What's Your Can't-Miss Summer Blockbuster? The summer movie season is underway in multiplexes across the country. Denver Post film critic Lisa Kennedy has details on the rest of the big summer flicks. She's especially excited about Star Trek and Julie & Julia.
NPR logo

What's Your Can't-Miss Summer Blockbuster?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/103901539/103901527" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
What's Your Can't-Miss Summer Blockbuster?

What's Your Can't-Miss Summer Blockbuster?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/103901539/103901527" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

This summer, while we shiver in multiplex air-conditioning and snack on Snow Caps, a familiar cast of characters comes to town. Some are trying to save the world.

(Soundbite of movie, "Terminator: Salvation")

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE (Actor): (as John Connor) This is John Connor. If you're listening to this, you are the resistance.

CONAN: Some have world-saving thrust upon them.

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince")

Mr. MICHAEL GAMBON (Actor): (as Albus Dumbledore) You're the chosen one, Harry.

CONAN: And some are simply trying to make it home in time for a good meal.

(Soundbite of movie, "Julie & Julia")

Ms. MERYL STREEP (Actor): (as Julia Child) I'm Julia Child. Bon apetit.

CONAN: And this weekend, one of the most beloved characters in all the galaxy returns to the big screen just in time to kick a little Romulan butt.

(Soundbite of movie, "Star Trek")

Mr. JIMMY BENNETT (Actor): (as Young James T. Kirk) My name is James Tiberius Kirk.

CONAN: That's right. "Star Trek" is back, and it heads to the big screen tonight at midnight. Director J.J. Abrams, who's been able to put the chic in geek in a number of sci-fi flavored, character-driven pieces that you might have heard of - "Lost" - has taken the Federation back to hipness, and he will join us in a few minutes.

And we want to hear from you. What summer movie are you most looking forward to? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Lisa Kennedy is the film critic for the Denver Post, and joins us now from a studio in Denver. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Ms. LISA KENNEDY (Film Critic, the Denver Post): Well, thank you, Neal. It's good to be here.

CONAN: And I know - all right, we're not going to - we're going to talk to J.J. Abrams a little bit later, but you've seen "Star Trek." Please, tell me this is terrific.

Ms. KENNEDY: You know what? You twisted my arm. It's terrific.

CONAN: Oh, great!

Ms. KENNEDY: I really - yeah. I just thought it was so fun. Fun.

CONAN: Fun. A return to the…

Ms. KENNEDY: I know. A word that critics are often, evidently, allergic to - or at least, people imagine we are.

CONAN: Especially when they're talking about movie when, you know, if they titled it another way, it would be "Star Trek XI."

Ms. KENNEDY: I know. Wasn't that frightening? I was like, oh, what did I miss?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And it's been a long time since this franchise has seen the big screen, and for good reasons. It was a little tired.

Ms. KENNEDY: It was tired. It needed a little, like, revitalization. And I think, of course, the funny way to do that is not to take it into its future, but to take it into its past, in a lot of ways. And that's been really fun. And I think that was a worry, right? Is that, oh, these - this is such a beloved group of - you know, such a beloved cast. Can this work? And it rocks. It's just so - it's moving. It's got the action that people love. But it's also just funny. I mean, you know, I always thought that cast was really pretty amusing and sort of bemused by its mission, its five-year, ongoing mission. And I think, you know, J.J. Abrams really pulls off something so lovely because you always want these things to be in the spirit of the original, and that's the trick. Right? So…

CONAN: Right. Well, what summer movies are you looking forward to? 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. Andy joins us on the line from Milwaukee.

ANDY (Caller): Hi. How are you?

CONAN: I'm good, thanks.

ANDY: Oh, fantastic movie, absolutely the best "Star Trek" in, like, 27 years, whenever "Wrath of Khan" was. I can't give it to him. I can't say it's number one, but I got to tell you, he achieved the impossible. He made an odd-numbered movie come off like an even-numbered movie. And, you know, every Trekkie knows what I'm talking about when I say that. I saw a free screening Tuesday in Milwaukee, and I've got to tell you, he did some things and he pulled some stuff in there that I think some people could be really ticked off about, but he pulls it off with such panache and such flair. It's like the "Casino Royale" of "Star Trek."

He boils all the characters down to their essences, and he creates just a compelling story about the characters. And he's - you know, he's really - tweaks them all. So there's stuff that drag down the series over all this time. It was thrilling, and I think it's going to do really well, and people are going to love it.

CONAN: And much easier to take, you would think - as an old fan myself, as you can probably tell - much easier to take this re-creation of the original cast than I'm not - I don't have the energy to go through a new "Star Trek" world.

ANDY: Well, and, you know, it's interesting because I think that what he did is, he kind of combined the best of both worlds, you know, to borrow a title. But I think that he did really good job of, you know, going back to the beginning. I think, you know, there was always room for invention in the series but, you know, I think what people wanted to see, they wanted to see what they'd missed for so long. And, you know, quite frankly, I mean, I don't think there's anyone who didn't feel like the second these characters are introduced on the screen, that it didn't feel - I mean, it did feel like it was just walking in - the regular cast, you know, the characters - and there was no adjustment. It was as if, you know, everything just fit into place just perfectly. I don't know how he did it.

CONAN: Andy, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

ANDY: Sure. Absolutely.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And we have to express a disappointment. Something's come up in the schedule. J.J. Abrams is not going to be able to be with us this afternoon, and we apologize for that. But I'm sure he'll return and give us a full hour some other time, when we can guilt-trip him into it. But in any case - if he's capable of being guilt-tripped. We'll have to see about that.

Lisa Kennedy, as we look ahead to some of the other movies, this is - I had not realized 'til I read your piece in the Denver Post how programmed this summer is and counterprogrammed - make sure that your film doesn't come out the same week as somebody else's film.

Ms. KENNEDY: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, because, you know, because these are the, like, behemoths. And you try to move out of the way of behemoths so you don't get squashed. And they really do sort of bow down to each other and create space in this season. And then the counterprogramming that we're talking about is really, you know, there's romantic comedies this summer to kind of balance some the action flicks that one always assumes women audiences aren't drawn to. I don't think that's always the case. But there's a lot more of that this summer. And then, you know, and then independent films seem a little bit aggressive this summer, too, which is a nice thing, because this is a pretty good slate. So, yeah, there's always, like, moving around and sort of trying to get out of the way of things like, you know, "Wolverine" or "Star Trek." You don't want to be opening the same weekend as "Star Trek."

CONAN: Well, unless you're something very different, like one of those independent movies you're talking about.

Ms. KENNEDY: Right. Exactly. Exactly. And there's some lovely ones.

CONAN: Like?

Ms. KENNEDY: The order - well, the tricky thing in Denver is that I think that some of things that I would say are opening this weekend are not - have already opened in New York and L.A., so you get a little confounded by that. But there's the "Rudo y Cursi" film, with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna reunited. And it's very funny. It's about these two brothers who are soccer players, who leave a village in Mexico to go to Mexico City and play for a soccer team. And it's just a really - it's just sweet comedy but smart about the sort of internal in Mexico, sort of, traveling, you know, migrations that happen. I think that's really - and it's just lovely, because those guys are really cute and funny. So, that's one, certainly.

CONAN: As good as "Sin Nombre"?

Ms. KENNEDY: So different than "Sin Nombre." It's a comedy. So no, not - no, I don't want to say it's as good as, because "Sin Nombre" sort of - I mean, it's extraordinary. So a very different kind of migration. I think you're absolutely right that "Sin Nombre's" a great film.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. Tony's calling from Cincinnati.

TONY (Caller): Hi. Yeah, I'm also looking forward to the new "Star Trek," even - they're not doing midnight showings. They're doing seven and 9 o'clock showings, which kind of ruins the spirit of the midnight show. But I'm also looking forward to the new "Harry Potter." That's going to be, I think - I'm looking forward to seeing the end of that chapter on the - moving to the end of that story on the big screen is going to be a lot of fun.

CONAN: We have an email from Kayla in Des Moines: I'm looking forward to the newest "Harry Potter" movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." Oh, yes, I will be one those silly 20-somethings crammed into the theater with all the little kids. I can't wait.

That's one drawback to seeing the "Harry Potter" movies - unless you go really early in the day on a weekday, Tony.

TONY: I'm a 40-something, and I'll be there midnight, because, you know, good writing's good writing. I don't care who it's for, you know? I - my only concern is my kids are about five years behind it, so as it gets more intense, I have to wait and slowly introduce. They've only seen the first one so far.

CONAN: All right. Well, it's going to be a - you've got something look to forward to.

TONY: Well, and they get Pixar's "Up," which is going to be amazing.

CONAN: Pixar's "Up" - we're going to talk about that in just a moment. But Tony, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

TONY: Thank you.

CONAN: You went through in your piece in the Denver Post, you know, the upside and downside of these. It seems that the "Harry Potter" movie is - well, how could it possibly go wrong? This franchise has been - well, in the hands of different directors, it has prospered.

Ms. KENNEDY: It's prospered, and I think it's just been so brilliantly consistent about what it achieves. So each of those films, they're never sort of - you know, they're good. They're maybe not always extraordinary, but they're always really good and solid. And I think the interesting thing that Tony just said, that I think is very true, is that they're also getting darker. And so this sort of notion that you're competing with little kids at the theater makes me worried about who those little kids' parents are, because some of this stuff is really quite frightening.

But "Harry Potter's" a great - I mean, I think it's just been so consistently smart about magic and muggles and all the challenges thereof.

CONAN: Our caller also mentioned the new Pixar movie, "Up." It's about a 78-year-old man and an 8-year-old boy who go on a journey together. Here they are, well, trudging along together.

(Soundbite of movie, "Up")

Mr. ED ASNER (Actor): (As Carl Fredricksen) Russell, if you don't hurry up, the tigers will eat you.

Mr. JORDAN NAGAI (Actor): (As Russell) There's no tigers in South America. Zoology.

Mr. ASNER: (As Carl Fredricksen) Ah, for the love of Pete. Go on into the bushes and do your business.

Mr. NAGAI: (As Russell) Okay, here. Hold my stuff.

CONAN: And the voice of the curmudgeon, of course, Ed Asner. High hopes for "Up," right? Pixar has never gone wrong.

Ms. KENNEDY: They never go wrong, and you know what I love? I feel like sort of saying, Mr. Grant. But…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KENNEDY: Mr. Grant. But I also like the idea - I mean, not only - the title maybe says it all. It's like "Up." You know, after "WALL-E," which was fun on the back end, but pretty darn dystopian on the front end, it's - you know, it's nice to have something that looks like it's just going to be lovely. And I love that kind of relationship between the sort of, you know, quasi-grandparent and the grandkid. And Asner's got a great voice for this. I'm just really looking forward to it, and it looks beautiful.

CONAN: And this is going to be in 3D, as so many pictures are these days.

Ms. KENNEDY: Oh boy, absolutely; 3D seems to be here to really stay. I mean, people are saying really quite interesting things, I think, about where that technology's headed. And this is not some sort of, like, freak occurrence any longer. This is how we're going to see a lot of films. And they'll probably figure out how to do it without any glasses, even though the new glasses are kind of Ray Band-y, which I love. So…

CONAN: They're pretty cool, but this is one thing we can get in the theater -at least, given the technology now - we cannot get at home. And well, prices being what they are, the economy being what it is, theaters have to differentiate themselves.

Ms. KENNEDY: Precisely. I think this is sort of one of these moments where you really are looking for quote-unquote event films. You know, event film used to just mean tent pole, big film, lots of action. But I really think it means something, like would make you shell out the dough to take your kids, feed your kids and watch a film? And it's like - it's an event. That's why IMAX films are such a big deal, I think. That's why these 3D films are so amazing. That's why 3D IMAX is even more amazing, you know, it's because it has to be. It has to be big for people, I think. It has to feel like something.

CONAN: Here's an email we have from Brian in Syracuse, New York. "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" - I want to have all my comic books back and toys. It's going to be so much fun. Is Brian going to be disappointed?

Ms. KENNEDY: Well, I don't know. He had those toys, and he has those comic books. Maybe he won't be. He's a fan. I have my doubts. I love Channing Tatum, who's one of the characters in it. I think he's a really interesting, young, up-and-coming actor. But right after "Transformers," I don't know if I'm going to be ready for another film that seems based on something that's even more, you know, even further back in terms of its juice than the Transformer toys.

So I think that diminished expectations seem to allow for more enjoyment this summer. So I'm worried about him. I'm not too worried about me. I'll go, and I'll be like holy cow, this is almost good.

CONAN: It's more than Romulans and starships on the big screen this summer. Lisa Kennedy, film critic for the Denver Post, is helping us preview what's worth our nine bucks, and which movies you might be better off waiting for on DVD or On Demand.

What summer movie are you most looking forward to? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Last weekend, "Wolverine" hacked his way to an $85 million haul on opening weekend. Tomorrow -or midnight tonight, some places - "Star Trek" goes boldly back into theaters. Then "Angels and Demons" opens, the next "Terminator," "Up."

There's comedy, romance, indie flicks, plenty of action to keep you busy this summer. You'll laugh. You'll cry. What movie are you most looking forward to and why? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Lisa Kennedy is with us, film critic for the Denver Post. And let's see if we can go now to Stacey(ph), Stacey calling from Glen Carbon in Illinois.

STACEY (Caller): Hey, how are you doing, Neal?

CONAN: I'm very well, thank you.

STACEY: Hey, I'm really looking forward to the "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3."

CONAN: "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3." This is an action (unintelligible) set in the city of New York, where a subway train is taken hostage. And well, Lisa Kennedy, you know as well as I do, it's a remake of a terrific movie.

Ms. KENNEDY: Yeah, yeah, it really is, from the '70s. And - but, you know, I think the cast says a lot, certainly. Tony Scott loves Denzel Washington. That's one of the really fundamental relationships in film culture, right? These two guys have worked together an awful lot. And so I think that they're going to have a great deal of fun. And John Travolta loves - he's the villain in this. He loves being a baddie. So I think that, you know, there are a lot of people who don't know that film. And what they'll do is they'll go see this, and then they'll be like what was that '70s film? And it'll have a revitalized life, too.

CONAN: And the book was also very good - the original book, "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" - that it came from. Stacey, what are you interested in it for?

STACEY: I'm interested in seeing how they can beat the performance of Walter Matthau, (unintelligible) and Bill Cobbs. I'll tell you what, if they can pull that off, they're going to pull off a major leap. It's almost like remaking "The Godfather." Some things you just don't touch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STACEY: When you remake this movie, you're going to be really doing something, and I would recommend anybody see the original if they get a chance, either before or after. I'm really looking forward to it. I like Denzel Washington, I like John Travolta, but I'll tell you, the performances of those original players just in Hector Elizondo and Walter Matthau and Bill Cobbs, who's still with us, you know, it's going to be phenomenal. And I'd be surprised to see if maybe these guys can reprise their roles because we still have Jerry Stiller. We still have Hector Elizondo, and we still have Bill Cobbs. Now, Bill Cobbs has been in the movies forever.

CONAN: I'm not sure they can afford Cobbs for this movie, but…

STACEY: You're probably right. You're probably right. But still, you know, and I know Walter Matthau, you know, God rest his soul, he's not with us anymore, but you know, his performance was just out there. And, I mean, just being a New Yorker myself, I'm telling you. I'm really looking forward to it.

The only thing that's going to beat me being in the theater on opening day is my son's wedding, but other than that, the very next day I'm there.

CONAN: Okay, or get your son to move the ceremony. It's no big deal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Anyway, Stacey, thanks very much for the phone call. Okay. Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Scott, Scott with us from Oswego, New York.

SCOTT (Caller): Hi there, Neal. Longtime listener, first-time caller.

CONAN: Well, thank you.

SCOTT: A couple of things, actually, the first of which you were discussing programming and counter-programming being so critical in the summer season. There was an interesting thing that I read online earlier today. Apparently, future summers being booked out, you know, years in advance, almost like wedding reception halls have to be.

Apparently, now it looks like in 2011, two comic-book movies might be coming into conflict with one another. "The Green Lantern" and "Thor" could conceivably be opening and competing against each other for the same audience on the same day.

CONAN: Well, I think they'll probably figure out a way, Lisa Kennedy, to move one of them around, probably by sticking their fist into a lantern and saying, by darkest day and blackest night - anyway, they may figure this out.

Ms. KENNEDY: I think they may figure it out. And guess what? What's cool about that is he just sort of - we just starting talking about it. It's 2011, they should have them up against each other so we're going what will happen, what will happen, for another, like, two years. It's pretty genius, I think.

SCOTT: It's great cross-promotion. And on that note, actually, with regard to "Star Trek," comic-book tie-ins are now being used almost as pre-prequel setups, where Kurtzman and Orci, the guys that wrote the screenplay for "Star Trek," wrote a story that was adapted into a four-issue miniseries that sets up the events that start the movie.

So some of the critics' responses that I've heard to the film, things that were points of confusion about the movie…

CONAN: Are settled in this - well, yesterday was new comics day. So I missed it, Scott. I'll have to pick it up next year.

SCOTT: Yeah, it's called "Countdown," and it sets everything up. Last thing - I know I'm eating up your time. A smaller film this summer that I'm really jazzed about is called "Moon" with Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Spacey in almost a HAL-9000 sort of role. And I was wondering, Ms. Kennedy, if you had had a chance to screen this or if you knew anything about it.

CONAN: Opens July 3rd in Denver.

Ms. KENNEDY: Yeah, and it is - I did see it, and I like it very much. Duncan Jones has done - this was his first film, a British director, and it has that old-school, sci-fi sort of psychological challenge, you know, energy going on. And it's really - it's pretty moving and kind of very minimal. And, you know, and I think you're absolutely right to mention HAL. And that's also because it's related - I mean, it does feel like "2001: A Space Odyssey."

There's, like, a lot going on in it. It's - and it's - Sam Rockwell's such a fine actor. So there's a lot of that kind of existential wrinkles, I mean, the sort of existential wrinkles, I think, that make things so compelling for science fiction as great kind of fable of human behavior. It's a - and to talk about counter-programming, though, that is such the opposite of all the sort of super-action-driven, special-effects films that are going to be out this summer. It's a nice, quiet, smart, compelling film.

CONAN: Scott, thanks very much.

SCOTT: …Rockwell featuring in "Iron Man 2" next summer. So you do the quiet film so you can do the big one.

Ms. KENNEDY: Oh, yeah, so you can do the big ones, exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Scott, thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it.

SCOTT: Thank you, take care.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Tom, Tom with us from Orlando.

TOM (Caller): Hi, Neal. I - my wife and I are both serious Trekkies, and we are refusing to go to "Star Trek" this weekend because we have heard so much good about it, we want to prolong that moment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM: We don't want it to go by so fast. So we actually had a long discussion last night. Should we go Thursday? No, no. Saturday? No. Let's go middle of the week next week.

CONAN: Middle of the week. It's like waiting for the director's cut so it'll be longer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM: Exactly, but not the original "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." No one needed that to be longer.

CONAN: Oh - well, I think that approach to the docking station took two weeks.

TOM: Oh, golly. I actually had a child during that (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, see? It's a more exciting picture than we thought. Tom, thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can go next to Mark, Mark with us in Berkeley.

MARK (Caller): I am looking forward to sort of an adult movie that I hope will appeal to kids, too. It's called "Little Ashes," and it's about the relationship between the painter Salvador Dali in the '20s and the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. But it stars the vampire from "Twilight" as Dali.

CONAN: Really? I've not heard of this movie. Lisa, is this new to you?

Ms. KENNEDY: It's not new to me, but I don't know a lot about it. That's for sure. It doesn't open for a little while here. So…

CONAN: Have you seen it, Mark?

MARK: No. It's coming out here in June, I believe.

CONAN: And what makes you attracted to it?

MARK: Well, I've always been a fan of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. He's, you know, one of the great modernist - modern poets. I don't know if he's modernist, but from Spain, and so the idea of going to Madrid in the '20s and seeing the artists there, it seems very romantic and interesting. And also, I think it's groundbreaking because it's about the relationship between Dali and Lorca, and Lorca was famous for being gay.

CONAN: Okay, all right, Mark…

MARK: And he also stood up to Franco, more or less.

CONAN: And left. Mark, thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to Matthew, Matthew with us from Clawson in Michigan.

MATTHEW: (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Go ahead, Matthew.

MATTHEW: I'm really looking forward to two movies, actually. One's called "District 9," and it's the new Peter Jackson film. And the other one is just called "Nine," and it's from Tim Burton.

CONAN: So you'll like anything with nine in the title.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MATTHEW: Yeah. (Unintelligible).

CONAN: I didn't know there was a new Tim Burton movie coming out this summer, Lisa.

Ms. KENNEDY: Yeah, I don't know. I think it may have gotten pushed back. I'm not convinced it's in the summer any longer. I'm fairly certain it isn't, actually. I think it's been moved into the fall.

MATTHEW: I just saw a preview for it, like, when I went and saw "Wolverine," so I really don't know if it's this summer, but…

Ms. KENNEDY: I know. It could be next summer. I tell you. No, I don't think it is next summer. I think it's in the fall, though.

CONAN: Our crack research staff has just informed us it's due out September 9, so 9/9.

MATTHEW: Mm-hmm.


CONAN: Thanks very much, Matthew.

MATTHEW: All right, thank you.

CONAN: Here's a Twitter user, MikeBB(ph), who sent us this tweet: "Terminator," "Harry Potter," "G.I. Joe," "Transformers," "Star Trek," "Wolverine," "Night at the Museum 2," "Up." Man, am I glad to have a 12-year old son.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: It is a great excuse to watch everything go blow up real good.

Ms. KENNEDY: Precisely. It's like, hey, I'm here with a kid. I borrow kids for my films.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get to Holly, Holly with us from Louisville.

HOLLY (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Holly.

HOLLY: How are you doing?

CONAN: Very well, thank you.

HOLLY: I just wanted to put a plug in there for Johnny Depp's new film, "Public Enemies." I'm looking forward to seeing it.

CONAN: And this is the John Dillinger story. Of course, John Dillinger ended his life coming out of a movie. This is a great Hollywood story, Lisa Kennedy.

Ms. KENNEDY: I know, a summer blockbuster, I think, is what he came out - no, yeah. It is a great - and, you know, the other thing is, it's Michael Mann's the director, and ...

CONAN: The name of the picture was "Manhattan Melodrama." But anyway, go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KENNEDY: Michael Mann is the director, and, you know, he's done some really amazing things with male actors. I think that he really gets a kind of masculinity, Mr., you know, creator sort of - "Miami Vice" and, you know, "Collateral" with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise, "Heat" with Robert De Niro and Pacino.

I just think that Johnny - if there's a movie that is going to have legs into the Oscar season, this may be one of them because that guy can get great performances. And Johnny Depp is so fascinating. But it looks fun, and they really are engaged with the story of Dillinger and the sort of charming outlaw.

CONAN: There is also - and thanks very much for the call, Holly.

HOLLY: Sure.

CONAN: There is also, if you're talking about male actors and action and directors, "Inglourious Basterds," the new Quentin Tarantino movie.

Ms. KENNEDY: I know. I know. So, it seems like such a minefield. Brad Pitt is the leader of a unit, a clandestine unit of Jewish soldiers that goes behind enemy lines in Germany to kill Nazis.

And so, you're kind of wondering, it's like a "Dirty Dozen" film meets - and I think people said something along these lines - I'm not going to say "Schindler's List" but this sort of notion that you're going to do something -an action film that features the Holocaust seems like, you know, fairly minefield territory.

CONAN: Could be tricky stuff.

Ms. KENNEDY: It could be tricky stuff. I have a lot of confidence in Quentin Tarantino about - because he understands how movies work on us. And his movies are almost always about movies. Maybe he can figure this out.

I just think it's hard to make a movie about the Holocaust that isn't about the Holocaust, as opposed to a movie about the - movies about the Holocaust in some way. So, I'm intrigued. And I do think that, you know, Brad Pitt can be very, very good and very funny, so we'll see.

CONAN: The movie I'm looking forward to, writes Odette(ph) in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada, the movie I'm looking forward to this summer is "Julie & Julia."

I love the book and I'm eager to see all that scrumptious food. I've never gone beyond Julia's onion soup, vichysoisse and beef bourguignon. So I'm curious to see Julie contend with real calf's foot when she makes calf's foot jelly according to Julia. And to see Meryl Streep as Julia Child, what a treat. And she said she loved the book.

Well, this is actually two books.

Ms. KENNEDY: Exactly. One is the autobiography that Julia Child made - Nora Ephron adapted this to the two books. One is the autobiography that Julia Child wrote, the other is Julie Angel - right? That's the part I get confused about because I haven't read the book. I don't…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. KENNEDY: I tend to read them kind of after I see a movie if only because if you do it too soon, you're a little bit like looking at something going, but it's not as good, which is the last thing I think people want to hear from us - to say it's not as good as the book. It's so obvious.

CONAN: Go get - go read the book. But this is that combination of that great book, and we had the author on the show talking about her life as she went through making every single one of Julia Child's recipes. But there's a great story you tell in your column about Meryl Streep auditioning for the part.

Ms. KENNEDY: Oh, yeah, I love that. Because it wasn't really even an audition. I think that she and Nora Ephron were coming out of the same play, and I think they had one of those conversations that friends can have, like, you know, acquaintances can have, which is just like, so what are you up to?

And Nora Ephron's saying, oh, I'm working on this movie about Julia Child. And Meryl Streep was just like, bon appetit, you know, to her. And Nora Ephron is like, you know, hits her head and is just like, hello, this is the perfect person.

And I think that that is just such a funny kismet in a way and just a beautiful story. And who could not, I mean, Meryl Streep is so good these days that, you know, that's enough of a reason to go. And she's become the, like, summer box office, you know, queen.

CONAN: I was just going to say that. Who would expect that Meryl Streep would be the queen of the summer blockbuster?

Ms. KENNEDY: It's the craziest thing, but it's true. And it's amazing. It's like "Mamma Mia!" last year, the year before, "Devil Wears Prada." The - Julia Child is going to be the big - one of the biggest stars of the summer. That's amazing.

CONAN: Lisa…

Ms. KENNEDY: It's a pretty impressive thing.

CONAN: Lisa Kennedy is a film critic for the Denver Post, with us from a studio in Denver.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get Chris(ph) on the line. Chris, calling from San Jose.

CHRIS (Caller): Oh, hi, Neal. I'm interested in a movie called "Whatever Works," a Woody Allen film with Larry David.

CONAN: The prodigal son returns, Lisa.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHRIS: Right.

Ms. KENNEDY: He does, indeed.

CHRIS: And he plays a brilliant string theorist.

CONAN: But this is set for the first time in, what, five years, a Woody Allen movie set in the United States.

CHRIS: Right, in New York City.

CONAN: What an odd place for Woody to pick.

CHRIS: Yeah. And I guess I'm really looking forward to seeing Larry David in a - I supposed this is a serious role, but I'm not sure.

Ms. KENNEDY: You know, I think, well, it's a comedic role, I think, in that sort of romantic comedy way that Woody Allen does those things. But I think that the funny thing about - I like one of these Larry David stories, is that he was reading the script, having been pitched to be this character, Boris, this cranky string theorist that you're talking about.

And he reads this beginning, he's like, oh, good, I'm in it. And then he sort of reads a little bit further, he's like, oh, this guy is still in it. And then he gets to the last page, he's like, oh my God, I'm the guy. And I just think that's such a funny - I love that story. I think it's really quite amusing.

CHRIS: Yeah, it's going to be a good movie.

CONAN: All right. Chris…

Ms. KENNEDY: Yeah, it looks like it'll be fun.

CONAN: …thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Kim(ph). Kim with us from Tonasket in Washington.

KIM (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Kim.

KIM: Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead.

KIM: I'm looking forward to seeing the movie "Angels & Demons."

CONAN: "Angels & Demons," this is the - well, I guess it's sort of a prequel to…

(Soundbite of laughter)

KIM: To "The Da Vinci Code."

CONAN: …to "The Da Vinci Code," which came out a couple of years ago. We have a clip of this movie, where a mysterious canister of antimatter is discovered missing. And what is antimatter?

(Soundbite of movie, "Angels & Demons")

Ms. AYELET ZURER (Actor): (as Vittoria Vetra) It's a way of studying the origins of the universe to try to isolate what some people call the God particle. But there are implications for energy research.

Unidentified Actor: The God particle?

Ms. ZURER: (as Vittoria Vetra) What they call it isn't important. It's what gives all matter mass, the thing without which we could not exist.

Mr. HANKS: (as Robert Langdon) You're talking about the moment of creation.

Ms. ZURER: (as Vittoria Vetra) Yes. You're right, I am.

CONAN: So nothing important being discussed in this picture at all.

KIM: Yeah, the book was great. Lots of plot twists and turns, and that was very exciting. And since it's a Ron Howard film, I just think it's going to be great.

CONAN: Lisa Kennedy, was I the only person who could detect an accent slipping in just that clip?

Ms. KENNEDY: I thought that that was a comedy. I'm sorry, I don't know which -it's terrible. I think it's one of those, like, clips that makes you giggle when it shouldn't, and doesn't necessarily mean the movie won't be really quite fun.

CONAN: And Ron Howard, when he's having a good time, is a wonderful director.

Ms. KENNEDY: I think so, too. And he can be so good. It's just I actually thought he seemed a little tight with "The Da Vinci Code." I found it a little, like, sort of airless myself, and long. Airless and long is not a good thing.

But, you know, I know certain people liked it. And I think that he has at least a little bit more wiggle room because, as much as people like "Angels & Demons," I don't think it has, as a book, the same sort of, how is he going to work it, is it going to be good, what is he going to screw up, pressures. And I think that will make him, I hope, like enjoy himself because, you're right, I think when he's, like, enjoying himself, we'll enjoy ourselves.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Kim. Good luck.

KIM: All right. Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And finally, this email from Deana(ph) in Kramer in Saskatoon. I am most excited about the indie film "A Hundred Days of Summer." It puts a new twist on love, romance, loss and yearning. I've seen the trailer. I've sent the trailer to all my friends, and I hope everybody checks it out.

Well, Lisa Kennedy, we hope it makes it to Denver.

Ms. KENNEDY: Oh, it'll definitely make it to Denver. And it'll probably be "500 Days of Summer"…

CONAN: By the time it gets there to Saskatoon anyway.

Ms. KENNEDY: Well, actually, exactly. It's like they're getting the, like, abridged version.

CONAN: Lisa Kennedy, the film critic for the Denver Post. Thanks very much for your time today.

Ms. KENNEDY: Well, thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up, the secret onto how David beats Goliath. Quit playing by Goliath's rules. Maxwell - Malcolm Gladwell will join us.

This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.