Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Imitation Game

Director Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game is a gripping war drama about Alan Turing, the man who broke the Nazi Enigma Code and might well be considered the father of the computer.  But, having saved an estimated 14 million people with his work, he was, subsequently, dishonored by his Country for being a homosexual.

 With the outstanding, Oscar nomination performance of Turing by Benedict Cumberbatch, backed up by the wonderful Keira Knightley, the Cinematography of Oscar Faura and the Production Design of Maria Djurkovic, The Imitation Game is sure to make the year’s Top 10.

The only issue I have with Graham Moore’s screenplay is that it tries to cover too much.  The effort to break the Enigma Code is a whole story in itself.  England’s terrible treatment of Turning is a whole story in itself.  Tying the two together is a rich treat, but one of the most interesting aspects of breaking the Code is only touched on.  That is the fact that, knowing the Nazis every move, only a select group of events could be prevented or else the Nazis would have known the Code was broken. 
The moral implications and what it may or may not have done to the psyches of those involved in deciding what to let slide would be make for an extremely interesting film in itself.

Nevertheless, The Imitation Game is a must see and I give it a 4+ out of 5.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

96 Heures (96 Hours)

96 Heures (96 Hours) is a taut French thriller directed by Frédéric Schoendoerffer and written by Philippe Isard from an adaption by Yann Brion.

Starring Gérard Lanvin and Niels Arestrup, it is the battle of wits between a Police Commissioner (Lanvin), who got his promotion for capturing a cunning criminal (Arestrup) 3 years prior.

Now, the criminal has turned the tables by setting up a supposed interogation by the Commissioner that will take him out of prison for 96 hours.  He’s done this by threatening the life of the Commissioner’s wife (Anne Consigny).
What the criminal wants to know is who ratted on him, leading to his capture and the disappearance of the $8 million he stole.

The tense standoff leads to a surprising, open ending.

I give 96 Heures a 4 out of 5.

Hopefully, you can catch it on Netflix, if it doesn’t get a U.S. release.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

While by no means the worst film of the year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, has to be the most disappointing. 

I was so looking forward to this movie, but Writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong handed in a boring script to Director Francis Lawrence, who, for some reason, fell in with or added in the lethargic atmosphere.  So, a bad story told badly.
Earlier this year, I described Divergent as The Hunger Games with less color.  Mockingjay is Divergent without any color.

Yes, there’s a cool action piece where Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) shoots down two planes with one arrow, but that’s about it.  Katniss has become Catatonic, wheeping and wimpering over poor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).  Boo hoo.  (With Gale (Liam Hemsworth) on hand, it doesn’t say much for her taste in men.)

The only one who shows up in this yawner is Jena Malone as the Director of a commercial on the Mockingjay.  She should have done better than Lawrence in directing this film, as well.

In reality, this film is a 2 hours and 3 minute trailer for Mockingjay 2, which, hopefully,  can, somehow, redeem itself despite having much of the same production team involved.  

A good editor could have brought it in at under 10 minutes.

I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 a 2+ out of 5…and that’s being kind.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Writer/Director Jon Stewarts’ Rosewater is a wonderful first film by the great comedian.

Jon took on a real-life story and had great actors to work with…Gael Garcia Bernal as the reporter Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran for being a spy and Shohreh Ahgdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand, The House of Sand and Fog) as his mother…, a top crew to work with, including Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski, Production Designer Gerald Sullivan and Editor Jay Rabinowitz and a fabulous composer in Lord of the Rings’ Howard Shore.
The only thing missing was a fresh pair of eyes for the storyline.   The reality is that being a prisoner is boring.  It’s the same-old-same-old every day.  If you didn’t know that, it comes across very quickly in this story.  The problem is that you don’t want to bore the audience watching a prisoner’s story.  A good 5 to 10 minutes of the middle of Rosewater could have been cut so as to avoid this issue. 
It would have been better to show the interesting fact that was only mentioned regarding the fact Bahari’s jailer/torturer (Nasser Faris) was as much a prisoner as he was.

Despite this, Rosewater is well worth seeing.  I give it a 3+ out of 5.

Dumb and Dumber To

The Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To certainly lives up to its name.
Though it starts out lamely with Jim Carrey over-mugging and some weak jokes relative to the past (which we didn’t really care about), it soon builds into funnier and funnier bits, a pleasant storyline and, then, some uproarious, albeit stupid and, sometimes, gross humor.   

If you need to get some laughs, i.e., as an antidote after viewing a downer like Foxcatcher, then you’ll probably enjoy this nonsense all the more.

I give Dumb and Dumber To a 3+ out of 5.