Three More Movies

And three more movie reviews.

Over the past week or so, Mike and I have seen three movies: one in theaters and two on DVD.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale Movie PosterWell, it’s about time. Finally, a James Bond who is believable. I’m not just talking about the actor, I’m talking about the characterization. This bond is not perfect in almost every way. He’s vulnerable and makes more than a few mistakes.

Unlike all other Bond films, this one seems dark and real, a more accurate (but still probably quite far from truly realistic) dramatization of the spy business. It wasn’t a fun movie, like all the others are. It was a spy thriller with plenty of twists and turns.

I had a little trouble believing the love interest part of the story — too much emotion, too fast — but I believe it was included to develop the character. After all, Casino Royale was the first Bond adventure, the one that takes place right after he gets his “double-0” rank. One can argue that the events of this story are what make the character what he is in later stories.

I have never read Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, but would like to. It would be interesting to see how closely this movie follows the book.

WordPlay

WordPlay Movie PosterIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m particularly fond of words. It probably has a lot to do with writing for a living. The way I see it, words are my tools and the more tools I’m comfortable using, the better I can get my job done.

That said, I’ve been wanting to see WordPlay, the documentary about the annual crossword puzzle championship, since it was released to theaters. It didn’t come to Wickenburg — I didn’t really expect it to — so I waited until it was available on Netflix and moved it to the top of my queue.

The movie was relatively entertaining and provided lots of insight into the creation and solving of crossword puzzles. I used to do crossword puzzles daily when I worked for the New York City Comptroller’s Office. In those days, there was so little work to do, I had to do something to stay awake. So I did the puzzles in Newsday, the New York Times, and the Daily News every single day. I got pretty good at it, but not anywhere near as good as the competitors in WordPlay. These are people who can finish the New York Times crossword puzzle in less than 5 minutes with no errors. Egads!

The movie included interviews with puzzle creators and solvers, as well as with Will Shortz, the New York Times Puzzlemaster. Some of the solvers are people we all know: Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and Ken Burns, to name a few. It was interesting to get their insight.

My husband watched the movie with me and didn’t seem terribly interested throughout. I think his take on the puzzle solvers in the competition was that they were a bunch of geeks who needed to get lives. In some cases, I think that may be true. But it was interesting to see that some people have taken this skill to such extremes.

The Ladykillers

The Ladykillers Movie PosterThis is a 2004 remake of the 1955 movie of the same name starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers (among others). This newer version starred Tom Hanks. Like the Da Vinci Code, this was a complete waste of Mr. Hanks’s acting talent. But in this case, the acting wasn’t the problem — he did quite a job acting out the character of a rather wacky and over-educated caper mastermind. The problem was the movie. It was so bad that it wasn’t worth his efforts. In fact, his acting was probably the best thing about it.

In the story, the Hanks character rents a room at an elderly woman’s house. He and his henchmen then proceed to tunnel their way into a nearby casino’s cash counting room from the woman’s root cellar. Their cover story is flimsy — as it was in the first movie, which I also saw — and the whole thing is so far-fetched that the movie makers can’t possibly expect the audience to believe any of it. But rather than allow it to play out as a farce, it’s taken a bit seriously, so there’s really no fun in it. And the frequent use of the f-word in all of its forms (including the all-to-popular mother-f-er) makes it a movie that might make it uncomfortable to view with kids — or your parents.

My advice: avoid this one. It isn’t worth the rental fee.

What do you think?