When it comes to playing former presidents, the spotlight's been on Daniel Day-Lewis for his turn as Abraham Lincoln. That's reasonable—it's a terrific performance in a high-profile film. It also overshadows the work that Bill Murray does in Hyde Park on Hudson, which opens Friday, Dec. 14.
Murray plays Franklin D. Roosevelt and does it in such a way that's both wise and understated. Roger Michell's film, however, is told from the point of view of Daisy (Laura Linney), a distant cousin of the president's who may have had (the film suggests they did) a long-standing affair with Roosevelt. Murray's performance is the reason to see the film, which centers primarily on a visit from King George—nicely played by Simon West (you can compare him with Colin Firth, who won an Oscar for playing the same monarch)—who tries to convince Roosevelt to back England in the forthcoming war with Germany.
The trip marked the first time a Royal set foot on American shores, and the interplay between the president and the king is smart and sharp. Sadly, though, it's not enough to make Hyde Park a truly interesting film. When Murray's not on screen, the film fades, and despite her talent, the character Linney plays just isn't all that interesting.
Last year, Madonna made a movie about Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom King George's brother gave up his thrown. It turns out the mistress of a king was a character worthy of a film, but the mistress of the president, despite being a distant cousin, is not.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. You can follow Anders on Twitter at @anderswright.
Deadfall: A botched casino heist sends Olivia Thirlby on the run. She's taken in on Thanksgiving by Charlie Hunnam (Jax in Sons of Anarchy), who finds himself in all kinds of trouble when her brother, Eric Bana, crashes the party. Screens at the Ken Cinema.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth in the first of three films based on the book that came before Lord of the Rings.
One Time Only
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: This is the one that has Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis playing the kids.
You've got three options for seeing it this week: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Elf: It's true—they actually made a Broadway musical of this Will Ferrell holiday movie. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
El Velador: This movie, about a guard who watches over the mausoleums of Mexican drug lords, was directed by 2012 MacArthur "Genius" grant recipient Natalia Almanda. Screens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla.
Live Flesh: The Pedro Almodovar series continues with this romantic drama, which stars Javier Bardem as a paralyzed former cop married to a former prostitute. There's way more to it than that, and you can catch it at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Super Fly: Schlockfest returns to the Public Library with this 1970s, ahem, classic about Priest (Ron O'Neal), a coke dealer who wants to make one big score so he can retire. Screens at noon on Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Home Alone: Macauley Culkin's parents leave him behind when they go on vacation, so he takes on burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern by himself. And gets fabulously wealthy as a result. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at The LampPost Cafe in Bay Park.
A Christmas Story: TBS will run it for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve, or you could catch the holiday flick on a bigger screen than your TV. It'll show at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp, and at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.
The Notebook: The romantic drama isn't exactly a holiday movie, but it's a gift to all those who like looking at Ryan Gosling in a wet shirt. Screens at Screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at Full Moon Drive In in Pacific Beach.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: When newly married couple Brad and Janet's car breaks down, they end up in the castle of transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Almost 40 years' worth of late-night movies ensues. Screens at midnight, Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Ken Cinema.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Jim Carrey plays the green guy whose heart is two sizes too small. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
Small, Beautifully Moving Parts: When she learns she's pregnant, Sarah (Anna Margaret Hollyman), who's way into dotcoms and social networking, takes a road trip to visit her estranged mother, who lives off the grid. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the Central Library, Downtown.
It's a Wonderful Life: This holiday classic, starring James Stewart as a dreamer who can't seem to get away from the small town of Bedford Falls, features Mr. Potter, the original 1-percenter. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at ArcLight La Jolla and at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Khiladi 786: Bollywood comedy, screening at Horton Plaza, about a failed marriage matchmaker who ends up putting together the children of a mobster and a police inspector.
Lay the Favorite: Rebecca Hall is a cocktail waitress in Vegas. Bruce Willis is a sports gambler. When he sees how successful she is at picking the games, he immediately falls for her. Screens at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Playing for Keeps: Gerard Butler is a washed-up soccer star who starts coaching his son's team. Which keeps the soccer moms happy.
Starlet: A movie about the friendship between a flouncy young actress and a cranky senior citizen sounds like Lifetime material, but Sean Baker's new movie is smart, wellwritten, well-acted and absolutely for adults only. Ends Dec. 13 at the Ken Cinema.
Chasing Ice: National Geographic photographer James Balog pointed timelapse cameras at glaciers for a solid year and captured some unbelievable images. Ends Dec. 13 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
The Collections: A guy escapes the clutches of a horror-movie-type serial killer, only to be cajoled into rescuing a cute girl from a booby-trapped warehouse.
Hitchcock: Anthony Hopkins plays the famed director, and Helen Mirren his wife, during the time Hitchcock was shooting Psycho. Killing Them Softly: Brad Pitt shows why he's a movie star, effortlessly exuding cool as a mob enforcer in Andrew Dominik's art-house take on a gangster flick.
Talaash: The Answer Lies Within: A cop tries to deal with his crumbling marriage and solve a mystery in this new Bollywood thriller.
Wu Xia (Dragon): A small-time village craftsman comes under investigation by cops and criminals when he beats up a pair of gangsters who are shaking down a local shopkeeper.
Red Dawn: The updated edition of the 1984 Cold War-paranoia pic stars Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, who signed on and shot the movie years ago, before they were rich and famous.
Anna Karenina: Director Joe Wright teams up again with his Pride & Prejudice star Keira Knightley to take on another period drama.
Life of Pi: Ang Lee's adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel about a boy, a tiger and a lifeboat is this year's movie that you simply must see on a big screen and in 3-D. Really.
Rise of the Guardians: The Immortal Guardians—aka the Easter Bunny, Santa, etc.—team up to kick evil-spirit ass.
Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a bipolar guy from Philly who's just out of the mental hospital, having lost his job, his home and his wife. He moves in with his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro) in hopes of regaining his marriage, but things are thrown askew by Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has problems of her own.
A Royal Affair: Period piece about a Danish woman, the German doctor she loves and her crazy husband, who happens to be the king. Ends Dec. 13 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Let it Snow: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park gets animated and kid-friendly just in time for the holidays.
Lincoln: It might as well have been called The 13th Amendment. Despite another spellbinding performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln's biopic is really about getting legislation through Congress.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: At last, the long national nightmare is over.
Skyfall: Daniel Craig's third outing as 007 is thankfully closer to Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace. This time, he's going up against Javier Bardem, who has some history with MI-6.
Flight: Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film in more than a decade suffers from many of the standard alcoholism-film clichés, but it features a tremendous performance from Denzel Washington, playing a pilot who lands his broken jet miraculously, with minimal loss of life.
The Other Son: An Israeli and a Palestinian discover they were switched at birth.
Tales of the Maya Skies: This IMAX movie explores the rich history of the Mayan people, just in time for the end of the world. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Man With the Iron Fists: The Wu-Tang Clan's RZA co-wrote (with Eli Roth), directed and stars in this ultraviolent martial-arts epic, which also features Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. They're all on the trail of a fortune in gold.
The Sessions: John Hawkes is great as Mark O'Brien, a writer and poet paralyzed by polio who turns to a sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt) in order to lose his virginity at age 38.
Wreck-It Ralph: The latest animated film from Disney stars John C. Reilly as Ralph, the bad guy in an old-school video game who desperately wants to be liked.
Chasing Mavericks: A surfing movie, surprisingly co-directed by Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson, about a teen who turns to crusty surfing legend Gerard Butler to help him survive a massive wave.
Cloud Atlas: This epic production is almost three hours long and stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving in multiple roles. It consists of six stories that span different time periods, with a running storyline about reincarnation and the effects of our actions on future generations.
Fun Size: A teenage girl loses track of her little brother while attending a Halloween party thrown by a really cute boy.
Alex Cross: We're used to Morgan Freeman in the role of this famous detective. Now the part is played by Tyler Perry. Another obvious sign of the impending apocalypse.
Paranormal Activity 4: Now with more paranormal.
Seven Psychopaths: Martin McDonagh returns with another violent comedic drama. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, an L.A. screenwriter surrounded by psychopaths such as Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits. Like McDonagh's debut, In Bruges, this one has an emotional heart to it, despite the blood and guts.
Argo: Ben Affleck directs and stars in this take on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and believe it or not, it's gonna be a Best Picture contender.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
Frankenweenie: Tim Burton hasn't made a film that's been an original idea in years, so it sort of makes sense that he'd remake one of his own movies.
Taken 2: Remember all those dudes Liam Neeson killed in the thoroughly violent Taken? At least one of them has a family member out for a little payback.
Looper: Director Rian Johnson (Brick, Brothers Bloom) teams once again with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for this time-twister; JGL is a hit man whose future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to be rubbed out.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: This adaptation of the beloved young-adult novel has made plenty of old adults feel for their youth. Ends Dec. 13 at La Jolla Village and Hillcrest cinemas.
Pitch Perfect: Anna Kendrick is the new girl at college who finds her place by joining a bad-ass all-girl vocal group.
Ice Age: Continental Drift: So cold.
Flying Monsters 3D: No, it's not a crappy studio blockbuster—this one is all about dinosaurs and was written and directed by Richard Attenborough, using Avatar-like technology, and plays the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
To the Arctic 3-D: Cute-animal-movie alert No. 2. Meryl Streep narrates this new IMAX movie about a mama polar bear and her two cubs.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.