Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
James Bond celebrates his 50th cinematic birthday in great style, as Daniel Craig confidently embarks on his third exotic action-adventure, delivering a compelling performance as Ian Fleming's iconic secret agent.
In the spectacular prologue, Bond (Craig) chases a thief across the rooftops of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar on a motorcycle and pursues him onto the top of a speeding train, almost being killed in the process by fellow field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). What's been stolen is a device containing the real names of every British Secret Service agent embedded within terrorist organizations around the world. One-by-one, they're being assassinated and the new London headquarters of MI6 explodes in a cyber-terrorist attack. This breach infuriates Intelligence and Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who wants to retire M (Judi Dench). "We're both played out," mutters Bond.
Not so fast, M counters. With headquarters moved underground to Churchill's old war bunker, MI6 is quite different these days. Particularly unnerving is the geeky, new weapons-and-technology guru known as Q (Ben Wishaw), who arms 007 with only a Walther PPK and a tiny tracking device. No more exploding pens and other outlandish devices. Bond's shadowy quest then takes him to Shanghai and Macau, where he's enticed by sexy Severine (Berenice Marlohe), who leads him to flamboyantly ruthless Silva (Javier Bardem), one of the strangest, most deviously shrewd and dangerous of all Bond villains. For the climactic encounter, Bond revs up the Aston Martin DB5 from "Goldfinger" and takes off for Skyfall, his old Scottish manor house, presided over by its grizzled caretaker Kincade (Albert Finney).
Scripted by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, directed by Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") and photographed by Roger Deakins, there's a droll, deft balancing of the traditional, franchise espionage with a timely, contemporary socio-political twist. And Adele is sensational singing her new Bond song with Thomas Newman's orchestral score taking cues from vintage classics, including Monty Norman's traditional Bond theme.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Skyfall" soars with a thrilling, terrific 10, one of the best Bonds ever.
Alcohol abuse is a huge problem in America today, and young people -- ages 18 to 29 -- have the highest rates of past year alcohol abuse and dependence. So it shouldn't come as such a surprise that a hard-working Los Angeles elementary school teacher starts her day chugging a beer and takes a hefty swig from a flask before she goes into the classroom. But it does.
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul from TV's "Breaking Bad") are a young married couple who share a love of music and booze. But Kate drinks far too much; sometimes she even wets the bed. Since their nightly ritual involves drinking and driving, it seems inevitable that Kate occasionally awakens in the gutter. One day, while suffering from a severe hangover, she vomits in her classroom. Her first-graders think that she's pregnant, a story that she confirms when confronted by the principal, Patricia Barnes (Megan Mullally), who subsequently embarrasses Kate with a surprise baby shower. But the vice principal, Dave Davies (Nick Offerman from TV's "Parks and Recreation"), is onto Kate's real problem and suggests that she accompany him to an AA meeting, where she takes an immediate liking to Jenny (Octavia Spencer from "The Help"), who becomes her empathetic sponsor.
None of this sits well with husband Charlie, who realizes he's lost his hard-partying partner. And a drive to Arrowhead to visit Kate's bitter, estranged mother, Rochelle (Mary Kay Place), doesn't help Kate's road to sobriety, particularly as Rochelle immediately mixes the requisite Bloody Marys.
Written by Susan Burke and director James Pensoldt, it's a standard, heavy-weight drama about the self-destructive effects of alcohol abuse, reminiscent but never as good as "The Days of Wine and Roses." Carrying the picture, Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") delivers a matter-of-fact performance that never dips into melodrama, even when she warbles in a karaoke bar or tipsily rides her bicycle.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Smashed" is a straightforward 5, telling it like it is.
"SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D"
There's certainly nothing revelatory or even interesting about this ridiculously humorless horror fantasy that's based on the popular video game franchise except, perhaps, how British screenwriter/director Michael J. Bassett ("Solomon Kane") was able to attract a talented supporting cast that includes Carrie-Ann Moss, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan and Malcolm McDowell.
Arriving six years after the original, this grisly, gory installment finds Heather Mason (Aussie actress Adelaide Clemens) and her father Harry (Sean Bean) still on the run, always managing to keep one step ahead of malevolent forces that she doesn't understand. Perennially plagued since childhood by terrifying nightmares, on the eve of her 18th birthday, Heather discovers that she's not who she thinks she is, nor, perhaps, is her father. Her insatiable curiosity leads her to delve deeper into a demonic cult that threatens to trap her forever.
In case you managed to miss Christopher Gans' 2006 "Silent Hill," there's lots of exposition, much of which makes little sense. Suffice it to say that the creepy little girl has grown up and is determined to thwart the evil forces that inhabit the dreamscape-like town of Silent Hill from claiming her -- the way they did her adoptive mother, Rosa (Radha Mitchell). Problem is: Heather's father disappears and there's a message, "Come to Silent Hill," written in blood on the wall. So, spunky Heather and her hunky high school friend Vincent Carter (Kit Harington from TV's "Game of Thrones") must go back to the cursed coal mining town rescue him from the demonic doppelganger Alessa, whose blood sacrifice caused the town's original damnation.
"Never built on an ancient Indian burial ground," Vincent says. "I thought everyone knew that." Obviously, they don't.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D" barely scrapes up an incomprehensible 3. Mercifully, it's only 93 minutes long.