The most important thing you should know about the latest James Bond film is that it's better than Quantum of Solace. (Granted, that's grading on a serious curve, but still.) That said, it's less about Bond (Daniel Craig) than it is about M (Judi Dench), who finds herself targeted by a former asset turned enemy of the state. As her antagonist, Javier Bardem is convincingly conflicted in his attitude toward M: The reason he wants to exact revenge against her is that he feels she abandoned him, and is lashing out like a child having subjecting his mother to a temper tantrum — admittedly, one in which a bunch of people get violently murdered along the way.
Though the movie is longer than any action movie needs to be, it is fun to watch, particularly if you don't think about it too hard; by the time Albert Finney shows up for the Home Alone homage, you kind of have to give up on coherence. The additions of Ben Whishaw (as Q) and Ralph Fiennes (as an M antagonist within the government who isn't killing her assets willy-nilly) are good signs for the longevity of the franchise. My biggest complaint is that the film introduces the suggestion that the Big Bad is going to try some gay stuff on Bond, but that nothing comes of it. Aren't we, as a society, ready for a Bond who neutralizes his male foes through sexual conquest as much as he has female ones?! I just feel like once we accepted that James Bond could be blond, pretty much anything goes.
New and Notable
A man paralyzed by polio (John Hawkes) attempts to lose his virginity with the help of a sex surrogate (Best Supporting Actress nominee Helen Hunt).
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and directed this adaptation of his young adult novel, about a lonely kid (Logan Lerman) finding his way through '90s-era high school with the help of a group of fellow misfits.
Here's the documentary counterpart to the film above, which makes a pretty compelling case that there are no perks to being a wallflower. In all seriousness, for such a heartbreaking topic, it does manage to strike an optimistic note in the end.
Robot & Frank
In the not-so-distant future, retired jewel thief Frank (Frank Langella) gets back into the game with the assistance of his helper robot (voice of Peter Sarsgaard).
The Man With the Iron Fists
Eventually some producer was going to make a movie in which Russell Crowe and RZA faced off as villain and hero, and obviously, that producer would be Quentin Tarantino.
A Chinese-American businessdude experiences culture shock — and maybe learns a little bit about himself, you guys — when his company sends him to China.
An urban legend about a serial killer who wears a mask of skin with a smiley face crudely cut into it turns out to be not so legendary after all.
Korea gets into the "Semi-Comedic Motley Crew Of Thieves Pulling Off A Casino Heist" business.
Iceland gets into the "Nihilistic Organized Crime Movie" business.
An Israeli military investigator is charged with interrogating a battalion of soldiers alleged to have abused Arab civilians.
In this Chinese retelling of the play (originally made famous as a film starring John Malkovich and Glenn Close), the virginal (Michelle Pfeiffer) role is taken over by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Themes of the Week
Option A: Bond
In honor of Skyfall comes this amazingly comprehensive collection of James Bond films; not even poor old George Lazenby is omitted. Obviously, the very best of the recent Bonds is the Daniel Craig reboot Casino Royale, but I'm throwing some attention to Tomorrow Never Dies, which features Michelle Yeoh as a very different kind of Bond girl — one who kicks ass and is actually convincing in doing so.
Option B: Twilight
The first three Twilight movies are being chucked up for us again — presumably because the last two are coming to VOD sometime soon? Anyway, if you must watch any of them, I guess go with the first; it has a hilarious vampire baseball scene.
Weird Indie of the Week
Come Out and Play
A young couple stumbles upon a remote tropical island where the children have murdered all the adults. (It sounds brutal, but if you know a better way that a kid is going to be able to make a necklace of human ears, I would love to hear it.)
Early VOD Premiere of the Week
Love and Honor
Whoever did the production design and costuming research on this alleged Vietnam War–era film seems only to have watched that episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 in which Brenda finds a diary from a CU student circa the Summer of Love. They couldn't have given Liam Hemsworth a period haircut, at least?
Silent Hill: Revelation
Yes, those are Game of Thrones stars Kit Harrington and Sean Bean in "the town that Hell calls home."