Movie Industry Plans To Release Lots Of Sequels

The industry has faced a tough year so far. So it's using the formula of sequels and 3-D movies in hopes of getting back on track — including more pirates, more kung-fun fighting pandas and more hungover wedding guests. Critic Bob Mondello has a preview of the other retreads and the hidden treasures coming your way this summer.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

It has not been a good year so far for the movie industry. Just a few weeks ago, box office totals were down nearly 20 percent compared to last year.

But now enter sequels, more sequels and more 3-D. That's the formula the industry is using in hopes of getting back on track. Already this spring, it has brought us more pirates, more kung-fu fighting pandas, more hungover wedding guests.

And now, our critic Bob Mondello has a preview of the other retreads and the hidden treasures coming our way this summer.

BOB MONDELLO: Get ready for part twos, threes and fours everywhere you look, even a part eight for teen wizard Harry Potter's final showdown with Lord Voldemort.

(Soundbite of film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOHN HURT (Actor): (as Mr. Ollivander) He is after you, Mr. Potter. (Unintelligible)

Mr. DANIEL RADCLIFFE (Actor): (as Harry Potter) Well, I suppose I'll have to kill him before he finds me then.

MONDELLO: This last segment of "The Deathly Hallows" is the first 3-D Harry Potter film, a little extra inducement for the crowd that's grown up with these movies, literally grown up since the third-graders who saw the first film when it came out are in college now.

And other sequels are aiming not just at them but at their baby-boomer parents, at least judging from the voices you hear in ads and trailers. In "X-Men: First Class," for instance...

(Soundbite of film, "X-Men: First Class")

(Soundbite of music)

President John F. Kennedy: One path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender.

MONDELLO: That's right, JFK. This is an X-Men prequel set in the 1960s with mutant teens.

(Soundbite of film, "X-Men: First Class")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as Character) Are you ready for this?

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as Character) Let's find out.

MONDELLO: And while the X-Men are dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis, Walter Cronkite is covering a first moon landing that turns out to have been a second moon landing.

(Soundbite of film, "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon")

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (as Walter Cronkite) We now have had confirmation of loss of signal from Apollo 11.

MONDELLO: Because the bots got there first: "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon."

(Soundbite of film, "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon")

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (as Buzz Aldrin) You cannot believe what we are seeing.

Unidentified Man #5 (Actor): (as Character) We are not alone after all, are we?

Unidentified Man #4: (As character) No, sir, we are not alone.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: While the "Transformers" and "X-Men" series reference the '60s, World War II will be the setting for a non-sequel superhero, "Captain America: The First Avenger," about a scrawny doughboy turned perfect soldier by an experimental serum, all very retro.

As is "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," a prequel that tells us how the apes took over, something to do with another serum and an animal experiment that gets out of control.

(Soundbite of film, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes")

Mr. JAMES FRANCO (Actor): (as Will Rodman) The drug has radically boosted brain functioning. You have no idea what you're dealing with.

Unidentified Man #6 (Actor): (as Character) They're not people, you know.

MONDELLO: While the apes get in touch with their inner revolutionaries, on other screens, humans will get in touch with each other in summer romances.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis decide they want an affair, not love, in "Friends with Benefits." Two soulmates played by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess decide they will only get together once a year, in the anniversary of their one-night stand, in "One Day." And Tom Hanks falls for his community college professor Julia Roberts in "Larry Crowne."

(Soundbite of film, "Larry Crowne")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. JULIA ROBERTS (Actor): (as Mercedes Tainot) Each of you will tell us how to do something you already know how to do.

Mr. TOM HANKS (Actor): (as Larry Crowne) How to prepare French toast.

MONDELLO: Judging just from the titles of other summer comedies, you'd swear Hollywood had decided to accentuate the negative. There are farces called "Bad Teacher," "Horrible Bosses," "Our Idiot Brother" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

This last one featuring Steve Carell as a divorced guy who asks a ladies' man for dating advice. He's told he needs to spruce up, and on a visit to the mall, they start with his shoes.

(Soundbite of film, "Crazy, Stupid, Love")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (as Cal Weaver) These are my 407s.

Unidentified Man #7 (Actor): (as Character) Oh, they're 407s. Can I see them?

Mr. CARELL: (as Cal) Yeah. These offer a lot of support. Whoa, come on.

Unidentified Man #7: (as Character) What are you, in a fraternity?

Mr. CARELL: (as Cal) Are you insane?

Unidentified Man #7: (as Character) Are you in a fraternity?

Mr. CARELL: (as Cal) You could've hit somebody. What was that?

Unidentified Man #7: (as Character) Are you?

Mr. CARELL: (as Cal) No.

Unidentified Man #7: (as Character) Oh, OK. Well, in that case, you've got no right to wear New Balance sneakers ever.

MONDELLO: Laughs can also be found in some decidedly offbeat dramedies. "The Help" finds humor in the upending of the old assumptions in '60s race relations.

And "Beginners" stars Ewan McGregor as an artist who's surprised to discover that his father, at 75, is coming out of the closet. Dad's played by Christopher Plummer.

(Soundbite of film, "Beginners")

(Soundbite of telephone)

Mr. EWAN McGREGOR (Actor): (as Oliver) Hello?

Mr. CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (Actor): (as Hal) Oliver?

Mr. McGREGOR: (as Oliver) Yeah?

Mr. PLUMMER: (as Hal) They had some wonderfully loud music in the club tonight.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PLUMMER: (as Hal) What kind of music's that?

Mr. McGREGOR: (as Oliver) Probably house music.

Mr. PLUMMER: (as Hal) Yup. House music, OK.

Mr. McGREGOR: (as Oliver) Did you meet anyone?

Mr. PLUMMER: (as Hal) Huh?

Mr. McGREGOR: (as Oliver) Did you meet...

Mr. PLUMMER: (as Hal) No, young gay men don't go for older gay men. You have it easy.

MONDELLO: If "Beginners" has an unusual premise, it's not half as strange as the one comedian Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon dreamed up for "The Trip." They trek from British town to British town, dining at fine country inns while getting on each other's nerves by doing impressions.

(Soundbite of film, "The Trip")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. STEVE COOGAN (Actor): (as Himself) I've not heard your Michael Caine, but I assume it would be something along the lines of: My name's Michael Caine.

Mr. BOB BRYDON (Actor): (as Himself) You are so wrong. Michael Caine used to talk like this.

Mr. COOGAN: (as Himself) It's not quite nasal enough the way you're doing it. When he gets loudly, it gets very loud indeed. Don't do the broken voice when he gets very emotional.

MONDELLO: Meanwhile, the voice of the real Michael Caine will be heard in the summer sequel that kids have been waiting for, "Cars 2."

(Soundbite of film, "Cars 2")

Mr. MICHAEL CAINE (Actor): (as Finn McMissile) These Americans are clearly master spies.

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (as Character) Oh, you've got to be joking.

MONDELLO: Also for kids, a new cartoon adventure of Winnie-the-Pooh, Jim Carey in a live-action adaptation of the children's book, "Mr. Popper's Penguins," and in digital 3-D, "The Smurfs."

(Soundbite of film, "The Smurfs")

Mr. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (Actor): (as Patrick Winslow) We're being attacked. Do not be fooled by their cuteness.

Ms. JAYMA MAYS (Actor): (as Grace Winslow) They're (unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #8 (Actor): (as Character) That's right, you pasty giant.

MONDELLO: There are movies for more serious filmgoers, documentaries like "Page One," which chronicles a difficult year at the New York Times, and "Project NIMH," the story of a chimp raised as if it were a human child; foreign films like "Point Blank," a French thriller that mixes nonstop action with a bit of social commentary; and American dramas dealing with social issues: "Beautiful Boy," about the parents of a Columbine-style killer; "The Whistleblower," about human trafficking in Eastern Europe; and "A Better Life," about the teenage U.S.-born son of an undocumented alien.

I saved the other kind of alien for last.

(Soundbite of film, "Super 8")

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: "Super 8" is about kids who accidentally film something the government doesn't want them to see.

(Soundbite of film, "Super 8")

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #9 (Actor): (as Character) Come on, they're coming.

Unidentified Man #10 (Actor): (as Character) Get in the car.

Unidentified Man #11 (Actor): (as Character) (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #12 (Actor): (as Character) (Unintelligible)

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (as Character) Those things could have killed us. We're not saying anything to anyone. No one's going to know we were there.

MONDELLO: "Super 8" comes from director J.J. Abrams and is just one of several pictures about aliens this summer. It couldn't be more different from an intriguing low-budget drama called "Another Earth." In that one, a voyage to a world just like ours offers escape for a young woman in the aftermath of a tragic car crash.

And the most unlikely concoction of the summer?

(Soundbite of film, "Cowboys and Aliens")

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #13 (Actor): (as Character) I need those (unintelligible).

MONDELLO: Is pretty much summed up by its title, "Cowboys and Aliens."

(Soundbite of film, "Cowboys and Aliens")

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #13: (as Character) Hurry up.

Unidentified Man #14 (Actor) (As character) They're coming back.

MONDELLO: Summer movies don't get any more high-concept. And they're saving this one for the very end of July, so that it can play straight through Labor Day.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: I'm Melissa Block. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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