Films that earned Oscar attention top this week's new DVD releases.
"Skyfall," Grade B+: Daniel Craig takes his third turn at playing 007 in "Skyfall" (a James Bond movie title that actually makes sense). It's not the world that's in danger this time; the challenge hits closer to home as MI-6 comes under attack. Bond must stop the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem) before he destroys the British spy agency.
Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have written one of the most understandable Bond scripts, given that some of the past movies have lost focus. They also created a story with some nice connections to the past. There's at least one major shocker to make "Skyfall" a beautiful gift to fans for the film franchise's 50th anniversary.
The James Bond films have a white-knuckle opening action sequence, a sexy credits montage, a world-threatening event, beautiful locations, cool gadgets, the exotic Bond woman and a superb villain. "Skyfall" has five of the seven.
It also has five Oscar nominations, including for Cinematography, Music (Original Score) and Music (Original Song).
"The Sessions," Grade A-: A man (John Hawkes) in an iron lung contacts a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt).
These are the kind of acting roles the Oscar voters love to honor and Hunt picked up a nod in the Supporting Actress category.
It's a worthy nomination because Hunt turns in the best performance of her career. She's playing a woman secure enough of herself to engage in the most personal of acts with a stranger, but not so clinical as to hide the painful realities that haunt her own life.
Hawkes is magnificent, despite being stripped of almost all his acting tools. All he has is his very expressive face and the emotion he brings to every word of dialogue to create a performance that will emotionally connect with anyone who sees it.
Hawkes and Hunt manage magical transformations for the film.
"Loretta Young: 100th Anniversary Edition," Grade B: The weekly anthology series, which ran from 1953-1961, was hosted by the actress who appeared in more than 100 movies during her long career. Young, who won an Oscar for Best Actress for "The Farmer's Daughter," also starred in the stories that ranged from melodramas to light comedies.
The DVD set is a great example of the quality work being done during the early days of television.
Also being released on DVD Tuesday:
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower": Emma Watson stars in this bittersweet coming-of-age drama.
"Gossip Girl: The Complete Sixth and Final Season": Includes 10 episodes, a featurette, audiobook, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
"Silent Hill: Revelation": A young girl and her father remain on the run from an evil force.
"The Man with the Iron Fists": A blacksmith must defend his village.
"Bully": Documentary that looks at school bullies.
"Robot & Frank": A retired cat burglar gets a new friend. Frank Langella stars.
"Bonanza: The Official Fifth Season": More adventures of the Cartwright family.
"Dora the Explorer: Dora's Butterfly Ball": Dora, Boots and Mariposa head to the Butterfly Ball.
"Dangerous Liaisons": Chinese adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' book.
"Family Matters: The Complete Third Season": Jaleel White stars.
"Matlock: The Eighth Season": Includes 20 episodes of the legal drama staring Andy Griffith.
"Nurse Jackie: Season Four": Edie Falco stars in the dark cable comedy.
"Storage Wars: Volume 4": Reality series about those who buy abandoned storage lockers.
"Weeds: Season Eight": Mary-Louise Parker wraps up her work as the pot-selling mom.
"Black's Game": A man is pulled into the world of Iceland's drug trade.
"The Thieves": A high-stakes heist film that follows three criminals at the top of their game.
"Chuggington": Safari adventures leads to an animal-packed expedition.
"Fairfield Road": Jesse Metcalfe stars in this story about finding a new purpose in life after losing everything.
"The Hardy Boys: Season Three": Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson play the sleuthing siblings.
"Duck Dodgers: Dark Side of the Duck": Captain Duck Edgar Dumas Aloysius Dodgers travels the stars seeking adventure.
"Slugterra: Return of the Shane Gang": Collection based on Nerd Corp's animated action series.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.