To my mind, The Imitation Game is the best film of the year: a gripping tale of wartime espionage and code-breaking that also manages to be the character study of an important figure whose contributions have been ignominiously ignored.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking, from his days as a Cambridge grad student in physics to his breakthrough years as a faculty physicist. It also deals with his marriage to Jane (Felicity Jones), who weds him even though he's been given a death-sentence diagnosis of ALS.
The same Disney folks that brought you Bolt, The Emperor's New Groove and The Princess and the Frog return with Big Hero 6, a wildly imaginative action-comedy about super-tech-savvy kids somewhere in the near future.
Only serious jazz fans remember Joe Albany, a pianist whose bright and energetic attack kept him working until his death in 1988. Low Down, based on a memoir by his daughter, Amy, feels hackneyed, despite being a true story.
They used to make films like A Walk Among the Tombstones on a regular basis: mysteries built around flawed heroes, in which character was as important as plot, and action was the catharsis, not the reason for the story itself.
Get used to hearing the title The Imitation Game because, between the filmmaking of Morten Tyldum and the acting of Benedict Cumberbatch, this is the film they'll be talking about at the end of the year.
Which is what I value most about the film festival experience in general: the chance it offers to discover a film, a filmmaker, an actor -- the operative word being discover. That's less and less of a factor at this particular festival these days. Instead, it seems stacked with pre-sold titles.
I admire Smith's impulse to expand his film-making palette and was a fan of his Red State. Tusk, however, may only be for Smith completists. It was so disheartening that I bailed a little early in order to make a screening of The Reach.
Begin Again comes from writer-director John Carney, who burst forth with Once a few years ago. This film, which stars Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo (among others), captures the same blend of wistful emotions and life-affirming musical energy as that 2006 hit.
After I saw 22 Jump Street, I noted publicly that, while it was funnier than 21 Jump Street, so was my root canal. (Although the latter did include laughing gas.) Still, the bar wasn't particularly high.
If you're keeping score at home, of the three Marvel comic-book movies so far this summer (a term I use advisedly for a season that technically doesn't start for another month), X-Men: Days of Future Past outranks Amazing Spider-Man 2 and is about on a par with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.