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Casino Royale (Blu-ray) (Widescreen)

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As both a kick start to the James Bond series and a throwback to the original vision of Ian Fleming's super-spy, 2006's Casino Royale is a sumptuous feast full of hefty courses of action, humor, and dramatics, the likes of which Bond audiences have not witnessed in some time. While nearly every fan of the series has his or her own favorite actor in the lead role, there's no denying that -- despite the early criticism -- Daniel Craig irrefutably nails his acting assignment with an assured performance that's equally magnetic in excitement and attraction levels. And while much was made of the stripping down of 007, most of what people love about the character is still there in one form or another. From the cocky looks to the crooked crooks, there's no doubt this is a Bond film through and through. As far as the action goes, director Martin Campbell takes a note from international cinema with the film's first big chase sequence, echoing the free-running sequences in District B13 as he deftly takes the awe-inspiring foot chase to a new, dizzying level. Backing up the whole ride is a solid script that throws viewers for a few loops along the way to the somewhat expected climax, which finds Bond hardened in his "00" status and, for the first time in a long stretch of the series' history, sets up a formidable villainous group for him to go up against in future installments. To put it in Hollywood terms, Casino Royale succeeds because of its skillful reinterpretation of what has attracted audiences to the character for decades now, although it is not without fault. First off, Chris Cornell's opening theme is completely misguided in its alterna-rock aesthetics, even if it's padded nicely by David Arnold's slick orchestration. Also, Bond films have always been notorious for skating the two-hour mark, but this 144-minute behemoth is just long enough for most audiences to get antsy as 007 finds love in a string of scenes that could have easily been whittled down in the script stage. Despite these hiccups, the franchise is livelier than ever with this revamp. This might be a grittier Bond full of far more emotions than gadgets, but it's hard not to be excited when the full-blown theme emerges at the end, promising more fantastic adventures to come. Jeremy Wheeler, All Movie Guide