Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)

Eva Green! Daniel Craig in his trunks! Casino Royale has something for everyone, not least a brilliant reboot of the Bond franchise

“MI6 looks for maladjusted young men, who give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect Queen and country”

The Bond franchise turned to director Martin Campbell to launch Pierce Brosnan’s turn in the hot seat in Goldeneye so there’s some logic in them asking him back to introduce Daniel Craig as 007 in 2006’s Casino Royale. But I don’t think anyone was expecting this successful and comprehensive (a reboot.

By taking Bond back to the beginning – we see him earning his 00 agent status -the chance to see the character being built up layer by layer is irresistibly good, a rare chance to delve beneath the impassive demeanour we usually see. Craig rises to this occasion really rather well, hinting at realms of emotion even whilst developing into a coldly brutal assassin.

And by objectifying him just as much as any of his female counterparts have previously been submitted to, there’s a real nod to the decades of cinematic misogyny in which the franchise has indulged. Stripping away Q and his gadgetry also works well at realigning the focus of a slightly too long but ultimately very good film. Continue reading “Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)”

DVD Review: A Young Doctor’s Notebook

 “Even letters don’t want to be sent here”

The term black comedy is often used in reference to Russian works and in the case of A Young Doctor’s Notebook, it is well–earned. A short TV series from 2012 produced by Sky and based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s collection of short stories entitled A Country Doctor’s Notebook, it follows the experiences of a young doctor fresh out of medical school in Moscow and landed with an isolated post deep in the Russian countryside where even the nearest shop is half a day away by coach.

It frames these growing pains of a doctor (Daniel Radcliffe) learning how to deal with the practical, as opposed to the theoretical study at which he excelled, with scenes from 20 years or so in the future, when the doctor (now played by Jon Hamm) has been exposed as a morphine addict and has found his old diary. Hamm’s Doctor then dips in and out of the earlier scenes, interacting solely with his younger self and trying to offer a way through his crises of inexperience. Continue reading “DVD Review: A Young Doctor’s Notebook”

Review: Chicken Soup with Barley, Royal Court

“If you don’t care, you’ll die”

A playwright who hasn’t received much attention in years of late, Arnold Wesker finds two of his plays about to receive major revivals in London: Chicken Soup with Barley here at the Royal Court, where it first played in 1958 and The Kitchen will open later this year at the National Theatre. Chicken Soup… follows the disintegration of an East End Jewish family over a twenty year period but simultaneously the collapse of the Communist ideals that they and their friends espouse, starting with the Cable Street Riots in 1936 and revisiting them just after the war has finished and again in 1956 and the beginnings of the Hungarian Revolution.

At the heart of the play and barely off the stage, Samantha Spiro is never less than sparkling as Sarah, at once the Jewish mother forever making cups of tea and sandwiches for her brood as they rally round her, singing songs, making speeches and dreaming of a bright future, and also this political stalwart fiercely committed to her Socialist ideals even as others peel away from her magnetic influence and the ideal world they dreamed of crumbles away. It is her life that epitomises the Socialist dream and her passionate defence of the way she has lived her life, although coming too late in the play, is a stunning moment which ends the play powerfully. As her feckless husband, Danny Webb gives an equally affecting performance of a man who feels he has failed at life and is constantly reminded of the fact by his nagging wife and then later his children: he way he retreats into himself as illness then kicks in is often just too hard to watch. Continue reading “Review: Chicken Soup with Barley, Royal Court”