This month sees two of this year’s biggest Oscar properties arrive in theatres, “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything,” each powered by career-best performances from Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch respectively. If period pictures documenting the lives and accomplishments of British scientific geniuses isn’t what you’re after, the likes of “Into the Woods” and “Jupiter Ascending” offer more fantastical Hollywood diversions.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
The Imitation Game—Out March 13
Since first finding fame in the BBC television series “Sherlock,” a modern-day retelling of the adventures of the world’s most famous sleuth, Benedict Cumberbatch’s star has rapidly risen. With his unconventional good looks and British upper-crust sensibilities, roles in “The Hobbit” series, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and “Twelve Years a Slave” have afforded his unwieldy name world-wide renown, nowhere less so than here in Japan. “The Imitation Game” is the actor’s defining feature film role to date as he steps into the shoes of wartime cryptanalyst Alan Turing, a man who would be honored as a hero of the Second World War before being villainized for the crime of homosexuality. In 1939 Turing is sent to Manchester’s Bletchley Park to join the cryptography team in their attempts to decrypt the supposedly unbreakable German “Enigma” code machine. Turing is helped in his task by Cambridge graduate, and the only female member of the team, Joan Clarke. Keira Knightly received a Best Supporting Actress nod for her effort in the role, alongside Cumberbatch’s nomination for Best Actor. From Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, this tense historical thriller recounts the life of one the war’s most important heroes.
The Theory of Everything—Out March 13
Eddie Redmayne may have starred in 2011’s “My Week With Marilyn” but it was his appearance as Marius in global-smash musical “Les Miserables” that really brought the actor to the world’s attention. While the young Englishman has earned accolades for previous work, it’s his towering performance in his latest, “The Theory of Everything” that has cemented his place as a major star, and earned him a shot at Oscar gold. Based on the memoir “Travelling to Infinite: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Wilde Hawking, the film covers the life of world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Redmayne stars as Stephen while Felicity Jones takes the role of his now ex-wife Jane as the film charts the life of the scientist from the couple’s initial meeting and romance to Hawking’s scientific achievements and later struggles as his body succumbs to motor neuron disease. Spanning several decades, the central performance captures the heartbreaking physical transformation that takes place over time. Based on the memoir, the film is more a study of the Hawkings’ relationship than an exploration of the man’s mind-boggling theories; as such, you don’t need a physics degree to appreciate this startlingly beautiful piece of work. The film is directed by James Marsh, who is already an Oscar winner with the documentary feature “Man on Wire.” This latest is in the running for Best Picture while its two young stars have a shot at Best Actor/Actress glory.
Into the Woods—Out March 14
Musical fantasy “Into The Woods” features an all-star cast taking on the roles of classic fairytale heroes and villains. Produced by Disney—no strangers to plundering the works of the Brothers Grimm for inspiration—the films sees the likes of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and company inhabiting the same magical world. In a story adapted from Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning Broadway musical, the story centers on a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who are cursed by Meryl Streep’s scene-stealing witch. In order to break the curse, the pair must travel throughout the kingdom, coming into contact with timeless story characters along the way. Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracy Ullman and Johnny Depp are among the colorful cast in a story that may see everyone’s wishes granted, but examines the consequences and reality of obtaining what your heart desires. Sondheim is a legend in the field of musical theatre, and film director Rob Marshall (the man behind 2008 Best Picture “Chicago”) is no stranger to the art form himself. While playing around with the traditional formulas and expectations of these classic tales is nothing new—it has been seen in everything from last year’s “Maleficent,” Disney’s “Enchanted” and cult classic “The Princess Bride”—there’s enough talent in the cast and crew to ensure a good time.
Jupiter Ascending—Out March 28
“The Matrix” changed the face of modern action cinema upon its release in 1999, and while many of its groundbreaking innovations have been aped, the cult sci-fi classic has never been bettered. The Wachowski siblings’ names are synonymous with their epic creation, but they’ve sadly failed to live up to the potential shown in that early effort, particularly in the two bloated sequels that followed. Despite their missteps, the pair have to be applauded for their ambition and attempts to push the envelope: “Speed Racer” took wild visual risks and “Cloud Atlas” offered a sprawling, epic narrative that divided audiences but got them talking. With “Jupiter Ascending,” the directors are back with an original story and an eye on creating another epic science-fiction franchise with the potential to achieve “Matrix”-levels of glory. Mila Kunis stars as the improbably named Jupiter Jones, a house-cleaner who is one day rescued by a pointy-eared and genetically engineered warrior played by Channing Tatum. The warrior, Caine, has been sent to track Jupiter down because her genetic signature marks her as the future heir to a galactic throne. Now the target of an interstellar hunt, Caine must protect the girl while the fate of the earth lies in the balance. If the sprawling sci-fi story doesn’t do it for you there’s still something to be found in the envelope-pushing visuals. See it on the biggest screen you can.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb—Out March 20
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” is the third installment in the Ben Stiller franchise of fantastical adventure-comedy films. The series began back in 2006 when hapless dad Larry took a job as night watchman in the American Museum of Natural History only to discover that, due to the power of an ancient Egyptian artifact, all the exhibits come to life at night. After saving the world in the second installment, Larry returns to complete the trilogy alongside series regulars Rexy the Tyrannosaurus skeleton, Owen Wilson’s cowboy Jebediah, Steve Coogan’s Roman centurion Octavius and the late, great Robin Williams as Theodore Roosevelt. This time around, Larry and the gang will run into new faces and old foes as they attempt to restore the magic that provides the exhibits with life.
Song One—Out March 13
In “Song One,” Anne Hathaway stars as archaeology student Franny, who returns home to New York after her estranged brother Henry is involved in a car accident. With the boy left in a coma, Franny uses her brother’s diary as a guide to learn about his life and loves. The young woman soon takes to the streets, recording the sounds of Henry’s favorite haunts to play at the young man’s bedside in an attempt to revive him. In the process of her travels she comes across her stricken sibling’s favorite musician, James Forrester, played by real life musician Johnny Flynn, and the two fall into a romantic relationship. The feature film debut of director Kate Barker-Froyland is a tale of love, drama and music.