Casino Royale starts at the beginning as James Bond (Craig) takes his first baby steps as a Double O agent. His first assignment is to track down a terrorist cell in Madagascar but he’s a bit of a loose cannon and things quickly go awry. Bond’s superior M (Judi Dench) is soon regretting giving the arrogant Bond the promotion. Nonetheless Agent 007 takes it upon himself to follow a lead to the Bahamas and discovers that all nefarious dealings point to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) a nasty fellow who has money ties to terrorist organizations. Le Chiffre is planning to raise money in a high-stakes poker game at the Le Casino Royale in Montenegro—and Bond gets in to beat him at his own game. Along with a hefty bankroll M also sends the beguiling accountant Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to keep Bond in check. They are skeptical of each other at first but as the danger escalates it becomes apparent there is a growing attraction—and affection—between them. Natch. Can these two crazy kids make it work immersed in the cutthroat world of international intrigue? Well this is Bond after all—and we know how he ends up. Craig absolutely gets it. Whatever doubts people may have had when Craig was first announced as the new Bond are washed away in the first few minutes of the film. Sure if Casino Royale was anything like the last few Bond movies then maybe the understated Craig wouldn’t have fit in as well. But this is a different Bond. The British actor plays him not as the icon we’ve come to know but as a flawed man warts and all who flies by the seat of his pants isn’t necessarily refined and yes can even fall in love. Craig also raises the acting bar. His brief scenes with the impeccable Dench for example simmer and pop unlike anything we’ve seen before in a Bond film. Danish film star Mikkelsen (Pusher) is quite effective as the main baddie with a particularly gruesome physical malady while the always good Jeffrey Wright (Syriana) shows up as CIA Agent Felix Leiter. The one weak link unfortunately is Green (The Dreamers). She certainly looks the part of a “Bond girl ” but her Vesper is supposed to be whip-smart able to engage in witty banter with 007 and the French actress can’t quite pull it off. Craig needs more of a challenge. Too bad Judi Dench isn’t 30 years younger; she would have been perfect. Casino Royale the first book in the Ian Fleming series is basic Bond 101. Director Martin Campbell--who helmed Goldeneye Pierce Brosnan’s first and probably best foray into the franchise--strips it of all the far-fetched gadgets (save for a few new-fangled PDAs) and over-the-top action sequences leaving just good clean action devoid of any invisible cars armored Russian tanks and the such. Oh wait Bond does use a bulldozer at one point but that comes briefly in the middle of a rather extensive and hair-raising foot chase. It just proves action can be just as riveting without having to completely suspend your disbelief. Casino Royale is also rare in that it shows how Bond became THE James Bond the one we’ve seen in countless movies over the years in the stylish tuxes drinking the martinis driving the Aston-Martins and bedding all the beautiful women. Casino Royale breathes new life into the franchise and one can only hope they can keep up the good work without once again lapsing into the ridiculous.
The story of the late great Johnny Cash depicted in Walk the Line is not quite all encompassing. The film dramatizes just one moment in Cash's life: his tumultuous 20s and rise to fame. The young Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) married and straight out of the army struggles with his music finally finding his patented blend of country blues and rock music. Haunted by a troubled childhood Cash sings songs about death love treachery and sin--and shoots straight to the top of the charts. On tour he also meets and falls for his future wife June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) whose refusal to meddle with a married man only further fuels the fire and contributes to his eventual drug addiction. Their cat-and-mouse love story provides the film’s core but unfortunately can’t quite overcome Walk the Line’s formulaic nature. Biopics are generally good to actors. Phoenix and Witherspoon could easily each walk away with Oscar statuettes for turning in two of the most jaw-dropping spellbinding performances since well Jamie Foxx in Ray. Neither actor had any musical background whatsoever but they both underwent painstaking transformations for the sake of authenticity doing all of their own singing as well as guitar-playing for Phoenix. The actor's performance is purely raw and visceral; his vulnerability is aptly palpable at first but then he becomes the Cash with the unflinching swagger. Witherspoon's Carter is Cash's temptress and she'll be yours too by movie's end. She eerily reincarnates Carter as if she was born to play the part. If Walk the Line is the ultimate actor's canvas then Phoenix and Witherspoon make priceless art-and music-together. While good for the actors biopics can prove to be difficult for the director. It’s hard to highlight a person’s life without it coming off like a TV movie of the week. Unfortunately director James Mangold (Copland) plays it safe with Walk the Line. The duets between Johnny and June on stage are about the only electrifying moments of the film. The rest is pretty stereotypical. And it isn’t because the film only focuses on certain years of Cash's life. It's simply not possible to fit a lifetime into the short duration of a film. The problem instead is that Mangold's presentation of Cash's life would lead one to believe that Cash actually exorcised his demons. But in reality his lifelong demons are what endeared him to the layperson. There was nothing cut and dry about the Cash story--and adding a little grit would have given Walk the Line the edge it needed.
Oscar-winner Julia Roberts wants to see Denzel Washington walk way with an Oscar next month. She joins a growing list who believe Washington has been robbed one too many times. "He should be on his third Oscar by now, and that might not be enough," Roberts told Newsweek magazine in its Feb. 25 edition. "I cannot absorb living in a world where I have an Oscar for best actress and Denzel doesn't have one for best actor."
In the 73 years of Oscar tradition, only five black actors and actresses have won Oscars. Sidney Poitier is the only black actor to have won a Best Actor Oscar (for 1963's Lilies of the Field). Washington picked up his fifth Oscar nomination for his performance as a crooked cop in Training Day, when the nominations were announced last week and won Best Supporting Actor in 1989 for his work in the Civil War drama Glory. The Oscars will be handed out March 24.
Agent down! I repeat, agent down! Pierce Brosnan, who plays suave secret agent James Bond, apparently sustained a knee injury while filming a stunt in the latest 007 movie, tentatively titled Bond 20. Brosnan will be out of commission for two weeks, but the film is still set to be released in November.
Comedian extraordinaire Robin Williams, 50, is returning to his stand-up roots by going back on tour. Williams told the New York Times he'll face live audiences again because, "I just want to find out what the rest of the country is up to. What is the middle like? What are they laughing at?" His routine will cover current topics such as Enron and President Bush's pretzel incident. "I think they may be grinding everything up now," he quipped.
Britney's been bitten by the acting bug. After her new movie Crossroads raked it in at the box office this past weekend, pop singer Britney Spears is now set to appear in HBO's hit Sex and the City as the sex-crazed niece of PR exec Samantha (Kim Cattrall). Ironically, Cattrall also plays Spears' mother in Crossroads.
Kenneth Starr is stepping into the ring with Rocky! Starr (no relation to the Lewinsky prosecutor) has counterattacked Sylvester Stallone's suit against him, claiming that Rambo is sue-happy, having been involved in at least 30 different suits over the last few years. Stallone sued Starr, his former business manager, last week for $17.3 million. The suit claims Starr urged Stallone to hold onto Planet Hollywood stock even though Starr knew the company was slipping into bankruptcy.
A mentally-ill woman, who admitting stealing mail from Britain's "It" couple, soccer star David Beckham and Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, has been detained indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital. She was arrested in July for sneaking into the couple's luxury apartment building and taking 13 pieces of mail.
Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek: Voyager's Captain Kathryn Janeway, is heading back to Earth and taking on a completely different, if somewhat similar sounding, role: playing Katharine Hepburn. Mulgrew will star in the one-woman show Tea at Five, portraying the legendary actress as she muses about her life and loves. The play will have its world premiere at the Hartford Stage Company in Hartford, Conn.
The poster for the independent film Amen, which blends a cross with a red swastika, has created an uproar within the French Jewish and Catholic communities. "We consider this amalgam of the Nazi symbol with a religious symbol to be unhealthy," said a statement signed by 10 of France's leading Jewish figures,. The Catholic Church objected to the advertisement as "an unacceptable lack of respect." The film examines how the Vatican was partially responsible for the millions of Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust by remaining silent.
USA Networks will be developing a TV-movie about the one and only Rudolph Giuliani, New York City's knight in shining armor. Based on Wayne Barrett's book Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani, the film will either air at the end of the year or the beginning of 2003. No casting choices have been made as yet.
Actress Katharine Hepburn will not return home from a Connecticut hospital Monday, as expected, because doctors want to monitor her ability to walk, the Associated Press reports. The four-time Oscar winner was admitted Wednesday to Hartford Hospital to be treated for a urinary tract infection. Doctors decided Monday that the infection had cleared up but Hepburn's ability to walk had suffered. No date is set for Hepburn's release.
Antiques dealer David Michael Bryce will appear in a London court Monday on a charge that he burgled the home of Jerry Hall last September while the model and actress performed in the stage version of The Graduate, Reuters reports. Bryce is accused of stealing items, including jewelry, valued at a total of $10,590.
Who wants to host the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Regis Philbin does, according to executive producer Michael Davies. Everything will depend on whether ABC will air the Philbin-hosted primetime version of the quiz show once or twice a week during the fall 2002 season, Variety reports. If Millionaire airs only once a week in primetime, "that would leave the door open for Regis to do Millionaire in syndication," Davies said. The syndication show will debut in fall 2002.
For sale: Kelsey Grammer's home in the Hollywood Hills. The Frasier star's three-bedroom house is on the market for $715,000 because he and wife Camille Donatacci do not spend enough time there, the Associated Press reports. Grammer and Donatacci also have a five-acre home in Malibu.
David Carradine had a dog day afternoon Friday. The Kung Fu star spent the afternoon searching for his five-year-old Bernese mountain dog, Thunder, Reuters reports. Carradine was in a Los Angeles coffeehouse on his cell phone when the 92-pound dog went missing. Two hours later, Carradine learned Thunder was whisked away by a private security guard who thought it was a stray.