Picks of the week
‘The Imitation Game’
(PG-13, 114 minutes, The Weinstein Co./Anchor Bay): Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch brings vulnerability and warmth to a chilly, slightly off-putting intellectual oddball in this handsome, if gently smoothed-over portrait of World War II cryptanalyst Alan Turing. As the acknowledged grandfather of artificial intelligence, Turing helped create the modern-day computer. Even more important, his preternatural puzzle-solving and mathematical skills helped the Allies win World War II when, as part of a project run by Britain’s MI6, Turing invented a machine that cracked Germany’s seemingly unbreakable Enigma code. “The Imitation Game” chronicles Turing’s wartime efforts, its tale of brainy derring-do bookended by a postwar police investigation that revealed his homosexuality and, eventually, suicide. Gracefully directed by Morten Tyldum from a scrupulously accessible script by Oscar-winner Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game” locates Turing within a familiar cinematic line of idiosyncratic geniuses whose gaffes and tics mask hidden philosophical wellsprings and primal wounds. Contains some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking. Extras: a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and commentary. On Blu-ray: “Q&A Highlights.”
(PG-13, 168 minutes, Paramount): Christopher Nolan’s science-fiction adventure story – starring a perfectly cast Matthew McConaughey as a space cowboy blessed with equal parts swagger and shamanistic depth – is many things: part outer-space epic rivaling “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Gravity” and part provocative, sometimes ponderous, meditation on environmental ruin, intellectual freedom and the demise of manifest destiny. Or mawkish daddy-needs-to-save-the-world-now melodrama. Former test pilot Cooper (McConaughey) and his beloved daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) discover a mysterious code that leads to equally mysterious coordinates out in the countryside. Soon enough, Coop has been enlisted on a top-secret, probably deadly mission to find a habitable planet outside the solar system, and he’s cramming into a craft alongside three other astronauts (Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi and Michael Caine) willing to risk their lives to save humanity. “Interstellar” winds up shrinking into itself, much like one of the collapsed stars Cooper hurtles past on his way to new worlds. Contains some intense perilous action and brief strong profanity.
Extras: “The Science of Interstellar” extended cut; “Plotting an Interstellar Journey” featurette on the film’s origins, influences and narrative designs; “Celestial Landmarks” and other making-of featurettes on the film’s Oscar-winning visual effects; “The Dust” featurette on filming the dust storm scene, including eye protection and cleanup; “Life on Cooper’s Farm” featurette on the juxtaposition of the American farm to a sci-fi space; featurette on designing and building the TARS and CASE characters; a look at the recording of Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-nominated score; “The Space Suits” featurette on costume design; “The Endurance” featurette explores the massive set with a guided tour by Oscar-nominated production designer Nathan Crowley; “Shooting in Iceland: Miller’s Planet/Mann’s Planet” featurette; “Across All Dimensions and Time” featurette on the concept and design of the Tesseract, which incorporated a practical set rather than a green screen; and cast and crew “Final Thoughts” on their experience.
(R, 120 minutes, Fox): In this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir, Oscar-nominated Reese Witherspoon delivers an admirably restrained, unglamorous performance as the author, who at age 26 hiked 1,110 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in a ritual of physical endurance, philosophical reflection and spiritual cleansing. Grieving the loss of her adored mother, guilt-ridden by the dissolution of her marriage and the indiscretions that preceded it, Strayed sets out impulsively and alone, her brand-new equipment so heavy that she can’t even stand under its weight. She also is burdened by emotional baggage on a journey from California to Oregon. Along the way, the particulars of Strayed’s life – her fraught relationship with her mother (a radiant Laura Dern, also Oscar-nominated), her heroin use and extramarital affairs – come into focus by way of jagged flashbacks. These visions, while eloquent, are brief, as Strayed is continually pulled back to the present by the realities of the road or encounters with fellow travelers. Relying on the kindness of strangers, Strayed seems to re-enter the world even as she trudges along on a fruitless quest to leave it behind.
(Unrated, 107 minutes, Image Entertainment): The fourth collaboration between Hugh Grant and writer-director Marc Lawrence (“Two Weeks Notice,” “Music and Lyrics”) had a U.S. limited release despite a strong cast, including Oscar winner J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. Grant plays Keith Michaels, a once-heralded screenwriter struggling after a divorce and a string of duds; he takes a job at an upstate New York university, giving more thought to his next script than teaching. But he finds himself becoming invested in his students lives, particularly Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom looking to start her own new chapter. Contains brief strong language and some sexual references.
“Cries and Whispers”
“Meet the Mormons”
“Day of Anger”
“Harlock: Space Pirate”
“VEEP: Third Season”
“Silicon Valley: Season 1”
“Case Histories Complete Collection”
“ESPN Films 30 for 30: The U Part 2”
“Lovejoy, Series 5”