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James Bond: Casino Royale

Well hellooooo there James Blonde, er, I mean, Bond. Daniel Craig, I have been waiting for you. Pre-project, one of the main reasons I usually named Craig as my favorite was because he was simply the one that stuck with me most. But now, having really watched his predecessors, he's still my boy.

The quick reason is that I like how much darker his films are. He's more ruthless. He's got his sense of humor, but it's much more biting and sarcastic. He unapologetically defies authority. His storylines are more personal. There's more at stake for him, and thus you see his defenses are up. Every other Bond took a few films to distinguish themselves. Craig nailed his own completely different interpertation right away, while at the same time staying true to some of the basics of the character.

I remember the first time I saw Casino Royale. It would be the first 007 I saw in the theater. It was Thanksgiving day, and I had just enough time to run to the movies before I had to get my green bean casserole in the oven before dinner with friends. I expected to find the place filled with dads and their kids, trying to keep the kitchen clear for mom. There weren't quite as many as I'd expected, but those familial units were certainly present.

Something else that struck me when I first watched this back then was that it seemed that the people behind 007 finally realized something: girls watch these movies too! Let's face it. James Bond is very much a man's man. The way he kicks butt and beds women, there's no denying that it's been all guys running the show. For once, they threw a little eye candy our way, again with an obvious nod to Honey Ryder. He's also not as blatant of a womanizer. Sure, he has the affair with the married girl (unhappily married, I might add), but you at least start getting some background on him and understand why he has these tendencies. But his relationship with Vesper is a lot more real, than any we've seen except maybe with Tracy in On Her Majesty's... It had been getting annoying how quickly girls would throw themselves at him (especially in Connery's time). Nice that he's actually gotta work for it a bit now. Also, did you notice that except for the quick image of Vesper, there's no women prancing around in the opening credits? More on that later.

Til this point, every time we've changed actors, we've just sorta picked up the story where we left off. Casino Royale is the first reboot the franchise. Or really, you could argue that it's not actually a reboot, more of a rewind. We never really did get an origin story. Even then, it's only a partial origin story in that it's his first mission. We don't know how he got there, but then again it's maybe better that way. We don't get a "Bond. James Bond" until the last seconds of the film, but that point, he is definitively Bond. James Bond. And it's beautiful.

Now that we're past 20 movies in, there's so many pieces to the franchise, and I love seeing all of the winks to the audience. Some more obvious than others. Obvious: "Would you like that shaken or stirred" "Does it look like I give a damn". Less obvious: Have you noticed he has a favorite brand of champagne? That would be Bollinger. Or the throwback to the silly Bond girl names by trying to give Vesper the alias "Stephanie Broadchest".

I love Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. She doesn't have a flimsy, based on intense experience connection with him. Instead she really does get thru and connects with him. Their first interaction might be my favorite scene. Such sharp dialog back and forth. Skewered.

I'd been saying how much I love Judi Dench as M. With Brosnan, I just liked her for the fact that she was more hands on. But with Craig, I love the kind of relationship that they have. He's so insubordinate and arrogant, but at the same time there's a deep level of mutual respect. I'm really excited to watch the next couple (Skyfall especially) with these interactions fresher in my head. Also, here's where we "first" meet Felix Leiter of the CIA. The first time I saw this, I got the sense that he was important, I just didn't know my 007 history enough to know how. Now I get it.

Been throwing around the phrase "one of my favorites" when talking about the various theme songs. However, I figured out how to narrow it down. If I could only listen to one theme ever again, which would it be. Immediately my brain went to Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name". Yes, this one is definitely my favorite. I may even think so about the credit sequence as well. It plays on the whole casino theme and instead of featuring dancing naked girls, there's some really cool stylized fight sequences. I like it because A)it's different and 2) it brings the focus to James. Makes it feel like it's more a part of the movie and not just an afterthought.

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