Dash Away to the Movies! Good Bets include ‘Hyde Park on The Hudson,’ ‘The Hobbit’, ‘This is 40’

By Sandra Olmsted

As the year ends, the studios inundate us with blockbusters and art films galore, and visions of stars dance in our heads. We don our winter coats and dash away to the movies.

To help get you to the right film for you, we offer here brief descriptions of Hyde Park on Hudson, the biopic about FDR when the King of England visits America, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first installment of Peter Jackson’s new Tolkien trilogy, and This is 40, which is billed as Knocked Up 14 years later. While these offer lots of entertainment for adults, there is still one more film for the kids coming out, the fun and lovable Monsters, Inc., which is being re-released in 3D.

In Hyde Park on Hudson, Bill Murray plays FDR, which takes a little getting used to; however, he has been nominated by some awards groups. Eleanor (Olivia Williams), FDR’s wife, isn’t interested in the marriage, and FDR is looking elsewhere. Laura Linney delivers an outstanding and nuanced performance as Daisy, a distant cousin of FDR. The historical centerpiece of the story is the visit of King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) to America as a prelude to FDR asking Americans to aid England in WWII.

FDR manipulates the visit to make the King and Queen more palatable to Americans by planning a picnic at which hot dogs will be served. The other story is the romance between Daisy and FDR, and Daisy realizing she’s not the only one. The film moves slowly, revealing interesting details of the 32nd president’s life.

Murray’s performance is getting mixed reviews, and I frankly hoped for more from Murray; however, I think screenwriter Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell failed to give Murray the story and motivation to really bloom in the role.  Still, this Focus Features film is worth seeing. Hyde Park on Hudson is rated R for brief sexuality and runs 94 minutes.

The buzz about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey deals mostly with the high frame rate used to prevent blurriness in the 3D images. With great battles and spectacular scenery, Peter Jackson brings the majesty and excitement of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy adventure to the big screen. He has turned the novel The Hobbit, which is the prequel to Tolkien trilogy and Jackson’s own cinematic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, into a fun and exciting escape.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf, and Martin Freeman plays Bilbo, the Hobbit who gives up his beloved comforts of home for a grand adventure. The rumor that the high frame rate makes people dizzy while watching the film seems not to be true; however, the cinematography looks more like that used in for plays video taped for TV, which isn’t the result of the high frame rate but the choice of camera angles and movements. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a Warner Brothers release of a New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures presentation of a Wingnut Films production. The film is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images; it runs 169 minutes.

The adult comedy This Is 40 chronicles a couple, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who are turning 40 and not dealing with it well. Their lives are a train wreck of aging bodies, giving up vices, exercising, and raising daughters, tween Sadie (Maude Apatow) and little sister Charlotte (Iris Apatow).

Their financial woes are complicated because Debbie’s clothing boutique is loosing money because an employee is embezzling, and Pete, who couldn’t find a job, has opened a record company, but only has the cash and the taste for small market acts. Both Debbie and Pete have issues with their fathers, Oliver (John Lithgow) and Larry (Albert Brooks).

Writer/director Judd Apatow’s comedy is not a laugh riot, but the humor is real and poignant for those dealing with similar mid-life issues.  The film also has a life- and family-affirming message. This Is 40, a Universal release, is rated R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language, and some drug material.

Hyde Park on Hudson and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey , This is 40 and Monsters, Inc. 3D are in theaters now.

(More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at www.thecinematicskinny.com.)


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