Holiday Treats From Hollywood NPR's Bob Mondello offers a selective preview of Hollywood's brightly wrapped holiday baubles. On tap: two films from Steven Spielberg, Ralph Finnes' directing debut and others.

Holiday Treats From Hollywood

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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Last weekend, vampires and penguins took over the cineplex. Thanksgiving has brought a Muppet invasion. So, what next? Well, there are 37 days left in 2011, and almost that many movies waiting to open. So, we asked Bob Mondello for a select preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: How do you like your Steven Spielberg? Classy and epic, like "Saving Private Ryan," or raucous and comic, like "Indiana Jones"? Actually, this year, you're OK either way because in the space of a single week, Spielberg will open two potential blockbusters. The "Indiana Jones"-ish one is a treasure hunt based on a comic book: "The Adventures of Tintin."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Character) I don't think you realize this, but you're about to walk into a whole mess of danger.

MONDELLO: It's Spielberg's first foray into 3-D motion capture technology.


JAMIE BELL: (as Character) Look at this.

MONDELLO: The results are pretty gorgeous - nonstop action on several continents, not to mention in the air and at sea. And a mere four days after "Tintin" opens, the director will be back with a drama that's a bit more hooves on the ground, as it were. A battlefield saga set in World War I about a British youngster and a noble steed.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as Character) What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (as Character) It's a horse, if I'm wondering about in no man's land.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What kind of a horse?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: A miraculous kind of a horse would be my guess.

MONDELLO: "War Horse" is also a hit play on Broadway at the moment, and Spielberg's not the only one who's looking stageward for the holidays. There will be star-studded Shakespeare. "Coriolanus," which will mark the directing debut of Ray Fiennes, and the Broadway smash, "Gods of Carnage," will hit the screen as just "Carnage," a comedy in which two couples meet to discuss a fight between their 11-year-old sons.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (as Character) Do you know what they were arguing about because Ethan won't say a word?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (as Character) Ethan wouldn't let Zachary be a part of his gang.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (as Character) Ethan has a gang?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (as Character) And he called him a snitch.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (as Character) Did you know that Ethan had a gang?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: (as Character) No, but I'm thrilled to hear it.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (as Character) Why are you thrilled?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Because I had one. I was the leader.


MONDELLO: By the end, director Roman Polanski will have these folks behaving even more childishly than their kids - any more childish, in fact, and you'd need to call a sitter, though probably not the one from "The Sitter," who's lazy and irresponsible, as played by Jonah Hill. Other misbehaving grown-ups include a mean-spirited writer of teen fiction in "Young Adults," who returns to her hometown to reclaim her high school boyfriend.


CHARLIZE THERON: (as Mavis) You can come to the city with me like we always planned.

PATRICK WILSON: (as Buddy) Mavis, I'm a married man.

THERON: (as Mavis) No, we can be this thing together.

MONDELLO: As written by Diablo Cody and played by Charlize Theron, this is a woman on a mission. Men try to stop her, at their peril. And that's something you might also say of men who come up against Maggie Thatcher, at least as she's pictured in the film, "Iron Lady." We meet the British prime minister when she's in her (unintelligible), remembering when she was first being groomed to run for elective office.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: (as Character) That hat has got to go. And the pearls. But the main thing is your voice. It's too high and it has no authority.

MERYL STREEP: (as Margaret Thatcher) I may be persuaded to surrender the hat, the pearls, however, are absolutely non-negotiable.

MONDELLO: Meryl Streep transforming herself again.


STREEP: (as Margaret Thatcher) That's the tone if we want to strike.

MONDELLO: You can't hand Streep an Oscar nomination just yet, though, because Glenn Close has an even bigger transformation up her sleeve. In "Albert Nobbs," she plays a woman who managed for 30 years in 19th century Ireland to pass as a man.


JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS: (as Viscount Yarrell) Yes, you're a woman.

GLENN CLOSE: (as Albert Nobbs) You won't tell on me?

MEYERS: (as Viscount Yarrell) What's your name?

CLOSE: (as Albert Nobbs) Albert.

MEYERS: (as Viscount Yarrell) Your real name.

CLOSE: (as Albert Nobbs) Albert.

MONDELLO: As long as we're introducing possible Best Actress nominees, let's include the English language "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Rooney Mara.


ROONEY MARA: (as Lisbeth Salander) Hey, hey, who do you think you are?

DANIEL CRAIG: (as Mikael Blomkvist) Can I call you Lisbeth? I want you to help me catch a killer of women.

MONDELLO: That other voice is Daniel Craig, and they're directed by David Fincher, who proved with "Zodiac" and "Seven" that he knows his way around a suspense film. There are quite a lot of those in the holiday mix, including a fresh version of an espionage classic by John Le Carre.


GARY OLDMAN: (as George Smiley) All I want from you is one codename: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

MONDELLO: Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, stepping into shoes once occupied by Alec Guinness. For those who prefer a pop take on covert operations, Tom Cruise and his "Impossible" missions force are back in "Ghost Protocol," primed presumably not to become ghosts.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: (as Character) The Russians are classifying this as an undeclared act of war. The blame points to you and your team. The president has initiated the ghost protocol. The entire IMF has been disbarred.

TOM CRUISE: (as Ethan Hunt) So, what happens now?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: Your mission, should you choose to accept...

MONDELLO: Oops, well, that's awkward. Guess they're on their own. OK. Let's shift gears for a sec. This being Hollywood's prestige season when everyone's jockeying for awards consideration, the art house crowd will have plenty to choose from, including a separation about a family in Iran faced with a life-altering decision. "Shame," in which Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict whose life is in crisis. In "The Land of Blood and Honey," an ethnic cleansing drama that finds Angelina Jolie not in front of the camera but behind it as both writer and director, and "Pariah," the story of an African-American teen who's growing up lesbian in Brooklyn.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (as Character) I'm really sorry I looked out. It's just I didn't know that you - I wasn't expecting that...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: (as Character) First kiss? It's cool.

MONDELLO: Her parents don't think it's so cool when she explains the title pariah. Other stories dealing with family crises include "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," based on a novel about the aftermath of 9/11, "We Need to Talk about Kevin," in which Tilda Swinton tries to understand why her teenage son went on a killing spree, "We Bought a Zoo," based on a memoir about a family that, well, buys a zoo. And though I hesitate to mention this one - the saga of a long-planned family cruise ship vacation that goes terribly awry.


JUSTIN LONG: (as Alvin) I'm the king of the world.

JASON LEE: (as Dave) Alvin.

LONG: (as Alvin) Oh, brother.

MONDELLO: "Chip-Wrecked" with singing chipmunks. Not the way you want to spend the holidays? Well, there are other horrors at the cineplex - alien invaders, abandoned children, a film directed by Madonna. Happily, there are also heroes you can count on. Among them, Sherlock Holmes and Watson in "A Game of Shadows."


ROBERT DOWNEY JR: (as Sherlock Holmes) What are we up against here?

JUDE LAW: (as John Watson) The most formidable criminal mind in Europe. Professor James Moriarty.

JR: (as Sherlock Holmes) If we can stop him, we shall prevent the collapse of Western civilization. No pressure.

MONDELLO: No pressure at all, except maybe at the box office. I'm Bob Mondello.


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