Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray as FDR? The casting might sound weird at first. But Murray's subtly charming presence ends up being one of the stronger elements of this otherwise lightweight romance, which depicts one of the most revered United States presidents with all the substance and insight of a lukewarm cup of tea. "Notting Hill" director Roger Michell, working from a script by Richard Nelson, depicts a brief period in the secret affair between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his fifth cousin, Margaret Suckley -- or "Daisy" as she was known. Unflaggingly loyal, earnest and supportive, she's also mousy, quiet and a total bore -- a huge waste of the versatile and vibrant talents of Laura Linney. The fact that Linney provides wall-to-wall voiceover doesn't add much, as she's stuck spelling out what should be pretty obvious on screen ("He said I helped him forget the weight of the world," for example.) "Hyde Park on Hudson" focuses specifically on the June 1939 weekend when FDR hosted the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) at his family's home in upstate New York, hence the title, just as World War II was about to erupt. Michell awkwardly tries to balance both the farce of cultural clashes and the jealous tension that arises as Daisy begins to understand that she's not the president's only paramour. Olivia
Playing for Keeps
This is supposed to be the time of year when high-quality movies come out, whether they're potential Oscar contenders or crowd-pleasing family fare. So the presence of this flat, hacky, unfunny dreck -- the kind of film that ordinarily tries to fly under the radar in January or February but would be torture to sit through in any month -- is a total mystery. It is truly baffling that all these talented, acclaimed people actually read this script and then agreed to devote their time to this movie, especially given its uncomfortably flagrant misogynistic streak. Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman couldn't possibly need work this badly. And yet, here they are as soccer moms shamelessly throwing themselves at Gerard Butler and his tousled, manly mane. Butler, still struggling with comedy, stars as George Dryer, a once-great Scottish soccer star who's now divorced and in financial straits. He moves to suburban Virginia to reconnect with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and their young son (Noah Lomax). Naturally, a couple of things happen pretty quickly, accompanied by an intrusively jaunty score. First, George gets suckered into coaching his kid's soccer team. Then, the mothers of all the other 9-year-olds start brazenly hitting on him. Director Gabriele Muccino veers wildly between wacky hijinks and facile sentimentality, and Robbie Fox's script doesn't feature a single character who resembles an actual human being. PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS