Historical bio-drama explores the all-too-human side of one of history's iconic leaders. In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York -- the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR's domestic establishment, as his wife, his mother, and his mistresses all conspire to make the Royal weekend an unforgettable one. Seen through the eyes of Daisy (Laura Linney), Roosevelt's neighbor and intimate, the weekend will produce not only a special relationship between two great nations, but a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love and friendship.
Vitals: Director: Roger Michell. Stars: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Olivia Colman, Blake Ritson, Samuel West, Elizabeth Marvel, Eleanor Bron.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 94 min., Bio-Drama, Box office gross: $5.832 million, Universal.
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, "Django Unchained" stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles -- dead or alive. Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men choose not to go their separate ways. Instead, Schultz seeks out the South's most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz's search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of "Candyland," an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie's trusted house slave. Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organization closes in on them. If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they must choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival.
Vitals: Director: Quentin Tarantino. Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, James Remar, Don Johnson, RZA, Gerald McRaney, Anthony LaPaglia, James Russo.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 165 min., Western Drama, Box office gross: $154.516 million, The Weinstein Company.
Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the show, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and -- if he has his way -- every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does it all with the protection of not only his own paid goons, but also the police and the politicians he has under his thumb. It's enough to intimidate even the bravest, street-hardened cop ... except, perhaps, for the small, secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) and Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together and stand above the law to try to tear Cohen's world apart.
Vitals: Director: Ruben Fleischer. Stars: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling,Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick, Mireille Enos.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Crime Drama, Box office gross: $45.753 million, Warner
Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on the morning of December 26, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth. As Maria freezes in fear, a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her. Based on a true story, "The Impossible" is the unforgettable account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time -- the 2004 tsunami triggered by 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. But the true-life terror is tempered by the unexpected displays of compassion, courage and simple kindness that Maria and her family encounter during the darkest hours of their lives.
Vitals: Director: Juan Antonio Bayona. Stars: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Geraldine Chaplin, Marta Etura, Dominic Power, Bruce Blain, Sonke Mohring, Teo Quintavalle, Ploy Jindachote.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 114 min., Drama, Box office gross: $16.668 million, Summit/Lionsgate.
Matt Damon plays Steve Butler, an ace corporate salesman for a natural gas company who is sent along with his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), to close a key rural town in his company's plans to expand their underground "fracking." With the town having been hit hard by the economic decline of recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company's offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (John Krasinski), as well as the interest of a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt).
Vitals: Director: Gus Van Sant. Stars: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, Lucas Black.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 106 min., Drama, Box office gross: $6.879 million, Universal.
A Haunted House
Send up of the "Paranormal Activity" movies, "The Devil Inside" and other "found footage" movies. Young couple Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) have just moved in to their dream house. As they settle in, they quickly find they're not alone. But it's not the house that's haunted, it's Malcolm's girlfriend who is possessed by a demon. Malcolm hires everyone from a priest to modern day ghostbusters to rid her of this unwelcome intruder, determined not to let the evil spirit ruin his relationship ... or, more importantly, his sex life.
Vitals: Director: Michel Tiddes. Stars: Marlon Wayans, Marlene Forte, Essence Atkins, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan, Nick Swardson.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 86 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $39.001 million, Universal.
Silver Linings Playbook
The most interesting and unusual wide-release film of the year, one that netted a Best Actress Oscar for Jennifer Lawrence (and should have secured a best Supporting Actor nod for Robert DeNiro ... and it certainly was a better picture than "Argo," which was too by-the-book for our tastes). Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything -- his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet -- and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own (she's a recovering sex addict whose husband was killed in an accident), things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he'll do something very important for her in return; dance with her in an upcoming ballroom contest. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.
Vitals: Director: David O. Russell. Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Taylor Schilling, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 122 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $115.302 million, The Weinstein Co.
The Guilt Trip
As inventor Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is about to embark on a road trip to sell his latest product -- an amazing organic cleaner -- he makes a quick visit to his recently-widowed mother (Barbra Streisand) and is guilted into bringing her along for the ride. Across 3,000 miles of adventure and antics both Andy and his mom discover that while they have their differences, they also have more in common than they ever realized.
Vitals: Director: Anne Fletcher. Stars: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Yvonne Strahovski, Colin Hanks, Adam Scott, Kathy Najimy, Casey Wilson, Danny Pudi, Brett Cullen, Michael Cassidy, Dale Dickey, Nora Dunn.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 95 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $36.695 million, Paramount.
Seven years after being forced to resign as a New York police officer, private detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) takes on his toughest case yet: following the wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of the city's hard-nosed mayor (Russell Crowe), who's convinced she's cheating on him. But by the time the mayor reveals his true intentions, Taggart is double-crossed and then framed by the mayor. Taggart's pursuit of justice, matched only by his streetwise toughness, makes him an unstoppable force -- and the mayor's worst nightmare.
Vitals: Director: Allen Hughes. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Crime Thriller, Box office gross: $19.640 million, Fox.
Not Fade Away
Evocative tribute to 1960s rock music, with a soundtrack supervised by music guru Steven Van Zandt. When the Rolling Stones appear on television in 1964, three best friends from the suburbs of New Jersey decide to form a rock band to try and make it big. The pals begin to see the world through the intoxicating prism of rock-and-roll in this coming-of-age story.
Vitals: Director: David Chase. Stars: John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, Bella Heathcote, Dominique McElligott, Brahm Vaccarella, Brad Garrett, Christopher McDonald, James Gandolfini.
2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Music Drama, Box office gross: $.574 million, Paramount.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a
Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center),
and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.