"Skyfall" is not just a good James Bond movie. It's a good movie, period.
It stars Daniel Craig for a third time as Bond, brings back Dame Judi Dench for a seventh time as M and introduces fresh faces.
The movie opens with a roughly 12-minute chase that moves from car to motorcycle to train, with Bond and his adversary fighting atop the speeding cars. By the time the Adele theme song kicks in, it appears that Bond may have met his match or even his maker.
In fact, Bond is declared and believed dead. When he resurfaces, the British Secret Service is under cyber and actual attack, and 007 is needed for duty, if he's up to the physical and emotional task.
The villain doesn't enter until halfway through but then is portrayed by Oscar winner Javier Bardem, working wacky hair once more, as in "No Country for Old Men."
"Skyfall," directed by Sam Mendes ("American Beauty"), provides plenty of reasons to toast the 50th anniversary of the franchise, the 23rd movie installment and an iconic character who still leaves us shaken, stirred and satisfied.
The extras include "Shooting Bond," a four-part making-of documentary, and the Blu-ray adds eight additional featurettes, director commentary and more.
' The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
Set in Pittsburgh in 1991 and '92, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is about a boy, Charlie (Logan Lerman), who lost his best friend to suicide, has had mental-health struggles of his own and dreads his freshman year of high school.
He has no one to eat lunch with, is reluctant to volunteer answers in English class even though he knows the material and secretly worries he "might get bad again."
Patrick (Ezra Miller), a fellow and funny misfit from his shop class, and his stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson), take Charlie under their wing and introduce him to the joys of friendship, house parties with other oddball bright sophisticates, the floor show cast of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," late-night visits to Kings Family Restaurant and the rush that comes from "flying" through the Fort Pitt Tunnel as the radio miraculously delivers David Bowie singing "Heroes."
Charlie finds himself reluctantly dating one girl, the bossy Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), while yearning for another. Patrick, who is gay, discovers the peril and pain of losing his heart to someone who is closeted. Sam, who has a troubled history of her own, struggles with an older boyfriend and worries about being accepted by her reach school.
Upper St. Clair native Stephen Chbosky imagined the characters, the settings and the sentiments for his 1999 novel and made sure he could properly usher them onto the big screen by writing and directing the movie version himself.
"Perks," which shows some underage drinking and drug experimentation, ventures into territory exhilarating, comforting, confounding and disturbing, with one traumatic twist sensitively and subtly handled.
Pittsburghers will recognize the tunnel and glorious skyline in the background the way it does for locals, the West End Overlook, Peters Township High School and the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, and appreciate the references to such mainstays as the Penguins, Penn State football and Eide's Entertainment.
Extras include commentary with director and cast, "Best Summer Ever" featurette, deleted scenes and dailies.
' The Sessions'
Did you see the one about the man with polio and the sex surrogate?
It sounds like a crude joke, but "The Sessions" isn't. It's a moving fact-based movie girded by fearless performances, one by John Hawkes as a man with a robust mind, spirit and sense of curiosity and the other by Helen Hunt as a sex surrogate who makes it clear she is not a prostitute but a woman who can prepare clients for other partners.
As the movie opens in 1988, Mark O'Brien (Mr. Hawkes) has been residing in Berkeley, Calif., for a decade and works as a journalist and poet. The Boston native contracted polio at age 6 and although not paralyzed, his muscles do not work and his motionless body lies contorted on a gurney.
That doesn't stop him from conducting interviews, typing with a mouth stick and retreating to the luxuriant freedom of his fertile mind. A writing assignment about sex and the disabled leads him to consider a sex surrogate.
Ms. Hunt sheds her clothes and her inhibitions as her character remains professional but nevertheless connects with Mark. It would be easy for him to sink under the weight of bitterness, self-pity or dependence, but he instead chooses to be funny, inquisitive, thoughtful and as independent as life will allow.
Writer-director Ben Lewin, who also contracted polio as a child, came across Mark's 1990 article titled "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate" on the Internet. He expanded upon that life-changing episode with real-life surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Ms. Hunt),
Mr. Hawkes is exceptional and Ms. Hunt is equally accomplished is this story about a man who sought and found passion in poetry, in baseball, in the church and, ultimately, in intimacy.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Gossip Girl: The Complete Sixth and Final Season": Includes 10 episodes, a featurette, audiobook, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
• "Loretta Young: 100th Anniversary Edition": The weekly anthology series, which ran from 1953-61, was hosted by the actress who appeared in more than 100 movies during her long career.
• "Silent Hill: Revelation": A young girl and her father remain on the run from an evil force.
• "The Man With the Iron Fists": A blacksmith must defend his village.
• "Bully": Documentary that looks at school bullies.
• "Robot & Frank": A retired cat burglar gets a new friend. Frank Langella stars.
• "Bonanza: The Official Fifth Season": More adventures of the Cartwright family.
• "Dora the Explorer: Dora's Butterfly Ball": Dora, Boots and Mariposa head to the Butterfly Ball.
• "Dangerous Liaisons": Chinese adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' book.
• "Matlock: The Eighth Season": Includes 20 episodes of the legal drama starring Andy Griffith.
• "Nurse Jackie: Season Four": Edie Falco stars in the dark cable comedy.
• "Storage Wars: Volume 4": Reality series about those who buy abandoned storage lockers.
• "Weeds: Season Eight": Mary-Louise Parker wraps up her work as the pot-selling mom.
• "The Thieves": A high-stakes heist film that follows three criminals at the top of their game.
• "Fairfield Road": Jesse Metcalfe stars in this story about finding a new purpose in life after losing everything.
• "The Hardy Boys: Season Three": Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson play the sleuthing siblings.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
First Published February 14, 2013 5:00 AM