, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric | PG-13
James Bond has more in common with Jason Bourne than just initials. In Quantum of Solace, Bond (Craig) looks and acts positively re-Bourne, dropping the cool gadgets, the punning quips, the predatory flirtatiousness and even the OCD specificity of his martini orders. In its place, we get a brooding Bond, a man of much action and few words. Though still dapper in his Tom Ford tuxedos, he doesn't act like he'd laugh much in bed. He's a lesser man for it, and so is this latest 007 film, a middling follow-up to Casino Royale.
In Quantum, Bond is all business, which would be okay if the business he was taking care of was more interesting—or even intelligible. The cryptic plot, about a slimy international broker (Amalric) trying to control water supplies, takes a long time to lurch into gear. Director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) gets the action scenes right but never shapes the film as a whole. And if Craig, a talented actor, wants to be a Bond for the ages, he needs to lighten up. James Bond shouldn't be all work and no play.
Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor | R
This sensational, gripping film—about the perilous adventures of an orphan (Patel) from the slums of Mumbai who finds himself one right answer away from winning big on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire—is what I call an efficient epic. It has the narrative reach and richness of a massively ambitious movie, but director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) nimbly hurtles it along like a high-speed train, with the film arriving at its hugely satisfying final destination in a crisp two hours. Along the way, as our hero struggles just to survive and then to save the woman (Pinto) he has pined for since childhood, he learns about love, loyalty and exactly how dangerous angry criminals can be. Who wants to see Millionaire? Everyone should.
Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric | Not rated
If you're like me and prefer your eggnog spiked—or at least light on the sugar—then A Christmas Tale is a tasty holiday treat. This acerbic French comic drama (with English subtitles) follows a dysfunctional extended family, presided over by a chilly matriarch (Deneuve, divine as ever), which has gathered for a long Noel weekend. Though its plot contains twists familiar from lesser home-for-the-holidays fare (a serious illness, squabbling, tippling and bed-hopping), what makes Tale so refreshingly bracing is that it doesn't provide tidy sentimental resolutions. The movie knows that life is messy but it also embraces the fact that, in the end, most of us manage to muddle through.
• Want to be a Bond girl? The Ukrainian actress, 29, shares tips:
ENJOY YOUR DAY IN THE SUN I thought my character's skin should be darker. They said, "Okay, just don't burn yourself." I don't burn, I get tan.
DON'T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT I got hurt! Bruises and scratches, I was bleeding from my elbows. Basically it was really intense.
WATCH YOUR BACK After training, every little muscle was drawn in my back. In the movie, you can see it's just all so muscle-y. It's like, "Wow, is that really my back?"
• The Indian actress, 24, makes her film debut in Slumdog Millionaire
HOW DID YOU REACT WHEN YOU GOT CAST? After 2 1/2 years of struggling, I went berserk: crying and laughing. My mother didn't even try to control me. She said, "Do what you want, you deserve it!"
YOU FILMED IN MUMBAI'S BUSY TRAIN STATION For the scene, I was screaming and crying for help. The bystanders got used to it, but one man sees these three guys grab me—it looked really brutal—and he came up and asked, "Are you okay?"
HOW DID YOU PULL OFF THE BOLLYWOOD-STYLE FINALE? The only advice I can give anyone dancing in front of a huge crowd is to lose your inhibitions. Don't care who's around or who's looking at you.
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS
Based on the bestselling novel, this poignant drama follows a Nazi officer's son (Asa Butterfield, left) who naively befriends a Jewish boy through the barbed wire of his dad's concentration camp. Don't let the inspirational ads fool you: Boy is stirring, but also the feel-bad movie of the year. (PG-13)
It turns out Robert Downey Jr. wasn't joking in Tropic Thunder
—playing an Aussie Method actor who goes too far playing the part of a black GI in a Vietnam flick (right)—when he said, "I don't drop character till I done a DVD commentary." He does just that on the new Tropic
DVD, channeling his character in the cast commentary. Whether ribbing his costars or talking about Downey's upcoming Sherlock Holmes
film ("Elementary, my dear Watson ... don't even trip on that"), it's as hilarious as his Oscar-worthy turn in the movie. Don't miss it.