This Week New Movies for February 12th 2013: Bondage and Baggage

Skyfall

Bond is back - or is he? With 007 shot and plunging down to disappear into a waterfall like Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem, MI6 blown to hell both physically and digitally, and M being forced into retirement . . . could this be the end? And it only gets worse when Bond does eventually return: he can't shoot straight, they take away his gadgets and weapons, and Q becomes Harry Potter. Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty,Revolutionary Road,Jarhead), may be a bit doom-ladened but looking and sounding kick-ass   - cinematography, sound mixing, theme song, and score were all nominated for Oscars, wins coming for sound editing and theme song - and on Blu-ray it makes for some dashing and deadly home theater.

Initially, the motorbike-chase scenes across the rooftops are a little washed-out from the Turkish sun and dust but thereafter everything is very distinct, well-lit with excellent contrast producing rich colors in the African market, well-defined blue suspenders against a bluer shirt worn by the new boss, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and Craig's deep black mod tuxedo, its lines exceedingly sharp. Six coffins draped in giant Union Jack flags fill the screen with a sea of intense reds, blues, and bright whites. Skin tones are all natural.

The sharp, bright picture -cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins (Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and most of the Cohen Brothers film)- is exceedingly film-like. There's plentiful detail with every line in the craggy features of Judi Dench as M, the strands in the iris of 007's icy-blue eye, and individual hairs in his grey scruff all visible. Wet London streets have tactile textures. Patterns in jackets and ties and threads in textiles are all distinct.

The soundtrack is extremely open and full, with silences having a great stillness and the MI-6 building explosion having an awesomely shattering blast. The surrounds are engaged from the get-go with the motorbike chase allowing for plentiful accurate ride-by pans. There's also the roar of the forklift caterpillar engine, the crushing of the Beetle cars by it, and bullets ricocheting all around with a nice, thumpingly bassy snaps. In fact LFE are solid throughout, so that when Bond hits the water after an endless fall from a speeding train, it boomingly resonates like a bomb going off, soon followed by the roar of the waterfall he's swept over. This leads into the opening-credits song, which actually sounds better in home theater than in the cinema, Adele's voice exceedingly clear in the center, the highly distinct instruments nicely separated into each of the other channels. The same is true of Thomas Newman's orchestral music in the opening chase sequence that puts wonderful ethnic Turkish drumming around your head while weaving in elements of the original Bond theme, a full rendition of which is saved for for the big fight scene, with strings in the surrounds and brass drums and flutes surging in all around.

Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: director's commentary, commentary by producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and production designer Dennis Gassner, "Villains – In The Shadow," "Locations – License to Travel," "Music – The Sound of Bond," "The End sequence – The Beginning of the End," "M – Changes," "The Future – New Beginnings," "Skyfall Premiere," "Soundtrack Promotional Spot," "Behind the Scenes Intro," "Opening Sequence – The Death of Bond," "Title Sequence – Working the Titles," "007 – The return of James Bond," "Q – Back to Basics," "DB5 – Behind the Wheel," and "Women – The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful" mini-featurettes; DVD and UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: MGM.

Silver Lining Playbook

Silver Lining Playbook is the multi-Oscar-nominated rom-com-dram by writer-director David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter, Flirting With Disaster) adapted from a novel by Matthew Quick. In it Patrizio Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper), a young former high school history teacher is released from a mental institute into the care of his parents after eight months of treatment for bipolar disorder. Pat is now determined to get back to his old life and reconcile with his wife, Nikki, whom he'd previously caught cheating on him, but quickly learns she has already not only left him but moved away. Meanwhile, his father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), has lost his job and has taken up bookmaking to make the money to open a restaurant.

Going to dinner with his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz), he's set up to meet Ronnie's sister-in-law, Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), an unemployed, unbalanced, twentysomething, recovering sex addict neighbor. Soon their common neuroses draw them together and, since Tiffany is a friend of Nikki, Pat tries to get her to communicate with his wife on his behalf. Tiffany agrees to deliver a letter to Nikki, but only if in return he will be her partner in an upcoming local dance contest which she says will show Nikki he's grown into a saner man. After they've been practicing together for a while, with help from fellow institution inmate Danny (Chris Tucker), and growing closer, Tiffany gives Pat a typed letter from Nikki that hints there may be possibilities for love. But is the correspondence really from Nikki?

Silver Linings Playbook has so far made $113 million in worldwide box office from its $21 million budget but profits may go way up since receiving eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director (Russell), Best Writing based on Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Russell), Best Editing (Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers), in addition to being nominated in all four acting categories - Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper), Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Lawrence), Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert De Niro), and Actress in a Supporting Role (Jacki Weaver) - winning for Best Actress.

Video: 2.40:1. Audio: TBA. Extras: TBA. Studio: The Weinstein Company.

The Sessions

Poet-journalist Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) has been paralyzed and confined to an iron lung since childhood. One day, at the age of 38, he decides that he wants to lose his virginity. With the help of a beautiful sex surrogate therapist, Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt), the advice of an open-minded, sympathetic priest, Father Brendan, (William H. Macy), and his own endless good humor, Mark embarks on an adventure to explore an unknown land of pleasures and self discovery.

Writer-director Ben Lewin, a polio survivor himself, based The Sessions on an essay by the real Mark O'Brien whose life was also chronicled in the 1996 short documentary Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien, directed by Jessica Yu, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short.The Sessions debuted at the 2012 Sundance FilmFestival, where it won the Audience Award and a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting. Hunt is nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: "John Hawkes becomes Mark O'Brien," "Helent Hunt as the Sex Surrogate," "The Women Who Loved Mark O'Brien," "Writer/Director Ben Lewin Finds Inspiration," and "A Session with the Cast" featurettes, deleted scenes; UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: 20th Century Fox.

Zulu Dawn

Made exactly a century after the actual events, Zulu Dawn(1979) tells of the huge defeat of the British and loss of life in the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana due to incompetent leadership and their underestimating the military tactical capabilities of the Zulu warriors. This true story portrays how the Brits got their royal, regimental arses kicked after arrogant officials of the British colony of Natal issue a list of unreasonable demands and unauthorized ultimatums to the Zulu Nation and the subsequent Imperial declaration of war when the Zulu King told the Empire to sod off. This left 1,500 British soldiers in a garrison including Nigel Davenport, Denholm Elliott, and Phil Daniels facing an army of 25,000 pissed Zulu warriors (played by 13,000 actual Zulus) in what would become, following a series of grave tactical blunders, the greatest military disaster in British history.

This dramatic action-adventure prequel to Zulu was directed by Douglas Hickox (Theatre of Blood, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Brannigan) and its all-star cast involved in the Brits attempt at payback that followed the slaughter includes Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward, Peter O'Toole, Peter Vaughan, Bob Hoskins, and Sir John Mills. It comes in a new remastered high-def transfer struck from the original negative, its first correct-aspect-ratio American video release.

Video: 2.40:1. Audio: TBA. Extras: "The History Of The Zulu Wars" new featurette with Zulu Rising author Ian Knight and historical advisor Midge Carter, "Recreating the War" new interview with historical Carter; DVD. Studio: Severin Films.

The Kid with a Bike

Placed into a state institute group home for children in Seraing, Belgium, 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) - a spunky, feisty, high-energy ball of coiled feelings - struggles feverishly to find his father, despite having been abandoned by him. Since no one is willing to help, Cyril escapes from the home and goes in search of his deadbeat dad. Returning to the apartment they'd lived in together, he discovers that his father has left - and has sold Cyril's favorite bike to another man. Distraught, almost delirious with loss, Cyril happens to meet Samantha (Cecile De France), a beautiful, good-hearted hairdresser, who takes to him and, as a gift, gives the troubled child his bike which she has bought back from the man. Cyril, beginning to respond to Samantha and asks to stay the weekend. Their friendship begins to grow despite his outbursts of anger, waves of anxiety, and his intention to use Samantha to help him find his father.

Like all previous films of the Belgian writer-director-producer team of the brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne,The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin au Vélo) has their distinctive naturalism - spare, unsentimental yet tender, all emotions of the characters on display as they respond to successes and failures, discoveries and losses - that earned the Dardenne Brothers their international reputation.

The Kid With A Bike won the Grand Prize of the Jury for Best Film at the Cannes Film Festival.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with optional English subtitles. Extras: 74-minute video conversation between film critic Kent Jones and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 19-minute video interview with Cecile De France, 6-minute video interview with Thomas Doret, 34-minute "Return to Seraing" featurette (all the above in French, with optional English subtitles), illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoff Andrew. Studio: The Criterion  Collection.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In a fresh, honest, and intimate slice-of-life take on the coming-of age movie, author Stephen Chbosky makes his screenwriting and directing debut with the adaptation of his acclaimed best-selling 1999 novel.

Introverted and vulnerable yet survivor-tough freshman and wannabe writer Charlie (Logan Lerman), a kid who's always trying to avoid public humiliation and being picked on by watching from the sidelines and maintaining invisibility, meets up with a pair of charismatic outcast seniors who take him under their wings, the three bound together by their oddities. Beautiful, free-spirited Sam (Emma Watson) and her fearless and foolish gay stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) shepherd Charlie through new high school experiences of sex, love, friendship, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Much of Charlie's emotional life - and the kid does have more than your average childhood emotional baggage and family dysfunction - expressed in the book through letters to an unknown person, appear in the film as narration as gradually he, his new friends, and we begin to understand the source of his loneliness and Sam tries harder than ever to make him feel accepted and worthwhile.

The film also stars Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Joan Cusack, DylanMcDermott, Johnny Simmons, and Paul Rud as Charlie's English teacher and writing mentor.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: director 's commentary, commentary by Chbosky and cast Lerman, Miller, Simmons, Watson, Whitman, and Erin Wilhelmi, "Best Summer Ever" featurette, deleted scenes with optional commentary by Chbosky, dailies; DVD and UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Lionsgate.

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