In Hyde Park on Hudson — a sly, modestly subversive dramedy about a crucial weekend meeting between England's King George VI and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of World War II — the diffident young monarch (Samuel West) confides his frustration over his lifelong stutter while the two men enjoy a postprandial drink expressly forbidden by their womenfolk.
There's nothing particularly special about Edward Burns' wry family drama The Fitzgerald Family Christmas –-- but that makes it something of a relief amid the avalanche of overlong, big-ticket prestige films that comes tumbling into theaters this time of year.
You've probably seen some version of this story before: A crotchety and unreliable old man, long estranged from most of his family, attempts desperately to reconnect with them on Christmas Day. It's urgent, because he's harboring a Secret with a capital S.
Based on Beth Raymer's memoir, Lay the Favorite has a cheeky, double-meaning title that sets up the story and the irreverent tone with impressive efficiency; the reference is both to the gambling practice of betting for the favorite and to the heroine's generous sexual proclivities.
Everyone gets roughed up pretty bad in Deadfall, a pop-Freudian thriller set in Michigan's north woods. But nobody comes off worse than the out-of-towners: Australian star Eric Bana and Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky.