What Movies Hollywood Prepared For The Reopening Of Theaters

May 25, 2020
Originally published on May 25, 2020 8:20 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Memorial Day usually kicks off Hollywood's blockbuster season, but this summer is tricky. Audiences may or may not show up. Big theater chains can't open without new movies. And studios won't release new movies until theaters are open nationally. Still, critic Bob Mondello says industry observers expect the delayed summer movie season to start in late June. And on that basis, he's crossing fingers and doing a summer movie preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Here's what we will definitely not see this summer - Tom Cruise flying military jets in "Top Gun: Maverick," Vin Diesel beating on his little brother in "Fast And Furious 9," a "Minions" prequel, a "Ghostbusters" sequel and Marvel's version of vampires. Will we survive? I suspect we will, especially since Christopher Nolan, whose "Dark Knight" trilogy and "Dunkirk" got audiences to seek out the biggest possible screens, has a time-bending espionage tale to lure folks back to theaters.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

MARTIN DONOVAN: (As character) All I have for you is a word - tenet.

MONDELLO: As in belief or principle that brings people together.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

DONOVAN: (As character) It'll open the right doors...

MONDELLO: As long as it opens theater doors.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

DONOVAN: (As character) ...Some of the wrong ones, too.

CLEMENCE POESY: (As character) We're trying to prevent World War III.

JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON: (As character) Nuclear holocaust. Yeah.

POESY: (As character) No, something worse.

MONDELLO: Talk about capturing the current mood. That should get the summer going. Actually, there's a road rage thriller that's scheduled to open before "Tenet." It's called "Unhinged" and stars Russell Crowe.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNHINGED")

RUSSELL CROWE: (As The Man) I don't think you really know what a bad day is, but you will find out.

MONDELLO: Other films about folks having a bad day include "Sputnik," in which a Soviet astronaut comes back to Earth and discovers something's come back with him - or rather, inside him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALIEN SCREECHING)

MONDELLO: Also "Antebellum," in which an author, played by Janelle Monae, thinks she's on top of the world...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ANTEBELLUM")

JANELLE MONAE: (As Veronica) We are the future. Our time is now.

MONDELLO: ...Until she's somehow transported...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ANTEBELLUM")

MONAE: (As Veronica) I'm coming.

MONDELLO: ...To a plantation slave house in the 1860s, where the producers of "Us" and "Get Out" have some tricky problems for her to solve. And remember how the suspense flick "A Quiet Place" plunged us right into the action by starting on Day 89 of the critter invasion? Well, "A Quiet Place Part II" takes us back to Day 1.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A QUIET PLACE PART II")

EMILY BLUNT: (As Evelyn Abbott) What is going on?

(SOUNDBITE OF BLARING HORN)

BLUNT: (As Evelyn Abbott) It's OK. We're OK. We're OK.

NOAH JUPE: (As Marcus Abbott) That's Dad. That's Dad - Dad. Dad.

BLUNT: (As Evelyn Abbott) Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where? Where?

JUPE: (As Marcus Abbott) Mom. Mom.

BLUNT: (As Evelyn Abbott) Oh, my...

(SOUNDBITE OF CRASH)

MONDELLO: Enough suspense. Need something gentler? Well, music soothes the savage breast.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GORDON LIGHTFOOT: IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Ladies and gentlemen, Gordon Lightfoot.

MONDELLO: "Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind" leads a parade of music documentaries.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GORDON LIGHTFOOT: IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: If there was a Mount Rushmore candidate, Gordon would be on it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: He's a Canadian national hero, but he also speaks with a voice for anyone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNDOWN")

GORDON LIGHTFOOT: (Singing) I could see her lying back in her satin dress.

MONDELLO: Also on tap, a Beatles documentary from "Lord Of The Rings" director Peter Jackson.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET BACK")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Get back. Get back.

MONDELLO: For the film "Get Back," Jackson was given access to 55 hours of previously unseen Beatles footage and 140 hours of mostly unheard recordings. Another documentary, called "Suzi Q," has Suzi Quatro and her sisters remembering that era from their perspective.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "SUZI Q")

SUZI QUATRO: It was right after watching the Beatles us neighborhood girls got on their phone. What about an all-girl band?

PATTI QUATRO: We were the earliest female group that rocked hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN THE CAN")

S QUATRO: (Singing) So make a stand for your man.

MONDELLO: And the magazine that watched them rock hard is the subject of another doc - CREEM, which called itself America's only rock 'n' roll magazine.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CREEM: AMERICA'S ONLY ROCK 'N' ROLL MAGAZINE")

JEFF DANIELS: Buying CREEM was a little bit like buying Playboy. You didn't want your parents to see either one of them.

MONDELLO: Other documentaries include "Boys State," about a program that teaches high school students the practicalities of government and leadership, and "John Lewis: Good Trouble," about a legislator who lives and breathes the practicalities of government and leadership.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE")

JOHN LEWIS: My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right, not fair, do something. Get in trouble - good trouble, necessary trouble.

MONDELLO: The main characters in three World War II dramas would nod their heads at that philosophy. There's "Summerland," about a folklorist who finds herself taking care of a young boy during the Blitz.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SUMMERLAND")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Who was in the house? His mother is.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) You just have to wait like everyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) How long?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) It takes days.

MONDELLO: "Rocket Hunter," about a pilot on a mission to knock out the German rockets used in the Blitz.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ROCKET HUNTER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Close the doors to the tunnels now.

MONDELLO: And "The Painted Bird," about a Jewish boy seeking refuge in war-torn Eastern Europe. Dramas dealing with other eras include "Tesla," an intriguingly eccentric 19th century biopic with Ethan Hawke as the electrical engineer who out-thought Thomas Edison; the "Sound Of Metal," starring rapper Riz Ahmed as a rock drummer faced with sudden deafness; and "Fatima," in which professor Harvey Keitel interviews a nun who claimed in her youth to have seen the Virgin Mary on a hilltop in Portugal.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FATIMA")

HARVEY KEITEL: (As Professor Nichols) If someone were to say to you why what happened all those years ago had to have happened to you, how would you respond?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Because it was necessary.

KEITEL: (As Professor Nichols) And do you have any regrets?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) I haven't done enough to please my mother.

KEITEL: (As Professor Nichols) Which mother?

MONDELLO: That's a lot of serious films for audiences who are likely to be craving escapism. But rest assured, superheroes remain immune to COVID-19. Marvel's got some young recruits with X-Men potential in "The New Mutants," though it's locked them up.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE NEW MUTANTS")

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY: (As Illyana Rasputin/Magik) This isn't a hospital. It's a cage.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Together, we can get out of here.

MONDELLO: And everybody's favorite Amazon is back in "Wonder Woman 1984" with her boy toy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

CHRIS PINE: (As Steve Trevor) I can see today you can save the world.

GAL GADOT: (As Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) Steve.

MONDELLO: Now, Chris Pine's Steve died in the first movie, so something interesting is up. Also, Wonder Woman will be battling Cheetah, a woman villain. So the feminism of the first movie is intact. Gal Gadot is not the only gal doing battle this summer. There's also the formerly animated Disney warrior "Mulan," now in live action.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MULAN")

YIFEI LIU: (As Mulan) Loyal, brave and true. It is my duty to protect my family.

MONDELLO: "Mulan" is aimed at a younger crowd. So are Disney's animated gorilla movie "The One And Only Ivan;" a fresh remake of a children's classic, "The Secret Garden;" and what I suppose is a lesser classic, the latest "SpongeBob" adventure, "Sponge On The Run."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN")

TOM KENNY: (As Spongebob Squarepants) Gary, I'm home. Gary. Garebear (ph). Gary. Gary. Have you seen Gary?

CLANCY BROWN: (As Mr. Krabs) No.

CAROLYN LAWRENCE: (As Sandy Cheeks) Nope.

RODGER BUMPASS: (As Squidward) Nope.

KENNY: (As Spongebob) Gary's been snailnapped (ph). Gary.

MONDELLO: There are laughs for adults, too. In "The Truth," Catherine Deneuve has written a somewhat fanciful memoir, and Juliette Binoche is the truth-telling daughter who visits with family in tow.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE TRUTH")

CLEMENTINE GRENIER: (As Charlotte) The house looks like a castle.

ETHAN HAWKE: (As Hank) It does?

JULIETTE BINOCHE: (As Lumir) Yes, even though there's a prison just behind it.

MONDELLO: And speaking of truth-telling, the comedy "The Climb" is about best friends who are on a mountain bike ride when a truth comes between them.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CLIMB")

KYLE MARVIN: (As Kyle) Mike, I'm getting married. How awesome is that?

MICHAEL ANGELO COVINO: (As Mike) Awesome.

MARVIN: (As Kyle) She loves me for who I am, and I love her for who she is. And I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with her.

COVINO: (As Mike) I slept with her.

MARVIN: (As Kyle) What? What do you mean slept? If I catch you, I'm going to kill you.

COVINO: (As Mike) I know. That's why I waited for the hill. Yeah, you got this.

MARVIN: (As Kyle) Mike, shut up.

MONDELLO: Best friends forever in "The Climb," sort of like the high school pals who are back this summer for the first time in almost three decades - Bill and Ted, middle-aged in "Bill & Ted Face The Music." Think they've grown up? Have we? Only one way to find out.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE")

KEANU REEVES: (As Ted) Party on, dudes.

MONDELLO: Socially distanced, of course.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.