Holiday Movie Preview: What's Coming To Theaters Before The End Of The Year There's one month left of 2019 and another 40 or so would-be blockbusters and awards contenders that Hollywood will be unwrapping during the holiday season.
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Holiday Movie Preview: What's Coming To Theaters Before The End Of The Year

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Holiday Movie Preview: What's Coming To Theaters Before The End Of The Year

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Movie Reviews

Holiday Movie Preview: What's Coming To Theaters Before The End Of The Year

Holiday Movie Preview: What's Coming To Theaters Before The End Of The Year

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/783762467/783762468" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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There's one month left of 2019 and another 40 or so would-be blockbusters and awards contenders that Hollywood will be unwrapping during the holiday season.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hollywood has been having a rough time at the box office. Yes, "Avengers: Endgame" made a record amount of money this summer, but the industry as a whole is down more than 7% from last year. Now there is one more month to go in 2019 and another 40 or so would-be blockbusters and awards contenders.

Critic Bob Mondello tells us what to expect this holiday season.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hollywood will be going to war pretty often this Christmas and to the barricades in defense of strong women, but it won't be going to the dogs if Andrew Lloyd Webber has anything to say about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CATS")

JENNIFER HUDSON: (As Grizabella, singing) Touch me. It's so easy to leave me.

MONDELLO: The musical "Cats," which ran for 18 years on Broadway, hopes to create a few memories on the silver screen with something called digital fur technology, plus performances by Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba and Taylor Swift. They'll be interpreting musicalized (ph) poems by T.S. Eliot, and Eliot isn't the only literary light getting a cinematic makeover.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LITTLE WOMEN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) This is Meg, Amy, Beth and Jo.

MONDELLO: Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," freshly conceived by Greta Gerwig.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LITTLE WOMEN")

SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Jo March) I intend to make my own way in the world.

MERYL STREEP: (As Aunt March) No one makes their own way, least of all a woman. You'll need to marry well.

RONAN: (As Jo March) But you are not married, Aunt...

STREEP: (As Aunt March) Well, that's because I'm rich.

MONDELLO: That's Meryl Streep advising Saoirse Ronan in "Little Women," which also features Emma Watson and Timothee Chalamet. Women declaring independence is a theme this holiday season - in 18th-century France in the woman-directed "Portrait Of A Lady On Fire"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE")

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

MONDELLO: ...Also in 19th-century England in "The Aeronauts," where Eddie Redmayne plays second fiddle to hot air balloon pilot Felicity Jones.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE AERONAUTS")

FELICITY JONES: (As Amelia Wren) I'm a really good aeronaut.

EDDIE REDMAYNE: (As James Glaisher) You are the only person who could fly us higher than anyone has ever been.

MONDELLO: And then in "Bombshell," Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie tell the more recent story of how women anchors and reporters fought back against a toxic male news culture and brought down Roger Ailes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOMBSHELL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Fox News star Gretchen Carlson dropped a major bombshell today.

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Kayla Pospisil) What is she doing?

JOHN LITHGOW: (As Roger Ailes) This could kill Fox News.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Ready to go to war?

NICOLE KIDMAN: (As Gretchen Carlson) Oh, yeah.

MONDELLO: I mentioned going to war earlier, as in Skyfall director Sam Mendes tackling a World War I battlefield saga about getting a message to the front in his movie "1917."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "1917")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) If you don't get there in time, we will lose 1,600 men, your brother among them.

MONDELLO: Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins employ all the usual war movie tricks and one extra - they've told the story in real time, contriving to make it look like a single continuous shot.

That's World War I. Another director known for the beauty of his images, Terrence Malick, is looking at World War II in "A Hidden Life," about a principled Austrian farmer...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A HIDDEN LIFE")

AUGUST DIEHL: (As Franz Jagerstatter) I can't do what I believe is wrong.

MONDELLO: ...Who refuses to pledge allegiance to Hitler.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A HIDDEN LIFE")

DIEHL: (As Franz Jagerstatter) I have to stand up to evil.

MONDELLO: "A Hidden Life" is based on a true story, something it has in common with an awards-season collection of biographies. The documentary "Cunningham" peers through a 3D lens at visionary choreographer Merce Cunningham.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CUNNINGHAM")

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you consider your work avant-garde?

MERCE CUNNINGHAM: I don't describe it. I do it.

MONDELLO: Another documentary gives filmmakers, including Jerry Lewis, a chance to weigh in on the mother of American film criticism.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL")

JERRY LEWIS: She's never said a good thing about me yet...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: But you like her?

LEWIS: ...That dirty, old broad.

MONDELLO: The film is "What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael"...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL")

LEWIS: But she is probably the most qualified critic in the world.

MONDELLO: ...A critic who loved the French New Wave films that brought actress Jean Seberg fame in the 1960s. Kristen Stewart plays Seberg in a biopic that shows her becoming a political activist...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SEBERG")

KRISTEN STEWART: (As Jean Seberg) This country is at war with itself - Vietnam, the oppression of black people in America...

MONDELLO: ...And then paying a price.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SEBERG")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character) She has a history of donations to civil rights groups. She's a sympathizer, sir.

STEWART: (As Jean Seberg) They've tapped our phones. They're listening. I can hear these little clicks on the line.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE RINGING)

STEWART: (As Jean Seberg) I think it's the government.

MONDELLO: Did the FBI overstep? That's a question that also dogs the true story that inspired Clint Eastwood to get back in the director's chair. His film "Richard Jewell" is about the security guard at Atlanta's Summer Olympics in 1996 who brought a terrorist plot to light only to find himself a suspect.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "RICHARD JEWELL")

PAUL WALTER HAUSER: (As Richard Jewell) I'm sorry. What?

SAM ROCKWELL: (As Watson Bryant) His accusers are two of the most powerful forces in the world - the United States government and the media.

MONDELLO: Other films tackling injustice include "When Lambs Become Lions," a documentary about the ivory trade in Kenya, "Les Miserables," a real-life thriller that takes only its title from Victor Hugo. It's about French immigrants battling the police in modern-day Paris. And looking at inequities closer to home are a pair of death penalty films. Michael B. Jordan plays a crusading civil rights attorney in "Just Mercy."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JUST MERCY")

MICHAEL B JORDAN: (As Bryan Stevenson) The first time I visited death row, I wasn't expecting to meet somebody the same age as me from a neighborhood just like ours.

MONDELLO: And Alfre Woodard plays the warden at a death row penitentiary in "Clemency."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CLEMENCY")

ALFRE WOODARD: (As Warden Bernadine Williams) You want to play this good guys and bad guys, and I'm one of the bad guys. But I give these men respect.

MONDELLO: Speaking of respect, that's one thing Adam Sandler will be earning in "Uncut Gems" as a guy in the diamond district who's forever looking for his next big score - conning drug dealers, gangsters, his wife, skating right on the edge every minute of his life.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNCUT GEMS")

ADAM SANDLER: (As Howard Ratner) I made a crazy risk, a gamble. And it's about to pay off.

MONDELLO: It's easy to forget what a gifted actor Sandler is because he's so often acting stupid on screen. So credit this hard-driving thriller with finding a supremely smart way for him to play stupid...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNCUT GEMS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #7: (As character) Howard, where's the money right now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #8: (As character) Howard, got my money?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #9: (As character) Howard...

MONDELLO: ...A way that might just earn him an Oscar nomination.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNCUT GEMS")

SANDLER: (As Howard Ratner) Is it too late? Please. Give me another shot.

MONDELLO: If all this sounds awfully dark for Christmas, rest assured, there's also sunshine. Will Smith plays a super sleuth who gets turned into a pigeon in the animated comedy "Spies In Disguise."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIES IN DISGUISE")

TOM HOLLAND: (As Walter Beckett) Pigeons are everywhere, and nobody notices them. It's the most perfect form a spy could take.

WILL SMITH: (As Lance Sterling) You better un-bird (ph) me right now.

MONDELLO: And the makers of "Chicken Run" and "Wallace And Gromit" are back with another "Shaun The Sheep" movie. Shaun makes friends with an intergalactic visitor in "Farmageddon."

Marginally less animated is "Jumanji: The Next Level," with the supernatural board game still transforming folks into...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL")

KAREN GILLAN: (As Martha) You're Spencer's grandfather.

MONDELLO: ...Dwayne Johnson...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL")

DWAYNE JOHNSON: (As Eddie) Are we in Florida?

MONDELLO: ...Kevin Hart...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL")

KEVIN HART: (As Mouse Finbar) Did I die and turn into some kind of a small, muscular Boy Scout?

MONDELLO: ...And Jack Black.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL")

GILLAN: (As Martha) Bethany?

JACK BLACK: (As Bethany) No, no, no.

MONDELLO: And if you're looking for fantasy that's ever so slightly less fantastical, action director Michael Bay offers the movie "6 Underground..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "6 UNDERGROUND")

RYAN REYNOLDS: (As One) Hang on.

MONDELLO: ...In which Ryan Reynolds and five other vigilantes fake their own deaths then wreak havoc in, among other places, Italy's greatest museums.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "6 UNDERGROUND")

REYNOLDS: (As One) Not the David. No, no. Not the David. Not the David.

MONDELLO: All of which will pale at the box office by comparison with a film by which Tinseltown...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

IAN MCDIARMID: (As Palpatine) Long have I waited.

MONDELLO: ...Will mark the end of the year...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

MCDIARMID: (As Palpatine) And now...

MONDELLO: ...The end of the decade...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

MCDIARMID: (As Palpatine) ...Your coming together is your undoing.

MONDELLO: ...The end of the saga that's held movie audiences captive since 1977.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

OSCAR ISSAC: (As Poe Dameron) What are you doing there, 3PO?

ANTHONY DANIELS: (As C-3PO) Taking one last look, sir, at my friends.

MONDELLO: "Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker," the third film in the third trilogy of a scrappy, little space western that's had an outsized influence for - what is it now? - 44 years, offering audiences a simple, clear vision of right and wrong through multiple generations, seven presidencies, in 2020, audiences will be on their own.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

MARK HAMILL: (As Luke Skywalker) The force will be with you.

CARRIE FISHER: (As Leia Organa) Always.

MONDELLO: You think?

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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