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Worthy effort, but falls short
***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS*** "Brick" is a very interesting movie with a lot of good concepts, but unfortunately it falls flat.
Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a brooding high school student who is investigating the murder of his girlfriend. He attends a curiously unpopulated high school in which nobody ever seems to go to class with a vice-principal who acts like a police chief straight out of a 70s cop movie. The dialogue is overly stylized, the characters are totally unbelievable (as well as cliché), and the plot moves at a snail's pace. Some good performances help to elevate the material to more than it actually is, but it's just not enough. By the end of the movie, I found myself not caring whether or not the antagonist achieved his goal or not. Still, it's a worthy effort on the part of the filmmakers and I suppose that has to count for something.
Casino Royale (2006)
The best Bond film since "Goldfinger"
I don't know whether or not I consider myself a fan of the James Bond series or not. I've enjoyed many of the films, especially the ones starring Sean Connery, but I've felt that the 007 franchise has tasted a little bit stale for the past 25 years or so. To be honest, the last Bond movie that I actually enjoyed was "Goldeneye", and before that I'd probably have to go all the way back to "For Your Eyes Only" in order to name a quality Bond film.
So imagine my surprise when I saw "Casino Royale" last weekend. Not only is it the first Bond movie that I've actually liked in the last 11 years, but even surpasses some of the Bond movies starring Sean Connery. It's got all of the elements that made the early Bond films classics and much of the action to satisfy the action/blockbuster aficionados. The filmmakers were really shooting for the fence on this one, and the end result is the best James Bond film since "Goldfinger." Much of the credit has to go to the new Bond, Daniel Craig, who gives the best performance since Sean Connery (and perhaps the most nuanced performance of the entire 21-film series). His Bond is a much different Bond than what audiences are used to. On the one hand, he's cunning, he's brutal, and he's ruthless. On the other, he's charming, he's suave, and he's sleek. Simply put, Craig's Bond is a cross between Steve McQueen and Cary Grant.
While "Casino Royale" sheds many of the staples of the Bond series that have bogged the series down lately (gone are the high-tech Q-gadgets and the ridiculous stunts), it retains the right elements that have made the Bond franchise so enduring for the past 44 years. It's still got the gorgeous Bond girls (and Eva Green is one of the most memorable of the entire series), Bond still drives an Aston Marton, and the martinis are still ordered "shaken, not stirred." It also gets injected with a good dose of reality, which is exactly what the franchise needed after such asinine things as invisible cars, DNA replacement, etc.
In conclusion, "Casino Royale" is well worth the admission price. Even if you're not a Bond fan or a newcomer to the series, there's something for everyone here. It's an extremely entertaining and fun movie, and I, for one, can definitely think of worse ways to spend an evening. After seeing what the filmmakers were able to pull off with "Casino Royale," the words "James Bond will return" have never sounded so sweet.