I don’t think Alan was happy with my choice, but I picked “Casino Royale” for Saturday’s On Demand movie night. Bond movies should be the ultimate date movie, don’t you think? Men can swoon over beautiful, doomed Vulva Fantastique, or whatever ridiculous moniker they’ve given this year’s pulchritudinous cannon fodder, and women get to fantasize about Bond, James Bond. He can kick ass, make love like a champ and never minds putting on nice clothes. What’s not to like?
Well, maybe I’m getting old. But Bond is starting to bore me. And when “Casino Royale,” overwhelmingly praised as the best Bond in decades, can’t do the trick, it’s time to give it up.
Not that it wasn’t a rip-roaring entry in the Bond canon. Not that there were insufficient explosions, wussy stunts or a shortage of evil bad guys who weep blood. It’s just that, at some point, you either dig watching stuff blow up or you don’t.
I brightened a little, seeing Paul Haggis’ name on the screenwriting credit, along with two others. It suggested he may have been brought in for a rewrite and polish, and maybe he was. There were a few zingers in the script, but not enough. We know what’s going to happen: Clever opening title sequence; big wham-o chase scene; the mission from M; the briefing on the toys and gadgets; introduction of the villain, who must never be named Bob Smith or John Jones, but Francois the Vile; relocation to one or more exotic locations, preferably in warm climates for maximum bikini utilization; a few more wham-o action sequences; an early love scene in which the girl must die immediately and another in which the girl must die later; more wham-o action; really big wham-o action; finale in which Bond has rolled into the arms of yet another babe, and roll credits.
It’s the same formula followed by he-man pulp fiction of the time (Travis McGee, etc.). I think the reason so many people still think of Sean Connery as the best of the Bonds is because he had the advantage of being first. I was just a kid when “Goldfinger” came out, but it had a cultural impact not unlike that of the Star Wars movies. Oddjob the villain, the bowler that was really an instrument of decapitation, the Aston Martin that sprayed oil out the tailpipes to foil pursuers — kids at school talked about these endlessly, although none of us had seen it, being too young for the spicy scenes of Connery kissing Honor Blackman, the first Bond girl, the fabulously named Pussy Galore.
True fact: The Columbus Dispatch, in its review of and stories about “Goldfinger,” never used her character’s full name, calling her “Miss Galore” on all references. Other true fact: Honor Blackman was 38 when “Goldfinger” was released, three years older than her co-star. She turns 80 this year and has been working pretty much non-stop for 60 years. Mercy.
Anyway, “Goldfinger” was huge. “Secret Agent Man” was a hit for Johnny Rivers, and for a while there, it seemed everyone wanted to be in bed with James Bond, one way or another.
I don’t want to quibble. It was an enjoyable enough movie, with all the traditions honored — gadgetry, lots of product placement. (Thanks for the Astons, Ford Motor Co. Good of you to provide laptops, Sony.) Bond is a man of his time, too, whatever that is, and so the plot turned on such pivots as cell-phone technology, and there was a big, juicy parkour wham-o, and the climactic poker game in the Casino Royale was — Jesus wept — Texas Hold’em. I haven’t seen all of the Bond films, or even most, but this may be the last for me, even with Daniel Craig’s pretty blue eyes and fabulous profile. They’re going to have to work hard for my next $3.99, and more wham-os aren’t going to do it.
Only one bit o’ bloggage today, thanks to Basset, who passes along…23 pairs of perfect breasts. Probably not safe for work, unless you sit with your back to a wall.