Two reviews for holiday moviegoers

Reel to Reel

The James Bond series returns to its roots with &#8220Casino Royale,” the first Ian Fleming novel that introduced the popular British super spy, and it couldn't come at a more appropriate time.

&#8220Royale” doesn't just serve to introduce the latest Bond (Daniel Craig), but it also gives the series a chance to reinvent itself into a sleeker, hard-edged type of franchise.

This film picks up from the beginning, with Bond in the early stages of his status as agent 007. When a mission to stop a terrorist in Madagascar ends with a potentially damaging international incident, Bond sets out to find associates of the terrorists and uncovers a banker named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who uses his winnings from international poker games to fund terrorists all over the world.

Le Chiffre's latest game is a high-stakes Texas hold 'em tournament at the Casino Royale in France. Aided by a beautiful accountant named Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Bond sets out to win the tournament and bring Le Chiffre's lavish lifestyle to its knees.

Director Martin Campbell already had experience in the franchise, directing 1995's &#8220Goldeneye,” and he uses that to his advantage - creating several solid action sequences, while giving fans of the series some of the trademark elements that have made the series such a huge success. Green is very good as Bond's love interest, while Mikkelson oozes creepiness as the bloody teared bad guy.

But the biggest news in &#8220Royale” is Craig - the sixth person to play 007. I've been a fan of Craig since the little known &#8220Layer Cake” and I am happy to say he does an outstanding job as Bond - creating a character completely unlike previous Bonds, including Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. This Bond is intense yet vulnerable, making it one of the most realistic portrayals in the franchise.

Audiences may not have known much about the British actor prior to &#8220Royale,” but I believe Craig will have plenty of fans by the time his run as Bond ends.

&#8220Royale” isn't without its problems. The movie really starts to drag in the final stages, with one or two too many twists. Still, it's a minor blip for a franchise that shows no sign of slowing down more than 40 years after it began.

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.

Playing at: Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)

Grade: B

&#8220Déjà Vu”

I guess it isn't much of a surprise to say that a movie titled &#8220Déjà Vu” has a lot of familiar elements to it. But the latest collaboration between Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott works largely due to the fact that it follows a familiar formula - with a slight twist. Think of it as a cross between &#8220CSI” and &#8220Back to the Future.”

Washington plays Doug Carlin, an ATF agent in New Orleans whose latest case involves the bombing of a ferry full of Navy personnel and their families. Carlin's investigation goes in a different direction when he is recruited by a government project capable of spying on anyone.

The catch is the footage isn't real time, but actually four days in the past, thanks to a wormhole discovered during the early stages of the project.

Carlin uses the device to help unravel the mystery of the ferry explosion, and in the process begins to fall for a young woman (Paula Patton) who was a casualty of the crime. But in order to stop the bomber, Carlin might have to resort to methods that may well be scientifically impossible.

Scott always has been a director who never understood the concept of subtlety and restraint, so &#8220Déjà Vu” is right in his wheelhouse.

Scott is able to use his hyperactive visual style with great effectiveness, especially in the scenes that involve the government project.

Washington could play this character in his sleep, but having him on board with this project helps to lend some much needed credibility to the film. Val Kilmer (who looks like he may have swallowed a lizard king or two lately) has a nice supporting bit as the head of the project, while Jim Caviezel does his best to channel Kevin Spacey's performance from &#8220Seven” as the bomber.

I will concede that the plot is pretty silly and illogical if you really think about it, and the relationship between Carlin and the woman isn't very interesting either, but I'm willing to give it a pass and accept &#8220Déjà vu” for what is - an entertaining, by-the-numbers thriller that manages to take all its recognizable parts and create a semi-original piece of work.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer

Directed by: Tony Scott

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action and disturbing images.

Playing at: Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)

Grade: B-


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