"The Imitation Game" is an excellent Alan Turing biopic, told with intercuts between three periods: Turing as a schoolboy, Turing at Bletchley Park, and Turing on trial. This made it possible to give the inevitably tragic story a more-or-less triumphant tone. Some liberties were take with history along the way, but the soul of the story is true. We loved this movie.
"Wild" is fictionalized memoir. When Cheryl Strayed was 22, she lost her mother suddenly to lung cancer, and suffered a personal collapse. She fell into sex addiction and heroin abuse. After a few years, she decided to walk a section of the Pacific Crest Trail as a means of pulling herself back together. The film begins and ends with her trek, intercut with happy scenes with her mother, and the various hard times in between. This structure didn't work for me at all; it took what was in fact a story of recovery and triumph and made it into a story about stupidity and self-destruction. Dementia liked it better than I did. I am glad I saw it, but can't really recommend it.
"Into the Woods" is a diminished and somewhat expurgated version of Sonheim's long running musical. It is also demonstrates fairly dramatically that sometimes it really is better to tell rather than to show: Expanding a 30-second comic relief anecdote into a pace-killing five minute dramatic sequence serves no one. The performances are unquestionably good, but the 1991 film of the stage show is a much better production, and hasn't been clumsily cut by half an hour.
"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is the last and, unfortunately, the weakest of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth movies. So many things just don't work. The effects are often too ambitious for the technology. The character's actions are often motiveless. Jackson's efforts to fill in gaps in the story (and, given the extent to which Tolkien glossed over the tactical issues, there are many) are often absurd. And yet... And yet when Bilbo finally returns to Bag End, he is still Bilbo, and it is still Bag End, and it is REAL, and the last few minutes of the film are pure Tolkien, and they simply rip my heart out. I wish Jackson had done these movies better, but in the end, I am still very glad that he made them.
Dementia and I have gone south to visit my family twice over the holidays; we have seen my father and Brother Tim once, and Brother Pete and family twice. My dad continues to wind down; he seems mostly tired of life. The rest of the family is just fun to be around, and the visits were pleasant.