Bob Mondello | WYPR

Bob Mondello

When Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and her partner (Michaela Watkins) arrive in small-town Alabama for the reading of her grandfather's will, she thinks they're inheriting a house. But to pay for his final years, he'd taken out a reverse mortgage, so instead, she's handed ... an antique sword.

Is it weird to keep asserting that Summer Movie Season starts Memorial Day weekend, when Avengers: Endgame, the ultimate summer movie, and also the year's (the decade's! the century's!) biggest blockbuster, opened last month?

Maybe. Sure. Who cares?

"Summer movie" is a term, after all, that has taken on a negative connotation, as it tends to be deployed by those looking to sniffily dismiss the whole crop of films that come out in the months without an R. See also: "popcorn movies," "comic-book movies."

Let's specify right at the start that movies are not history, and that biopics take liberties.

Not taking liberties would mean not shaping the material of life to make it dramatic, so you'd never get a scene like, say, the one in which a young Tolkien and his college buddies declare undying devotion — declaring their friendship "a fellowship."

I'm gonna guess that that particular coinage didn't happen like that.

In its first issue of 2019, National Geographic named a shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina "the world's most beautiful bookstore." NPR was ahead of the curve. Bob Mondello filed this report 18 years ago, shortly after the Teatro Gran Splendid was converted into El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

Two films open this week with titles that make them sound a lot sexier than they are: On the Basis of Sex and Vice.

They're both biopics — Sex about a liberal Supreme Court justice, Vice a conservative vice president. But they differ in ways that go far deeper than politics.

On The Basis Of Sex

In the Lebanese movie Capernaum (the title translates to "chaos," an apt description of the world of the film), skinny, sad-eyed Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is 12 years old, though he's so tiny he could pass for eight.

He's running and playing with other kids in the streets of Beirut under the opening credits. Once those credits are done, we watch as he's led past TV reporters into a courtroom, where he barely comes up to the waist of the soldier who's brought him. He looks firmly at the judge who asks him why he's there.

"I want to sue my parents," he says.

At the movies, 2018 was the year of Black Panther, the year of more Incredibles and Avengers, more Star Wars and Mission: Impossible. But it was also the year of intimate stories of youth and love. It was the year of period pieces and fantasies, crushing tragedies and raucous comedies. Bob Mondello, Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon would never agree on a single list of best movies of the year. But here are 15 of the movies we admired and will remember.

Black Panther

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Do not expect corgis and decorum. That's the word on the new movie comedy "The Favourite." There's palace intrigue and a British monarch, an 18th-century one - Queen Anne played by Olivia Colman. Our critic Bob Mondello has this review.

Young Lara is asleep as Girl, Belgium's official submission for this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film, begins. Her mane of straight blonde hair falls across her cheek as her five-year-old brother Milo (Oliver Bodart) climbs onto her bed, whispering her name.

It's clearly a ritual: As she wakes, she stays motionless — then, suddenly, hoists him in the air. The boy giggles.

Virtue is often associated with beauty, and evil with ugliness. But in Argentina in the 1970s, there was a teen serial killer so strikingly becoming he was known as El Angel — the Angel of Death.

Fall is often the most intense movie season of all. Awards contenders begin to come into focus after the Toronto International Film Festival, while comedies and thrillers continue to hit screens. We got to see a lot of upcoming films at TIFF — below you'll find write-ups of 15 movies we really enjoyed and a heads-up about nearly 40 notable releases.

Actor Burt Reynolds, who played good ol' boys and rugged action heroes in an acting career that spanned seven decades, has died. Reynolds died Thursday morning at a Florida hospital following a heart attack. He was 82.

Spike Lee's new movie, BlackkKlansman, is based on a true story, but the plot sounds crazy enough that you'd be excused for thinking he'd just made it up. It's about an African-American police officer, Ron Stallworth, who went undercover in the 1970s to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan ... by joining it.

Stallworth was the first black officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. In the film, when his chief and the mayor tell him they're hoping he'll "open things up," they don't anticipate that he'll go about that task in quite the way he chooses to do so.

The first image in Robert Schwentke's The Captain is an open field. You hear World War II coming before you see it — an off-key trumpet, gunshots, the roar of a truck.

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At one point early in the new Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War, the big, purple bad guy snarls, "The end ... is near."

In a way, he's talking about the Avengers movies themselves. The superhero supergroup has already saved the world in three movies and countless comic books. But this time they're up against that aforementioned bad guy — a violet-colored villainous space-tryant called Thanos (Josh Brolin) — and it's not just the world that's in danger, at least according to his estranged daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

Eight seconds.

That's how long a rodeo cowboy has to stay on a bucking bronco to complete his ride. In writer/director Chloe Zhao's gorgeous and heartbeakingly humane new movie The Rider, she shows us how one such cowboy made it through those eight seconds — only to have his entire life transformed by what happened one second later.

What happens to a relationship when its rules change?

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This Sunday night, some nattily dressed Oscars presenter will read the names of this year's five nominees for best foreign-language film. The politically-charged Foxtrot — which received funding from the Israeli government as well as condemnation from Israel's culture minister (who boasts that she has not seen it) — won't be among them.

That's a shame.

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev's Loveless -- Russia's submission to this year's Academy Awards, and one of the five movies up for best foreign language film come Oscar night — begins with two parents screaming at each other about their upcoming divorce.

They're trying to sell their apartment, and it quickly becomes clear that their relationship is so toxic they'd probably sell their kid, too, if they could get away with it. Neither of them wants to take care of 12-year-old Aloysha (Matvey Novikov), who's sobbing quietly in the shower as they argue.

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By the time Angels In America got to Broadway in 1993, after workshops, a pair of west-coast stagings, and an ecstatically received London production, it played like the smash audiences had heard it was.

When Orlando (Francisco Reyes) enters a rooftop supper-club in Santiago at the beginning of the film, he can't take his eyes off Marina (Daniela Vega), a striking young vocalist who's crooning lyrics about throwing her boyfriend out with the garbage because, she sings, his love "is like yesterday's newspaper."

She sings that line straight to Orlando, with a little smile. She's definitely not throwing him away ... she's moving into his apartment as soon as they celebrate her 27th birthday.

January is not generally known for its prestige movie premieres. Audiences are usually still catching up on Oscar nominees, which means critics have to look further afield for interesting films. This year, I happened on a comedy that won't be opening in the U.S. for a while — but it struck a chord.

'Molly's Game' Is Aces

Dec 23, 2017

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is a fighter.

When a freak accident on the slopes sidelines her bid to become an Olympic skier — an accident from which she insists upon walking away — she moves to Los Angeles and gets a job as a cocktail waitress.

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