Sunday, November 19, 2006


There should be two reviews, or as close to reviews as I get, here. I saw Fast Food Nation on 14 November, but I just didn't feel too terribly strongly about it. Perhaps it's because I'm not the film's target audience. I know illegal immigrants are taken advantage of by people looking to lower their costs to maximize their profits. Yes, the fast food corporations turn a blind eye to the corners cut by their suppliers for the same reasons. No, letter writing is not enough when your numbers are too small to prevent an elected representative's reelection and said representative has ties to the offending parties.

Maybe this has come through observation, maybe through listening to interviews and commentary on the book of the same name. Whatever the source, it wasn't news to me when I saw it in the film. Also, the shots from the killing floor of the slaughterhouse seemed intended to shock and unsettle, but they did very little in the way of unsettling this viewer.

The unsettling bit was the mechanized nature of the operation. There was no reverence for the animal. It can't be afforded if we want meat at low, low prices. For contrast, take a look at the abattoir section of Workingman's Death. It is an entirely different experience.

On a more positive note, I felt that the performances were decent (I'll admit it, I liked Wilmer Valderrama as the hardworking illegal just trying to get by, and I love Luis Guzman on principle, just to mention two specifics), they refrained from making the people we aren't intended to like super-horrible caricatures, and it was guilty fun recognizing all of the New Belgium beers that appeared in the film without having them mentioned by name or having the bottles foregrounded (I recognized Fat Tire before it was said, you'll also see Sunshine Wheat, 1554, and Abbey Ale if my eyes didn't deceive me or miss any). Thank goodness I drank good, local beers while in Colorado, or I'd not have noticed a great attempt by (what must now be) a regional brewery to grow its brand by orders of magnitude. If those beers are stocked in your area, check them out.

Now for movie number two:

I have to agree with my friend Brandon that Casino Royale is one of the best Bond movies. As I'm writing this, I have deliberately not read his, no doubt, much better and far more professional review because I know he will have said many of the same things better, and many other things that would inevitably creep into what I'm typing now simply because I'd want to sound better than I already do. Sorry, Brandon, it's my first stop once this is posted.

At any rate, I have to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for the original Casino Royale. It has Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, David Niven, more attractive women than you can shake a stick at (I defy you to shake a stick at a greater number of attractive women than you find in this film. It is an impossibility), and much much more. It even has psychedelic prison rooms like you'd find in Modesty Blaise. I want to mention everything else in it, but that's not the intent of this section.

I was ready for the new Casino Royale to disappoint, despite having Mads Mikkelsen playing Le Chiffre. It completely overturned my expectations. The film opens on James Bond receiving double 0 status as he makes his second confirmed kill. He's not yet the always cool, smooth secret agent, as we see in grainy (I suppose I'd call it gritty) flashbacks to kill number one. Bond gets his promotion and, with a few Bond mainstays like using whatever is at hand to accomplish his goals in the way that is most embarrassing to his superiors, embarks on the primary mission of the film: to stop Le Chiffre, a banker for insurgent groups around the world, from retrieving money he lost (due to Bond's actions) in a high stakes poker game.

The plot should be simple, but complicated by character. As this is a prequel to the other James Bond movies, it focuses more on how he comes to be the superspy we encounter in the other films. We see his evolution from somewhat hotheaded to calm and poised in two and three-quarter hours.

He actually has a serious romantic interest, not just another in the line of disposable dames. This was, surprisingly or not, the part of the movie where I felt things lagged a bit. The dialogue was too on the nose and at times saccharine. I definitely think the events were necessary for the character, but the way they were portrayed seems to point to a fear that the audience wouldn't sit through the extra time needed to flesh them out.

The camera work was nice. On more than one occasion it adjusts its perspective to that of Bond (the gritty black and white of the first killing, the overexposure and blur after drinking the spiked martini).

Also interesting is the aspect of anticipation. Because this is a prequel, we know certain things must or must not happen and we wait for some to start and others to end. We've seen, at least some of, the other films, so certain twists can be almost certainly included only to further character development. I find that rather clever at the moment.

James is even sexualized as much as the women in the movie. Well, if your metric for sexualization is the amount of screen time devoted to a given character's body as eye candy. We see more of him than anyone else.

In one sentence: I'd recommend it.

Alright, it's getting late for me, considering I have to be up entirely too early for a student, and I'm not sure if that all reads well or makes sense, but it is what is there, and I doubt I'll edit it. I'm sure I'd write more thorough, professional reviews if I wasn't currently caught up in the mindset that I'd rather have an actual conversation about a movie than attempt to have one in my head and write all the answers without the interactive questioning.

I also realized I only have something like two weeks left to prepare my final assignments. Hello new home in Copley Place named Boston Public Library, and hello undue stress brought on by procrastination. It's been a little while. Glad to once again make your acquaintance, old friend.