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LEFTOVER 2014 REVIEWS: SELMA & THE IMITATION GAME

2014 rating: ***
SELMA: Historical biopic taking us through the fight for equal voting rights – not an easy task in 1965, Alabama. Visually narrated by typed logged accounts from an antagonistic standpoint, we get Southern police readouts of almost every meeting that Martin Luther King Jr. had before the planned march from Selma to Montgomery, describing good people as bad i.e. peaceful protestors as violent agitators...

Yet not all off-the-record conversations are verified and need some factual confirmation. But much like LINCOLN, the movie plays out intentionally sparse and strategic, centering on the race-related political goal with very little distractions or sideline melodrama. Unlike several other projects this year (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING especially), SELMA doesn't reek of contrived Oscar bait. And with bigwigs like Brad Pitt and featured cameo Oprah Winfrey producing, it has a surprisingly indie baseline.

David Oyelowo as King
In the lead role, David Oyelowo provides a realistic human portrayal of the iconic leader. Whether speaking to his wife alone, his men joined together, or to a large crowd, Oyelowo’s voice is mesmerizing but never overly dramatic or seeming like an imitation. And on the other side of the spectrum are two men, opposite to each other and to King. Yet despite the combined potential, Tom Wilkinson's stubborn President Lyndon B. Johnson and Tim Roth's spiteful Governor George Wallace never stretch beyond grouchy wallpaper. 

There are a few overlong scenes involving characters not very fleshed out. You’ll feel for any human being who gets beaten and/or killed, but tragic violence is even more moving and persuasive when we know the victims beyond their struggle at hand. And that’s the catch: While there needed more attention and interesting dialogue from the people around Martin Luther King Jr. to fulfill the overall cinematic experience, with such a genuine lead performance it didn’t seem necessary to stray from the MLK's presence very long. Also like LINCOLN, this is a one-man show… when it counts the most.

year: 2014 rating: **
THE IMITATION GAME: As the movie begins, a narration warns us to pay attention… A story centering on the guy who, during World War 2, figured out how to fight fire with fire – in this case, break a computer code using another computer (years before computers were everywhere and inside everything) – might seem very complicated… Details matter so you better well listen…

Although THE IMITATION GAME spends very little time with technology, instead centering on mathematician Alan Turing's quirks... He's a young man so brilliantly neurotic and flaky, everyone around has to figure him out as he figures how to break a Nazi code to intercept attacks before they happen, and ultimately win the war.

Sporadic backstory glimpses into Alan’s past are intriguing at first, and then amount to what the entire movie really centers on instead of the WWII cerebral thriller that was promoted: Turing was a homosexual during a time when it was illegal, and his personal struggle trumps the important strategy we were poised to experience: The computer Alan creates and tortures himself over is, halfway through, suddenly built and ready to go. Meanwhile, his teammates, including a dashing womanizer and a beautiful crossword puzzler (Keira Knightly), seem more interested in what Turing has to hide than defeating the Nazis. And while all performances are capable enough, GAME would make for a much better documentary: centering more on historical facts than factual distractions.
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1 comment:

  1. Benedict Cumberbatch's sensitive, moving performance is the film's beating heart, and the best reason to see it.

    Marlene
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