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Digital Divide: March 2013

Skyfall
MGM

Upon its release, Skyfall received the most hype of any film in the 50-year history of the James Bond franchise. From the now legendary Olympic parachute stunt with Her Majesty the Queen to the hiring of an honest-to-gosh Academy Award-winning director to helm the thing (Sam Mendes, American Beauty), all signs pointed to MGM going all out and sparing no expense.

All of the hype paid off, and Skyfall grossed more than any of the previous 22 flicks in the series.
Given the generally acknowledged weaknesses of the previous Daniel-Craig-as-Bond effort (Quantum Of Solace), Skyfall couldn’t help but be better in comparison. And sure, it raked in the cash, but is it the best Bond yet?

Close, but no cigar.

While I’d definitely put it in the top five, I wouldn’t even rank it as Craig’s best. Gotta go with Casino Royale for that one.

Still, Skyfall has more than enough going for it, and a lot to love about it.

First off, Craig has settled into the role nicely and has officially made it his own. Second, Dame Judi Dench gets a lot more to do in this one. Any film that lets Dench get more screen time is a good thing indeed.

Third, it’s good to see the Bond regulars finally show up. Although he’s played as much younger than usual, it’s great to see Q make his debut in the rebooted series to dole out the Bond gadgets. Yet perhaps the biggest character change comes as M’s assistant Miss Moneypenny takes the stage. Trust me, this is not the moon-eyed secretary pinning for 007 we’re used to.

And, of course, there’s Javier Bardem as the evil genius. Bond films, and action films in general, live and die by the quality of their bad guys. And while Bardem’s Silva won’t make anyone forget Ernst Blofeld, he manages to hold his own. One question though: Is it now a rule that Bardem (No Country For Old Men) has to have a ridiculously bad haircut to play the bad guy? Just wonderin’ . . .

The Blu-ray set comes with some good features such as commentary by Mendes, as well as an hour-long documentary about the making of the film. Usually, the making-of features don’t amount to much, but this one takes the time to go in-depth without being boring.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
20th Century Fox

After big-budget action flicks and tear-jerking romances, the most reliable genre of films Hollywood serves up just might be the high school coming-of-age film. The reason is fairly obvious. While odds are you have neither the physique nor stamina to mow down dozens of terrorists trying to take over the world, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll meet the person of your dreams while “finding yourself” during your year-long jaunt through Europe, it’s a good bet you went to high school. While you were there, it’s also a good bet you felt like you didn’t fit in.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is the latest entry worth checking out. It’s not as instantly memorable as The Breakfast Club or other classic John Hughes movies, nor does it have the biting sense of satire as that last truly great H.S.C.O.A. flick, Easy A, but it does hit all the requisite notes and features great performances from all involved.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay adapted from his novel, Perks centers on Logan Lerman as Charlie, the freshman terrified of setting out on the high school road. He’s befriended by step-siblings Patrick and Sam (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson), the textbook “quirky” characters who show him the way. Also on hand is Paul Rudd as the wise and sage English teacher.

There are some nice features on the Blu-ray edition, such as commentary from most of the cast, as well as deleted and alternate scenes. Also, instead of a “making-of” portion, we’re treated to several unedited “dailies” that also give an insight into the filmmaking process, as well as interviews with the cast about the shoot.

No, Perks doesn’t occupy the lofty coming-of-age territory as, say, Ferris Bueller, but it is a solid entry nonetheless.

— Timothy Hiatt

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