007 is back, but cinephiles should rush to see Holy Motors first.

In Theaters

Skyfall
(Columbia Pictures)

Following a four-year hiatus, the longest in series half-century, James Bond returns in Skyfall.  As with most Bond films, the plot details are shadowy at best, but in this 143 minute (?!?!) installment, 007 (Daniel Craig) battles one of the franchise’s more interesting villains (a spooky blond Javier Bardem) while M (Judi Dench) has an expanded role that explores her history with MI6.  Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) unexpectedly takes the reins and a rich supporting cast (including Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Ben Wishaw) furthers the appeal.  Early reviews have been exceedingly strong and I’m confident that the film will carry on the strengths of Casino Royale, something the writer’s strike plagued Quantum of Solace was unable to do.

Holy Motors
(Indomina Group)

A film that virtually defies a synopsis, the French-language Holy Motors follows what appears to a typical day in the life of Oscar, a chameleonic actor.  Driven around Paris in a limousine by his faithful chauffeur, he dons whatever make-up necessary to transform into each new role, thoroughly assuming each persona.  As his day progresses, reality blurs with fantasy, genre-hopping between brief respites until it’s unclear whether even Oscar is aware if he’s acting or not.  Featuring a remarkable performance by Denis Lavant, the film takes the inventiveness of Moonrise Kingdom and the smarts of Seven Psychopaths and melds them into something wholly new.  Sure to enthrall as much as it repels, if the concept sounds appealing, be sure to pounce as it may not last long at the Fine Arts Theatre.  Look for my review on Friday.

The Other Dream Team
(Lionsgate/Film Arcade)

The ’92 Olympics marked the first time professional athletes were allowed to play for the U.S. men’s basketball team.  And so, the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird steamrolled the competition, easily avenging the “disgraceful” bronze medal from ’88.  Receiving far less attention than the Dream Team was the Lithuanian squad, a close-knit group of players competing as an independent nation for the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain.  20 years later, the documentary The Other Dream Team recounts their feel-good story, which includes a tie-dyed endorsement by the Grateful Dead.  Sports documentaries tend to veer on the sappy side, but this one may have enough winning nostalgia to connect with more than just basketball fans.

Fleeing the Scene

Liberal Arts and Easy Money leave the Fine Arts Theatre to make room for Holy Motors, which may require both screens to be contained.

On DVD

The warm and surprisingly rich Your Sister’s Sister leads the way.  There’s also The Amazing Spider-Man, which should probably switch its adjective for a less-flashy and more appropriate one.

On Netflix Instant

The best bet is Richard Linklater’s Bernie, still lingering in my Top 5 of the year thanks to Jack Black’s career-best turn.  Another of last year’s more imaginative Best Animated Feature Oscar nominees, A Cat in Paris, joins Chico & Rita in the Stream-o-sphere.  There’s also Trishna, Michael Winterbottom’s gritty take on Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which just missed playing at the Carolina in September.  Featuring some of the same locations as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it makes John Madden’s take on India look like an episode of Sesame Street.

Multiple trustworthy sources recommend Lockout (a.k.a. Space Jail) for solid cheap thrills.  I’ll vouch for the not nearly as terrible as it sounds The Genesis Code, one of the more engaging faith-based films out there.  And let’s not forget about the Footloose remake…or, maybe…let’s.

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