This week at the movies prompts several questions. Will the latest Bond movie ("Casino Royale," starring Daniel Craig) leave pundits shaken and stirred? Can penguins learn to dance ("Happy Feet," featuring voice work by Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, and Robin Williams)? And can prison be fun ("Let’s Go to Prison," starring Dax Shepard)? Find out what the critics have to say!
"Batman Begins" heartily displayed the virtues of taking a moribund series back to basics by ditching the camp and placing its titular superhero in a more plausible, real-world context. With "Casino Royale," the Bond series has taken a similar no-nonsense approach, and critics say the result is a triumph. "Casino Royale" delves into the 007 creation myth; the early days of the suave secret agent find him a lot more haunted — and casually cruel — in ways only vaguely suggested in the previous 20 Bond pictures. But scribes also note the film is hardly morose, with enough exciting action and in-jokes to please the diehards. Some even go so far as to say that Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Sean Connery. At 95 percent on the Tomatometer, "Casino Royale" has the Midas touch; it’s not only Certified Fresh, it’s also the best reviewed wide release of the year (although it’s still a cut below "Dr. No" at 100 percent).
For those of you whose cinematic appetite for flightless fowl was left unsatiated by "March of the Penguins," we’ve got good news. Featuring motion-capture dancing by Savion Glover and an eco-friendly message, "Happy Feet" is winning praise from critics for its sharp animation and rousing soundtrack. The film tells the story of a young penguin named Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) who’s gotta dance when all the others Emperors gotta sing. At 80 percent on the Tomatometer, "Happy Feet" is the best reviewed animated feature of the year.
"Let’s Go to Prison" was not screened for critics, which means it’s unlikely to join the list of timeless jailhouse classics that includes "Cool Hand Luke," "The Shawshank Redemption," and "Caged Heat II: Stripped of Freedom." So kids, it’s time to call up your parole officer to get some help Guessing that Tomatometer.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Who the $#%& is Jackson Pollock?, a documentary about the battle to verify what could be a painting by the famed abstract expressionist, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; "Flannel Pajamas," an indie about the deterioration of a longstanding relationship, is at 80 percent; the Argentine thriller "The Aura" is at 80 percent; the zero-budget teen indie "Dance Party, USA" is at 80 percent; the drug addiction drama "Candy," starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish, is at 65 percent; "Fast Food Nation," Richard Linklater‘s fictional multi-plotline treatment of the muckraking bestseller, is at 60 percent (read RT’s interview with cast and crew members here); Emilio Estevez‘s "Bobby," an Altman-esque tale of the night of Robert Kennedy’s assassination starring half the population of California, is at 56 percent; the Hollywood-skewering "For Your Consideration," Christopher Guest‘s latest ensemble comedy, is at 56 percent; and the Quay Brothers’ twisted fairytale "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes" is at 50 percent.
And finally, props to dreday, who came the closest to guessing "The Return"’s Tomatometer of 13 percent. Everybody’s celebratin.’