My Two Cents (Daily) - Disney finally sets Spirited Away & The Cat Returns for Blu-ray http://t.co/N2YpcPMu6e
Release Date(s)2006 (March 13, 2007)
Studio(s)United Artists/EON/MGM/Columbia (Sony Pictures)
144 mins, PG-13, MPEG-4 1080p widescreen (2.40:1), BD-50 DL, Elite Blue HD packaging, all 2-disc DVD features included (some in 1080p), audio: Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (English) & Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French and Spanish), subtitles in English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai and Korean
Much has been written about the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, and I find myself in complete agreement with the general direction of those writings. This is the best Bond film since those of Sean Connery's heyday, and Daniel Craig is a superior James Bond, rivaling Connery as the best to play the role so far. The film is based on the first James Bond book to be written by creator Ian Fleming, and it is as true to its origins as any Bond film has ever been. The story focuses on Bond's first days as a double-0 agent as it pits him against Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), money man to world terrorism, in a game of very high stakes poker. Providing female distraction is the exquisite Vesper Lynd, a representative of Her Majesty's treasury portrayed by French actress Eva Green. The film sports the usual range of exotic locales (in this case Madagascar, the Bahamas, Venice, and Montenegro) and includes the requisite number of action set-pieces. In the case of the latter, however, the film avoids the excessive CGI that plagued recent Bond films and uses good old-fashioned stunt work to great advantage. The action is for the most part allowed to arise out of realistic (for lack of a better word) plot happenings rather than outlandish gadgetry and science-fictionesque situations. The idea of a collapsing building and the climactic sequences in it are particularly inspired. Daniel Craig gives us a rougher, grimmer, and deeper Bond, one who combines both levels of vulnerability as well as substantial ruthlessness. The annoying one-liners of the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan days have been given a welcome burial in favour of a more world-weary cynicism.
This BD presentation is not quite a home run, but it's close. Image detail is excellent throughout and there are numerous eye-popping sequences, particularly during the film's central sections focused on Montenegro and the car-game centerpiece. Colour rendition is bright and accurate, except for skintones, which look a little too orange at times. The transfer exhibits a limited amount of grain that gives it a nice film-like look. The PCM audio is reference quality - the best I've heard so far, providing everything one could imagine asking for in an action movie mix - crisp dialogue, crackling special effect sound reproduction, ample but not artificially excessive LFE, extraordinary engagement of the surrounds and front-to-back/side-to-side movement. It's a constantly enveloping experience that puts you right in the middle of the action at all times. Given the packages of supplements on some Bond DVDs, the inclusions here add up to a modest set, but still reasonable value for your money. There are two good new featurettes, both in 1080p and approximately 50 minutes in total, dealing with the coming of Daniel Craig to the Bond franchise (Becoming Bond) and with the film's considerable stunt work (James Bond: For Real). An entertaining older TV special (almost 50 minutes long) covers the many past Bond women (Bond Girls Are Forever). The music video of Chris Cornell's title song ("You Know My Name") round out the extras. Highly recommended.