Director: Sam Mendes, Rated M, 143 mins

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the exploits of the highly popular British secret service agent James Bond, with Daniel Craig returning as super spy 007 in the 23rd adaptation of the franchise, making ‘Skyfall’ one of the best Bond movies ever made, considering its character was first penned by renowned English author Ian Fleming in 1962.
   Unlike his predecessors, the great director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has revitalised the spy character like never before, providing a fascinating insight into his past and shooting a spectacular action-packed opening sequence showing Bond on top of a moving train, chasing a mercenary (in possession of a list of British agents) and then inadvertently shot by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris - Pirates of the Caribbean) at the express orders of M (Judi Dench).
   Because of her failure to retrieve the list as well as bungling the operation that includes the apparent killing of Bond, M is told by her superior, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes -Wrath of the Titans) that she should now retire which she rejects out of hand.
   M is later shocked at the bombing of her agency’s headquarters by a former demented agent Silva (Javier Bardem - Eat, Pray Love) who bears a grudge against her and was determined to exact his revenge by eliminating her.
   The bombing has Bond returning to the fray only to be soon captured by Silva. In a scene stealer with the movie’s main villain, when asked what is he seeking Bond responds with the word, “resurrection”.
   Despite his interest in new Bond girls Eve and femme fatale Severine (French actress Berenice Marlohe), Bond’s focus in this movie is squarely on protecting M against the crazy intentions of Silva leading to what is both a surprising and thrilling conclusion.
   In addition to Craig delivering one of the best performances of the British spy character, there is also Bardem’s perfect portrayal of the tragic madman in Silva as well as great cast including a new Q played by Ben Whishaw (The Tempest) and Albert Finney as Kincade, the groundkeeper for Bond’s family home.
   But it is Mendes’ masterful direction that differentiates Skyfall from all the previous Bond movies, making it a fitting tribute for this year’s special anniversary of the Bond franchise – and a memorable movie to see over these Christmas holidays.
VIC'S VERDICT:         4 ½ Rubber Stamps

Seven psychopaths

   Director: Martin McDonagh, Rated MA, 109 mins

In his latest release, English director Martin McDonagh teams up again with Colin Farrell, the leading star of his hit movie ‘In Bruges’ to deliver a somewhat bizarre and blood-spattered story of seven psychopaths whose paths happen to cross in particularly
Seven psychopaths
violent circumstances as a result of an encounter with a struggling screenwriter, with many of the sequences shot similar to the style of famed director Quentin Tarantino.
   Marty (Farrell) is a down and out alcoholic writer whose best buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell - Cowboys and Aliens) has an unconventional racket in cahoots with long-time crim, Hans (Christopher Walken - Hairspray) which involves pinching dogs from wealthy owners and returning them for a huge reward.
   But Billy oversteps the mark when he kidnaps the dog of Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson - The Hunger Games), a trigger-happy mob boss (and another psychopath) who is hell-bent with his gang in getting back his much loved Shih Tzu, no matter the number of bodies piled up.
   Despite some amusing scenes including pleasing performances from Rockwell and Harrelson, the violence is over the top with the rest of the cast just simply mundane.   McDonagh’s dark crime comedy of Seven Psychopaths may certainly appeal to those people who enjoy watching this type of satirical humour intertwined with the level of gratuitous violence shown in the movie - especially those with psychopathic intentions!
VIC'S VERDICT:        2 ½ Rubber Stamps

Rise of the guardians (3D)

   Director: Peter Ramsey, Rated PG, 97 mins

The Dreamworks studio has once again come out with another fantastic fantasy adventure for the school holidays which first time director Peter Ramsey has brought to the big screen in 3D.
Snow White and the Huntsman
   When an evil spirit known as Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) threatens to take over the world by creating fear in the hearts of all children, it is left to the immortal Guardians including such childhood heroes as Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Easter Bunny (Aussie Hugh Jackman), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Sandman (CGI created) and Santa Clause (Alec Baldwin) to join forces for the first time and protect the beliefs, hopes and imaginations of children all over the world.
   Although the storyline is somewhat fanciful the whole family will thoroughly enjoy this animated movie with its range of brilliant colours and colourful characters.
VIC'S VERDICT:         3 ½ Rubber Stamps

The Hobbit: An Unexpected
Journey (3D)

   Director: Peter Jackson, Rated PG, 166 mins (Released Boxing Day)

Academy award winning NZ director Peter Jackson has finally released his major addition to his highly successful Lord of the Rings franchise which has gone beyond the imagination of the J R R Tolkien story providing an incredible insight into The Hobbit story
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (3D)
(being shot for the first time in 3D) and filled with plenty of action and adventure that will thrill audiences all over again through what is expected to be another cinematic masterpiece.
   In this first part of a trilogy, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) must go on a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor which was conquered by the dragon Smaug.   Unexpectedly approached by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo agrees to join a company of dwarves led by legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).
   The journey takes them through treacherous lands swarming with goblins and orcs, deadly wargs, giant spiders, shape shifters and sorcerers, ultimately leading Bilbo to find a magical gold ring that will determine the fate of Middle Earth.
   Despite some spectacular scenes and special effects the movie will have most appeal to adults and older children with audiences having to wait until 2014 for the concluding part of the trilogy.

VIC'S VERDICT:         4 Rubber Stamps

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