The Imitation Game
In December 2013, the British Queen granted a posthumous royal pardon to Alan Turing.
The London-born mathematician had been prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 – a criminal act at the time – and he undertook a treatment of chemical castration with oestrogen injections rather than serve time behind bars.
It was an undeservedly inglorious end for a brilliant man, who was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code and should have been feted by our battle-scarred nation as a hero.
Based on a biography by Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game relives that race against time to decipher German communications and bring the Second World War to a swift conclusion.
Morten Tyldum’s masterful drama neither shies away from Turing’s homosexuality nor lingers on it, framing nail-biting events at Bletchley Park with the mathematician’s 1951 arrest in Manchester.
“If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss things,” Turing teases us in voiceover.
Indeed, you’ll miss impeccable production design, an unconventional yet touching romance, subterfuge and sterling performances including an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the socially awkward genius from Benedict Cumberbatch.
Cumberbatch is mesmerising, trampling over the egos of fellow code breakers without any concern for their feelings as he vows to solve “the most difficult problem in the world”.
It’s a tour-de-force portrayal, complemented by strong supporting performances from Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode et al as the close-knit team who note, “God didn’t win the war. We did.”
The pivotal Eureka moment sets our pulses racing, heightened by Alexandre Desplat’s exquisite orchestral score.
Director Tyldum navigates the fractured chronology with clarity and flair, ensuring that his heart-rending film doesn’t itself become a perplexing puzzle.
Star Rating: 4/5
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 85%
Adapted for the screen by novelist Dennis Lehane from his 2009 short story Animal Rescue, The Drop is a solid, dependable crime thriller set predominantly in a Brooklyn bar, which the Chechen mob uses as a collection point for laundered money.
In these boozy and convivial surroundings, romance is kindled, personal ties are frayed and one hard-working member of bar staff contemplates breaking the law for a noble cause: love.
Belgian director Michael R Roskam’s second feature, his follow-up to the Oscar nominated Bullhead, gradually turns the screws, exerting pressure on the characters as they wrestle with their consciences.
Some capitulate while others demonstrate hidden reserves of strength, resourcefulness and aggression that prove you should never judge a book by its well-worn cover.
The Drop is blessed with James Gandolfini’s final screen performance and he is a slippery, brooding presence amid occasional twists of a serpentine plot.
However, it’s chameleonic London-born star Tom Hardy, who wrought havoc on Christian Bale and Gotham as masked madman Bane, who shines brightest, juxtaposing his imposing physicality and vulnerability.
The Drop is predictable, but this portrait of greed and ambition on the mean streets of New York hits most of the right menacing notes.
Lehane’s lean script is peppered with colourful dialogue and sustains dramatic tension.
Director Roskam gently waters the seeds of romance between Bob and Nadia, catalysed by simmering screen chemistry between Hardy and a poorly served and underused Noomi Rapace.
Performances from the two male leads anchor the picture, staring into the blackened hearts of men who surrendered their souls to the Devil many years ago.
Star Rating: 3/5
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 88%
Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?
A couple of years ago, my inquisitive nephew – then six years old – asked what happens to children who are consigned to Father Christmas’ naughty list.
I told him that children who misbehave don’t get any presents on Christmas Day and must spend the following 12 months being extra good.
I know now that I was wrong.
Mischievous scamps on the naughty list will be punished by spending 110 minutes in the company of Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!.
There are elements of this shambolic third instalment of writer-director Debbie Isitt’s improvised festive fables that my little nephew might enjoy: flatulence, dollops of donkey dung and a gurning man-child dressed in an oversized animal costume.
However, no amount of wrapping can disguise an early Christmas turkey, overstuffed with sickly sentiment, mawkish musical sequences and gargantuan leaps of logic.
It’s a crying, snivelling shame: the original Nativity!, released in 2009, was an unabashed delight that has become an annual treat in many a tinsel-laden household.
This third and hopefully final chapter is a nightmare before Christmas.
Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?! is possibly the worst film of the year.
The script’s definition of a flash mob is extremely loose, some of the children at St Bernadette’s look too old to attend primary school, several New York scenes have clearly been shot closer to home with British actors at odds with the accent and Mr Poppy is a major irritation rather than a joyous source of giggles.
Performances are as wooden as a Norwegian spruce and the song and dance numbers are unevenly lip-synced.
Characters behave without melodic rhyme or reason.
Sophie’s brother inexplicably vows to help slimeball Bradley win back Sophie, then sabotages the nefarious plan in the next breath.
To answer the over-punctuated question in the film’s title: with regret, dude, he’s at the knacker’s yard dragging the entire cast and crew with him.
Star Rating: 1/5
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 8%
In Selected Cinemas…
Paul Haggis, who won two Oscars for Crash, writes and directs this multi-stranded romance set in Paris, New York and Rome.
In the French capital, Michael (Liam Neeson) comes to terms with separating from his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger) by enjoying a surprise visit from his lover Anna (Olivia Wilde).
She distracts him from his work and the pain of a failed marriage. In the Big Apple, mother Julia (Mila Kunis) is embroiled in a bitter war of words with her husband Rick (James Franco) for custody of their young son.
The feuding spouses trade devastating verbal blows, determined to cling onto their flesh and blood.
Meanwhile in Italy, an American businessman called Scott (Adrien Brody), who steals fashion designs, takes pity on a gypsy called Monika (Moran Atias), whose daughter is being held for ransom by a Russian thug.
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 24%
David Bowie Is
The Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition David Bowie was a retrospective of the singer’s extraordinary career comprising a display of more than 300 costumes, photographs, films, instruments and handwritten lyrics from the David Bowie Archive, many of which had never before been displayed in public.
This recording of a 2013 live event journeys around the displays in the company of curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, and a host of special guests.
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 80%
Vatican Museums 3D
Made in collaboration with the Vatican Museums Directorate, this documentary ventures inside the museums and the Sistine Chapel to glimpse masterpieces as they have never been seen before under the watchful eye of Professor Antonio Paolucci, the Director of the Vatican Museums.
These include Raphael’s fresco The School Of Athens, Fontana’s modern sculptures, and paintings by Caravaggio, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto and Vincent Van Gogh
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: N/A