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Film Openings

Week of November 16, 2006

Casino Royale. (PG-13) To say that Casino Royale — the third attempt to perfect the very first book in Ian Fleming's series, which began in 1953 — ranks among the best James Bond offerings is not intended as backhanded praise. Absolutely, it goes on too long (clocking in at 144 minutes), and absolutely, half the damned thing makes no sense at all, but it works hard enough to merit its prolonged coda and nonsensical storytelling. Because beneath all the gimmicks and gadgets — chief among them a collection of cell phones capable of doing things of which Catherine Zeta-Jones never dreamed — is the actor Daniel Craig, who brings to Bond all the things he's lacked since Sean Connery fought the Cold War in a toupee. Fleming would recognize Craig's Bond as most like his literary creation: damaged goods in a tailored tux, doing nasty things to bad people who do nasty things to him. Still, Craig's Bond has little interest in living up to the legend. When a bartender asks him whether he likes his martini shaken or stirred, Bond shoots back, "Do I look like I care?" And in that instant, it's as if the part had never been anyone else's. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Fast Food Nation. (R) Reviewed in this issue. CPP, PF, RON

Happy Feet. (PG) If anything could tempt an adult to go see a dancing-penguin movie, it's the phrase "from the director of Babe." That movie got everything right about talking animals, but, alas, George Miller does not live up to his earlier work here. Happy Feet starts out well enough on an iceberg, where penguins sing until they find another penguin whose tune matches theirs. (It's clear that the filmmakers, along with the rest of the world, saw March of the Penguins.) Memphis (voiced by Hugh Jackman) and Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) link up over a Prince duet and have a chick named Mumbles (Elijah Woods). Chick can't sing, but he was born with the gift of tap (provided by Savion Glover), thus everything's on track for a cute story about being yourself. But then there's Robin Williams. Children, young and innocent as they are, may not yet have grown to loathe the actor's shtick, but you might like to know that he has two — yes, two — roles in this film. And even the wee ones may start to notice something's amiss when the movie's theme goes from "Be yourself" to "We must regulate the overfishing of the Antarctic oceans." No, for real. (Jordan Harper) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL