“The Imitation Game”

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley

Director: Morten Tyldum

Rating: PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking

Playing at: Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 (opens Friday)

Grade: A-

There is a lot to like about “The Imitation Game.” 

It’s a crowd-pleasing Oscar contender, anchored by one of the year’s best performances by lead Benedict Cumberbatch.

Based on a true story, Cumberbatch plays British mathematician Alan Turing – recruited by the British government to help break what was deemed an unbreakable Nazi Enigma machine used to deliver encoded messages during World War II.

Turing’s eccentric style is seen as a hinderance at first by his colleagues, but once he develops a machine that may be the key to unlocking the code, their perception changes.

While the race against the clock to help turn the tide of the war is the main story, “The Imitation Game” also deals with Turing’s attempt to shield his homosexuality – which was illegal in Great Britain at the time.

Cumberbatch is mesmerizing in the lead role, playing a brilliant loner reminiscent of Russell Crowe’s character in “A Beautiful Mind.” There is a charm and charisma to the character, even if he seems to be anything but sociable.

Graham Moore’s screenplay has the right mix of political tension with some surprising humor sprinkled in (much more than I expected). It’s the kind of story that plays to the masses, one that is inspirational but also makes a social statement without getting too much on the soap box.

If there are any flaws in “The Imitation Game” it comes from Morten Tyldum’s direction. Tyldum has proven his ability to craft an impressive thriller with the little seen “Headhunters,” but his decision to fragment the story timeline and wrap up the World War II part of the story early in the final act takes a bit away from the overall impact.

It’s a small quibble for a film with so much to offer and so much to enjoy.

Controversial but funny

There was plenty of buzz, good or bad, during the Christmas season with the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy “The Interview” (B).

Originally pulled from theaters after threats by hackers linked to North Korea, the film got minor distribution and is now available on some streaming and on demand services.

If you are a fan of Rogen or Franco, or just like your humor a bit raunchy, “The Interview” is worth a look.

Franco plays Dave Skylark, host of a popular celebrity tabloid talk show, and Rogen plays his producer Aaron Rapoport, who longs for doing shows with more substance.

Dave learns that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a superfan and is willing to sit down for an interview, convincing Aaron to help set up the meeting.

After promoting the upcoming interview on his show, the CIA visits Dave and Aaron, attempting to recruit them to assassinate Kim.

Truthfully this is a premise that should have never even gotten a green light, but to the film’s credit it proves to be quite enjoyable.

Rogen co-directed with Evan Goldberg and co-wrote “The Interview” with Dan Sterling. His script is full of some very smart and very funny moments, including a cameo from Eminem in the opening scene that is one of the funniest in 2014.

“The Interview” also takes calculated risk by making Kim (played by Randall Park) a huge superfan of Skylark’s with repressed daddy issues. The gamble works, providing some really funny material.

Franco and Rogen are amiable enough in the lead roles, with good chemistry that has developed from previous collaborations in “This is the End” and “Pineapple Express.”

“The Interview” is nearly as smart as “This is the End,” which was one big Hollywood in-joke. It stops short of reaching that mark because every time it feels like it is going to another level the 13-year-old Rogen comes out – with an endless amount of jokes about butts and other body parts.

Does “The Interview” deserve some of the harsh backlash it has received? Maybe a little, but it also needs to be appreciated for being willing to do anything – and I do mean anything – for a laugh.

“The Interview” is rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence and is now available on video on demand and VUDU streaming service.

— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at www.bgdailynews.com/sports/blogs/straight_outta_compton/ or on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.  

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