This past weekend, the lovely and talented Malibu Stacy and I had a chance to catch up on some recent new releases.
First up, Casino Royale. I know there was a whole lot of grumbling about Daniel Craig taking over the helm of the Bond franchise, but I've been rooting for him from the start. I loved his work in Road to Perdition and Munich, and especially his absolutely brilliant turn in Layer Cake. Not surprisingly, I thought Craig did a tremendous job here, bringing the rough tones needed for the origins story. (He'll bring the more polished appeal of Layer Cake to the next installments, so no worries there.) The real surprise, for me, was how they rebooted the whole franchise, dialing down the over-the-top gadgetry of the last couple films -- invisible cars? orbiting heat rays? -- and paring it down to the hard-edged, hard-nosed spy thriller at the heart of the Fleming novels. There's some terrific action -- including a phenomenal parkour fight scene -- and some actually decent acting as well. I'd have to say it's the best Bond film since Goldfinger.
Second, we had a chance last night to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. I'd been a little wary about this one, since I wasn't sure how they could maintain the premise for an hour and a half without running out of steam. It did wind up getting a little old by the end, but that might have just been physical exhaustion I felt from laughing so hard for so long. I don't want to spoil any of the jokes here -- in the comments, maybe -- but I will say that there's a bit with former Republican Rep. Bob Barr that had me crying, and a piece with Alan Keyes that wasn't far behind. This one's going to involve multiple viewings, I think, and I doubt they'll disappoint.
Finally, I've got to join the growing blogospheric chorus in raving about this season of The Wire on HBO. I've been a tremendous fan of this show from the very first episode, largely because I saw it as a reincarnation of my all-time favorite cop show, Homicide: Life on the Streets. But The Wire is, in truth, even better. Not only is it a fantastic drama that includes a wide array of richly-drawn characters and some terrific acting; it's the only piece of entertainment I've seen that also carries a political message subtly and strongly. Each season has been a study in the deterioration of urban institutions -- the law, the unions, the political process, and now the schools. If you haven't been watching this show, do yourself a tremendous favor and start lining up Season One in your rental queue. You won't be sorry.
Feel free to drop your own thoughts on any of these in the comments below, or throw out your own recommendations for new shows in the motion picture theaters or coming out on that there teevee.