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.
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For The Holiday Movie Season, Seriousness And Songs

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For The Holiday Movie Season, Seriousness And Songs

For The Holiday Movie Season, Seriousness And Songs

For The Holiday Movie Season, Seriousness And Songs

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  • Transcript

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.

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")

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")

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")

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")

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")

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

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")

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")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "GUILT TRIP")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "QUARTET")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "PARENTAL GUIDANCE")

(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")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "STAND UP GUYS")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE "JACK REACHER")

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DJANGO UNCHAINED")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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")

CORNISH: This is NPR News.

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