Bond... James Bond 

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It's been 50 years since her majesty's greatest espionage agent first hit the silver screen and James Bond is back as Skyfall opens this Friday at the Village 8 (or late Thurs night if you catch the midnight show).

After a stunning opening chase/fight sequence and a killer title song courtesy of Adele, Bond basically retires to a Caribbean island to drink in peace. Meanwhile M (Judi Dench) and her entire program are on the chopping block after losing a microchip containing the identities of all the UN's most deep-rooted spies. Then a pissed off ex-MI6 operative starts knocking off agents and sending threatening messages to M while simultaneously blowing up her office. Needless to say, Bond is no longer retired.

Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road) sets the film securely in the present with hate and revenge driving the conflict rather than political or nationalist beliefs. Mendes weaves brooding themes of "we're getting too old for this shit" in amongst stunning action set pieces, ace cinematography, playful nods to the mythology and actual character development. The result is one of the best Bond flicks since Live and Let Die (Bond in Harlem!) and something on par with Casino Royale.

A clever and meaty (albeit 142-minute) script deserves praise but the actors nail it as well. Dench has been on board since 1995's Goldeneye and she truly shines as M. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) is a Bond villain that could easily hang with Auric Goldfinger or Jaws, though his badassery is fully grounded in the now. And of course, there are a couple hot-ass Bond girls. English actress Naomi Harris (28 Days Later) is more of a tough sidekick than a traditional Bond chick, but she smolders nonetheless.

Speaking of, over the past 24 Bond movies the title of "Hottest Bond Girl" still belongs to the first one, Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in Dr No. Halle Berry comes a close second in Die Another Day but Diane Riggs (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) also deserves shout-outs (even though Quantum sucked balls).

And speaking of balls, after 50 years of Bond girls, perhaps James' greatest feat is managing to avoid contracting AIDS...or is it? House of Numbers, a Canadian documentary, proposes that everything we think we know about AIDS may be muddied by science's need for funding and big pharma's need for fear-based drug sales.

It's a pretty heavy journey as filmmaker Brent Leung travels the globe trying make sense of the mystery, and history, behind HIV/AIDS.

Widely criticized as "unbalanced," House of Numbers uses split-screens to play a variety of expert opinions off each other. After essentially claiming that no AIDS test results can really be 100% trusted, Leung draws attention to the role of poverty, malnutrition and already weakened immune systems in the world AIDS pandemic then takes a follow-the-money approach to see who benefits the most from the disease.

The viewer is left with more questions than answers and whether or not Leung's views are one-sided becomes secondary because the truth is most of us don't really know much at all about this disease, so any questions are good ones. House of Numbers is the download of the week.

Also, local filmmakers should check out the "Best of Vinos" event this Thursday night at Cornucopia. Apparently it's like a 72-Hour Filmmaker showdown based around wine and I bet Whistler filmmakers have the talent to roll into this Okanagan-based contest and pick up some awards. I'll see you there.

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