This and That

Movie Briefs: Imitation Game, Into the Wood, Top Five, Wild

I have let too many movies pile up to give them individual attention so here is a sentence each. As often happens at this time of year, I haven't been to a clunker yet. In fact, there's a reason they call this awards season; except for Top 5, all of them are Oscar bait, as movies and for their leads.

The Imitation Game, a biopic about computing pioneer Alan Turing, included the line, “Sometimes it's the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine." It is the amazing story of the machine used to break the German Enigma code, as well as Turing's chemical castration after the war for homosexuality. Oscar nods to Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley (typical stand by your man role). I agree the scrambled chronology was a bad idea, but otherwise a great film.

I never saw the musical
Into the Woods, but the movie was amazing. You don't leave the theater humming Sondheim songs, but you are impressed while you are sitting there listening to them. Solid performances from Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, James Corden as the Baker (a chance to see the work of the new CBS Late, Late Show host) and Emily Blunt as his wife. Kudos to the amazing voice of child actor Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and another Oscar nomination in the can for Meryl Streep as the witch. You've never seen Grimm's fairy tales like these. Leave at the end of the obvious first act if you don't want your kids to see the scary and literally dark second act, but as an adult, you should see it. The women in this film are real and self-actualized. A very good film.

Top Five is the Chris Rock vehicle that paired him with Rosario Dawson and, apparently, ended his 19-year marriage. The movie is hysterically funny and features cameos by a score of famous comedians. It is raunchy, of course, and the gay jokes are a little rough, as is some of the sex. But if you like Rock at all and can stand a raunchy comedy, this one is a keeper. Dawson tries to be real, but her role is mostly stand by your man (or in this case, your interview subject).

Wild is the Reese Witherspoon vehicle that traces the real-life story of a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself from the Mojave to the Bridge of the Gods. That is one long hike. This isn't her first serious movie, but it's her first serious movie in years, and she does a full Oscar: the only thing that attracts Oscar voters more than facial prostheses is dirt. She appears with no makeup (according to her director) and no hair styling. I've seen the film. I can believe it. Since she is along most of the time, we get voice over, supposedly the sign of a bad movie in Hollywood. Not this time. Film and actress will both be in contention for the Oscar, with a best supporting nod seemingly certain for Laura Dern. There just aren't that many good roles for women. Engaging drama.