DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.
Hollywood is ramping up for its biggest two weeks of the film year. You've probably heard about "Dreamgirls," the musical based on a Broadway show that's opening this weekend. It's actually only opening in three theaters. That leaves 36,000 other theaters, and this weekend brings a lot of other high profile pictures to them.
NPR's Bob Mondello joins me to talk about those other movies.
Hi, Bob. A pleasure.
BOB MONDELLO: It's good to be here.
ELLIOTT: So let's start with "Charlotte's Web." I actually have a date with my kids to take them to the movies over the holidays. This sounds like it will be top of the list.
MONDELLO: Well, I hope you enjoy it as much as they do. My guess is that it will be more fun for them than it will for you. But it's an entertaining little picture.
ELLIOTT: Let's listen to a clip.
(Soundbite of movie, "Charlotte's Web")
Ms. OPRAH WINFREY (Actor): (As Gussy) Little itty bitty pig, could you come here, please? You said your name is Wilbur, right?
Mr. DOMINIC SCOTT KAY (Actor): (As Wilbur) That's right. What's your name?
Ms. WINFREY: (As Gussy) Gussy.
Mr. KAY: (As Wilbur) Gussy. Great name.
Ms. WINFREY: (As Gussy) Thank you, Wilbur. Now, you're so cute and pink, but you're wasting your time. These animals won't play.
Mr. KAY: (As Wilbur) What about you?
Ms. WINFREY: (As Gussy) Me? Well, I have to stay on my eggs.
Mr. KAY: (As Wilbur) Oh, wow. Look at that.
Ms. WINFREY: (As Gussy) Otherwise, of course I'd love to play.
Mr. KAY: (As Wilbur) So why can't you play?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER (Actor): (As character) Because what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
ELLIOTT: Sounds cute. And those voices are a little familiar.
MONDELLO: That's true. That was Oprah Winfrey and I think that was Cedric the Entertainer. You know the story, right? About Charlotte is a spider and Wilbur is a pig and they make this great friendship, which sort of saves Wilbur and actually redeems Charlotte. And it's a lovely little story for kids. I thought it was better as a book, but I think as a family attraction, it's a fine one for the kids. For the small kids. I don't think older kids are going to be very interested.
ELLIOTT: Now, you have one on the list for the older kids. "Eragon"?
MONDELLO: Yeah, that is very much for the older kids. It is a - it wants desperately to be "Lord of the Rings" and it so is not. It's a movie about dragons and dragon-riders and evil kings, and the dialogue is so terrible. We should - we should just listen to some of this dialogue.
(Soundbite of movie, "Eragon")
Mr. JEREMY IRONS (Actor): (As Brom) My story was about you, Eragon. It is your fate to be a dragon rider. The (unintelligible) Rider has failed to defeat (unintelligible) and the king.
Mr. EDWARD SPELEERS: (As Eragon) I didn't ask for any of this.
Mr. IRONS #3: (As Brom) But you were chosen nevertheless. A dragon will only hatch if it feels the presence of its rider. It will wait forever if it has to. And now it's found you. It will serve you and only you and that's put your life in danger.
MONDELLO: This is an actor who has won awards. And I'm sitting there thinking, without that music, this thing wouldn't exist. It's got a dragon that can read the thoughts of her rider, who is supposed to be 17, who is 19, and who looks maybe 26. And the two of them think at each other at rapid paces. I just thought this was the most idiotic thing I'd ever seen.
I found out after watching it that the original novel that it's based on was written by someone who is about 15 years old. Well, that explains dialogue like that. Not my cup of dragon's milk, as it were.
ELLIOTT: So those are for the young set. What about those of us who might want to sneak away for a date night during the holidays? Any adult movies that are good?
MONDELLO: Well, there are some adult movies, although I'm not sure how good they'd be for a date night. There's one called "The Good German" that is a really interesting idea from Steven Soderbergh. He decided to do it in black and white. It stars George Clooney and Cate Blanchett and they are playing characters in World War II - actually right after World War II - in Germany, and it's all about the black market and things like that. But it is done in the style of "Casablanca" or something like that. And they actually even used old microphones to mic it in a way that you can hear the footsteps more prominently than you would otherwise. It's as if it were being done on an old studio sound stage.
It looks magnificent. The plot gets kind of convoluted in ways that you can't quite figure out why they bother making it so convoluted.
And then there's another one from another very prominent film maker, Anthony Minghella, who did "The English Patient." This one is called "Breaking and Entering," and it is about Jude Law as an architect who finds that his offices keep being broken into and he tries to find out who's doing it. And he follows this 15-year-old kid who appears to be the one and meets the kid's mother and falls in love with her. And who wouldn't, because she's played by Juliette Binoche.
And it's interesting because he's married and he's having an affair and it's kind of a downbeat story. And on surface levels, it's so beautiful. The - you know, the guy's an architect. His home is all done in beiges and whites and grays and it's everything about the environments that Minghella has these people wandering in, is really compelling. But there is a chilliness to the emotions in it, and so it doesn't quite click, but it's a very interesting picture.
ELLIOTT: Now neither of those films sounds to me like the big holiday feel-good kind of movie that we usually see coming out this time of year.
MONDELLO: Well, I've got a great picture with a homeless guy in it that is just the thing for the holidays, it seems to me. It's called "The Pursuit of Happyness." And I'm pronouncing that happy-ness because they spell it that way, H-A-P-P-Y-N-E-S-S. And because they explain that about 15 times in the movie, I'm not going to bother explaining it here. But it's a story of a man who becomes homeless while caring for his five-year-old. And in this case, the five-year-old is actually played by Will Smith's real son. So they have a real connection. I think you'll hear it in this clip.
(Soundbite of movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness")
Mr. JADEN SMITH (Actor): (As Christopher Gardner) I don't understand it.
Mr. WILL SMITH (Actor): (As Chris Gardner) You don't understand what?
Mr. SMITH: (As Christopher) Are we going to the game?
Mr. SMITH: (As Chris) I said possibly we're going to the game. Do you know what possibly means?
Mr. SMITH: (As Christopher) Like probably?
Mr. SMITH: (As Chris) No. Probably means there's a good chance that we're going and possibly means we might, we might not. What does probably mean?
Mr. SMITH: (As Christopher) It means we have a good chance.
Mr. SMITH: (As Chris) And what does possible mean?
Mr. SMITH: (As Christopher) I know what it means.
Mr. SMITH: (As Chris) What does it mean?
Mr. SMITH: (As Christopher) It means that we're not going to the game.
MONDELLO: They are really nice together. They are - it's a wonderful exhibit of very smart acting by a really distinguished actor. I think Will Smith is one of the leading lights of Hollywood these days. He's playing a very unheroic character. He's a salesman. And he tries to get a job with Dean Witter, the brokerage house. And he doesn't understand that what he's actually applied for is an internship and that he's not going to get paid for six months. He quickly runs out of money. They end up in homeless shelters. It is very alarming, and it's all based on a true story. You know, the audience is kind of going to know where it's going because you don't make stories about people who, you know...
ELLIOTT: Without the happy ending.
MONDELLO: Right. Especially if you call them "The Pursuit of Happyness." But it's a quite lovely picture for the holidays.
ELLIOTT: NPR's Bob Mondello. Thanks for talking with us.
MONDELLO: It's always a pleasure.