Picks of the Week
(PG-13, 143 minutes, MGM): To succeed, a James Bond movie must traffic in equal parts sophistication and preposterousness, a winking willingness not to take itself too seriously, but with peerless writing, acting and production values.
All of those elements are on hand in Skyfall, which finds Bond (Daniel Craig) in Istanbul, pursuing a bad guy through bazaars and over rooftops in a ludicrous motorcycle chase.
But the episode will send Bond into an existential spiral, bringing him alongside Jason Bourne and other secret agents as people who are fighting not just forces of mass destruction but also their own inner demons.
Eventually, Bonds struggle will reach his relationship with M (Judi Dench), whose initial inSkyfall might as well stand for Martinet, Mistress of All She Surveys and Mother. When Bond flies into action after a self-imposed hiatus, hes an Oedipal wreck, bleary-eyed, out of shape and visibly aging.
The subtext is the dialog between past and future, whether its youth vs. age, computers vs. analog, or point-and-click terrorism vs. old-school geopolitics.
Contains intense violent sequences, sexuality, language and smoking. Extras: making-of documentary.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
(PG-13, 103 minutes, Summit/Lionsgate): Based on the revered young adult novel, this somewhat disjointed but refreshingly earnest movie is a charmer.
It relies on the same narrative device as the novel, introducing us to our protagonist, an introspective Pittsburgh freshman named Charlie (played by Logan Lerman), via letters written to an unknown recipient.We learn that Charlie, having recently lost his best friend to suicide, is entering high school with no acquaintances and no notable romantic history. When Charlie meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), who are seniors and self-defined misfits, he finds himself with two spirit guides.
One could argue that director Stephen Chbosky adheres to his original work too closely; there are moments when scenes flow abruptly, as if the filmmaker is racing to squeeze crucial plot points into a 100-minute running time. Still, the performances by the charismatic actors compensate for any missteps.
Contains mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references and a fight, all involving teens. Extras: commentary with Chbosky and the cast, Best Summer Ever featurette, deleted scenes, dailies.
Robot & Frank
(PG-13, 89 minutes, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The gentle laughs produced by this clever, unexpectedly touching dramedy about the relationship between an aging former cat burglar (Frank Langella) and his robotic caregiver catch you a bit off guard.
Robot is programmed to act as Franks personal chef, housekeeper and professional nudge, making sure that his client eats right, stays active and keeps out of trouble. But hes not so good at that last part. Robot lacks an ethical chip, making him an ideal companion for an ex-con.
Soon the two are planning to burglarize the home of the wealthy techie who is overseeing the conversion of the towns library to digital. Their victim is the films true villain, whos seen as desecrating one of the last repositories of real memories.
Despite the plot, Robot & Frank isnt a heist film. Its theme is the impermanence of memory, and its subtly articulated by director Jake Schreier, working from a smart script by Christopher D. Ford. Despite a great twist ending, Robot & Frank isnt mind-bending, only heartstring-tugging.
Contains some obscenity and lawbreaking. Extras: Commentary with Schreier and Ford. TheWashingtonPost