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Home Movies, 3/24

The two big DVD releases today are Daniel Craig's sophomore Bond outing, Quantum of Solace, and the Disney animated movie Bolt. As I noted when it hit theaters, Quantum is basically a mediocre action film (largely) saved by a terrific lead performace. The bad:

Quantum's plot is strictly second-rate, the kind of generic evil-tycoon-hatching-a-diabolical-plan story that the franchise rolled out with such depressing regularity in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. [Olga] Kurylenko is a distinctly subpar heroine, her performance flat and her storyline shoehorned in awkwardly. (Spray-on tan notwithstanding, she also has about as much Bolivian blood in her as I do.) And [Matthieu] Amalric, who demonstrated his gifts in last year's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, disappointingly makes a less memorable impression as a Franco-corporatist monster than Michael Lonsdale did in Moonraker.

And the good:

[D]espite such disappointments, there is solace in Quantum, and its name is Daniel Craig. Ever since Sean Connery first brought Bond to life onscreen, his successors had been imitators. Yes, Roger Moore was a little softer, Timothy Dalton a little harder, and Pierce Brosnan a little more dapper. But despite the variation, Bond had remained pretty much the same character, periodically changing faces. Craig is the first inheritor who has worn the role rather than let it wear him.

To a greater degree even than in Casino Royale, Craig's Bond is shorn of the frilly vanities and amusements that long dominated the character.... This is probably the cruelest Bond of the series, and certainly the most murderous, shedding more blood during an average twenty-minute stretch than Roger Moore seemed to over the course of seven films. When, at one point, M chides him, "Bond, if you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated," she is not speaking metaphorically.... [I]t is a useful corrective to the flabby excesses of the franchise, which so often portrayed 007 as ass-chaser first and assassin second. Moreover, Craig is so very good as the hitman with a heart of lead that it's hard to begrudge him his lethal mandate.

I didn't review Bolt when it arrived in theaters, but it's a delightful animated release in a year that had more than its share (also Kung Fu Panda and, of course, Wall-E). Though it hails from Disney Animation rather than Pixar, it bears all the hallmarks of its corporate cousin (as well it might, given that exec John Lasseter now oversees both studios): a sharp, character-driven story, seamless moral texture, and nice vocal performances from unexpected places--in particular, Disney story artist Mark Walton as a hamster named Rhino.

I would be remiss if I did not note that my children (5 and 3, respectively) declared Bolt to be not only the greatest movie ever--a determination may suffer somewhat from a small sample size--but also the non-negotiable name of our recently acquired puppy:

Update: For some reason, while those of you accessing this page with Firefox should see an adorable puppy photo to the right, those of you accessing it with Explorer will just have to envision the awesomeness.

--Christopher Orr