May 2024


Daniel Craig

Knives Out (2019)

DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

CAST: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Lakeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer


With Knives Out, writer-director Rian Johnson has wholly redeemed himself for his disappointing Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Johnson and Star Wars were not a good fit, but he has returned here from playing in another’s sandbox to writing and directing his own material where he has been consistently intriguing (I’m a big fan of his 2012 time travel thriller Looper, for example) and churned out something we don’t see often, an original murder mystery of the type that Agatha Christie might have written (plus some modern sensibilities). Boasting a star-studded ensemble cast obviously enjoying itself, a slickly “keep you guessing” screenplay, and a quirky sense of humor, Knives Out is a deliciously twisty-turny and hugely entertaining morsel for anyone who appreciates a good whodunit. Johnson and his cast obviously relished making this movie, and they’ve given us something to relish eating up in turn.

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Spectre (2015)

spectreDIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen


After taking iconic super spy James Bond back to the nitty, gritty basics in 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the “new” rebooted 007 film series slowly worked familiar Bond ingredients (Q, Moneypenney, the Aston Martin, more liberal use of the Bond theme) back into the mix with 2012’s Skyfalland now with Spectre, director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig, reuniting from Skyfall, have brought Craig’s Bond full circle with his most “traditional” outing yet.  Of Craig’s four Bond films, Spectre has the most “classic Bond” feel, but admittedly part of the strength of Casino Royale and Skyfall was that they eschewed the conventional Bond formula, or at least used it with restraint.  Spectre is entertaining, but it lacks the freshness of Casino Royale and the emotional depth of Skyfall.  In resurrecting the shadowy global domination organization Spectre, last seen as a recurring villain in Sean Connery’s Bond films of the ’60s, the “classic Bond” pieces have nearly all clicked into place, but the movie lacks a certain spark.  There’s a by-the-numbers feel here that makes Spectre an entertaining Bond adventure but, unlike Casino Royale and Skyfall, not one that transcends the genre. Continue reading

Skyfall (2012)

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes


Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace



While Martin Campbell started the process in 2006’s Casino Royale, with Skyfall, Sam Mendes has truly finished what Casino Royale started—rebooting James Bond as Christopher Nolan did with Batman and J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek, taking the series back to the starting gate as if the previous films never happened. Casino Royale, star Daniel Craig’s debut—which was well-received—took 007 back to the basics, whittled down to the bare bones, with no gadgets, no Moneypenny, no Q, the quipping and sexcapades kept to a restrained minimum, and 2008’s Quantum of Solace—which was generally regarded as a disappointing follow-up—continued in this vein, but Skyfall truly completes the circle of the old and the new, keeping the “new” series’ restraint and seriousness (by Bond standards, at least), while adding a few familiar ingredients that were MIA in its two predecessors back into the mix. Most notably, Skyfall can stand on its own as an individual film. Familiarity with the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace is not necessary. Continue reading

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


CAST: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff, Geraldine James, Yorick van Wageningen


I’ll just get this out of the way right upfront. I have never seen the 2009 Swedish film adaptation of late author and journalist Stieg Larsson’s crime novel, which featured a much-praised performance by Noomi Rapace in the title role (nor have I read the book), so this review will not include any comparisons between the two versions, merely evaluate this one on its own merits. Continue reading

Casino Royale (2006)

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell

CAST:  Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino


With Casino Royale, Martin Campbell has done for 007 what Christopher Nolan did for Batman with Batman Begins the year before: reboot a floundering film franchise back to the basics and start afresh, as if none of the previous films happened. This is Bond stripped down to the nitty gritty. There are no gadgets, no Q, no Moneypenny, restrained sexcapades, and a Bond who’s the most serious he’s been in decades. The iconic line of “Bond, James Bond” isn’t uttered until the closing scene, and the James Bond theme is only heard in brief, subdued snippets until finally playing in full over the ending credits. Even the opening sequences’ conspicuous lack of the expected naked women indicates this “new” series’ direction. This Bond still enjoys attractive women and Aston Martins, he still drinks Martinis, and he still occasionally slips into a tux in glamorous international locales, but the mission holds most of his steely-eyed attention. Those who grew up on the campy tongue-in-cheek charm, nifty gadgets, and wildly over-the-top action of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan’s outings may find this Bond disappointing, but others welcomed it with enthusiasm as the first since Sean Connery, and maybe the first ever, to truly portray the cold-blooded professional killer from Ian Fleming’s original novel series (it’s based on Fleming’s novel of the same name, and while other Bond films have used the names of Fleming novels while jettisoning most of the plots, this one follows its namesake fairly closely), before that perception of 007 was overtaken by the ultra-suave super-spy action hero and ladies’ man.

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Road to Perdition (2002)

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dylan Baker, Ciaran Hinds, Liam Aiken


An adaptation of a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and illustrated by Richard Piers Rayner, and produced by such illustrious names as Dean Zanuck, Richard D. Zanuck, and Steven Spielberg, Road to Perdition marked Sam Mendes’ eagerly-anticipated next project following his Oscar-winning American Beauty.  It’s a venture into the gangster genre, but what it’s really about at its core is the relationships between fathers and sons.  The result is visually splendorous and technically accomplished but a little emotionally remote, and viewers wanting a more action-packed gangster yarn may be bored by the deliberate, unhurried pace.  Nonetheless, for fans of the gangster genre, Road to Perdition is a sumptuous and handsomely-crafted entry. Continue reading