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The Game of Poker in James Bond Films

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007 Has A License to Thrill!

Suave, sophisticated, and debonair. Few characters can hold a candle to him; he is cool personified and he’s MI6s golden boy – James Bond. For those uninitiated in the ways of Bond, he’s best described as a masterful survivor and a peerless secret agent. He has all the cunning, gall, and bravado needed to survive in the cutthroat world of international espionage. If there’s one fictional character who can hold his poker face – it’s James Bond.

Over the years, multiple stars have portrayed this legendary character. They include Sean Connery (1962 – 1967; 1971 & 1983), David Niven (1967), George Lazenby (1969), Roger Moore (1973 – 1985), Timothy Dalton (1986 – 1994), Pierce Brosnan (1995 – 2005) and Daniel Craig (2006 to the present day). Of all the James Bond stars, none other than Sir Roger Moore has portrayed the British secret agent as many times as Sean Connery.

Bond has always had a taste for the finer things in life, including lavish accommodations at the world’s premier hotel and casino resorts, expensive buy-ins at blackjack and poker tournaments, and a penchant for the world’s most beautiful women. These include unforgettable screen names like Honey Ryder, Sylvia Trench, Tatiana Romanova, Tiffany Case, Jill Masterson, Pussy Galore, Solitaire, Domino Derval, Melina Havelock, Octopussy Aki, and Teresa Bond.

Daniel Craig Reboots Bond Franchise with Masterful Display in Casino Royale

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Bond’s persona is his seemingly gratuitous love of gambling. However, with Bond it never appears to be gambling as much as it is a calculated risk. Bond is most comfortable at Monaco casinos and Las Vegas casinos. He has dabbled in a multitude of games including Baccarat – Dr. No 1962, Craps – Diamonds are Forever 1971, and Texas Hold’em Poker – Casino Royale 2006.

It is the latter game and film which exemplifies his prowess with cards. In this film, the contest was played at the Casino Royale in Monte Carlo. Incidentally, the entire premise of the movie was based on gambling. Bond played hardball against Le Chiffre in one of the most gruelling head-to-head encounters of Texas Hold’em ever captured on screen.

Casino Royale, the 2006 film starring Daniel Craig was a runaway success at the box office. It rebooted the Bond franchise with domestic takings of $167,445,960 and foreign earnings of $431,600,000 for a grand total of $599,045,960. That the film came at a hefty price tag of $150 million is relatively insignificant given that this is the #4 ranked James Bond film of all time.

At #1 is Skyfall with $304 million, #2 Spectre with $200 million, and #3 Quantum of Solace with $168 million (based on domestic rankings). What rings true throughout is Bond’s affinity with skill and strategy-based games. He is an expert card counter, and he keeps a poker face better than most.

Why Is Poker Such an Important Component of the James Bond Lore?

Movie aficionados may be curious as to why Texas Hold’em Poker was the game of choice in Casino Royale. There are many games that the filmmakers could have selected to do justice to the Bond character. While Baccarat is certainly a high roller’s choice, it is a gambling game nonetheless. Bond is known to be a risk taker, but with poker it’s a calculated risk that is being taken.

Texas Holdem has enjoyed a dramatic resurgence in popularity since the early 2000’s, thanks to the runaway success of the World Series of Poker which is played at the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. This multi-million-dollar poker contest – the WSOP has breathed new life into the game and given rise to a new generation of poker players.

Combine the skill, wit, and strategy of poker with the cool, cunning and bravado of James Bond – the results speak for themselves. In Casino Royale, Daniel Craig brought a sharp edge to the Bond character. Throughout the 1980s and beyond, Bond became synonymous with cheesy dialogue, one-liners, and static characters. Daniel Craig brought depth and darkness to Bond in much the same way as Christian Bale brought a brooding and foreboding sense to Batman after the rather campy performances of actors like Adam West, Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer.

James Bond is Holding the Nuts & He Knows It!

Daniel Craig brought toughness to the character and did justice to the writing of Ian Fleming. While the character remains formulaic, audiences get to see a different side of Bond – one that struggles with internal conflicts and emotional distress. That he can rise above this and emerge victorious is extraordinary. The trials and tribulations experienced by Bond are synonymous with the game of poker.

This game is often fraught with insurmountable challenges and is regarded as the ultimate game of attrition. Players are tasked with playing their cards, as well as the players at the table. It’s a game of wits; the winner is the player who can withstand an unrelenting barrage of assaults from other players and emerge victorious at the showdown. For these and many other reasons, poker remains the go-to casino card game for the heroes of Hollywood.

 

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

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Features

How Casinos Can Improve a Movie

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When it comes to movie themes, you got them all. From war movies to romance films, there is something for everybody. However, the gamble theme is not often present but some casino scenes really mattered. For example, the roulette ball in Casablanca that landed on 22 two times, all this was possible thanks to the rigged roulette. 

Another example is found in the movie 21. This movie is mainly made after a book called Bringing Down the House and just like the movie, it’s about a group of students “robbing” a casino playing Blackjack. Actually, the robbing process consists in one person taking a seat at a Blackjack table and that person just counts the cards. After a while, their friend joins knowing which cards were already played. As expected, they get caught and the action begins.  

Daniel Craig and Casino Royale 

If it’s not already obvious, these examples cannot go further without mentioning Daniel Craig starring as a MI6 agent in the movie Casino Royale. This movie was not like any other James Bond films. Firstly, the new actor had blond hair and blue eyes. This new look was not welcome at all especially for die hard 007 fans. Daniel Craig had nothing in common with the previous agents such as Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. Moreover, back in 2005, right before the Casino Royale release, many fans were sure that Daniel will ruin the series. In fact, Casino Royale ended up being one of the best James Bond movies ever.  

After all, some changes were needed so the movie can have a fresh feeling. If we got used to every James Bond movie starting with the same scene, Casino Royale made it different. Until then, every single film started with a gun barrel sequence in which James walks in a white room, he turns, then fires and the blood drips down the screen. In the new 007 film, the movie starts with a black and white scene and at the end of this sequence, when we think that its first victim is dead, Daniel turns around then fires and we have the first gun barrel scene.  

As an illustration on the movie name, there are three poker scenes that make this film better. The first one has a well made old-fashion feel that is mainly made through the dissolve process. This technique was usually seen in the 80s and is a post-process film editing that makes the transition from one image to another.  

The second poker game is when Le Chiffre destroys James. Right after this game, there is a sequence that lets the agent sit alone on the table with nothing left, making the MI6 agent more natural. This is a high contrast with all the old cliché movies where James Bond was invincible. Further, Daniel gets poisoned by Le Chiffre but the secret agent survives by using the defibrillator from his car. Then he comes back and says ”I’m sorry, that last hand, killed me”.   

Like I said, casinos can be a good way to improve a movie. Also, land-based casinos suffered many changes over the years. Like most casinos that are now using online and mobile platforms. For about 400 years, casinos were just ”gamble houses”, but now they adopted new technologies. The most important change was of course, the online platforms which made it possible to enjoy casino games from the comfort of our house.  

For few years know, these virtual gamble houses started to show up everywhere. Moreover, there is a new online British casino called Admiral Casino and has a wide variety of fruit machines. In addition, their app is present on the App Store and you can now play slots like Sizzling Hot and Golden Sevens. Both games have 5 reels and are made by Novomatic. As has been noted, casinos made their contributions in many areas and now, thanks to the mobile technology they can be taken in your pocket. 

 

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Sequels Deliver at the Box Office

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Jurassic World was a gigantic hit in 2015, in fact, at a worldwide gross of $1,671,713,208 it remains the 5th highest grossing film of all time just behind Infinity War and The Force Awakens. That’s impressive for any franchise, let alone one long considered extinct. 

With its sequel, Fallen Kingdom, currently dominating the box office, it is worth looking at just how well sequels tend to do, the mixed fortunes they find themselves in, the biggest success stories and some considerably embarrassing failures. 

Fallen Kingdom hasn’t been a big hit with the critics (51% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 71% for the first film) but this evolution of the series has still resonated with audiences, currently sitting at $932,387,335 and very likely to pass the hallowed billion dollar mark in the next week or so. A billion dollars is nothing to be sniffed at but there is still every chance the studio will consider it something of a failure that it was unable to eclipse its predecessor. 

A few other franchises worth examining; 

Fast and Furious 

A franchise that rose from the ashes of almost going straight to DVD, with the 7th installment staking its claim in the big leagues, ironically 7th highest of all time, but when Fate of the Furious came just two years later, it made close to $300 million less. Is that audiences simply getting sick of cars doing ridiculous things, or something else? Fast 7 was unfortunately bolstered by the death of star Paul Walker, giving it increased media attention. 

Star Wars 

As previously mentioned, The Force Awakens is one of the biggest box office hits of all time, and whether or not it will be unseated in third place by Infinity War is almost too close to call but it will be incredibly close. 

But it terms of diminishing returns, The Last Jedi made over $700 million less than The Force Awakens. Why is that? The answer for this one is pretty simple, The Force Awakens was such a huge, once in a generation event, that it wasn’t going to happen a second time. Not that The Last Jedi’s box office is low, it sits at 11th of all time. 

But Star Wars has a different problem, it is now a series that digresses from the main saga and moved into spin off territory. Rogue One was a big hit, being a member of the billion dollar club, but Solo, a film plagued with production troubles, has really struggled, pulling in a fairly weak $368,879,115. The blame for this lies in the release window, with Infinity War still making good change, and Deadpool the week before, Solo hit in the middle of one of the most crowded summers in recent memory, with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom snapping quickly at its heels. 

What is considered a success or a failure in these terms anyway? It’s hard to know for sure. Sony’s second attempt at the Spider-Man franchise (Amazing Spider-Man if you find all these Spider-People confusing) was a decent hit, and the sequel only made $50 million less but was considered such a failure by Sony that they ended up handing the character back to Marvel. Which we can all agree was the right thing to do. But just $50 million was enough to make them wonder, not the other $650 million it made. Sequels are expected to make more money. 

Now, one last point. The highest grossing film of all time?  

Avatar. $2,787,965,087.  

That will probably never be beaten. Avatar 2 has a release date of December 18th 2020. Will it come anywhere close to the first film? This seems unlikely. Or maybe not, James Cameron should never be counted out, he might very well end up with the top 3 highest grossing films of all time. Or will Star Wars Episode 9, which goes into production this week, come back with a bang and topple Cameron’s big blue cat people? 

Only time, and a lot of money, will tell. 

 

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Cinema FOMO

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FOMO; the fear of missing out. Defined in 2015 by the Oxford English Dictionary as, ‘anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media’.

It’s true that in our online, digitally driven world, FOMO is thriving on a global scale, however that doesn’t mean it’s a new phenomenon. Throughout cinematic history, audiences have craved a shared experience, using quotes and characters as shorthand in their own conversations. No-one wants to be left out of the discussion.

Even in this technological age, the world’s leading film magazine Empire, remains an important and relevant source in the world of film journalism and with its much-loved features and interviews with Hollywood’s A-List, you can avoid serious FOMO by joining their subscription service today, meaning you’ll never miss a review or important update from the world of film.

When the teaser trailer for Black Panther landed, it was viewed 89 million times in just 24 hours. It was the most tweeted about movie in 2017 (before it was even released) and has gone on to become the most tweeted about film ever made. People wanted to be a part of the #BlackPanther and #Wakanda phenomenon and Twitter gave them the community they desired, adding in Q&A specials and a Black Panther custom emoji.

But what about before the dawn of Twitter? Back in the dark depths of 1999, a little film called The Blair Witch Project dropped. Using the internet, online forums went mad with leaked rumours about a film created from the found footage of three missing filmmakers. The accompanying website presented credible back stories and realistic style news interviews. Missing person leaflets were also distributed to enhance the story. (Spoiler alert; if you don’t already know, it was all entirely fictional). At the time however, this clever and original marketing fed directly in to our FOMO receptors.

But what if we take social media and the internet out of the equation. Do we travel back to a pre FOMO time? The truth? Absolutely not, so you can put the DeLorean away.

Back in 1961, Alfred Hitchcock released Psycho. Whilst his reputation was already established, this was a self financed film, so a lot was riding on its success. He made the decision not to screen for critics first, meaning audiences got to see the film at the same time, with no preconceptions. He refused cast interviews and to pump curiosity, issued an edict that nobody would be allowed in to cinemas after the picture began. Would you want to be the only one not to know what was happening inside the Bates Motel? Absolutely not. People flocked, queues stretching around the block to ensure they experienced this new cinematic milestone. Quite simply, FOMO struck again.

In truth, it’s an innate human desire to want to belong and regardless of marketing, it doesn’t get much better than sharing the joy of a cinematic experience with friends.

 

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