'Casino Royale': I don't know if you've heard, but there's a new Bond in town, and his name is Craig. Daniel Craig. Now, Mr. Craig was not a popular choice when he was named to replace Pierce Brosnan. Too blond! the naysayers scoffed. Too short! Too ugly! Well, those naysayers are about to eat their words with an extra helping of I-was-wrongness, because this movie kicks ass like no Bond film since Connery -- and the major reason for that is Daniel Craig. Nothing against Brosnan and Roger Moore, but their Bonds were perfectly coiffed sophisticates who offed bad guys with a wink, a quip and a fancy gadget. This Bond doesn't need any gadgets except a gun and his good friends, Fist A and Fist B. He is, as Bond girl Eva Green told me in our Q&A, "a man ... more human than the other Bonds," which means that he bleeds, he sweats, he gets his hands dirty, he feels -- and he is, dare I say it, smokin' hot, with a body (which, ahem, you will see plenty of) that looks as it if were chiseled out of marble. AND he fills out a tux like nobody's business. Somewhere out there, Pierce Brosnan is hitting the gym.
Oh, the plot? In a nutshell, after earning his double-oh credentials the hard way, Bond jets off in pursuit of Le Chiffre (the sublimely creepy Mads Mikkelsen), a terrorist banker who weeps bloody tears. Sent by the agency to face off against Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game, Bond is accompanied by Vesper Lynd (Green), a smart, gorgeous accountant who initially resists 007's charms but eventually, of course, stops resisting. I'll leave you to learn the rest on your own; suffice it to say that the movie starts off with a thrilling ten-minute chase sequence and then never lets up. My friends, it's the dawn of a new Bond. Long may he reign.
'Happy Feet': If 'Casino Royale' faces any competition for the top spot this weekend, it comes in the menacing form of ... penguins. Cute, adorable little penguins. Elijah Wood stars as the voice of Mumbles, an Emperor Penguin who cannot sing, which dooms him to a lifetime of never getting lai -- err, "finding a mate." Instead of just auditioning for 'American Idol' like all the other tone-deaf singers out there, he joins up with a group of misfits, learns to embrace his mad tap-dancing skillz and wins over his longtime crush Gloria (Brittany Murphy). I haven't seen this one, but MoviefoneSandie reports, "I laughed even more than my four-year-old, which is saying a lot, cuz he laughs at just about anything." It's directed by George Miller, who helmed 'Babe: Pig in the City,' and by the looks of the trailers and the all-star cast (Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams et al.), 'Happy Feet' is set to make us all pretend we're in Antarctica.
'Let's Go to Prison': In this lowbrow comedy, Dax Shepard plays a lifelong criminal who has a grudge against a judge (a "judge grudge," as it were). To get revenge, he lands the judge's son (Will Arnett) in prison and goes about making his life a living hell. The movie wasn't screened for critics, but it's not the kind of flick that relies on reviews; all certain teenage boys need to hear is "star of 'Arrested Development' + star of 'Punk'd' + prison jokes," and they're there. I will say that in our recent 'Let's Go to Prison' AIM interview, these two fine gentlemen ditched talking up the movie for trash-talking the moderator -- namely, yours truly -- and the results are either hilarious, offensive, or hilariously offensive, depending on whom you ask. I'm guessing that pretty much sums up the movie itself. Also, I am now apparently engaged to both men. My parents are so proud.
This weekend, will Daniel Craig bashers stubbornly stay away despite the film's terrific reviews? Will PG penguins contribute to global warming ... of hearts? Interesting note: Hugh Jackman is competing with himself this weekend, as he provides a voice in both 'Happy Feet' and 'Flushed Away,' which should still perform well in its third week of release. And Elijah Wood's got the big-screen schizophrenia, too; he stars not just in 'Happy Feet' but also in 'Bobby,'opening in limited release today. Ah, gotta love those movie stars with a work ethic.
NOTE: Prediction entries must be submitted by midnight (Pacific time) on Saturday, and you may only post one prediction. Shuffle up and deal.