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ArtsPage

A way to keep up with Seattle theaters, concert halls, galleries, museums and other fine-arts events.

December 24, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Here are the best (and worst) movies opening this weekend

(AP photos)

(AP photos)

It’s a big movie weekend. With Meryl Streep’s “Into the Woods” singing its way into theatres, and much-debated “The Interview” making an appearance, it might be tough to pick. Here’s a roundup of the movies opening Christmas weekend.

And, ICYMI, here is a favorite movies of the year list, and a movie poem by critic Moira Macdonald.

1 "The Imitation Game" ★★★½

‘The Imitation Game,’ with Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong. Based on the biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material, and historical smoking.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the brilliant WWII codebreaker Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game.” (Photo by Jack English)

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the brilliant WWII codebreaker Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game.” (Photo by Jack English)

As Alan Turing, the brilliant World War II code breaker whose life blended astonishing triumph and cruel tragedy, Benedict Cumberbatch is self-conscious (watch the careful way Turing holds his mouth), cutting and icy-cool, with a sadness behind his characteristic smirk. (We quickly learn why.) Graham Moore’s screenplay revolves us tidily in and out of three intercutting time periods: the 1920s, with Turing as a young schoolboy; the war era, where most of the film’s attention lies; and the winter of 1952. Directed by Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game” sometimes feels a bit too conventional for such an unconventional hero. Nonetheless, the film is both an education and a pleasure — and another chance to revel in what Cumberbatch can convey in eloquent silence.

— Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times movie critic | Read the full review

2 "Into the Woods" ★★★

‘Into the Woods,’ with Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine. Directed by Rob Marshall, from a screenplay by James Lapine, based on the musical by Lapine and Stephen Sondheim. 126 minutes. Rated PG.

A baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), who wish to start a family, meet a cursed witch (Meryl Streep) in the musical “Into the Woods.” (Peter Mountain)

A baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), who wish to start a family, meet a cursed witch (Meryl Streep) in the musical “Into the Woods.” (Peter Mountain)

Does Rob Marshall’s long-awaited take on the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine fairy-tale Broadway musical work as a movie? Thanks to a few cast members, the answer is — yes, and for the most part quite nicely. Meryl Streep, as the Witch, sets the tone, by which I mean she pretty much grabs hold of the movie and wipes the floor with it, in a very good way; Emily Blunt, as the Baker’s Wife, demonstrates a lovely singing voice while giving warmhearted life to the Baker’s Wife; and Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen, as two absurdly handsome Princes, strike manly poses like nobody’s business. Not every character is perfectly realized (hello, Johnny Depp), and the show’s second act, though trimmed, is still problematic. But the costumes, settings and cinematography look lavish, and the ending number will leave audiences happy, as a musical should.

— Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times movie critic | Read the full review

 

3 "The Interview" ★★★

‘The Interview,’ with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park. Directed by Evan Goldberg and Rogen, from a screenplay by Dan Sterling. 111 minutes. Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.

Diana Bang, as Sook, Seth Rogen, as Aaron, and James Franco, as Dave, in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." (Associated Press)

Diana Bang, as Sook, Seth Rogen, as Aaron, and James Franco, as Dave, in Columbia Pictures’ “The Interview.” (Associated Press)

“The Interview” might be the most famous movie in the world right now, thanks to the Sony hacking scandal, but is it any good? I did like this silly, over-the-top yet audacious movie that imagines the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The film kicks into gear when the host of a trashy celebrity show (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen) arrive in North Korea to interview the dictator — not because of any great plot twists (it’s all fairly predictable) — but in the way the American actors playing North Koreans bring life to their clichéd roles. James Yi (Kim’s security chief), Diana Bang (minister of propaganda) and Randall Park (as a fun-loving Kim) are infectious in their commitment to their roles. What will throw some off is the film’s turn toward violent action. But again, this is ultimately a silly movie.

— G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle | Read the full review

 

4 "Big Eyes" ★★½

‘Big Eyes,’ with Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp. Directed by Tim Burton, from a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.

Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams in “Big Eyes.” (Photo by Leah Gallo)

Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams in “Big Eyes.” (Photo by Leah Gallo)

Margaret Keane was the artist who created those ubiquitous midcentury big-eyed-waif paintings — but they were credited, for many years, to her husband, Walter. The saga of the Keanes should have made for a fascinating story, and director Tim Burton has fun with the kitsch of it all. But the two central performances — an over-the-top Christoph Waltz as Walter; a quiet, sweet Amy Adams as Margaret — feel mismatched, and the movie leaves too many questions about Walter and Margaret in its wake. Visually, it’s a treat (as Burton’s movies always are), but you wish there were more to it.

— Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times movie critic | Read the full review

5 "Unbroken" ★★½

‘Unbroken,” with Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock. Directed by Angelina Jolie, based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand. 137 minutes. Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) and The Bird (Miyavi) in “Unbroken.” (Universal Pictures)

Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) and The Bird (Miyavi) in “Unbroken.” (Universal Pictures)

Unquestionably, Angelina Jolie’s war drama “Unbroken” tells an inspiring and astonishing true story: Louie Zamperini, a former Olympic runner turned World War II airman, survived weeks on a raft in the Pacific Ocean only to subsequently spend more than two years in a vicious Japanese prison camp. It’s a remarkable story of survival, but you wish Jolie’s competent but bland movie weren’t so, well, unremarkable. The cast is strong, led by Jack O’Connell as Louie and Japanese rock star Miyavi as his chief tormentor, a prison guard known as The Bird, but the film too often feels perfectly composed yet a little lifeless. Jolie, whose previous film was the rather more gritty “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” hasn’t yet found her groove as a director; you find yourself happy that this film exists, but wishing it were better.

— Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times movie critic | Read the full review

Comments | More in List | Topics: Christmas weekend, Into the Woods, movies

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