This week: Daniel Craig returns as 007 in arguably the best Bond film ever (or at least in decades), "Skyfall," co-starring Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw.
Also new this week is the coming-of-age drama "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" with Emma Watson, RZA trying to do Quentin Tarantino proud in "The Man with the Iron Fists" and the sexually frank drama "The Sessions" starring Helen Hunt.
Box Office: $303 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% Fresh
Storyline: Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in this 23rd installment of the longest-running film franchise in history. This time Bond's loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested when a mysterious man from her past, Silva (Javier Bardem), threatens to destroy her. With security compromised, M is forced to relocate MI6 as her position is challenged by the new chairman of the intelligence and security committee (Ralph Fiennes). M is left with only one ally she can trust, 007, and they follow a trail that reveals Silva's hidden motives as well as details about Bond's past.
Extras! The Blu-ray contains over a dozen featurettes about the Bond women, car, villains and more, plus commentary by director Sam Mendes and footage of the "Skyfall" premiere.
We Say: If there is one Bond to rule them all, one could argue that this highest-grossing installment that was nearly universally praised is it. Following the lackluster "Quantum of Solace," "Skyfall" dazzles with gorgeous cinematography, a popular theme song by Adele and a loaded story about M and the fate of MI6. We're also treated with field agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and a new Q (Ben Whishaw), plus Bardem's Silva, one of the creepiest, most memorable Bond villains ever. If this 007 adventure doesn't leave you shaken and stirred — and even a little moved at the end — then the Bond universe is not for you. This is top-shelf 007.
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
Box Office: $18 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 85% Fresh
Storyline: Author Stephen Chobsky adapted his book for the screen and directs this coming-of-age drama about a freshman loner, Charlie (Logan Lerman), who finds solace with two fellow outcasts: the school's gay class clown, Patrick (Ezra Miller), and his eccentric stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson). When the sad truth behind Charlie's loneliness is revealed, Sam makes sure he finds a safe haven on their "island of misfit toys."
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain two audio tracks, deleted scenes, uncut dailies and a short promotional featurette titled "Best Summer Ever."
We Say: John Hughes movies like "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" are over 20 years old now, so the time is right for a rebirth of the sincere, heartfelt coming-of-age drama instead of the cynical, trashy teen movies that we've gotten lately. Since Chobsky was in the unique position of having control of his story from printed page to screen, the writer-director brings these believable, richly drawn characters to life like no one else could have done.
'The Man with the Iron Fists'
Box Office: $16 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 50% Rotten
Storyline: Quentin Tarantino presents this action adventure inspired — like many of Tarantino's own films — by classic kung fu movies. When the Emperor's gold is hijacked, every martial arts warrior, assassin and hired gun in China fights to claim the fortune in this movie directed by and starring RZA as the titular character. Also appearing are Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le and Bryon Mann.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes, "On the Set with RZA" and a couple of two-minute behind-the-scenes promo pieces.
We Say: The unrated version has all the over-the-top kung fu violence and gore you would expect from a "Quentin Tarantino presents" title that is directed by a rapper. Unfortunately, RZA also provides the leaden narration throughout the movie that immediately takes you out of the period — as does the rap music, which RZA also helpfully provides. On a superficial level, RZA gets what made the Bride's battle with the Crazy 88s in the House of Blue Leaves in "Kill Bill" so memorable, but look beneath the surface of "The Man with the Iron Fists" and the characters are as questionable as the wire work on display.
Box Office: $6 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% Fresh
Storyline: John Hawkes stars as poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, a man who has been paralyzed and confined to an iron lung since childhood. Now 38, Mark decides to lose his virginity with the help of a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) and the blessing of his priest (William H. Macy) in this drama directed by Ben Lewin.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain "John Hawkes Becomes Mark O'Brien," "Helen Hunt as the Sex Surrogate," "The Women Who Loved Mark O'Brien," deleted scenes, "Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration" and "A Session with the Cast."
We Say: Most movies have such a juvenile, glamorized attitude towards sex, but this is not one of them. "The Sessions" approaches its difficult subject with refreshing honesty and should be applauded for its frankness and Hunt's fearless performance. That said, there are some things you simply can't unsee no matter how noble the intentions, so each viewer must decide if seeing Hunt continually disrobe and have sexual contact with a paralyzed character is a memory one wants to cherish forever.