NPR

For The Holiday Movie Season, Seriousness And Songs

Bob Mondello has a selective preview of the films coming out between now and the end of the year. Not much for kids, he says, but there's a lot of seriousness and a little singing.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The holiday movie season is upon us. Last week, vampires took over the cineplex. This week, they'll be joined by guardians, Santa Claus and Jack Frost. That's good news for the kids and for their discerning parents, because it's also time for studios to cram their Oscar contenders into theaters.

With 39 days left in 2012, there are at least that many movies still to open. Never fear, we asked Bob Mondello for a preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: You know what's been missing at the multiplex for almost a decade? Hobbits and their favorite wizard.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HOBBIT")

IAN MCKELLEN: (As Gandalf) Far to the east, over ranges and rivers, lies a single, solitary peak. The dwarves are determined to reclaim their homeland.

MONDELLO: Director Peter Jackson is back with the first installment of a trilogy that's sort of a prequel to his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. On the page, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" is about a kinder, gentler Middle Earth, but it looks as if Frodo's adopted Uncle Bilbo is still going to get a pretty good workout.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HOBBIT")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As character) Mr. Bilbo, where are you off to?

MARTIN FREEMAN: (As Bilbo) I'm going on an adventure.

MONDELLO: An adventure that's going to be in both 3-D and something called HFR for high frame rate because the director wanted heightened realism. Elsewhere, technical advances are being put in the service of real-world realism, nowhere more dramatically than in the film "The Impossible," which re-creates a tragedy that struck Thailand in 2004, a tsunami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE IMPOSSIBLE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Unintelligible)

MONDELLO: Real-life stories often appeal to Oscar voters, so you can count on them being everywhere as award season approaches. Serious fare, like "The Impossible" and "Zero Dark Thirty," about the Navy SEAL raid that killed the world's most sought-after terrorist...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ZERO DARK THIRTY")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (As character) Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (As character) We'll never find him. He's one of the disappeared ones.

MONDELLO: Also lighter looks at history, including film history. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, for instance, playing Tinseltown's master of suspense and his wife in "Hitchcock."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HITCHCOCK")

HELEN MIRREN: (As Alma Reville) It was the knife that, a moment later, cut off her scream and her head.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

MIRREN: (As Alma) Charming. Doris Day should do it as a musical.

ANTHONY HOPKINS: (As Alfred Hitchcock) Good afternoon. This book "Psycho" is fiendishly entertaining.

MONDELLO: Hopkins is being mentioned as a possible Best Actor nominee for "Hitchcock," as is Bill Murray for "Hyde Park on Hudson." Murray plays President Franklin Roosevelt entertaining the "King's Speech" king, George VI.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HYDE PARK ON HUDSON")

BILL MURRAY: (As President Franklin Roosevelt) So nice of you to come.

SAMUEL WEST: (As King George VI) Mr. President.

MURRAY: (As Roosevelt) Forgive me for not getting up.

WEST: (As George VI) At the picnic, the president's wife has organized hot dogs to be served as our main dish.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (As character) Are they trying to make fun of us?

WEST: (As George VI) I don't know.

MONDELLO: The royals provide a comic lift to "Hyde Park on Hudson." Meanwhile, the season's more boisterous comedies mostly center on aging or parents and children, and in some cases both, Judd Apatow's "This is 40," for instance.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS 40")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (As character) Why does it say 38 and not 40?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As character) Because your mom wants to be 38. Let's not mention it again.

MONDELLO: Then there's "Guilt Trip," in which Seth Rogen takes a road trip with Barbra Streisand.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "GUILT TRIP")

SETH ROGEN: (As Andy Brewster) Do you have any rooms available?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: (As character) One for you and your lady?

ROGEN: (As Andy) Lady?

BARBRA STREISAND: (As Joyce Brewster) Andy, they have clip-on frog earrings.

ROGEN: (As Andy) Oh dude, don't wink at me. That's my mother. Are you insane?

MONDELLO: "Quartet" has aging musicians not quite getting it together to re-create a youthful singing triumph.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "QUARTET")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: (As character) We have four of the finest singers in English operatic history.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: (As character) I don't think I want to sing with Jean again.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (As character) They were married once, but it didn't work out.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (As character) We were different people then.

MONDELLO: And "Parental Guidance" has Billy Crystal and Bette Midler babysitting for their grandchildren.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "PARENTAL GUIDANCE")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: (As character) Grandpa tells lots of jokes that you won't get. Just laugh.

BILLY CRYSTAL: (As Artie Decker) Hello boys, still single?

(LAUGHTER)

MONDELLO: For kids, by the way, there's very little that's new, just "Monsters, Inc." re-released in 3-D and a Cirque du Soleil movie. But overgrown kids, at least ones who are looking for an R-rated, star-studded assassin flick, will have plenty to choose from, including "Killing Them Softly" with assassin Brad Pitt.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "KILLING THEM SOFTLY")

BRAD PITT: (As character) You ever kill anyone?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #8: (As character) They cry, they plead. They call for their mothers.

MONDELLO: "Stand Up Guys" with assassin Christopher Walken ordered to kill his best buddy, Al Pacino.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "STAND UP GUYS")

AL PACINO: (As character) So, who's gonna do it?

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: (As character) Do what?

PACINO: You know what. Come on. Just say it. It's you.

WALKEN: (As character) It's me.

MONDELLO: "Jack Reacher" with Tom Cruise investigating sniper killings.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE "JACK REACHER")

TOM CRUISE: (As character) I am not a hero, and if you're smart, that scares you.

MONDELLO: And Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" with slave Jamie Foxx teamed with Civil War-era assassin Christoph Waltz.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DJANGO UNCHAINED")

CHRISTOPH WALTZ: (As Dr. King Schultz) Do you know what a bounty hunter is?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JAMIE FOXX: (As Django) You kill people.

WALTZ: (As Schultz) I'm looking for the Brittle brothers. However, I don't know what they look like. But you do.

FOXX: (As Django) They caught my wife, and they sold her, but I don't know who took her.

WALTZ: (As Schultz) Once the final Brittle brother lies dead in the dust, I agree to give you your freedom, and I'll take you to rescue your wife.

MONDELLO: Sound like too much violence? Well, even at the art house, things will be rough. Two French pictures have been the talk of fall festivals, for instance, and are about to open. "Amour" tells a harrowing tale of an elderly couple facing the challenges that come at the end of life, and "Rust and Bone" has Marion Cotillard dealing with the aftermath of a tragic accident. Both are gorgeous, but cheerful? Not really.

Matt Damon's new movie, "Promised Land," meanwhile, is about warding off environmental tragedy. He plays a guy who's offering big money to farmers if they'll let his company tap natural gas reserves under their land with hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "PROMISED LAND")

MATT DAMON: (As Steve Butler) You sign this lease, it gives us the right to drill on your land.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: (As character) A whole lot of money down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #10: (As character) What kind of money are you talking about?

DAMON: (As Steve) You could be a millionaire.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: Did Steve say anything about an environmental presence here?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: (As character) No.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #11: (As character) Hi everybody. I'm here because my farm is gone. The land just turned brown, and it died. It's happened to one of us, it can happen to all of us.

MONDELLO: If "Promised Land" sounds torn from the headlines, that's even more true of a trio of upcoming courtroom documentaries: "The Loving Story" about the Supreme Court decision that invalidated anti-miscegenation laws; "West of Memphis," which revisits the controversial conviction of three teenagers in a brutal murder case; and a new Ken Burns documentary "Central Park Five" about the miscarriage of justice in Manhattan's infamous Central Park jogger case.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CENTRAL PARK FIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #12: There's no DNA match whatsoever to any of these boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #13: I was going nuts. No blood on the kids, nobody could identify them. But if they confessed, they confessed, and that was that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #14: A lot of people didn't do their jobs: reporters, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #15: We falsely convicted them, and we walked away from our crime.

MONDELLO: A lot of seriousness for the holidays, and that even applies to the season's big splashy musical, which is after all, the story of an 18th-century rebellion. Broadway's "Les Miserables" arrives onscreen with Oscar buzz not just for its stars but for something the filmmakers say will make this musical different from any film musical in decades. They did not pre-record the singers in a studio, they had them sing on set while they were filming.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #16: You can tell in your bones there's something false or unreal about people singing to playback. What will be exciting for the audience is that singing live has such a profound effect on the power, the realism of this story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LES MISERABLES")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING")

MONDELLO: The movie's trailer makes a compelling case: Do you hear the people sing? You will in three weeks more. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LES MISERABLES")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE MORE DAY")

RUSSELL CROWE: (As Javert) (Singing) One day more till revolution, we will nip it in the bud. We'll be ready for these schoolboys. They will wet themselves with blood.

CORNISH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular