Bob Mondello

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The upbeat summer musical "In The Heights" was widely expected to lead the weekend at cinemas.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) In the heights...

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Actor Samuel E. Wright, the voice of Sebastian the crab in Disney's "The Little Mermaid," has died. Wright was 74 and a stage veteran who had appeared in Broadway musicals and other films, as critic Bob Mondello remembers.

Updated May 18, 2021 at 4:30 PM ET

Actor Charles Grodin, whose comic characters were almost always hapless, and whose serious characters generally gave that trademark haplessness a sinister twist, died Tuesday of cancer at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 86.

His death, from bone marrow cancer, was confirmed to NPR by his son, actor Nicholas Grodin.

With just two weeks to go before A Quiet Place Part II makes your local multiplex a less quiet place, Hollywood has started the back-to-cinemas drumroll.

"There's nothing like that moment when the lights go down," growls Vin Diesel, channeling his inner Richard Attenborough in a trailer for F9, the latest Fast & Furious installment. "The projector ignites, and we believe."

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With Hollywood blockbusters still missing-in-action — it'll be weeks before A Quiet Place Part II makes your local cinema a less quiet place — it's nice to report that other countries are happy to fill American screens.

Scotland's refugee dramedy Limbo, opens in select art-house theaters this weekend, as does Cliff Walkers, a spy-flick from celebrated Chinese director Zhang Yimou, and both boast visual palettes eminently worthy of the big screen.

Nomadland, the epic odyssey of a woman who loses her job and her home and joins the growing number of Americans living out of vans as they search for work, is the big winner at the 2021 Academy Awards.

It was named Best Picture, beating out the likes of Aaron Sorkin's historical drama Trial of the Chicago 7, and David Fincher's story of old Hollywood, Mank, about the creation of Citizen Kane.

Forget #OscarsSoWhite for 2021. With wins for Youn Yuh-jung as Best Supporting Actress, and Daniel Kaluuya for Best Supporting Actor, there is a real possibility that performers of color will sweep all four of this year's Oscars for acting.

Pixar's Soul has won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, becoming the only film ever to win that award without playing in U.S. movie theaters.

Last October, with the COVID-19 pandemic having closed most of the nation's cinemas, Disney announced that it was opting to release Soul — which centers on a jazz musician who's trying to reunite his accidentally separated soul and body – as a Christmas release exclusively on its streaming service Disney+.

After years marked by the hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale, industry observers are crowing over this year's topline numbers. For the first time in Academy Awards history, almost half the nominees in the acting categories (9 of 20) are performers of color, and more women (70) are nominated throughout the 23 categories than in any previous year.

Oscar's box-office bounce this year is a resounding thud.

Most awards seasons find film fans seeking out Best Picture nominees in the run-up to the Academy Awards telecast, with the eventual winner reaping millions of additional dollars post-telecast.

This past year of masks, lockdowns and capacity restrictions has been the most catastrophic 12 months in the history of movie theaters. It has also been a banner year for diversity at the Oscars.

ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theaters said late Monday they are ceasing operations, closing all of their roughly 300 screens mostly found in California.

None has inspired more distress among Hollywood notables than the Cinerama Dome on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.

"After shutting our doors more than a year ago," the company said in a statement, "today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theaters locations."

It's Capetown, 1981. A family gathers for what looks like a back-slapping birthday party — but is actually a farewell.

In the South African drama Moffie, Nicholas, a teenager who's as subdued as his relatives are raucous, will head off in the morning for military service that's compulsory for boys between 16 and 20. White boys that is. This being the era of apartheid, brutal segregation, and white minority rule, his basic training will prove anything-but-basic.

The pandemic has had most of Hollywood cowering for the last year or so, but nothing intimidates a Titan.

Crashing in where even Marvel's Black Widow fears to tread, Godzilla vs. Kong is opening on any screen that'll make room for it — home or cinematic. And with theaters coming back to life in Los Angeles and New York City, there's a lot of fresh real estate for them to trample.

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Every aspiring writer should be as lucky as Joanna Rakoff. She was able to turn the story of her first job into a memoir. Now that memoir has been turned into a movie. Bob Mondello has our review of "My Salinger Year."

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When you've played King Lear, Hannibal Lecter, Richard Nixon, a pope, and a superhero's dad, there are not a lot of acting hills left to climb. But critic Bob Mondello says Anthony Hopkins has found one that might be his steepest yet - the title role in the film, "The Father."

Chloe Zhao's tale of a widow (played by Frances McDormand) who is reduced to living in her van after the Great Recession, is regarded as a front-runner for this year's Academy Awards.

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A young family, a fresh start, a lot of baby chicks and a grandmother who comes to stay - critic Bob Mondello says the Golden Globe nominee "Minari" has everything it needs to be the year's most heartwarming film.

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Imagine a global pandemic where people don't get sick; they just forget - contagious memory loss. That is the premise of a new movie called "Little Fish." Critic Bob Mondello says it'll stick with you.

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That report was produced by NPR senior arts editor Tom Cole, which we would not normally mention, except Tom is retiring this week after 33 years at NPR. Congratulations, Tom. Our critic Bob Mondello has thoughts.

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George Clooney envisions the end of the world in his new movie "The Midnight Sky." And our critic Bob Mondello says he does that both on screen and from the director's chair.

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