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Locke literally consists of Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on the phone for 85 minutes.

Somehow, it is riveting. In a span of a month, I have watched Locke about 5 times. I can’t get this movie out of my mind. You can have your intricately choreographed fight scenes, insanely stupid explosions, and over-indulgent sense of self like the recently reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Locke is unlike any other movie. However, I want to be clear: this is not for most people. I’ve had a difficult time trying to review Locke because I don’t know who else is interested in this type of movie. With a simplistic story and approach, it’s difficult to imagine Locke resonating with a larger audience and achieving widespread appeal. The story is basic and bare, but the dialogue is exceptionally well-written.

Beyond all, it’s a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy. One of our finest actors with incredible range, Hardy’s portrayal of Ivan Locke—a hard-working, blue-collar concrete foreman—is transcendent. If Tom Hardy can put forth a terrific understated performance loaded with nuances, then audiences should be legitimately excited for the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road.

There is nothing that Tom Hardy can’t do.

When presented with the same lose-lose situation as Locke, most men would have driven off the road and straight over a cliff. Ivan Locke is not like most men. Despite the potential consequences, Locke makes a decision and drives in one direction towards a destination that will likely alter his life. In many respects, this movie could’ve been easily called Ivan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Tom Hardy

What sets this awful day in motion is the result of one lonely unfaithful night.

At the very beginning, Locke gets a phone call from the woman with whom he’s had an affair. On this fateful evening, a woman who is not his wife is giving birth to his child. With the biggest non-nuclear or military concrete pour scheduled early in the morning, Locke is abandoning his job so he won’t abandon his child. Although everything is crumbling around him, Locke is doing his best to keep it together.

As the movie rolls on, Locke’s sleeves are rolled up progressively higher as he wades through the shitstorm he has caused. Locke is a man on a mission to right his wrongs. Regardless of how bad something may seem, you can always get your hands dirty and make it better.

Even though Locke is clearly physically sick, he doesn’t use that as an excuse. While driving to the mother of his unborn child, Locke is going through his list and checking it twice to make sure he is doing everything he can to keep the morning’s humongous concrete pour on-schedule without complications. No one can see him sweat, but Locke takes great pride and responsibility in being accountable and serving as the rock for everyone else even while he’s crumbling to pieces.

Ivan Locke is a man that is all about practicality.

Once a mistake is made, you can’t go back in time and undo it. But Locke’s hope is that you can make it better. He has to believe it. He must. It is that hope that keeps him going.

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One of the more beautiful moments in Locke happens when Tom Hardy is describing what will happen if the foreman screws up the mixture of the concrete…

“My building will alter the water table and squeeze granite. It will be visible from 20 miles away. At sunset, it will cast a shadow probably a mile long. Now, if the concrete at the base of my building is not right, if it slips half an inch, cracks appear. Right? If cracks appear, then they will grow and grow, won’t they? And the whole thing will collapse.

You make one mistake—one little fucking mistake—and the whole world comes crashing down around you.”

It’s an allegory for Locke’s life.

While Ivan has taken great pride in his craft, he wasn’t as accountable in his personal life as he was professionally. The only time Locke stepped outside of his marriage has now resulted in a new life being brought into the world. That one (not so little) mistake has caused his life to slip beyond his control and now the rock-steady foundation he has cemented over years is crashing down directly on Locke.

As the Tom Waits of film, Locke is an experimental undertaking that is often uneven yet always captivating. Upon repeated viewings, there’s even more treasure to mine and more connections to make. While this Locke isn’t for everyone, this is my type of movie—cerebral, thought-provoking, and relatable in terms of being the type of man you want to be every day of your life.

A common theme in Locke revolves around what makes a man good.

Can Locke still be a good man despite cheating on his wife and fathering another child?

“The difference between once and never is the whole world.
The difference between never and once is the difference between good and bad.”

Good and bad, we are all a collection of our decisions and their consequences.

Frustration

4.5 out of 5 stars

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I don’t understand the appeal of Matthew Vaughn movies.

His relatively short directing career: Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman.

Is there a good movie among them?

I’ve never watched Layer Cake, but it might be his best work. Stardust was an atrocious, unwatchable bomb. Kick-Ass is the most celebrated, but it was an overhyped turd that would’ve been unwatchable without Nicolas Cage. James Gunn’s Super was superior with better characters, writing, and acting. X-Men: First Class was occasionally interesting but still boring despite being an origin story for an iconic superhero group. All of these movies are either approaching 2 hours or even longer.

Someone needs to take a machete and start hacking away at the superfluous bullshit. Matthew Vaughn makes good use of visuals, but there is absolutely nothing beneath the surface. Kingsman is no different.

I get it, Kingsman is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek take on the spy thriller genre. Trust me, there are enough references to James Bond to make you painfully aware that this is a parody of its overly serious tone. I’ve never cared about any 007 movie, which is a sure sign that this probably isn’t my type of movie.

Colin Firth

Colin Firth is fantastic as Harry Hart—codename Galahad—who is a select member of the secret spy organization responsible for stopping all major crimes around the world. However, Harry is perpetually scarred after his Kingsman recruit jumped on a bomb to save his life. Harry even delivered a bravery medal to the man’s wife and son with a hidden message that basically serves as a Get Out of Jail Free card should the young lad find himself in trouble.

That kid’s name: Gary “Eggsy” Unwin. Why is his nickname Eggsy? No fucking idea. Maybe it’s the actor’s name, but he’s Eggsy for the whole movie. I guess it’s a British thing, but it would be nice to know why.

Naturally, there’s an occasion where that Get Out of Jail Free card comes into play since the young kid turns into a slightly older teenage shithead with a penchant for dumb, dangerous decisions. Kingsman thankfully picks up the pace once Harry bails Eggsy out and starts his journey auditioning to become a Kingsman—replacing the recently murdered Lancelot.

Don’t expect this to be a breezy viewing. You feel every second of this 2-hour endurance test.

Eggsy

Taron Egerton is serviceable playing the role of Eggsy, but the movie falters when Egerton is asked to carry the third act. There’s a reason he’s only been on a British TV show before this movie. Apparently, Egerton was the last actor cast in the movie. But I don’t blame Taron Egerton because it is the story that failed him. In an ideal world, this is a brisk 90-minute movie that highlights the action and tightens the script to remove all the unnecessary fluff.

Kingsman is so self-aware and reliant on spy references that it fails to realize its own faults. For a movie that eschews the typical spy conventions, Kingsman itself is pointlessly complicated and convoluted with the villain’s plan for world domination. Samuel L. Jackson plays Internet billionaire Richmond (get it, Rich?) Valentine—who has a desire to hit the reset button on humanity in order to save Earth from the devastating result of human-induced global warming.

Samuel L

Samuel L. Jackson isn’t great, but his performance is memorable even if the rest of Kingsman is completely forgettable. For the record, I’m fine with Valentine’s lisp. The decision was apparently all Samuel L. Jackson’s doing, which is incredibly ballsy but it works well with how the character despises violence and physically cannot stand the sight of blood.

Even if you don’t take Kingsman seriously, it is impossible for me to ignore the awful story and unforgivably bad ending. The third act is so unspeakably awful that it almost ruins my enjoyment of everything else. Part of Valentine’s plan involves surgically implanting a device into the necks of those who give into his demands. Disregard the fact that the surgery leaves a very visible scar and technological interference can cause the implant to explode and kill the person.

Yes, you read that correctly: you can tell who exactly is a participant in this super-secret evil plan just by looking at their neck for a scar. No, Richmond Valentine isn’t a buffoon. He’s billed as a genius tech billionaire. Valentine just happens to have a detailed, precise plan for world domination that is built on a foundation of popsicle sticks. The story is incredibly flimsy and the ending makes everything up to that point feel utterly pointless. I get it, but I don’t get it.

Find something better to do with your 2 hours. Definitely check out the ultra-violent, awe-inspiring church scene on YouTube or somewhere else, but you don’t need to sit through everything else. About half of this movie works and the other half falls flat. Let’s just hope beyond hope that there isn’t an unbearable sequel to Kingsman in the works. There wasn’t enough story for one movie, let alone two.

Don’t mistake a good-looking movie for a good movie.

There is a difference, I’m just not sure if Matthew Vaughn knows that yet.

Steam

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Hesher is a phenomenal film that is darkly funny, daring, and unique. I have never seen anything quite like this movie. It is the reason I love independent movies because it couldn’t been made otherwise.

Hesher has balls and a distinct sense of self. Joseph Gordon-Levitt transforms himself in this movie to play the titular character, Hesher. With dirty long locks and scruffy facial hair, Joseph Gordon-Levitt embodies a carefree, anarchist spirit who enjoys rolling around in the gutter. Hesher has a badass black van that he basically lives out of while galavanting around town looking for ladies and trouble.

Devin Brochu

But before you even meet Hesher, your heart is broken and trampled on when you’re introduced to T.J.—a young kid who is reeling after the devastating death of his mother. Devin Brochu plays T.J., and the incredible performance of this 13-year old kid is the emotional core of this movie. You truly, deeply feel his loss. Early in the movie, T.J. is obsessed with the car his mother died in and he even tracks it down at a junkyard when it’s towed from his house. His father, Paul (played by Rainn Wilson), is mired in his own depression and self-pity. Instead of being there for his son, Paul tries to swallow his pain by taking pills—often falling asleep on the couch in his filthy clothes. T.J.’s grandmother Madeleine (played by Piper Laurie) is the only stable adult presence in his life, but she can only do so much.

T.J.’s sole refuge is inside that car with the memories of his mother.

Whatever the cost, T.J. just wants to get that car back and gain some semblance of his old life.

Rainn Wilson

While simple, this story is heart-wrenching. All you want to do is reach out and give everyone a hug.

Don’t expect Hesher to give him a hug. If anything, Hesher’s presence makes T.J.’s life more chaotic. Thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hesher is one of the most memorable movie characters. I cannot imagine any other actor pulling off this performance. Hesher lives to party and rage. Calling him unpredictable is an understatement. But Hesher is a shot of life when T.J. desperately needs something, someone.

Surprisingly, Natalie Portman plays third (or possibly even fourth banana) in this movie as Nicole—a homely young grocery store clerk that stops the school bully from bashing T.J.’s head into the pavement after he vandalizes the bully’s car. Her character didn’t need to be great, but Natalie Portman brought a certain credibility to the movie that you can’t buy. Piper Laurie is another great actress as the grandmother who rounds out a great supporting cast that bring elements of comedy and drama to this wonderful story.

Natalie Portman

The best compliment I can pay to a movie is to say that I wish I wrote it. I wish I wrote Hesher.

While Hesher is well-written, the actors and actresses make these characters come to life.

Hesher is not your standard, cookie-cutter movie. The beginning is a slow burn that builds to a faster pace once Hesher is introduced. You have no idea what to expect from Hesher. It is riveting.

For fuck sakes, Hesher has a giant middle finger tattooed on his back and a stick figure blowing his brains out tattooed on his chest. When Hesher follows T.J. and decides to crash at his house, T.J. puts up a mild opposition and Hesher asks him if he’s ever been skull-fucked. Although he’s completely intimidating when he threatens T.J. and has his hand around his neck, Hesher is then in his underwear smoking a cigarette on the couch while watching TV a moment later. Hesher doesn’t give a fuck.

Underwear

In a time when most movies meld together in a bland, colorless line of shit, Hesher stands out. It’s not just all attitude and balls. To Hesher’s credit, this movie is as emotional as another Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie, 50/50 about a writer with cancer—which is also phenomenal in a much different way.

I don’t think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets proper credit for such fantastic acting range. His body of work is impressive and growing. While most still probably remember him as Tommy from the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has seamlessly transitioned from child actor to accomplished adult movie star. I will continue to watch anything he is in because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of our finest actors, and he deserves more appreciation and adulation. As a creative spirit that thrives to empower and connect other artists together, we need more genuinely good human beings like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Jump off the deep end with Hesher and enjoy this off-kilter dark comedy.

Jump

5 out of 5 stars

Cyberbully
Cyberbully is a captivating thriller that’s a shining example of excellent limited storytelling. It’s cliché to claim a movie “keeps you on the edge of your seat” but Cyberbully builds incredible tension despite taking place entirely in a teenage girl’s bedroom. Airing this year on Channel 4 in England, this is only an hour-long movie starring Maisie Williams—best known an Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.

If you love the character of Arya Stark, then I consider this a must-watch movie.

Maisie Williams is fucking amazing as Casey Jacobs. It’s quite impressive to see Maisie’s acting range on display. This movie wouldn’t work if Maisie could not seamlessly transition between emotions and provide enough charisma and charm to make this character likable and believable.

For 99.9% of the runtime, Casey is staring at her computer screen while a creepy mysterious hacker is pulling the strings and treating her like a marionette doll. At several points, this person threatens to ruin her life by posting her nude selfies online for her school and the rest of the world. In a sense, this movie is like Compliance minus the gratuitous nudity because Maisie thankfully hasn’t turned 18 yet.

In the same vein as Black Mirror (an absolutely astounding British TV show), Cyberbully is an introspective look at how the Internet has impacted our society. Specifically, social media plays a pivotal role in this movie as it shows the way kids now communicate with one another online. We live in the Age of Trolls.

Cyberbully wastes no time delving into the story by artfully starting with a shot from the perspective of Casey’s webcam. In this age, never trust webcams. I’ve always covered my webcam with a Band-Aid or piece of tape for this very reason. It is way too easy and convenient for hackers to fuck with people. This is a lesson that Casey learns relatively quickly when she becomes the victim of the attack.

Cyberbully is smart enough to what it is and what it isn’t. Sit back and enjoy this thrilling mystery.

Written by Ben Chanan and David Lobatto, this is a beautifully simple story about bullying.

Basically, Cyberbully is the best public service announcement ever made. But that’s praise with faint damning because this movie certainly pulls some punches to fit a more family-friendly narrative. I understand the reasoning, but I like my stories darker with a bit more dirt rubbed on them.

Valar Morghulis

4 out of 5 stars

I almost forgot that I scrambled together a last-minute list of Oscar predictions last year. Out of the most significant categories, I ended up with an oversized 7-11 slushie. As with last year, these predictions aren’t necessarily who I think deserves the award, but who I think will win the award. I’m already preparing myself for the onslaught of underserved praise heaped onto Boyhood while Whiplash (the best movie of 2014) goes unrecognized except for J.K. Simmons’ shining achievement as Best Supporting Actor.

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

And the winner is…Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo

Last Year’s Prediction: Her – Spike Jonze
Last Year’s Winner: Her – Spike Jonze

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore
Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

And the winner is…Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Last Year’s Prediction: 12 Years a Slave – John Ridley
Last Year’s Winner: 12 Years a Slave – John Ridley

Best Foreign Feature

Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

And the winner is…Ida (Poland)

Last Year’s Prediction: The Hunt (Denmark)
Last Year’s Winner: The Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman
Ida – Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner – Dick Pope
Unbroken – Roger Deakins

And the winner is… Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Last Year’s Prediction: Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael
Last Year’s Winner: Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Film Editing

American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
Boyhood – Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg
Whiplash – Tom Cross

And the winner is… Boyhood – Sandra Adair

Last Year’s Prediction: American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Last Year’s Winner: Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

And the winner is… Michael Keaton – Birdman

Last Year’s Prediction: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Last Year’s Winner: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild

And the winner is… Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Last Year’s Prediction: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Last Year’s Winner: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Boyhood
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

And the winner is… J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Last Year’s Prediction: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Last Year’s Winner: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyer’s Club

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Keira Knightley – The Imitation game
Emma Stone – Birdman
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

And the winner is… Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Last Year’s Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Last Year’s Winner: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Best Director

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

And the winner is… Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Last Year’s Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Last Year’s Winner: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman: 4.5-star review
Boyhood: 1.5-star review
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game: 3-star review
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash: 5-star review

And the winner is…Birdman

Last Years’ Prediction: 12 Years a Slave
Last Years’ Winner: 12 Years a Slave

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Still Alice is a heartbreaking story about a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. If you’ve had family or friends with Alzheimer’s disease, this movie might be a difficult watch. Still Alice is a heavy drama that aims to give the audience a glimpse of what it is like to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and the impact it also has on family.

Julianne Moore will win Best Actress at the Oscars for her portrayal of Alice. This is a truly great performance, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with Julianne Moore’s career. Has she ever sucked in anything? Boogie Nights doesn’t count—I’m not talking about that kind of sucking. Julianne Moore is the best working actress and she should be more appreciated for her incredible range.

From start to finish, Julianne Moore shows you the progression of this terrible disease as it takes a toll on her personal and professional life. As a linguistics professor, Alice’s identity is her brain and handle on language. You experience the transformation as Alice is not so slowly losing her mind.

Nothing in Alice’s life is staying the same—not even her family.

Tear

The supporting cast is decent, but no one else will be remembered for this movie. Alec Baldwin is the best you can hope for as Alice’s husband who is struggling with how to live his life while still care for his wife. Unfortunately, their children are just dreadful. Kate Bosworth is completely forgettable as Alice’s oldest daughter and Hunter Parrish (only known as Silas from the TV show Weeds) is just sort of there. Kristen Stewart is hit-and-miss as Alice’s youngest daughter who dreams of becoming an actress.

To the detriment of the movie overall and its story, Still Alice mostly uses the family members as objects in the background (albeit playing important parts at times) rather than bringing them to the forefront. Only Kristen Stewart really gets a significant opportunity to develop a more dimensional character than her bland siblings. Alec Baldwin’s character has more depth because of his acting ability.

Still, Alice is the focus even though everything is going out of focus from her perspective.

Julianne Moore

Still Alice is a very depressing movie. This isn’t a fantasy, things don’t just get better because you want it to go back to normal. It’s real life. You or someone you love will struggle through a similar experience regardless of the affliction. Still Alice provides insight specifically on Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s a universal experience we all will inevitably face—especially with the prevalence of cancer. We all go through it and survive in our own ways. Still Alice is a good movie, but the story is unremarkable without Julianne Moore’s extraordinary performance. While this is likely the seminal movie on Alzheimer’s disease, I feel doomed to forget nearly everything except my love of Julianne Moore.

Forgetful

3 out of 5 stars

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I don’t like Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. His name alone induces yawns of boredom.

After looking at his IMDb page, I’ve mostly avoided his movies aside from limited roles in Four Lions, 12 Years a Slave, and the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit. Clearly, Cumberbatch is talented, but he hasn’t found the appropriate leading vehicle. Until now with a perfectly suited starring role in The Imitation Game.

Cumberbatch makes this movie compelling with his performance as Alan Turing, a British cryptanalyst tasked with breaking Nazi Germany’s infamous Enigma code. Cumberbatch’s presence is felt in every scene even though his character isn’t the loud, audacious type. Essentially, Alan Turing is played as a troubled genius with extreme social issues. Michael Fassbender is the only other actor I can imagine pulling off this captivating performance to make a rather bland biopic spy thriller story tolerable.

In an attempt to inflate the degree of story-telling difficulty, director Morten Tyldum juggles three separate timelines in The Imitation Game. In 1951, police are investigating a break-in at Alan Turing’s home and he starts to discuss his work in the military during World War II. In 1927, a young Alan Turing is being relentlessly bullied at boarding school and his only friend is a classmate named Christopher. In 1939, the heart of the movie focuses on Turing’s involvement in Britain’s effort to decrypt the Enigma code.

Top Secret Team

Traveling through these different decades is an interesting decision, but it’s an odd self-imposed obstacle that doesn’t always work. The aesthetic choice to leave Cumberbatch’s appearance basically unchanged from 1939 to 1951 is bewildering. A little old age make-up would have done wonders to clarify the time period because it’s not always immediately clear, which becomes increasingly distracting.

The most egregious aspect of this movie is how much it is in love with its own writing. The following line is repeated three times by different characters: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Each time it comes off as sentimental mugging for the camera. You don’t need to insult the audience by telling people how to feel—particularly with an annoying score.

Despite fumbling a few parts, The Imitation Game is a well-crafted movie that whisks by for an hour before the train starts losing momentum. In my opinion, the train completely breaks down and dies on the tracks during the plodding third act. The Imitation Game isn’t a great movie, but it’s not bad either.

Keira Knightley

Unfortunately, there’s not much to this movie except for Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance—which is critical since you’re with his character in every scene. The supporting cast has some good actors with Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance. But these talented people are largely wasted because their characters are rather unimportant without any memorable moments.

The Imitation Game will not win Best Picture at this weekend’s Oscars, but I’m not outraged at its nomination. However, the award campaign’s attempt to capitalize off of Turing’s sexuality appears in poor taste since the movie itself isn’t oriented around gay rights. There’s no need to run away from The Imitation Game, but it’s an interesting movie that I will never watch again.

Running

3 out of 5 stars