SRP$38.95 2.35:1 PCM 5.1 SONY
 
SRP $28.96 2.35:1(16:9) DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 SONY
 

SONY has released the latest Bond film, "CASINO ROYALE" in both Blu-ray and Dvd formats.  Daniel Craig is undoubtedly the best Bond since Sean Connery, and he alone carries most of the weight in making what does work in "Casino Royale" work well.  After a black&white opening sequence introduces the viewer to the newest Bond, a spectacular chase sequence soon follows, and suggests what is to follow may very well be one of the best Bond films ever made. Unfortunately, the script suffers greatly for the duration of the film, and it's hindered by even slower pacing.  Director Martin Campbell, a veteran of Bond films, is more uneven and frustrating here than ever before. Some scenes are terrific, but many more are cumbersome and by the film's ending, viewers are forced to sit through one artificial ending after another. It's almost impossible to scream, "what? There's more?" over and over and over!  Worse, when the film does come to its real ending, it's entirely abrupt, and only when the film has just managed to pick up a little.

The film is also hindered by the main Bond lady, Eva Green. While she wasn't bad in "THE DREAMERS," she wasn't good in "KINGDOM OF HEAVEN" and she's awful here!  She lacks any semblance of the presence that a Bond girl, even the mediocre ones, have had in the past. What? There were no "mediocre" actresses available???

What the Bond franchise desperately needs is someone like J.J. Abrams to be at the helm! Someone who is on par quality-wise with the talent of Craig.

SONY has provided a 1080p/MPEG-4 transfer with 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  It's a good transfer that is sometimes "great!"  The opening title sequence, always a stand-out in Bond films, looks and sounds terrific! What follows, like the direction, is uneven.  There's frequently great depth, offering nearly 3-dimensional quality. However, colors are so oversaturated, that fleshtones are artificial looking in most scenes.  The contrast is terrific and the darkest scenes are truly impressive with great detail.  The exotic locations are also well complimented with postcard-like quality in many instances.

The dvd version offers the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement.  The image is rich and vibrant here, and although detail never achieves the depth obtained in the blu-ray version, colors are actually more stable. The trade-off: a little more grain in various sequences that were not evident in the blu-ray.

SONY has provided another uncompressed PCM 5.1 sound mix.  Bond films rely heavily on great sound for maximum impact. The sound mix on the recent "FOR YOUR EYES ONLY" dvd helped elevate the dramatic sequences, bringing its atmosphere to a near epic-like quality.

The mix here doesn't disappoint.  In scene after scene, discrete effects are utilized to make action sequences achieve jaw-breaking tension, and the slower-paced sequences, of which there are many, are at least helped by terrific balance with ambient effects and the terrific score. Dialogue, heavy throughout the film, is always intelligible and free from distortion. There are plenty of bass effects to compliment explosions.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix provided on the dvd, is also terrific. The same balance between discrete effects and music, without hindering dialogue, is on hand here. While it doesn't achieve the full fidelity of the blu-ray, it's one of the better dvd mixes we've experienced in '07.

The same extras found on the 2-disc widescreen dvd edition are available on the blu-ray. While not as filled with supplements as most Bond fans would've liked, the blu-ray offers most of these in full 1080p!  "BOND GIRLS ARE FOREVER", available in 480 in both dvd and blu-ray, provides numerous examples of why Green was so wrong for this film.

The other featurettes provide insight into the film's substantial stunt-work as well as the re-tooling of Bond to fit Craig's style.