28 August 2012

Casino Royale (2006)

To the Summary!
Newly bestowed with 00-status, James Bond goes after Le Chiffre, banker to the worlds terrorists and general bad guys.

To the Cast!

Daniel Craig - James Bond
Eva Green - Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen - Le Chiffre
Judi Dench - M
Jeffrey Wright - Felix Leiter
Giancarlo Giannini - Rene Mathis
Jesper Christensen - Mr. White

To the Deeper Thoughts!
We all know that Daniel Craig is not the first the wear the mantle of 007.  But, in my humble opinion, he is by far the best.  By what do I make this bold statement?  Having read the book (my review of which can be found here); I found Daniel Craig to be the closest interpretation of the literary Bond.

So here we have James Bond, newly bestowed with 00 status, and he stumbles onto the trail of Le Chiffre, a financier to the worlds bad guys.  After nearly causing an international incident in Madagascar, Bond shares some information with M (in a particularly gutsy manner), and heads to the Bahamas.  Learning that Le Chriffe plans on making some serious cash by blowing up a plane, Bond rushes off to Miami.  Crisis averted, M gives Bond the official ok to head off to Montenegro to play Le Chriffe in a high stakes Texas Hold-Em game.  Along the way, he meets up with Vesper Lynd, the MI6 agent who is in charge of the money.

The players are in place, the scene is set.  Lets get with the poker!  Folds!  Raises! Blinds! The action of Texas Hold-Em moves the plot forward, right up to the point where Bond loses!

What, you thought he was going to win right off the bat?

Understandably upset, Bond tries to get Vesper to release the funds required to buy back into the game.  She refuses.  But wait!  Here come the American's to save the day!  Felix Leiter, knowing that he has zero chance of winning, loans Bond the CIA's emergency fund. Re-energized (and after a fight and almost getting poisoned), Bond wins it all.

This pisses off Le Chriffe.  Engineering the kidnapping of Vesper, Le Chriffe draws Bond into the middle of nowhere... and... well, Bond does not have a good experience, though he laughs through it all.  A Mr. White shows up and indirectly saves Bond by killing Le Chriffe.

While relaxing and preparing for his new life post MI-6 with Vesper, Bond gets word from M that the money he won has not made it to the accounts.  Um, what?

Well, this does not go over well with Bond.  Turns out Vesper was being played by some mysterious people.  Racked with guilt, she traps herself in a sinking elevator.  Bond gets the money back along with a new mission... find the people behind this.

This is probably my favorite of the Bond movies.  It strips away a lot of the fun gadgetry of the previous films and brings a grittier edge to the series.  This follows VERY closely to the book also, which is nice.  Craig plays an excellent Bond.  If you have never seen a Bond film, this is a great one to start with.

Training Log - Week of 20 AUG 12

20 AUG 12 - Review for stripe testing; BJJ, well, I can only get better.

23 AUG 12 - More review for stripe testing.  Getting better with the ground defenses; well one more than the other.  I think I am over thinking the one.  As far as sparring goes still blocking kicks with my hands.  That is not how you block.

26 AUG 12 - Training run for the relay triathalon that I am doing with Leanda and my sister Liz in a few weeks.  I'm doing to run portion, Leanda the swim and Liz the bike.  I did the 4 mile run in about 45 minutes so I think it will go well.  Leanda did great on the swim (.5 mile in about 30 minutes) and Liz wasn't able to join us to give the bike a tri (get it?), but she should have no issue doing 14 miles on the bike.

20 August 2012

Training Log - Week of 13 AUG 12

13 AUG 12 - ABD and BJJ tonight.  Nothing too exciting.  Kicks felt off at one point.  BJJ is still a bit of a stuggle, but I will get better at it.

16 AUG 12 - ABD this morning.  Kicks felt much better.  Absolutely an area to work on.  Also: when sparring block kicks with your leg, not arms.

18 August 2012

Casino Royale

So, back in the 50's, there was this British guy who had done some pretty awesome stuff during World War II.  What did he do with this experience?  He went on to write some of the best spy fiction there is to be read.

Ian Flemming introduced the world to James Bond, here in Casino Royale.  James Bond of the literary world is NOT the James Bond you see as portrayed by Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.  Even Sean Connery doesn't truly accomplish the translation of Bond from book to screen.  Fear not, I will not analyzing the role of each Bond actor.  Well, not here anyway.  Look for that in posts about the movies.

Ian Flemming's Casino Royale is our introduction to the world of James Bond, 007.  Bond is a cold blooded professional.  He has two kills to his credit, which is what earned him the 00-status; permission to kill for Her Majesty.  M (Bond's boss) details Bond to travel to Royale-Les-Eaux in Northern France.  There he is to play high stakes baccarat, with the goal of bankrupting Le Chiffre.  Le Chiffre is a major player for SMERSH, the Soviet anti-spy agency.  SMERSH is loosely translated to 'death to spies.'  Warm, loving group; right?

Throughout the book, we are also introduced to Bond's very particular habits.  As he states (and this is me paraphrasing) since he has little else in the world, he takes an almost perverse pleasure in food and drink.  And boy, does he.  The precision with which he orders is fascinating, and I think gives a real good look into what the 50's were like.

So, needless to say, Bond makes it to the game.  After some troubles, he is able to defeat Le Chiffre.  But, that's not the end of the story.  Le Chiffre orchestrates the kidnapping of Vesper Lynd, the finance representative from MI6, who was in control of Bond's money.  Fun fact: Bond, the cold hearted bastard, starts falling for Miss Lynd.  Bond chases after Vesper, and is caught himself.

He is then tortured by Le Chiffre.  Le Chiffre is in deep with SMERSH and REALLY wants the money Bond won from him.  Just as Bond is sinking into deep despair and acceptance of his fate, a gunman walks in and dispatches Le Chiffre.  Turns out SMERSH caught up with Le Chiffre, and Le Chiffre's time had run out.  Bond is saved because the SMERSH agent had no orders regarding Bond.

After this experience, Bond decides to quite MI6 and marry Vesper.  Too bad; so sad.  Looks like Vesper was a double agent for SMERSH!  Racked with guilt, she takes one too many sleeping pills and ends her misery.  In a letter left for James, Vesper details how her lover had been captured by SMERSH, and how they were using him as leverage to get Vesper to work for them.

Bond, understandably pissed decides to NOT retire, and communicates to MI6 that Vesper was a double, and that 'the bitch is dead.'

Not gonna lie.  That closing line is one of my favorites.  Leading up to those lines, we see a Bond who has a new, albeit personal, mission: stop SMERSH.  This will be a minor and sometimes major plot point in the following books.

I really enjoyed this first entry in the Bond literary saga.  Its well written, and at under 200 pages, moves quick.  Even the description and execution of the baccarat game is fascinating.  Clothes, cars, food and locales are described in a way that makes you feel as if you were there.  Any fan of the movies should give at least this first entry a read.  Or, if you are fans of modern thrillers check this out.  Being written in the 50s gives this an almost fresh feel after years of reading Clancy, Cussler, and the like.

James Bond returns in Live and Let Die.

16 August 2012

Fall TV Preview 2012

So the time of year approaches where us TV geeks anticipate the return and premier of shows for the fall season.  I can't take credit for the following list, but it can be found on i09's site here.  For simplicity's sake, I'm going to follow the format that they have laid out.  Oh, and I'm only going to talk about shows I'll be watching.

Currently airing
Grimm (Returning/NBC) - I first wrote about this show for last years preview (click here for that tasty piece of blogging history).  Picking up where last season left off, we find Nick coming to terms with several issues.  The season started off strong, and I am looking forward to more good things out of this fine fantasy show.


Doctor Who (Returning/BBC America) - 
I just starting watching Doctor Who last season.  And boy am I hooked!  I really like Matt Smith as the Doctor.  We are getting a new companion this year, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the new season plays out.

Revolution (New/NBC)
Brought to us by JJ Abrams, Revolution follows a group of people as they navigate the United States after ALL the lights go out.  The promos look good, and I always love me some post apocalyptic fun!

Last Resort (New/ABC)
A US Ohio class sub goes rouge for some reason or another, and sets up their own nation on an island.  I have issues with this already, but being as I am a sucker for Navy shows, I'll be checking this out.  I'm hoping there's a better premise than the one being presented in the previews, so we shall wait and see.

Fringe (Returning/FOX)
Yay!  Fringe is back!  Boo, its the final season.  I'm actually ok with that.  Its going to go out while its still doing well.  I'd rather see that then have it drag on for no reason at all.

Once Upon A Time (Returning/ABC)
Not gonna lie, I did not think this was going to be renewed.  It was a good little show, and ended in a way that would have not left any hanging questions.  I'm glad its back, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they are going to resolve the now standing issues from the season finale.

And that covers it folks!  What shows are you looking forward to this season?

12 August 2012

Training Log - Week of 6 AUG 12

6 AUG 12 - New material in ABD.  Ground defense that is a bit challenging for my flexibility challenged body.  Gonna have to work really hard on that move.  Otherwise, everything felt fine.  Skipped jiu jitsu because of the new tattoo.  Possible skip next week as well, depending on how its healing.

9 AUG 12 - Still having trouble with the ground defense, but I got some good advice on how to execute it better.  Sparred some.  Practiced clinching.  Did ok.  The one thing I really need to work on right now is blocking kicks with my legs instead of my arms or hands.

12 AUG 12  - Walked to downtown Moosup for the VJ Day Parade.  4 ish miles.

08 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

As always, standard spoiler warnings apply.  Read at your own risk.

To the Summary!
Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham City is virtually crime free.  Batman/Bruce Wayne is in seclusion; Wayne Enterprises is running out of money, and a new threat arrives in Gotham City with a plan to save it by destroying it.

To the Cast!
Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne AKA Batman
Tom Hardy -  Bane
Gary Oldman - Commissioner James Gordon
Anne Hathaway - as Selina Kyle
Marion Cotillard - Miranda Tate
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - John Blake
Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox

To the Deeper Thoughts!
How does one top one of the greatest modern super hero movie franchises?  If theatrical history has taught us anything, three is a dangerous number.  X3 and Spider-Man 3 both had their share of plot and antagonist issues.  Additionally, how does one top your own, best entry into a film franchise?  The Dark Knight was (and is) hands down one of my favorite films of all time.  Here, check my Flickchart, and you'll see that The Dark Knight is number 1.  But, The Dark Knight Rises comes in at 43.  Which doesn't mean much, as Flickchart still suggests I rank both of those with five stars on other sites.  In talking with some co-workers who have seen The Dark Knight Rises, we all agree that The Dark Knit edges out based solely on the performance of Heath Ledger.  But that's a post for another time.

There are two performances I would like to highlight here.

First, Tom Hardy as Bane.  I have seen and read a lot of criticism aimed at the clarity of Tom Hardy's voice. To be honest, I could understand him just fine.  I feel that it added a bit of menace to the character.  He made you want to sit up and listen to what he had to say.  He made you want to respect him.  Now, this moves to my next point.  He was massive.  I was seriously afraid of Bane.  He was huge, he had power and he know how to control it.  You can best see this in his first battle with Batman.  As Batman is going all out, Bane takes him apart.  And then he breaks him.

All during the lead up to this film, a co-worker and I had a range of theories of how this movie would play out.  Our favorite was that the movie would end with Bane breaking Batman, with a smash cut to black, followed by the credits.  Talk about a gutsy end, right?  But I do like how they did it, even paying homage to the comic.  When I found out what Bane's mask did, I was a bit underwhelmed, but given the restrictions of Nolan's universe it fit.

Second, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.  The best word I can think of to describe her performance is understated.  I can't (and won't) compare her to Michelle Pfeiffer's take on the character.  I think that Anne Hathaway brilliantly plays the role of the thief looking for redemption, or at the very least a fresh start.  She plays all the sides she needs to in order to survive, and right up to the end, you're never really certain who she is working for.

Also of note is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake.  When he was first announced, I posited that he might be playing Robin. (I swear!  It was my fist thought about his role!)  Turns out I was right.  Kinda.  Given a lot of the discussions throughout the movie, I'm more inclined to believe that Blake takes up the cowl, and stays Batman.  Regardless, I would watch a movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Nolan Batman universe.

Christian Bale once again turns in a fine role as Bruce Wayne/Batman.  I've never been bothered by the 'Batman growl' that others have complained about.  Bale does tortured well; and in this movie Wayne is plenty tortured.

I'm going to wrap this up.  I've already dropped some minor spoilers, and am quickly approaching the point of major spoilers.  I know I've given the warning, but I really don't want to ruin it for those that have not seen it.

I felt this was a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.  In many ways everything came full circle.  Was it the best of the three?  I still don't know.  Heath Ledger lent a lot to The Dark Knight.  Tom Hardy comes close to Ledger's performance.  I think final judgement will have to wait for a second viewing.  If you liked the others, you will at minimum like this one.

06 August 2012

Training Log - Week of 30 JUL 12

30 JUL 12 - Stripe test prep.  Muay Thai combination felt good, as did the Krav defenses.  I did 6 chin to floor push ups tonight, which is a new best.  It was almost 7, but my chin did not touch at all, even though it was REALLY close.   Jiu Jitsu was triangle choke tonight.  I need more flexible body parts to execute this well.  Once I get into position, I get it on tight, but its getting there that I need to work on.

2 AUG 12 - Stripe test.  10 push ups.  That's a new personal record right there.  Starting Monday, new material!  Woot!

Got a tattoo... does that count as a workout?

01 August 2012

Man of Steel Trailer

So, this came out the other day.  Another movie that I am really looking forward to.  I've been a fan of Henry Cavill since his days on The Tudors, and I think he will pull off Clark/Superman quite well.  Not sure what the boats have to do with anything, cause Kansas is a major player in the ocean.  Russell Crowe sounds pretty damn like Marlon Brando, so that should be fun.  So far, it looks good!