Tag Archives: Judi Dench

Belfast (2021) Review

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Belfast

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jude Hill as Buddy
Caitríona Balfe as “Ma”
Jamie Dornan as “Pa”
Judi Dench as “Granny”
Ciarán Hinds as “Pop”
Colin Morgan as Billy Clanton
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A semi-autobiographical film which chronicles the life of a working class family and their young son’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capital.

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I heard of Belfast over the past months, with it being Kenneth Branagh’s latest film and a major Oscar contender. I heard some very positive things about it, but also some backlash with regard to its high awards chances. I put aside the awards attention and watched the movie by its own merits, and I actually quite liked it for what it was.

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The script is pretty straightforward and very rarely surprises, but it is solid nonetheless. The intense political situation of Belfast in the 1960s is present throughout the film, but the movie is not solely about that specific aspect. Essentially it is a coming of age story of the lead child named Buddy, and its very much a story told through the eyes of the child. It is fairly plotless, although an aspect present throughout is the possibility of Buddy’s family leaving Belfast, and we see how that develops over the course of the film. It is a slice of life film about family and childhood, and this approach to the story won’t work for everyone, it worked well enough for me though. With that said, it is one of those movies which feel like snapshots from a period of time rather than actually telling a strong narrative, and as a result the narrative can meander and feel disjointed. Also, while I appreciate the commitment to having most of the film told through the main child’s perspective, it can occasionally work against itself. When the movie focuses on other elements, some situations and scenes can be pretty contrived, such as when Buddy happens to hear very important conversations from his family. It didn’t bother me too much, but it is nonetheless something I noticed when watching. Nonetheless I was invested with what was happening, and I particularly liked how things were ended in the third act. Finally, the film is semi autobiographical, it is very much a passion project, and that really does help the movie quite a lot. Even with the flaws of the screenplay, it does actually feel like a story Branagh wanted to tell, and that helped the movie feel genuine and heartfelt.

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One of the strongest elements are the cast, and each of them are top notch, with Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench all giving great performances. They all worked very well together, and the chemistry between them felt real, they actually felt like a family. Credit should also go to the lead actor for Buddy, Jude Hill. This is his first film but he did very well especially considering that he’s in almost every scene in the film.

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Kenneth Branagh directs this movie very well. Immediately noticeable is the black and white cinematography, its gorgeous, well shot and nice to look at. I don’t really think there was much point of having the black and white outside of the few moments where colour is included, but it was nonetheless nice to watch.

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Belfast seems to be one of the main frontrunners for Best Picture, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s a great pick for the award. Putting aside Oscar chances however, I think the movie is actually quite good and was better than I was expecting. As a movie focusing on a child’s coming of age, it’s solid and I was invested enough, even if it wasn’t anything special. It is also decently directed by Branagh, and the great performances really helped the film work as well as it does. I do think it is worth checking out at the very least.

Die Another Day (2002) Review

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Die Another Day

Time: 133 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson
Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves
Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost
Rick Yune as Tang Ling Zao
Judi Dench as M
John Cleese as Q
Michael Madsen as Damian Falco
Director: Lee Tamahori

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul, who is funding the development of an international space weapon.

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I reached the end of my rewatches of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies with Die Another Day. It is widely known regarded one of the worst Bond movies, if not the worst. However I remember watching it a lot when I was younger, so I was curious whether my opinion would change sharply, or if I’d be more lenient on it. In a way, both happened. I definitely don’t hate it like a lot of people do, I do find parts of it I enjoy, even when most of it is ludicrously silly. However, it’s not a very good movie, it has a ton of issues and easily ranks as one of the worst Bond films.

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The strangest part of Die Another Day is that it starts off pretty good, at least the first 20 minutes or so. James Bond is on a mission in North Korea, and the opening set piece is entertaining (if darkly lit), and even goes to some dark places. Bond is captured, tortured and interrogated before being released. The opening was new ground for Bond and the tone seemed like it was where Brosnan wanted to take Bond for the longest time. Even with some weird inclusions such as a CGI bullet flying towards the screen in the opening Gunbarrel sequence and the Madonna opening song, it had a good start. You really notice a change from the point where Bond escapes from the hospital by faking a cardiac arrest by lowering his heart rate by will. This dark tone and opportunities from the start of the movie aren’t capitalised on at all, any potential given by the start of the movie fizzles out quickly. MI6 and M initially don’t trust Bond after he’s released, believing him to have given up vital information during the torture. However that doesn’t last for long and soon enough he’s back on a mission with them. The opening being that dark is very strange considering that on the whole it is one of the silliest Bond movies. The plot is straight out of a Roger Moore Bond movie, especially with the inclusion of a solar laser beam being shot out by a diamond encrusted satellite. There’s even a plot point where the main villain played by Toby Stephens (a British white guy) turned out to be a Korean guy who used gene therapy (ironically this isn’t even the most racist moment in Bond’s film history). Being silly isn’t going to bother me, many of the Moore movies are absurd and people mostly gave those a pass. Die Another Day would make for an enjoyable campy Bond movie if they were aiming for that. Unfortunately it is not self aware, in fact it takes itself pretty seriously, which makes things tonally strange. Also despite the very silly things that happens, on the whole it feels strangely dull with not a whole lot of energy. The attempts at humour are bad but somehow also feel low effort, and the plot is rather predictable. So while there are individual moments that are goofy, its not the kind that keeps you endlessly entertained throughout the entire runtime.

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The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Pierce Brosnan has been gradually been improving as James Bond with every subsequent film but his work here is rather disappointing, feeling a little lazy and on autopilot. The opening with the torture in North Korea certainly provided an opportunity for a much darker journey for the character but unfortunately the film didn’t take advantage of that. However I wouldn’t call it a bad performance, Brosnan is still charming and fun to watch, and effortlessly delivers the (mostly cheesy and bad) one-liners written for him. Halle Berry plays the main Bond girl named Jinx. Berry was disappointingly underutilised and forgettable, delivering a rather boring performance and having basically no chemistry with Brosnan. Toby Stephens plays the villain, and the character is rather silly given that his name is Gustav Graves. The character is rather boring, however Stephens seems to be acting so hard to be the villain that he’s kind of entertaining. He is just sneering throughout the last half of the movie as he tries to be menacing, and as that he’s kind of fun to watch. Still, he’s a strong contender for the worst Bond villain. Rosamund Pike is in this movie in an early role for her. While there are issues with the writing of her character, she leaves a strong enough impression (more than Berry or the main villain), and is overall one of the film’s stronger performers. Rick Yune also made for a decent henchman, working better than the main villain too. John Cleese is the new Q after his introduction in The World is Not Enough. He’s decent enough but a bit underutilised, definitely not as memorable or effective as Desmond Llewyn or Ben Whishaw. Michael Madsen is very out of place in this movie as the head of the NSA, and it feels like he should be in a completely different movie, he’s not believable at all in his part.

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Lee Tamahori is the director of Die Another Day, and in the nicest possible terms, his work is a bit mixed. It’s one of the three Bond movies released in the 2000s, but DAD is the only one which really feels dated and very much in the 2000s. Specifically, the style uses a lot of slow motion and shots being sped up, especially in the action scenes. It’s like it was trying to imitate John Woo’s style from Mission Impossible 2, but even that movie seemed to have some level of energy, while Die Another Day has none. There’s also an overreliance on CGI and green screen, more so than most of the past Bond movies, and the CGI just looks clunky today. The gadgets in the Bond films have never been what you’d call realistic at the best of times, but this film takes it to a new level. The biggest example that everyone points to is an invisible car, and while that is firmly a step into the sci-fi territory, given the other stuff that also happens in the movie I would not call it the most silly part of the movie. The action scenes are ridiculous, there is a chase scene between two cars on ice, and most infamously there’s a scene where Bond windsurfs, making use of horrible green screen and an obvious stunt double. However there’s still fun to be had with some of the action. There’s a fight scene that makes use of multiple laser beams spinning all over the place and its just so absurd and hilarious for it. There’s also a fight scene between Bond and the main villain in their first encounter in a duelling club where they fight with swords, that was entertaining too. The production design is solid, the ice palace in the middle of Iceland particularly makes for a memorable setting for a Bond film, and not necessarily in a bad way. I don’t usually mention Bond songs in reviews but Madonna’s song for Die Another Day is so atrocious I don’t know how it ended up being used. The title sequence actually advances the story showing Bond’s torture, but it feels very out of place that Madonna’s song is played during this. Speaking of Madonna, she has a cameo in this, and somehow is even more out of place than Michael Madsen was, which is rather impressive. There are also some weird song choices, like how they literally needledrop “London Calling” by The Clash as James Bond is travelling to London. However I will give great praise to David Arnold’s score, which is really the only consistently good/great part of the movie.

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While I’d say that Die Another Day is definitely one of the worst Bond movies, I don’t dislike it that much, at the very least not as much as other people. It is certainly memorable, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. However it’s just as well that after DAD they rebooted the franchise, and that if anything is the film’s greatest contribution, as it would result in the Daniel Craig Bond era. The most disappointing thing about this movie is that you could swap out the Bond name and it would’ve fitted alongside other generic action flicks around that time. There are certainly some fun moments but the movie on the whole is surprisingly dull. As bad as it is, if you watched the first three Pierce Brosnan Bond films you might as well watch this one too, even just for completion.

The World is Not Enough (1999) Review

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The World is Not Enough

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Sophie Marceau as Elektra King
Robert Carlyle as Victor “Renard” Zokas
Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones
Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Judi Dench as M
Director: Michael Apted

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the daughter of an oil tycoon. While on his mission, he learns about an even more dangerous plot.

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Continuing my rewatches of the James Bond movies, I now move onto The World is Not Enough, one of the latter Pierce Brosnan films. Despite it being one of the more recent Bond films, I only remember some aspects like the characters and certain moments. I did notice that a lot of people didn’t really like it, so I was curious as to how I’d feel about it. As it turns out, I am now one of the people who does like it, however its probably the most frustrating Brosnan Bond film. It comes so close to greatness but it really misses out on that.

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The World is Not Enough starts off pretty good with a solid (if strangely overlong) opening. It did have me in the first half despite some stumbles, with an intriguing plot and characters. I’d say its nearly great, with lots of potential and especially with the character of Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). It also looked like an emotional journey for Bond, so I was liking where it was going. However, it eventually loses momentum. By the time it gets to the second half, I started to lose track about what was happening with the plot. Even after the movie ended, I found it to be quickly forgettable. This movie is still packed with some pretty good stuff with some twists and turns of its own, and I appreciate some of the directions they went in. However it does feel like a story with wasted potential, and resolves its plotlines and characters in unsatisfying or generic ways. It even feels a little formulaic, ultimately the big MacGuffin of this film is another nuclear weapon. Despite attempts at grounding itself and attempting to go for a darker story, the film still feels over the top silly, and as a result it does feel very tonally inconsistent. This is the movie where one of the villains has a bullet lodged in his brain and as a result he is impervious to pain. It also did feel like there were an increase of jokes and innuendos over even Tomorrow Never Dies and GoldenEye, they don’t really hit at all and feel more distracting than in those movies.

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This might be Pierce Brosnan’s best performance as Bond given this is the most emotional that his version of the character has gotten. There are tons of emotional moments for Brosnan to act out. I also feel like this is the closest that Brosnan’s Bond has come to being fully realised as a character, which is a shame because his character still has issues in this film. In this movie he keeps delivering goofy one liners, and I feel like Brosnan wasn’t able to go all the way with his portrayal. Sophie Marceau as Elektra King was the most interesting character in the movie. I won’t get into her character for those who don’t know about her part in the story, but she was quite good and shared an interesting dynamic with Brosnan’s Bond. I just wished that they went further with her character and was utilised a lot better. Judi Dench gets to have a lot more screentime as M compared to the past two Brosnan Bond films, I liked that she actually plays a notable part in the plot. Robert Carlyle plays a Bond villain role quite well however I did wish there was more to him. He is said to be dangerous and while he has something of a presence, he doesn’t really feel like a threat. So he’s not that memorable overall. Denise Richards has been widely criticized for her performance in The World is Not Enough, so I didn’t want to rag on her even more since a lot of people had already been down on her acting. Unfortunately, I have to say that the criticism is understandable. She really seems out of place in this movie, and although it would be too far to say she brings the movie down (the movie has enough problems without her), she is very distracting whenever she’s on screen. Her role is to be a nuclear physicist, deliver exposition dumps, and to have something of a romance with Bond, and she isn’t convincing at any of those. On top of that, her character’s name is Christmas Jones, and of course that’s only so that Bond can deliver a really bad one-liner at the end of the film. This performance and character is one of the only unambiguously bad things in this movie, but isn’t the source of all of its problems.

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The World is Not Enough is directed by Michael Apted and his work is mostly good here. There are some fun set pieces, though they seem to oscillate between being genuinely good to absolutely ludicrous. Also they aren’t really as memorable as the other Brosnan Bond action. It doesn’t help that Bond never really feels like he’s in danger, Tomorrow Never Dies had this issue too. David Arnold returns as composer from Tomorrow Never Dies and again does a good job here.

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I find myself in the minority of people who actually quite enjoyed The World is Not Enough but there are definitely some issues holding it back. It does feel very conflicted, it tries to have the more darker and emotional aspects, but it also tries to have the one liners and jokes that are out of place. It’s probably the most disappointing of Brosnan’s run as Bond because there are some great ideas that had potential to make for one of the best Bond films ever. What we are left with however is a decent enough yet forgettable action flick with a mix of great and terrible aspects. With all that being said, if you’ve watched some of the other Bond movies, I do think it is worth a look. It still has some very good parts to it.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Review

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Tomorrow Never Dies

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver
Michelle Yeoh as Colonel Wai Lin
Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver
Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade
Judi Dench as M
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), an undercover agent, sets out to prevent a media baron, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), from waging a war between China and the United Kingdom after he is summoned by the Secret Intelligence Service.

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Of the pre-Craig James Bond movies, I remember watching Tomorrow Never Dies the most when I was younger. So during my rewatches of the Bond films, I was interested to see if it would hold up today. I know that Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies not titled GoldenEye get a bad wrap, but I had a good feeling about this one, and I actually enjoyed TND quite a lot despite its faults.

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A big benefit to Tomorrow Never Dies is that for me, its entertaining consistently throughout, from its thrilling opening pre-title sequence to the climax. It’s all helped by swift pacing and an overall fun story. I actually found the plot more engaging than GoldenEye’s. It amps up the cheesiness for sure, it does play like a 90s action flick, but it stayed mostly consistent. It does have a campy and ridiculous script, but I enjoyed it for that. I also liked the main concept of the film and found it interesting, with the focus being the media. Despite the silly script, some of the ideas presented about the media are still relevant today, especially with the concept of fake news. In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies has aged pretty well despite being firmly in the 90s. I do feel like they could’ve done more with this concept however. In some ways the weakest part is the third act, I still had fun with it but it’s a little overstuffed. It’s also where Tomorrow Never Dies reaches pure 90s action, and its for better and for worse.

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I remember feeling a bit mixed on Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye, I thought he was very charismatic and good in the action scenes, but I never really connected with him beyond that, and he felt like he was missing something. I actually do like Brosnan more in this movie however, he does feel more comfortable in the role here. Bond unfortunately at this point in the Brosnan movies still doesn’t feel like a fully realised character. However compared to GoldenEye I think he’s getting closer to it, and it does help that he has something of an emotional drive in this film. Michelle Yeoh was also a great addition as Mai Lin, a Chinese spy and the main Bond girl of Tomorrow Never Dies. Her character isn’t given a lot of depth, but Yeoh does a lot here. She’s very capable and does a lot of action, overshadowing Brosnan many times. There’s also the media mogul Elliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce, the main villain of the film. I know not everyone really likes him, but I really enjoyed this character. He’s certainly one of the most memorable and unique Bond villains, and one of the most realistic at least in concept. It’s like if Rupert Murdoch was a Bond villain. It certainly helps the Pryce looks like he’s having an absolute blast playing this, he’s gleefully enjoyable and over the top, and it just wouldn’t have worked this well without him.

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Roger Spottiswoode directs Tomorrow Never Dies, and on the whole I thought his work was good. It’s sleek, stylish and it has some entertaining action. The cinematography from Robert Elswitt was solid, it’s a very well shot movie. The action sequences are well crafted and shot, it’s easy to tell what’s going on and its consistently fun to watch. Most of the action is something you’d see in a typical 90s action movie but as that it works. The action in the climax could’ve been toned down a little and been less by the numbers but even that was enjoyable. I really enjoyed the gadgets, especially with an action scene involving a BMW with remote control capabilities. I don’t think the action doesn’t reach some of the heights of GoldenEye but is nonetheless impressive. Instead of the divisive synth score from GoldenEye, there is a more traditional score from David Arnold, which I think fits the film very well.

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Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the more underrated Bond movies. The action is entertaining, I liked the cast in their roles, and the story works is enjoyable. I do have issues with it but on a pure entertainment level it does the job. I can see why I watched this movie a lot when I was younger. I know it is definitely a minority opinion, but it is my favourite movie from Brosnan as Bond. GoldenEye had higher highs especially with the action, but I felt mixed on the moments between the action scenes, especially with the plot. However, I was consistently entertained by Tomorrow Never Dies, and as far as the Bond films go, it’s on the better half for me.

Goldeneye (1995) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (007)
Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan (006)/Janus
Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova
Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp
Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade
Judi Dench as M
Gottfried John as General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov
Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky
Alan Cumming as Boris Grishenko
Director: Martin Campbell

When a powerful satellite system falls into the hands of Alec Trevelyan, AKA Agent 006 (Sean Bean), a former ally-turned-enemy, only James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) can save the world from an awesome space weapon that — in one short pulse — could destroy the earth! As Bond squares off against his former compatriot, he also battles Trevelyan’s stunning ally, Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), an assassin who uses pleasure as her ultimate weapon.

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I have watched most of the James Bond films (even though I don’t seem to remember most of them) however there were a few I haven’t watched: From Russia with Love, Goldeneye and Never Say Never Again (and the Jerry Lewis Casino Royale if you want to count that as a Bond film). Goldeneye has been called one of the best James Bond movies and having finally seen it, I can see why that is. I’ll be honest, the James Bond films don’t really do much for me, even though I do like most of them. It’s only the Daniel Craig era that has great James Bond movies (and really only 2 of them are great). Goldeneye has the typical tropes, clichés and structure of typical Bond films but it does the best with those aspects. Martin Campbell does deliver an entertaining flick that works really well.

The movie is set after the Cold War era (with it being the first Bond movie made after the end of the Cold War) and the film fully embraces that time period. The opening scene starts off the movie well, it’s simple and straightforward and completely Bondlike. From that point onwards, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a Bond movie. The movie has much of the same structure and tropes as most Bond films. However, when it comes to James Bond movies this is one of the better ones and it does rather well with it. You don’t get very invested in the story plot but its straightforward and easy to follow, easy to be entertained by. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes and the pacing does work quite well, it’s always moving in some way and doesn’t give you a chance to draw bored at any point. You’re generally entertained throughout.

Goldeneye is Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as the new James Bond after Timothy Dalton’s two film run. His version is a lot more charismatic and charming than all the other James Bonds’ and Brosnan really excels at that aspect. I don’t really buy him as a spy as much as the other James Bonds but he’s still pretty entertaining to watch. The ‘Bond Girl’ of Goldeneye is played by Izabella Scorupco, and I can’t really tell if she’s a good actor or not because her character once again falls into the typical Bond girl category of not really having anything to them as a character. You never really buy the relationship between her and Bond, but I guess it’s kind of something to look past because it’s a Bond movie. Sean Bean plays the villain of Alec Trevelyan, a former double 00 agent gone rogue. Though the character really isn’t anything special (a rogue agent in a spy isn’t really anything special), he does serve the movie really well, and Bean does play up his villainous role and is entertaining. Famke Janssen also does well as Xenia Onatopp (yes, that’s the character’s name). However the character is a little too over the top, with her trademark kill being crushing people with her thighs and there are even times when she is literally moaning with pleasure after killing people. It just comes across as being really goofy more than anything, and that’s saying a lot considering the James Bond movies as a whole. While in a smaller role, M this time is played by Judi Dench, who would do a fantastic job in both the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig Bond eras. She’s only given a couple scenes here but she makes the most of these scenes to make a real impression. Alan Cumming is in this movie as a Russian hacker and while I get the feeling that his character is meant to be over the top, I think it was a little too over the top.

Martin Campbell starts off this new version of James Bond (not the first time he’d do this, see a decade later with Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale) and he does a great job. Campbell particularly does very well with the action scenes, with a lot of practical effects along with the digital effects. The fight scenes are great, especially the final confrontation between James and Alec, Bond actually seemed like he was somewhat in danger. There’s also some large scale and entertaining action sequences, including one with Bond chasing people in a tank. Some visual effects like blue lightning, satellites and some explosions look fake now but they probably worked greatly for 1995. The score by Éric Serra is different and stands apart from the other Bond scores, it really works.

Goldeneye is one of the best James Bond movies for sure. It’s very much a Bond film and has many of the familiar aspects and formula, but its really entertaining. Much of the success goes to Martin Campbell, who did a great job directing this movie and introducing a new James Bond with Pierce Brosnan. If you like the James Bond movies but haven’t gotten around to Goldeneye (which was me until recently), I’d suggest watching it, it’s a lot of fun.

Pride & Prejudice (2005) Review

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Pride & Prejudice

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet
Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy
Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet
Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet
Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins
Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet
Carey Mulligan as Catherine “Kitty” Bennet
Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet
Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet
Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Director: Joe Wright

The story is based on Jane Austen’s novel about five sisters – Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Mary (Talulah Riley), Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Lydia Bennet (Jena Malone) – in Georgian England. Their lives are turned upside down when wealthy young Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) and his best friend, Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) arrive in their neighbourhood.

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2005’s Pride & Prejudice was a movie I had heard about and have been meaning to watch for a while. Actually right before I watched the movie, I saw the mini series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, which I thought was quite good. It came with some of the dated aspects and some very tv moments as expected, but I liked it as it was. The movie is similar but different, and treating it on its own, it’s quite good.

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Now there’s something I have to note first of all, I’m not familiar with the Jane Austen story, but from what I can tell, the mini series is pretty much an exact translation of the book. So I’m going on the assumption that I know what the book is generally like. The movie comes with the expected adaptation flaws, and it does simplify and change some aspects, though it’s usually not too much of a problem for me. It’s even set at an earlier time period which was an interesting choice. The only part that bothered me was that some aspects feel rather rushed, mainly in the first act. Going from a 6 episode long mini series to a 2 hour long movie is definitely going to feel jarring especially when comparing the two, but they rushed through so many of the early parts for like no reason at all. They could’ve easily added 10 minutes more to that portion for some moments to breathe. After that first act however it gets better, and I was quite invested in the movie even though I knew of the story and indeed it largely played out the same way as in the mini series. It’s been called one of the most romantic romance movies but some and I can certainly see why. The take on the story feels quite fresh that even people who aren’t as into period piece dramas/romances will likely find something to enjoy here. Side note but if possible, try to watch the American version of the movie. It includes an extended ending and I’m not sure why both versions don’t have that.

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The cast is stacked, and all the actors performed very well. Keira Knightley plays the lead character of Elizabeth Bennett and she was really great. This version of her is quite different to the mini series (and from what I can tell the book), but I thought it worked quite well for the film. Matthew Macfadyen plays Mr Darcy and he was really good, although it is quite hard seeing anyone else other than Colin Firth in the role. The chemistry between Knightley and Macfadyen is top notch and they really sell that romance over the course of the film. The actresses who played the Bennett sisters with Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Talulah Riley, and Carey Mulligan, as well as the rest of the cast which includes the likes of Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander and Judi Dench also do well in their roles.

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This is Joe Wright’s directorial debut and he did pretty well with his first film. It’s a great looking movie, with the costume design and sets being at the level of quality that you’d expect them to be. The cinematography also is what makes this version so special, and the aforementioned romanticism owes a lot to it, particularly with what the camera focusses on in certain moments. The score by Dario Marianelli is also really great and perfect for the film.

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Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, Pride & Prejudice is definitely worth watching. It’s a very well made movie, greatly directed and acted. As to whether I think this or the mini series is better, they both have their advantages and disadvantages, but they ultimately both work for what they are.

Skyfall (2012) Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Judi Dench as M
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Sévérine
Albert Finney as Kincade
Ben Whishaw as Q
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Director: Sam Mendes

When James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) latest assignment goes terribly wrong, it leads to a calamitous turn of events: Undercover agents around the world are exposed, and MI6 is attacked, forcing M (Judi Dench) to relocate the agency. With MI6 now compromised inside and out, M turns to the one man she can trust: Bond. Aided only by a field agent (Naomie Harris), Bond takes to the shadows and follows a trail to Silva (Javier Bardem), a man from M’s past who wants to settle an old score.

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After the disappointing Quantum of Solace, the next instalment of the James Bond series, Skyfall would be released in 2012, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the James Bond series, which started with Dr No. I know that in recent years there have been some backlash against it, but I loved Skyfall when I first saw it in cinemas and I still really love it now. Watching it recently I was reminded about how fantastic it is. It is without a doubt in the top 2 best James Bond films.

Skyfall takes things back to some of the classic James Bond while being a very different kind of Bond film at the same time. It is a film which takes the story very seriously but it doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of any fun at the same time. It is very much set in reality with the tone and the story and yet we do get some of the things that we would expect in a typical Bond film, we get the gadgets (even if it’s just a gun that can read Bond’s handprint and a tracking device), we get Q and Moneypenny, we get a lot of little moments like that and it fits in well with the whole story. Like with the previous two Bond films, Skyfall is another personal story but not in the way that you’d initially expect. Yes we do get some of Craig’s version of Bond’s backstory (which by the way only elevates Daniel Craig’s Bond above others even more as he’s given more of a character than other James Bonds) but that’s not the focus, it’s actually on M and her connection with Silva, the main villain. It’s actually balanced out all very well, the emotion, the nostalgia, the entertainment, everything fits in together really well.

Daniel Craig is again great as James Bond, both in the action scenes and the drama scenes. Bond in this film is shown to be not at the top of his game as he once was. This is especially shown in the first act and it makes for an interesting new take for Bond, who usually always at least seems like he’s on top of everything. There’s a moment in the third act where he’s particularly great and it’s one of the only times that James Bond has truly shown emotion. With Skyfall, Judi Dench as M is more focussed on than any other James Bond movie with M in it and it was actually done really well, and Dench as usual absolutely delivers. While some of Bond’s backstory is shown in Skyfall, the story is more personally tied to M and the villain. Judi Dench’s M here is given much more to do than just being James Bond’s boss. The film did a great job sending off Judi Dench as M. Javier Bardem as Silva ranks among the best of the Bond villains. He really works as not just a Bond villain but as a movie villain in itself. He shows up halfway through the movie and yet makes a memorable first impression, is a force of nature and a real presence right up until the very end. He’s damaged, deranged and yet also has an understandable motive, one that’s not looking for money or for control. Silva is one of, if not the best Bond villain. Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny (it’s been 6 years so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that her character all that time is secretly Moneypenny) is great and she kills it in her role. I almost want a spin off movie with her character, Harris has shown herself to be great and convincing in the role. Along with Moneypenny being brought to the Craig Era Bondverse we have the introduction of Q played by Ben Whishaw, a much younger Q especially compared to all the previous versions but it really works well, and Whishaw is really good. Ralph Fiennes is also a good addition to the movie (he would eventually take over as M in the next films). Bérénice Lim Marlohe is good in her scenes but isn’t really used enough in the movie, she’s really the only cast member who isn’t used to her fullest potential in their role in the movie.

Sam Mendes was a great pick for a James Bond film, this movie is directed absolutely wonderfully. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is absolutely masterful as always, there are many shots and sequences that look absolutely beautiful. Skyfall is by far the best looking James Bond film and it might even be the best directed. The action scenes are all pretty great, they aren’t as outrageous and over the top as some other Bond films but they are really great. From the opening scene in Istanbul that has (a car chase, to a motorbike chase to a fight on top of a train), to the fiery climax, all of it is executed very well. For example, there is a fight scene taking place in a building in Shanghi and it looks absolutely wonderful with the silhouettes, the lighting and everything, one of the best directed James Bond scenes ever. I have to say, after watching Quantum of Solace not too long ago its very satisfying to watch a James Bond movie where the editing is at a level of quality where you can actually see what’s happening during action sequences. The titular song used during the opening credits by Adele was also great and really suited the movie. Speaking of music, Thomas Newman’s score for Skyfall is great, unlike some scores where it just accompanies the scenes well, it also elevated many of the scenes in Skyfall.

Skyfall is by far one of the best James Bond films, if not the best. It has a great personal story that is grounded in reality yet is fun to watch, it has one of the best Bond villains in Javier Bardem and is probably the best directed film in the series’s 50+ year run. Sam Mendes and the cast and crew did an excellent job in delivering an entertaining and emotionally satisfying experience. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film with No Time to Die will at least be at the level of either this or Casino Royale.

Quantum of Solace (2008) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes
Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene
Judi Dench as M
Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Director: Marc Forster

Following the death of Vesper Lynd, James Bond (Daniel Craig) makes his next mission personal. The hunt for those who blackmailed his lover leads him to ruthless businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a key player in the organization which coerced Vesper. Bond learns that Greene is plotting to gain total control of a vital natural resource, and he must navigate a minefield of danger and treachery to foil the plan.

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I had been meaning to re-watch Quantum of Solace for some time, with Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie coming out next year (or at least it was before it was delayed). Some people really hated the movie, and I didn’t really know why. Many years ago I did watch Quantum of Solace but I don’t remember much of the movie, so I decided to rewatch it to see how I would find it. While I don’t think it’s terrible, I can see why a lot of people don’t really like it. Quantum of Solace has some high points but his significantly held back by an average script and action scenes with bad editing.

One of the biggest flaws with Quantum of Solace is the script by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, which really isn’t good. From what I can tell, director Mark Forster wanted to make the political circumstances in the story to be more realistic. That is why the film focussed on the global issue of the environment. While that concept might work for a political thriller, I’m not quite sure if it would quite work for Bond, and I’m someone who’s in favour for the Bond franchise to do new things in order to keep things fresh. I will give credit to them however for trying something new instead of having another Generic Evil Mastermind tries to take over world and instead trying to further set it into reality. It might’ve actually worked but taking a huge risk like this with a character and franchise like James Bond, it needs to be done in the right way to make it work, but the way it’s done here just falls flat. Odd direction of story aside, the main reason that the script has so many problems was the writer’s strike. Apparently at the time, they had a bare bones of a script and they couldn’t hire writers to finish it because of the writer’s strike, so Daniel Craig and Marc Forster had to work on it and do rewrites themselves during filming. Even Craig said that the film shouldn’t have started filming until the script was completed. Knowing all that after watching Quantum of Solace, everything makes sense now. As previously mentioned, the story is not that interesting, you don’t really care much about the characters or the story. The characters are particularly underdeveloped, the initial ideas of the characters were a good starting point but not good characters in the final product. It’s also not entirely easy to follow either, Bond films are almost always easy to follow but I got lost many times. In the end I just gave up on trying to figure out what entirely is going on. The film does bring up and ties up the Vesper and boyfriend storyline from Casino Royale (until Spectre brought it back up yet again) but it really didn’t feel necessary bringing that plotline back in the first place. The first movie seemingly tied up the plotline but most of all, that plotline is only slightly relevant to the plot in Quantum of Solace, like the main plot wasn’t going to bring up Vesper and all that as much originally but they added it in later on (with all the rewrites that’s entirely possible). This movie is actually short for a Daniel Craig Bond film, at about an hour 40 minutes long but it feels about 2 hours long. The length isn’t really an issue though, the writing itself was more the issue.

The best part about the movie is Daniel Craig, who once again gives it his all as James Bond, whether that be with the action scenes or the acting. With that said, there are some aspects of Bond here which feel lacking as a character (writing related). That can be said for pretty much all the characters. Olga Kuryenlko plays the “Bond Girl” in the movie and was decent enough in her role. She has a plotline about getting revenge on another character (which clearly parallels what’s happening with Bond after the events of Casino Royale) that works fine enough but wasn’t anything great. The villain Dominic Greene played by Mathieu Amalric is rather weak and not that good. Well, nothing about him is bad per se. It’s just that he’s not menacing, he’s not interesting, he’s not threatening, but most of all he’s forgettable. Even if he was annoying at least he would’ve been somewhat memorable, but you don’t really have any emotional feeling towards him at all. His plot and him as a character isn’t terrible but it feels like he’s a character from a different film that somehow ended up in a Bond film. Amalric does at least try his best with his role and out of all the main Daniel Craig Bond villains, he’s the only one so far who does physically take him on. Aside from that, there’s not much about Greene that works as a villain in a James Bond film. I think if he at least had a henchman who was an actual threat to Bond, that would’ve made up for it. With all that being said, rewatching the movie recently however, he does actually feel like a real character and while he wasn’t the best villain for Bond to be paired with, he was alright, albeit underwhelming. Amalric also does put everything he can into his role. Maybe it’s just rewatching Spectre that makes me appreciate Greene a lot more. Returning actors Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright are pretty good in their returning roles, though Wright as Felix Leiter does seem out of place as he doesn’t really do much (apparently early in the script he was meant to have a much bigger role but the re-writes cut down his role immensely). Other actors like Gemma Arteton and David Harbour are fine in their roles but they don’t really get to do much.

Marc Forster is a solid director, giving us movies like Monster’s Ball and The Kite Runner, and with Quantum of Solace… the outcome was quite mixed. A lot of the movie is well filmed, it looks good, the locations are great and the setups to the action sequences look good. Interesting side note is that it really ups the violence, making it one of the most violent movies in the franchise (it’s between this and Licence to Kill). With all that potential, it would’ve been even better if we could’ve actually properly seen these action sequences. However, the hyperactive editing absolutely ruins these scenes, making some sequences that would otherwise be great, at times unwatchable. The only action scene not affected by this is a plane action sequence, which had the perfect editing for that scene and wasn’t jarring in the slightest. With a lot of the action scenes however, I couldn’t watch it for too long because sometimes it literally hurt to try to watch it. You just couldn’t tell what was happening a lot of the time. While the writer’s strike definitely affected the movie negatively, I’m not sure what happened with the editing. The editing for the rest of the movie was fine.

Quantum of Solace is a very mixed bag. On one hand, the setups to the action scenes are good, some of the story had some potential, some scenes are good and Daniel Craig is still great as James Bond. On the other hand, the action scenes don’t pay off because of the bad editing and the script is lacklustre and doesn’t feel complete. They really shouldn’t have gone ahead with filming until they absolutely nailed down the script beforehand. It’s disappointing that this movie didn’t turn out as well as it should’ve, it’s just not that memorable unfortunately. Still, I don’t think it’s bad but it’s not really a movie I will be revisiting (or remembering for that matter) any time soon.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Adult Themes
Cast
Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot
Tom Bateman as Bouc
Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados
Willem Dafoe as Gerhard
Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff
Johnny Depp as Samuel Ratchett
Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen
Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman
Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot
Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard
Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham
Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel
Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. Everyone’s a suspect when Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.

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I was curious about Murder on the Orient Express, I had never read the original book or watched any adaptations. It was the cast and crew involved that had me interested, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing and starring. As someone who hasn’t seen any version of the story beforehand, I ended up thoroughly enjoyed Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. The performances (particularly from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction really make this movie. It does have some issues (particularly with its characters) but its good elements far outweigh the weaker elements overall.

I can’t comment on any similarities and differences between this and the original book or other adaptations, so I’ll just treat it as its own thing. It’s not a flashy typical Hollywood whodunit, it is slower paced and feels restrained. I can see a lot of people getting bored of this movie so if you’re going to see it just know that it is very slow paced. The pacing didn’t bother me personally, it felt just right. I was quite intrigued throughout the whole movie, my attention didn’t waver once. This movie has a surprisingly amount of effective humour, especially from Branagh’s Poirot. One issue that I had is that there is so much going on that at times it is hard to follow. At the end, even though I understood most of what happened, I had to look up the plot to clarify certain things. You have to be paying close attention or you could miss details, I know because I was paying attention and I didn’t pick up all of it. The second problem and probably the biggest problem is the handling of the supporting characters. The supporting characters aren’t developed or fleshed out that well. You might be able to remember some aspect about them (like in terms of the actor or the character’s job) but that’s about it. So when names are being thrown all about by Poirot as he theorises what happened, it’s a little jarring and at times hard to follow what’s going on. Its hard to remember these supporting characters, I can barely remember any of the supporting characters’ names, save for a couple.

This movie has a lot of A list actors but the true star of this movie is Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. He is a little over the top but it works, Hercule is a quirky and likable character and its basically worth watching the movie for this performance alone. Also he manages to sell that over the top handlebar moustache. We have a large and talented supporting cast with Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Johnny Depp and others. For many of those who have had long careers like Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe, their performances here aren’t going to rank up as one of their best but they play their part well, in fact everyone plays their parts rather well. A stand out to me was Josh Gad, who surprised me, he’s usually known for comedic roles in movies like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. But here he proves that he is really good in a dramatic role. Even Johnny Depp was good, granted his performance was one of the weaker performances and he doesn’t have a massive amount of screentime. As I said, the actors played their roles well, it’s just that the characters really weren’t that fleshed out that well aside from Hercule. I have no issues about the acting however.

Kenneth Branagh directs the film very well. The cinematography is truly great, it’s beautiful looking. The long takes also help show just how big of scale everything is. It makes use of its locations very well. The editing also was top notch and worked well, especially in the scenes where Poirot is piecing together what happened.

I’m not sure how much you’ll like 2017 Murder on the Orient Express. I think you will at the very least appreciate and enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s performance and his direction. Personally, I really liked it, with the acting (especially from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction and the plot which is mostly done well. There are some aspects that didn’t quite work in terms of some of the characters but for the most part this movie does everything right. Branagh has mentioned that he was interested in doing more films with the character of Poirot and I am completely on board for that. I’d love to see him make a return.

Casino Royale (2006)

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Casino Royale

Time: 144 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Judi Dench as M
Director: Martin Campbell

Promoted to 00 status, James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes on his first mission where he must face Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a private banker to the world’s terrorists. Le Chiffre set up a poker game a Montenegro to receive a large sum of money. The head of M16, M (Judi Dench) sends Bond, along with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to attend this game and stop Le Chiffre from winning.

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To me Casino Royale is the Batman Begins of James Bond. It took the series in a more realistic direction and ultimately, the best direction it could go in. Casino Royale reboots the franchise with its new tone, a new Bond and a fresh start. This is one of, if not the best James Bond movie made.

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It has been argued by some die hard James Bond fans that this movie didn’t feel like a James Bond movie. It should be known that Casino Royale is the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, in many ways this is a prequel to previous and later Bond movies being released. There aren’t any gadgets being used in this movie as much as previous Bond films did. Also a good thing to know is that you don’t have to have watched any of the previous Bond films to love this one, as the formula of the film is different from previous James Bond movies. Fans of the other Bond movies need to keep in mind that this is really the first James Bond; there were no gadgets, there were no one liners; this is Bond, before he really was Bond. The story’s pacing is done right, it isn’t the same as other Bond films but it was done well and was structured out well.

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This movie’s tone was grittier than previous movies so it required an actor who could portray James Bond’s new characterisation; Craig does that here and also manages to have a naturalistic feeling as him. Each actor who has played Bond has their own take on him and in Casino Royale, he is a much more ruthless and cold-blooded character than how some of the other actors portrayed him. Daniel Craig’s performance is one that I can buy as being realistic. The supporting cast was also great especially Mads Mikkelsen as the film’s main antagonist, Le Chiffre. He was a Bond villain that managed to feel grounded in reality instead of being like some of the over-the-top villains in the franchise, as well as having a realistic motive unlike some others (like Hugo Drax from Moonraker). Eva Green plays Vesper Lynd who is a love interest to James Bond and shares great chemistry with Craig. In my opinion, her character is one of the best bond girls as she managed to actually make an impact on Bond, unlike many of the others the James would later come across (that were in the previous movies). Judi Dench returns for the 5th time as M and also stole the scenes that she was in.

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The action in this movie is filmed well; it helps that this movie is under the direction of Martin Campbell, the man behind Goldeneye which was another great Bond Movie. The stunt work is also really good, especially a scene earlier in the film when Bond is in Madagascar. Casino Royale takes place in many locations and the cinematography is done very well in those many locations. The soundtrack also is very Bond-esque and gets the mood set up at the right moments.

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Casino Royale and Skyfall are my two favourite James Bond movies. I still don’t know what I prefer but either way, because of Casino Royale, the series introduced a tone that I liked more than some of the other films had. I’m glad that the Bond franchise is going in this direction. With a new type of Bond, a story that is really good and action scenes that are really entertaining, Casino Royale gave me what I wanted in a good Bond film and overall, a good film.