"Skyfall" (PG-13, 143 minutes, MGM): To succeed, a James Bond movie must traffic in equal parts sophistication and pure preposterousness, a winking willingness not to take itself too seriously, but with peerless writing, acting and production values. All of those elements are on hand in "Skyfall," which at the outset finds Bond (Daniel Craig) in Istanbul, pursuing a bad guy through bazaars and over rooftops in a ludicrous motorcycle chase. But that episode will send Bond into something of an existential spiral, bringing him alongside Jason Bourne and other au courant secret agents as people who are fighting not just shadowy forces of mass destruction but also their own inner demons. Eventually, Bond's struggle will reach his relationship with M (Judi Dench), whose initial in "Skyfall" might as well stand for Martinet, Mistress of All She Surveys and, most of all, Mother. When Bond flies into action after a self-imposed hiatus, he's an Oedipal wreck, bleary-eyed, out of shape and visibly aging. (After 50 years and 22 films, he has earned those creases.) The not-so-sub-subtext of "Skyfall" is the ongoing dialogue between past and future, whether it's youth vs. age, computers vs. analog, or point-and-click terrorism vs. old-school geopolitics.
"Robot & Frank" (PG-13, 89 minutes, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The gentle laughs produced by this clever, unexpectedly touching dramedy about the relationship between an aging former cat burglar (Frank Langella) and his robotic caregiver catch you a bit off guard. Robot is programmed to act as Frank's personal chef, housekeeper and professional nudge, making sure that his client eats right, stays active and keeps out of trouble. But he's not so good at that last part. Robot lacks an ethical chip, making him an ideal companion for an ex-con. Soon the two are planning to burglarize the home of the wealthy techie who is overseeing the conversion of the town's library to digital. Their victim is the film's true villain, who's seen as desecrating one of the last repositories of real memories.
Despite the plot, "Robot & Frank" isn't a heist film. Its theme is the impermanence of memory, and it's subtly articulated by director Jake Schreier, working from a smart script by Christopher D. Ford that grounds its futuristic conceit in the concerns of today. Despite a great twist ending, "Robot & Frank" isn't mind-bending, only heartstring-tugging.
Also released Tuesday
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
"The Man With the Iron Fists"
"Weeds: Season Eight, The Final Season"