain as his weapon of choice, which I will admit, was cool to see and was applied quite creatively, especially when used from the ceiling.

Anyway, there is more to his character and his backstory but I won’t spoil it, as I’m sure everyone is dying to watch this if they haven’t already.

So most of the movie takes place in this giant, disgusting, abandoned hotel. A bunch of petty criminals are sent there to clean it up as part of their community service punishment. This hotel is so gross that f’n bums wouldn’t want to live there. Granted, we do find out that some did but Kane stole their eyes. Anyway, there is no way any city government would send a bunch of degenerates to clean this place up. It should be condemned. The hotel is definitely unsalvageable and should be burnt to the f’n ground.

I don’t know, this movie is everything you’d expect it to be but much worse. It is terribly edited, uses ’90s thrash metal music video editing tricks and it just looks like some cliche slasher film a couple stoned film students would put together and get a D on because their parents are boosters and you can’t fail the kids of your financiers.

See No Evil got a sequel for some reason, eight years later. I’ll probably watch it to roast it in a review but I’m not in any sort of rush.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: See No Evil 2, and the Hatchet film series.

Film Review: Slither (2006)

Release Date: March 31st, 2006
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Tania Saulnier, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Jenna Fischer, Frank Welker (voice)

Gold Circle Films, Strike Entertainment, Brightlight Pictures, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“[referring to a mutated Grant] He looks likes something that fell off my dick during the war.” – Tourneur

Slither is a movie that came out in 2006 and felt like something from a bygone era. It’s better than the vast majority of terrible PG-13 horror pictures from the ’00s and beyond and gives you something that feels like it is straight out of the ’70s and ’80s in how it channels elements of Night of the CreepsThe ThingShivers and From Beyond.

This also really brought James Gunn into the mainstream, after starting his career at Troma Entertainment. Oddly enough, I revisited this movie on the same night that all this weird James Gunn stuff exploded on social media. But I’m not going to let that sway my opinion of his directorial abilities or this film.

Gunn did a solid job creating this unique and gruesome world that he gave us here for 95 minutes. This film is terrifying, horrifying and yet, pretty f’n funny and entertaining. I can see why this lead to him getting more gigs like his anti-superhero flick Super and his hiring by Disney and Marvel to helm the beloved Guardians of the Galaxy film series.

If you are into the old school horror films that I mentioned a few paragraphs back, as well as darker humor, than there is no reason why this movie wouldn’t be for you. Gunn does a great job balancing his brand of pure unadulterated dread and humor.

I also love that this cast Nathan Fillion and gave him a real platform to show his talents outside of Firefly and Serenity. Additionally, Elizabeth Banks was really sweet and lovable in this and Michael Rooker nailed his role, as well. We even get to see a small part for Jenna Fischer, as she was just becoming known as Pam Beesly on the American version of The Office.

The special effects on this film were pretty good for the scant budget and Gunn, using what he learned about being frugal at Troma, was able to craft something that looked much better than the sum of its financial parts.

This is twelve years old now but it has aged really well. It still feels like a throwback to a better era of horror and certainly doesn’t feel like a horror movie from 2006.

To be completely honest, this is a film that I was hoping Gunn would build off of for either a sequel or something else set in the same universe. Now that he has been fired by Disney, maybe he can go back to making films that are closer to this one and where he has more creative control.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Night of the Creeps, Night of the Comet, The Thing (1982), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The FacultyThe StuffFrom Beyond and Shivers.

Documentary Review: Way of the Puck (2006)

Release Date: April 29th, 2006 (WorldFest Houston)
Directed by: Eric D. Anderson
Written by: Eric D. Anderson
Music by: Brian Hawlk, Santiago Step

Creative Ape, 81 Minutes

Review:

Way of the Puck is one of many documentaries to come out in the last decade or so that follows a very small segment of the nerd world. Like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters or Special When Lit, this movie showcases a group of elite players in a competitive niche hobby. The focus of this documentary is air hockey.

The movie does a good job at following around the different characters and showing their personalities. It also paints an interesting picture of competitive air hockey. It even makes a decent argument about how air hockey should be considered a sport by those outside of its tiny inner circle.

The problem, with the film, like air hockey, is in the end, it just isn’t that interesting. Where the films mentioned earlier were about retro arcade games and pinball, it worked for those films because video games and pinball are more interesting subject matter than air hockey. Yes, air hockey is fun to a degree but there is a reason why, since the late ’70s, air hockey tables tend to remain vacant while dozens swarm around video game cabinets and pinball machines.

I can appreciate the love and passion of these die hard fans in this film but it isn’t enough to enlighten me or most people. It is a little known hobby and it had its peak decades ago. That doesn’t mean that it can’t survive and thrive within the minuscule segment of society that loves it. But more likely than not, it is a hobby that will die with these guys. But that’s okay. It wouldn’t be the first hobby to fall victim to a fast moving world and its own growing obscurity.

Way of the Puck is a very human film that at least gives these guys a platform to talk to the world. Their message will most likely fall on deaf ears for the most part. But if air hockey makes them happy, then it really should be all they need. If you can find peace and happiness painting portraits on Pop-Tarts, good for you. But don’t expect other people to follow suit.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Special When Lit.

TV Review: Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Era (2006-2010)

Original Run: April 15th, 2006 – January 1st, 2010
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins, Elisabeth Sladen, John Simm, Kylie Minogue, David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, Noel Clarke, Alex Kingston

BBC, 44 Episodes, 45-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

David Tennant is considered by most to be the best Doctor of all-time. He’s my second favorite after Tom Baker but his accolades and admiration are definitely deserved, as he took what Christopher Eccleston walked away from and turned it into something that was very much his and better than anything the franchise had done since the high point of the Tom Baker era, which ended in 1981.

The Tennant era of Who is the best era of the modern incarnation of the franchise. Sure, I love all the Doctors in different ways but this was the real peak for me since the show relaunched in 2005. Russell T. Davies just had a certain magic that Stephen Moffat, who took over with the Matt Smith era, could emulate and build from but had a much harder time at maintaining it and being consistent.

I just love this era of the show. It isn’t perfect, by any means and has a few hiccups, but overall, this was a great thing to experience. For other lovers of this franchise, this span in the show’s history is almost like a love letter to you. It taps into the spirit of the original shows much better than the Eccleston stuff and it brings back some key elements that were missing in the first season, most notably the Master and some of the more famous alien villains.

Furthermore, Tennant has great chemistry with every single person that they paired him with. His relationship with Rose got heavier and more intimate than it did when Eccleston was in the role. His time with Martha was great and you hurt for her and for him, as he continued to mourn the great loss he felt with Rose. The Tennant team up with Catherine Tate as Donna Noble was the best part of the show but once that relationship extends into the Doctor also having a bond with her grandfather, Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott, it got even better. You also got to see Tennant work well with David Morrissey (the future Governor from The Walking Dead), Kylie Minogue, the former Tom Baker companion Sarah Jane (played by Elisabeth Sladen, once again), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and a slew of others. But it’s his chemistry with the John Simm version of the Master that really showcased how good both men are.

I adore the Tennant years on Doctor Who. It is the best run of the modern era… period. Although, Matt Smith’s run after this was pretty darn good too and even if I didn’t like a lot of the Peter Capaldi stuff, I did love Capaldi’s Doctor. But David Tennant’s run will be a near impossible feat to try and top.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Ninth and Eleventh Doctors’ runs.