© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Holiday Film Preview: What To Watch Now And What To Expect Next Year

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hollywood's had a complicated year, and that has made looking ahead complicated, too. NPR's Bob Mondello usually does a year-end movie preview for Thanksgiving weekend. This year, he's expanding his focus a bit.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Tinseltown's mad dash from Thanksgiving to New Year's is generally crammed with blockbusters and awards contenders. This year, as Gal Gadot's Amazon princess has discovered, not so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

CONNIE NIELSEN: (As Hippolyta) This world is not yet ready for all that you will do.

MONDELLO: "Wonder Woman 1984" was supposed to be the blockbuster that drew audiences back to theaters at Christmas time. But with more than half the nation's cinemas closed, studio bigwigs decided Princess Diana should also be streaming over the holidays. Over at Pixar, they're straying even further from tradition, opening their latest film, "Soul" not in cinemas...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOUL")

JAMIE FOXX: (As Joe) My reason for living.

MONDELLO: ...But exclusively on Disney Plus.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOUL")

FOXX: (As Joe, screaming).

MONDELLO: We'll talk another time about what this might do to the film industry. But for the moment, let's take our cues from the Academy Awards, which have decided films don't need to be in theaters or even open by the end of the year to qualify for 2020 Oscars. Like them, we'll restrict ourselves to films designed for the big screen and opening by February 28, 2021. Cool?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

PEDRO PASCAL: (As Max Lord) I've never been one for rules. The answer is always more.

MONDELLO: All right, then. That's a bad guy in "Wonder Woman 1984," but Diana's chief nemesis this time is a woman played by Kristen Wiig.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

KRISTEN WIIG: (As Barbara Minerva/Cheetah) You've always had everything, while people like me have had nothing. Well, now it's my turn.

MONDELLO: Woman power is also the focus of the season's other big action flick. Milla Jovovich is the title character in "Monster Hunter."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MONSTER HUNTER")

MILLA JOVOVICH: (As Artemis) I don't care what those creatures are. I'm getting us all home.

MONDELLO: And in "Promising Young Woman," Carey Mulligan, traumatized by a tragic miscarriage of justice, becomes a sort of date rape avenging angel, taking the law into her own hands.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) It's every guy's worst nightmare, getting accused like that.

CAREY MULLIGAN: (As Cassandra Thomas) Can you guess what every woman's worst nightmare is?

MONDELLO: And what about men of action? They're operating on a smaller scale - Ray Fiennes saving the world from a motley assortment of historical villains in "The King's Man."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE KING'S MAN")

RAY FIENNES: (As Duke of Oxford) Rasputin, your reputation precedes you.

MONDELLO: Elsewhere, there's Denzel Washington and Rami Malek tracking down a serial killer in "The Little Things," Michael B. Jordan avenging his wife's murder in Tom Clancy's "Without Remorse," and Johnny Depp documenting mercury poisoning in "Minamata."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MINAMATA")

JOHNNY DEPP: (As W. Eugene Smith) I'm the greatest photographer that Life magazine has ever had.

BILL NIGHY: (As Robert Hayes) That you are. You're the single most impossible photographer that Life has ever had.

MONDELLO: Even the global cataclysm director George Clooney deals with in "The Midnight Sky" has an intimate aspect to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MIDNIGHT SKY")

FELICITY JONES: (As Sully) This is Aether. Does anyone copy? We're not receiving anything.

MONDELLO: Clooney also plays an Arctic scientist who might just be the world's last man.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MIDNIGHT SKY")

GEORGE CLOONEY: (As Augustine) That's Aether. It's a spaceship that we hoped would be our future. I have to warn them about the conditions on Earth.

MONDELLO: The person he's talking to is an 8-year-old girl he spends much of "Midnight Sky" protecting. And in "News Of The World," Tom Hanks takes on a similar responsibility in the Old West just after the Civil War, when he comes across a blonde, wild child.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NEWS OF THE WORLD")

TOM HANKS: (As Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd) Do you understand English?

HELENA ZENGEL: (As Johanna Leonberger, unintelligible).

MONDELLO: She shows him a letter.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NEWS OF THE WORLD")

HANKS: (As Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd) It says your name is Johanna Leonberger. Indians took you when they attacked your family six years prior. Her mother, her father and sister were - well, they passed.

MONDELLO: He decides to take her under his wing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NEWS OF THE WORLD")

HANKS: (As Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd) She needs to laugh and dream. She needs new memories.

MONDELLO: Hanks' character makes a living in "News Of The World" reading newspapers to 19th century settlers, drifting from town to town across the western frontier. And in "Nomadland," a sort of 21st century "Grapes Of Wrath," a widow played by Frances McDormand is similarly adrift, finding community with other nomads who've been displaced by economic hard times.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NOMADLAND")

LINDA MAY: (As Linda) Hey, Fern.

FRANCES MCDORMAND: (As Fern) Hey, Linda.

MAY: (As Linda) Come over and join us.

MCDORMAND: (As Fern) No. I'm just going to take a little walk. Be back soon.

MONDELLO: Fern is, by her own description, houseless, not homeless, sheltering in a white van with what's left of her possessions. Even at that, she's better established than the folks in a trio of Sundance hits about the immigrant experience - "Minari," about a Korean American family relocating to Arkansas...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MINARI")

ALAN S KIM: (As David) Grandma smells like Korea.

STEVEN YEUN: (As Jacob, speaking Korean).

MONDELLO: ..."I Carry You With Me," a wrenching gay love story that spans decades as it crosses the Mexican border...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "I CARRY YOU WITH ME")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character, speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: ...And "Farewell Amor," about an Angolan emigre who strives for 17 years to bring his wife and daughter to the U.S..

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FAREWELL AMOR")

ZAINAB JAH: (As Esther) We don't know each other anymore.

NTARE GUMA MBAHO MWINE: (As Walter) They lost so many years.

JAH: (As Esther) So what do we do now?

MONDELLO: When Hollywood is in award season mode, it often seems to have just two settings - theatrical froth or consequential drama. The froth this season is provided by Noel Coward's classic 1940s romp, "Blithe Spirit," in which dame Judi Dench holds a seance and accidentally establishes that true loathing never dies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLITHE SPIRIT")

DAN STEVENS: (As Charles Condomine) The ghost of my first wife is here with us in the room. Surely you can see her. She's standing right next to you.

ISLA FISHER: (As Ruth Condomine) Are you drunk?

LESLIE MANN: (As Elvira Condomine) Who is she?

STEVENS: (As Charles Condomine) My wife.

MANN: (As Elvira Condomine) I'm your wife.

JUDI DENCH: (As Madame Arcati) Can he, by any chance, touch her?

FISHER: (As Ruth Condomine) I sincerely hope not.

MONDELLO: The consequential dramas, meanwhile, are everywhere, from "Pieces Of A Woman," about a couple dealing with the death of their newborn child, to "One Night In Miami," which recreates in 1964 gathering of four real-life friends - prizefighter Cassius Clay, fullback Jim Brown, singer Sam Cooke and religious leader Malcolm X.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI")

KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR: (As Malcolm X) This movement that we are in is called a struggle because we are fighting for our lives.

MONDELLO: "One Night In Miami" is garnering Oscar talk for first-time feature director, Regina King. And Anthony Hopkins looks to be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination as the increasingly erratic title character in the dementia drama, "The Father."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FATHER")

OLIVIA COLMAN: (As Anne) What are you talking about, Dad?

ANTHONY HOPKINS: (As Anthony) I'm not leaving my flat. I am not leaving my flat. This really is my flat, isn't it?

MONDELLO: Memory loss is also central in a sci-fi film called "Little Fish." It's brought on worldwide by, wouldn't you know, a virus.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LITTLE FISH")

OLIVIA COOKE: (As Emma) They call it NIA - neuro inflammatory affliction. And it can affect anyone, like the fisherman who couldn't remember how to steer his boat, so he decided to swim home. And then a pilot forgot how to fly.

MONDELLO: If all this sounds awfully downbeat, rest assured, there are also films with a downbeat...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) A-one, a-two, a-you know what to do.

MONDELLO: ...Like August Wilson's tribute to the blues, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM")

VIOLA DAVIS: (As Ma Rainey) This be an empty world without the blues.

MONDELLO: ...And not one, but two films about...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "BILLIE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The world's greatest jazz vocalist, Miss Billie Holiday.

MONDELLO: The biopic, "The United States Vs. Billie Holiday," and the documentary "Billie."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "BILLIE")

BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) Because I've been waiting such a long, long time.

MONDELLO: And joining them, a pair of thematically linked musicals - from England, "Everybody's Talking About Jamie," about a high school drag queen in training...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE")

RICHARD E GRANT: (As Hugo Battersby/Loco Chanelle) You can't just be a boy in a dress, Jamie. A boy in a dress is something to be laughed at. A drag queen should be feared.

MONDELLO: ...And Broadway's Tony-winning smash, "The Prom"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PROM")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) One thing's universal.

MONDELLO: ...About a small-town Indiana girl...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PROM")

NICOLE KIDMAN: (As Angie Dickinson) You're not alone.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) There's no dress rehearsal.

MONDELLO: ...Who's been banned from attending her high school formal with her girlfriend.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PROM")

KIDMAN: (As Angie Dickinson) And you do have friends, and we are ride or die.

JO ELLEN PELLMAN: (As Emma Nolan) Where are they?

JAMES CORDEN: (As Barry Glickman) OK. Well, let's give this girl a prom.

MONDELLO: A little on-screen coming together, whether in theaters or in your living room for this time when we all need to stay apart. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.