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What Movies To Expect This Fall

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Hollywood's much delayed summer blockbuster season is barely one weekend old and already it's Labor Day, so it's time to talk about fall movies. The spy thriller "Tenet" proved over the weekend that pandemic-weary audiences will return to cinemas for the right film. So assuming it's safe where you are, what's the next right film? Well, we've got some possibilities in critic Bob Mondello's fall movie preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: When the coronavirus struck, Tinseltown's men all hightailed it to next year - Vin Diesel in "Fast & Furious 9," Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick," even Gru in the "Minions." So fall falls to the women, and they're hitting reset by looking to the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK WIDOW")

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: (As Natasha Romanoff) The Avengers weren't my first family.

MONDELLO: Marvel's "Black Widow."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK WIDOW")

FLORENCE PUGH: (As Yelena Belova) Natasha, my sister, after all this time, what brings you home?

JOHANSSON: (As Natasha Romanoff) We have unfinished business.

PUGH: (As Yelena Belova) Who's we?

MONDELLO: Two trained assassins working together - this is how Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow upped her game between "Civil War" and "Infinity War."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK WIDOW")

PUGH: (As Yelena Belova) OK. You got a plan or shall I just stay duck and cover?

JOHANSSON: (As Natasha Romanoff) Yeah. My plan was to drive us away.

PUGH: (As Yelena Belova) Well, your plan sucks.

MONDELLO: Family, am I right? For a DC superheroine played by Gal Gadot, the problem is an envious gal pal played by Kristen Wiig.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

KRISTEN WIIG: (As Barbara Minerva) You've always had everything while people like me have had nothing. Well, now it's my turn.

GAL GADOT: (As Wonder Woman) Barbara, what did you do?

MONDELLO: She's become an apex predator in "Wonder Woman 1984." The '80s were a time of relative enlightenment for women in the non-comics world as opposed to the 1940s depicted in the espionage thriller "A Call To Spy."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CALL TO SPY")

STANA KATIC: (As Vera Atkins) Churchill has asked us to create a secret army of spies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) This is a rudimentary operation.

LINUS ROACHE: (As Maurice Buckmaster) Women will be more inconspicuous.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Make sure they're pretty.

KATIC: (As Vera Atkins) For you or for the Germans?

MONDELLO: And things haven't changed much by the 1970s as contestants in beauty pageants well knew.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISBEHAVIOUR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) We really believe beauty isn't just skin deep. The girls also have charm, grace, good deportment.

RHYS IFANS: (As Eric Morley) Swimsuits.

MONDELLO: The film "Misbehaviour" recreates the 1970 Miss World pageant, Gugu Mbatha-Raw lining up on one side...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISBEHAVIOUR")

LOREECE HARRISON: (As Pearl Jansen) I'm the first Black South African to take part.

GUGU MBATHA-RAW: (As Jennifer Hosten) I'm the first Miss Grenada.

MONDELLO: ...Keira Knightley on another.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISBEHAVIOUR")

JESSIE BUCKLEY: (As Jo Robinson) They're turning oppression into a spectacle. Let's make a spectacle of our own. We'd infiltrate the theater.

MONDELLO: About that same time, singer Helen Reddy was fighting Capital Records when she wanted to record the song that gives her biopic its title.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "I AM WOMAN")

TILDA COBHAM-HERVEY: (As Helen Reddy, singing) I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) It's kind of angry.

MATTY CARDAROPLE: (As Roy Meyer) It's man hating.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Jeff, you OK with this?

EVAN PETERS: (As Jeff Wald) What are you doing? You want to lose your recording contract?

COBHAM-HERVEY: (As Helen Reddy) This is more than just a song to me.

MONDELLO: She'd be joined on movie screens by fellow feminists Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug played by Julianne Moore and Bette Midler if the producers of the biopic "The Glorias" hadn't decided to stream it instead to get the widest possible audience by Election Day. Other films centered on women include "Kajillionaire" about an unhappy teenager in a family of petty criminals...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "KAJILLIONAIRE")

RICHARD JENKINS: (As Robert) She learned to forge before she learned to write. No, actually, that's how she did learn to write.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) So what do your parents do, hun?

EVAN RACHEL WOOD: (As Old Dolio) Hun - you've never called me that. I bet you could if it was a job, though, right?

MONDELLO: ...And the French film "Sibyl" about a psychotherapist who's corralled into refereeing disputes on a film set.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SIBYL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character) Action.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #7: (As character) I just have to sit back and watch reality destroy things.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character) Keep the drama fictional, if you don't mind.

MONDELLO: It's worth noting that all of these films don't just feature women. They were directed by women. A woman director will also tackle the fall's most awaited genre flick.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CANDYMAN")

YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN II: (As Anthony McCoy) I just moved in around the corner.

COLMAN DOMINGO: (As William Burke) The old candy factory.

ABDUL-MATEEN: (As Anthony McCoy) I'm an artist.

DOMINGO: (As William Burke) You're looking for Candyman

MONDELLO: Nia DaCosta's "Candyman" produced by Jordan Peele will hold up a new mirror to the racial and gender issues of the original, which is not to suggest that men will be missing in action this fall. In fact, Netflix just kicked Oscar season into high gear by announcing David Fincher's black-and-white 1930s-style biopic "Mank" about the man who wrote "Citizen Kane". And elsewhere, men will have their usual swagger, whether contending with an extinction-level event in the disaster flick "Greenland..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREENLAND")

MORENA BACCARIN: (As Allison Garrity) John, go.

GERARD BUTLER: (As John Garrity) I swear I'm going to get my family into that bunker.

MONDELLO: ...Or solving crimes in a ridiculous mustache in "Death On The Nile..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DEATH ON THE NILE")

KENNETH BRANAGH: (As Hercule Poirot) I am Detective Hercule Poirot, and I will deliver your killer.

MONDELLO: ...Or interfering in a daughter's love life in Sofia Coppola's "On The Rocks."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ON THE ROCKS")

BILLY MURRAY: (As Felix) So Dean's going away a lot on business trips?

RASHIDA JONES: (As Laura) Dad.

MURRAY: (As Felix) Raise your hand if that sounds fishy.

JONES: (As Laura) He's not like you. He's a good guy, a great dad.

MURRAY: (As Felix) Sure. It's nature. Males are forced to fight, to dominate and to impregnate all females.

MONDELLO: Enlightenment's still a work in progress, obviously. There are some interestingly paired films, two about kidnappings - "Infidel" in the Middle East...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "INFIDEL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #8: (As character) No one knows where you are. And it's going to stay that way.

MONDELLO: ...And "Let Him Go" in the American West.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LET HIM GO")

DIANE LANE: (As Margaret Blackledge) That girl can't protect her child.

KEVIN COSTNER: (As George Blackledge) Margaret, Jimmy's her boy.

LANE: (As Margaret Blackledge) He's your grandson.

MONDELLO: Opening within a couple of weeks of each other are a pair of unrelated but similar-sounding thrillers, Ben Affleck in "Deep Water" and Matt Damon in "Stillwater." And another pair of films deal with weighty end-of-life issues, Grandma Susan Sarandon doing her best to control her passing in "Blackbird..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACKBIRD")

SUSAN SARANDON: (As Lily) Anna, Chris, you up yet? I'm dead soon. You coming down? That should do it.

MONDELLO: ...Bruce Dern losing control to dementia in "The Artist's Wife."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ARTIST'S WIFE")

BRUCE DERN: (As Richard Smythson) It's very hard to look inside and paint when it's all gone.

MONDELLO: There are even twinned documentaries - "Time" shot over two decades as a woman struggles to get her husband out of prison...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "TIME")

FOX RICH: My twins will be 18 next month. They have absolutely no idea what it means to have a father in their house.

MONDELLO: ...And "Aggie" about an art collector who sold a painting for $165 million and put the proceeds toward prison reform.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "AGGIE")

AGNUS GUND: We went to San Quentin. I had people come up to me and say, what in the world did you want to do that for?

MONDELLO: Does all this sound less than fully escapist considering we've been cooped up in isolation for months? Well, Pixar to the rescue with "Soul."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOUL")

JAMIE FOXX: (As Joe) Today started out as the best day of my life.

ANGELA BASSETT: (As Dorothea) Back here tonight; first show's at 7.

FOXX: (As Joe) Yes (laughter). I did it. I got the gig.

MONDELLO: Open manhole cover.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SOUL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #9: (As character) Must've been sudden for you.

FOXX: (As Joe) Is this heaven?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #10: (As character) No. It's the great before. This is where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth.

MONDELLO: "Soul" is Pixar's first film to be led by African American voices. Also animated is the comedy "Connected" about a dad who wishes his family were less connected.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CONNECTED")

DANNY MCBRIDE: (As Rick Mitchell) How about we make 10 seconds of family eye contact starting - put your phone down - now? No, you're allowed to blink. It's just eye contact.

MONDELLO: Naturally, as soon as the family goes off the grid, robot technology runs amok. And a live-action indie comedy shares that basic plot idea. Jack and Su turn off their phones for a few days in the woods, and when they turn them back on...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SAVE YOURSELVES!")

JOHN REYNOLDS: (As Jack) What do the voicemails say?

ZENOBIA SHROFF: (As Su's Mom) Hi, Sunita (ph). Are you watching this? Those rats in New York, they're not rats.

MONDELLO: An alien invasion.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SAVE YOURSELVES!")

SHROFF: (As Su's Mom) They're talking about it on "Fox & Friends."

MONDELLO: The film's called "Save Yourselves!" - perfect title - as opposed to a sweet collegiate romance...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHITHOUSE")

DYLAN GELULA: (As Maggie) Do you want to, like, go hang out?

COOPER RAIFF: (As Alex) Yeah. Yeah. I'd love to.

MONDELLO: ...With a truly terrible title taken from a fraternity party spot I can't say on the air.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHITHOUSE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #12: (As character) Yeah. Yeah. S***house is having a party.

RAIFF: (As Alex) Like, the house is called S***house?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #12: (As character) Mmm hmm.

MONDELLO: Seriously, the movie is adorable. It's like the producers have a death wish - crazy because, as another title will tell you, this is no time to die.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NO TIME TO DIE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #13: (As character) Why would I betray you?

DANIEL CRAIG: (As James Bond) We all have our secrets. We just didn't get to yours yet.

MONDELLO: No secret that Daniel Craig is hanging up his tux as 007 after this one - social distancing, no doubt, along with the rest of us.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.