The Best and Worst of This Week’s New Movie Releases


The Imitation Game: To be frank, I hovered between putting this Alan Turing bio-pic in this category or the “Wait for DVD section below it for some long minutes. It’s not that the film, which follows the fascinating story of Turing, one of the key, virtually unknown British heroes of WWII, as the man who managed to solve the once-thought-unbreakable German Enigma machine, isn’t interesting, or with the splendid Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, poorly drawn. It’s just that the film’s breakdown spends an enormous amount of time on his WWII exploits (admittedly a suitably nerve-wracking and dramatic story), and precious little on his post-war life, in which this hero was caught with a younger man, and had to endure forced hormonal therapy in an effort to “cure” him by local authorities, eventually leading to his suicide at a relatively young age. It’s a difficult story to balance properly, to be sure, but I would have to say, as much as this has going for it, this version sides strongly with the safer material, to its ultimate detriment. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Big Eyes: Scanning over the cast list, I’m amazed to report that Tim Burton’s latest film actually has no sign of Johnny Depp, which maybe, given their immediate past track record together, can be considered a good sign for both men. Instead, Burton’s film, about real-life “artist” Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), a German painter who purported to be the creator of a series of very well-received paintings of waifs in the ’50s, while, in fact, acting as a stand-in for his supremely gifted wife (Amy Adams), the true creator of the work, sounds like a most welcome departure for the artisan of creepy—and increasingly less effective—comedy. Critics indicate it harkens back to some of Burton’s earlier and more enduring works such as Ed Wood, and the two lead actors, both of whom have Oscar noms under their belts (with Waltz actually taking home two Supporting Actor statues in the process), sound absolutely terrific. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

The Gambler: I understand if a film that features Mark Wahlburg as a disillusioned novelist and reluctant literature professor who turns to reckless gambling with total disregard for the ramifications would be something you’d want to avoid at all costs. But, somehow, Rupert Wyatt’s intriguing update to the 1974 classic starring James Caan, actually does have some significant tricks up its sleeve, not the least of which, just what the professor’s plan ultimately entails and why he’s doing it in the first place. In this, it carves out its own little piece of space beyond its formidable forefather. Call me crazy, but Wahlburg is surprisingly solid in the role, and the film hints at bigger mysteries than even it can begin to solve. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%


Unbroken: One of those fact-based films whose original source material is, perhaps, almost too outrageous to be entirely believable on the big screen, Angelina Jolie’s second directorial feature stars the young and supremely talented Jack O’Connell as American Olympic hero Louis Zamperini, who survives being shot down over the Pacific during WWII and a subsequent 47-day raft survival odyssey with two other men, only to be captured by the Japanese and brutally abused as a POW. You’d be hard-pressed to gum up a more Hollywood-ready sounding vehicle, but perhaps that obviousness is part of the film’s problem, as critics seem to feel as if it relies too heavily on standard Hollywood emotional crutches to stand on its own two feet. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%


Into the Woods: Quick disclaimers, here: First, I’m not exactly known as a singular fan of the musical genre, so if you’d rather see South Pacific over The Guns of Navarone, you can feel free to take this with a large grain of kosher salt. Second (and related), I’ve never seen the original Broadway version of this show, so I can’t tell you how closely related they are. All that said, I found this mammoth production with its high-powered cast (including Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp—for all of about four minutes—and Meryl Streep) pretty aimless. Not sure whom their target audience might be, but it appears as though they must not be fans of narrative coherence, well-wrought dialogue (generally not a staple of genre, to be fair), or particularly compelling storylines. Mind you, this is one man’s opinion, and as you can see by the film’s RT score, not necessarily held by the critical majority. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

Piers Marchant is a film critic and writer based in Philly. Find more confounding amusements and diversions at his blog, Sweet Smell of Success, or read his further 142-character rants and ravings at @kafkaesque83.