Monday, November 20, 2006

Jon Breen on Casino Royale; Fred Blosser; Ray Richmond

Jon Breen on Casino Royale

Last Friday on my local NPR station, I heard a couple of film critics, Henry Sheehan and Lael Lowenstein, talking about the new James Bond movie Casino Royale. Sheehan said it was the best Bond film he’d ever seen. Lowenstein wouldn’t go quite that far but did think it was the best of recent years. Sheehan was way off. There is no way the over-the-top latter day Bonds without Sean Connery could ever equal the lean and mean first three (Doctor No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger). Lowenstein was closer to the mark, at least up to a point.

I’ve seen every Bond film and enjoyed even the weakest of them, but the critics’ comments, laudatory as they were, made me doubt I would enjoy this one very much. It sounded as if they were trying to add serious depth and sensitivity to the character, and that’s just not a good idea. I remembered Batman Begins, which won great critical praise but which my wife and I found so boringly pretentious we walked out before it was over.

After two hours, my fears about Casino Royale had not been realized. Unfortunately, it was a two and a half hour movie. Daniel Craig makes a good Bond, quite possibly the best since Connery. As usual, there are great action sequences, including some impressive stunt work. Despite the absence of Q and Miss Moneypenny, there is at least some humorous byplay. But in that last half hour, things go irreparably downhill. The problem is this: James Bond, certainly in the movies and maybe in Ian Fleming’s novels as well, is a larger-than-life comic-book sort of figure who is not meant to be taken too seriously. Laughter is an appropriate response to a Bond adventure, but it should be laughter of appreciation, not laughter of ridicule. The romantic subplot in this film as it develops in the last half hour unfortunately invites the latter.

Not that Bond in love, even with a touch of pathos, can’t be done successfully. It was managed over thirty years ago in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the single Bond outing of George Lazenby, a much less gifted actor than Daniel Craig.

The Michael Richards Matter

Ed here: One final word on the Michael Richards matter. The two black men showed remarkable restraint in telling Richards that he what he was saying was uncalled for. I'm no fan of hecklers but I certainly thought their remarks showed great class under pressure.

Fred Blosser:


My initial thought: this was all a publicity stunt, including the planting of "hecklers" in the audience to create a fake ruckus. I don't take anything in show biz at face value anymore. Richards hasn't been in the public eye in years. It's like the fading actresses and internet pinups who do nude layouts in Playboy in an attempt to restart their careers. If it was on the up and up, it's simply another example of the sad state of "comedy" these days, where using rude or offensive slang for its own sake is somehow perceived as being funny.


Yesterday Ray Richmond didn't have much good to say about Michael Richards. Understandably. But like me he seemed moved to a reluctant sympathy for the man after seeing him on a Letterman feed. This is not to be confused with condoning what Richards did. But last night I saw a man in hell and having been there more than a few times myself I had to feel sorry for him.

Ray Richmond:

A Remorseful and Seemingly Shellshocked Michael Richards Apologizes On 'Letterman' Tonight Via Satellite

It just so happens that Jerry Seinfeld was slated to appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" tonight to hawk the release of the Season 7 DVD of "Seinfeld." And considering the Michael Richards racial-epithet-spewing brouhaha that exploded today, the timing could not have been more fortuitous for Seinfeld's series co-star and longtime friend, who makes an appearance from Los Angeles via satellite during Seinfeld's already-scheduled guest stint. Reported to be near tears, Richards utters a heartfelt and achingly sincere apology for his behavior that was captured on tape. It airs tonight at 11:35 p.m. on CBS.

Interviewed by Letterman, Richards is said to look haggard and forlorn and seems genuinely devastated by the fallout from his Friday night stand-up gig at The Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. He apparently makes the point that he is not a racist and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time (hallelujah to that) but that he obviously has some significant anger issues to work out. Uh, yeah.

(For the transcript check here


Bill Crider pays an excellent adieu to Robert Altman on his website tonight


Anonymous said...

I say again, someone needs to get Jon Breen a paying gig reviewing movies. He's the best critic alive.

steve stilwell

Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you, Steve. And I agree with you abou Jon. Ed