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Casino Royale (#110 of 4)

5 for the Day: Control, Aught, Repeat

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5 for the Day: Control, Aught, Repeat
5 for the Day: Control, Aught, Repeat

Symptomatic of a compulsive streak in my nature, I’ve always been a tad obsessed with seeing the exact moment a digital display on a clock or cellphone clicks off a major milestone. For instance, I often feel a pang of frustration upon glancing down at a car’s odometer to see that it has advanced into a new hundred, thousand, ten thousand, or (heaven forbid) hundred thousand series without my noticing it. If you can recall the extra excitement exhibited ten years ago by New Year’s revelers as 1999 gave way to 2000 even though, technically, the millennium didn’t turn over until the following year, you may be able to empathize.

This probably explains why the cinematic “reboot” phenomenon of the 2000’s decade intrigued me more than it should. More extensive than simply changing lead characters, a reboot involves melting down the component parts of an established film franchise that has run its course and reforging them into a new, yet familiar vision. Successful or not, there’s something about the exercise itself that I gravitate toward. Of course, in addition to being obsessive, I’m also cynical. In my heart of hearts I realize that the decision to breath new life into an otherwise exhausted film series is made on commercial rather than artistic grounds. But that doesn’t mean reboots can’t be done well or aren’t worth the attempt.

2007: Six Camp Highlights (and One Lowlight)

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2007: Six Camp Highlights (and One Lowlight)
2007: Six Camp Highlights (and One Lowlight)

1. Ultimate Rediscovery

If Myra Breckinridge the film had been a Broadway musical first, I’ve no doubt it would have gone down in midnight movie history right alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Raquel Welch’s Miss Myra is the precursor to Tim Curry’s Frank-N-Furter, with both actors playing sexually (and gender) ambiguous characters seducing naïve young lovers with equal panache. Myra Breckinridge works on so many levels it’s hard to keep track, from the film critic Rex Reed playing film critic Myron Breckinridge to “Miss” Mae West—the ultimate gay man in a woman’s body, perhaps the first transgender superstar—as a stud-collecting Hollywood agent. That Rex and Raquel, playing opposite sides of the same protagonist, flow easily, interchangeably, from one setup to the next—sometimes even playing the same scene together—is a lovely symbolic nod to the desire to become one, be it with another person or with oneself. The classic movie clips commenting on the action like a Tinseltown Greek chorus and the classic Miss West belting out numbers like “You Gotta Taste All The Fruit” are pure winking delight. The many critics who panned Myra Breckinridge decades ago when it was first released were as clueless as John Huston’s Buck Loner, for the film is nothing less than a brilliantly, thoughtfully, stupendously conceived work of art.

Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Casino Royale, Let’s Go to Prison, & Fast Food Nation

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Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Casino Royale, Let’s Go to Prison, & Fast Food Nation
Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Casino Royale, Let’s Go to Prison, & Fast Food Nation

Andrew Dignan: Hey Burns, judging by the number of comments we’ve generated I think we’ve got worse ratings than Studio 60. How long you think before we get a mercy-kill cancellation or are put on the shelf till after sweeps? Maybe we just need to piggyback off of the almost child-like glow the new Bond film, Casino Royale seems to be evoking in people and hope that captures some attention.

Yes, it’s true: for the first time in my lifetime, James Bond is cool. And not because he has the best toys or beds the most women or drives around in an invisible car (hard to believe someone ever signed-off on that one). This is one hundred percent attitude carrying an agreeably low-key espionage thriller. You got guns, you got girls, you got some truly brutal hand-to-hand combat; Bond feels primal and dangerous again after four over-produced, Pierce Brosnan smarm-fests. The film’s success was not only unexpected, it flies in the face of common sense. As has been pointed out by many others, it’s produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli who are as responsible as anyone for driving this franchise into the ground, the film is co-written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade who wrote the last two Bond films, and to direct they’ve brought back Martin Campbell, who is something of an agreeable hack.

Casino Royale: It’s Not Moonraker

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<em>Casino Royale</em>: It’s Not <em>Moonraker</em>
<em>Casino Royale</em>: It’s Not <em>Moonraker</em>

“Reboot” is the word reviewers have been using to describe the latest Bond film, and it’s hard to avoid because that’s what Casino Royale is: a shakeup of the tired Bond formula that still uses much of the same programming. You get the sense of the filmmaker’s dilemma; how do you scrub away what’s built up during 44 years of the 007 franchise and still deliver what people expect? The results are mixed but welcome. This movie is not Moonraker. Casino Royale follows what Ian Fleming actually wrote more closely than any James Bond film since For Your Eyes Only.