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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judy Dench

PG-13 |


How do you make a 50-year-old film franchise new again? By letting it feel its age. With wry geriatric jokes, a plot that strikes 007 (Craig) right where he lives and even some throwback gadgets, Skyfall gives James Bond a delightfully retro reboot. It also establishes Craig as the only man who can rival Sean Connery as lord of the spies.

Turns out, the first step in reviving Bond is to kill him. Under orders to shoot a foreign operative carrying a list of Britain’s undercover agents, Bond’s fellow spy Eve (Naomie Harris) accidentally hits 007. The master spy uses the incident to disappear, but he returns to MI6 when he learns his boss M (Dench) is the target of terrorists. After sparring with a disturbingly youthful new Q (Cloud Atlas’s Ben Whishaw), James tracks down the baddie, a mastermind named Silva (Bardem), who is by turns hilarious and deeply creepy. Director Sam Mendes gives the cast space to do more than dodge bullets, but the action sequences and stunning locations (be prepared for a sudden urge to visit Shanghai) don’t disappoint. The result? A film that honors the Bond tradition and makes the spy feel totally relevant-provided his creaky knees hold out.


Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones | PG-13 |


As a grateful nation, we’ve polished the legacy of Abraham Lincoln (Day-Lewis) to such a high gloss that you can barely make out the man. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln strips away the varnish to reveal a President who’s warm, funny and craftily political. The alchemy is in Day-Lewis’s performance. His rounded shoulders and reedy tenor belie a power that roars as Lincoln fights to pass the 13th Amendment, ending slavery. (I’m calling it: The Oscar is Day-Lewis’s to lose.)

Two factions lead the President’s charge: a triumvirate of carrot-and-stick men, including a piquant James Spader, who woo balky politicians; and influential statesmen, such as Jones’s ferociously principled Thaddeus Stevens, who dominate a raucous Congress. That the legislative process feels so vibrant is the genius of Tony Kushner’s script. (It also helps that the film’s women, particularly Field’s Mary Todd, are so ballsy.) Granted, Lincoln drags near the end, and the film fails to explore the man’s complex feelings about race. But how nice it is, perhaps for the first time, to see the man at all.