Bob Mondello's Fall Movie Preview

NPR's Bob Mondello offers a selective preview of Hollywood's fall films, from the Owls of Ga'Hoole, to Harry Potter.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

The summer movie season is sputtering to a close. It was a summer of blockbuster sequels that set box-office records. But that doesn't mean more people went to the movies. Fewer people went and paid higher ticket prices.

Well, now comes the cooler weather, and as our critic Bob Mondello tells us, the autumn movie outlook is about to turn more somber, especially for one segment of the audience.

BOB MONDELLO: Let the grieving begin. Not for everyone, just for the loyal fans who will see November as the beginning of the end...

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I")

Mr. RALPH FIENNES (Actor): (as Lord Voldemort) Bring him to me.

MONDELLO: ...the last novel in the series.

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I")

Mr. FIENNES: (as Lord Voldemort) I must be the one to kill Harry Potter.

MONDELLO: And though Hollywood stretching like mad turning "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" into two movies, the end is coming.

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I")

Mr. FIENNES: (as Lord Voldemort) The boy who lived. Come to die.

(Soundbite of screaming)

MONDELLO: Remember when he was just a little tyke playing quidditch? They grow up so fast.

So did the troubled teenager sitting in Liverpool in the late 1950s, all the time hearing his teachers, his aunt, everyone, tell him he was going nowhere. He's a real nowhere boy named John Lennon.

(Soundbite of movie, "Nowhere Boy")

Mr. AARON JOHNSON (Actor): (as John Lennon) I'm going to start a rock 'n' roll group. You've been picked to be in my band.

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as Character) We don't know how to play.

Mr. JOHNSON: (as John Lennon): You don't have to know. What's important is I've chosen you. I'm John.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as Character): Oh.

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (as Character) John, your little friend is here.

MONDELLO: "Nowhere Boy" tops a substantial list of true-life stories this fall, including "Fair Game" about Valerie Plame, the CIA agent outed by the Bush administration; "Carlos" about the international assassin popularly known as The Jackal; "Secretariat" about the owner of the triple-crown-winning racehorse; and perhaps the most eagerly awaited true-life story, "Social Network," about a nebbishy Harvard student who grows up to be a billionaire because of a little thing he cooks up on his computer in his dorm room.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Social Network")

Mr. JESSE EISENBERG (Actor): (as Mark Zuckerberg) I need to do something substantial in order to get the attention of the clubs.

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (as Character) Why?

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark Zuckerberg) Because they're exclusive and fun, and they lead to a better life.

MONDELLO: The something substantially he comes up with, he calls Facebook.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Social Network")

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark Zuckerberg) People want to go on the Internet and check out their friends. So why not build a website that offers them friends, pictures, profiles? I'm talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.

Unidentified Woman #2: (as Character) That got 2,200 hits within two hours?

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark Zuckerberg) Thousand, 22,000.

MONDELLO: "Social Network" is a true Facebook story in fictional form, and "Catfish" is a true Facebook story that only feels like fiction. It's a documentary about a guy who becomes Facebook friends with a young artist and her family, then decides to take the friendship offline.

(Soundbite of movie, "Catfish")

Ms. MEGAN FACCIO (Actor): (as Herself) Hello?

Mr. NEV SCHULMAN (Actor): (as Himself) Hey, Megan?

Ms. FACCIO: (as Herself) Hi, how are you?

Mr. SCHULMAN: (as Himself) Your voice is not at all what I expected.

MONDELLO: Only to have things take some odd turn.

(Soundbite of movie, "Catfish")

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (as Character) Drive into the driveway.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (as Character): What do you mean?

Unidentified Man #3: (as Character) Don't back into it.

Unidentified Man #4: (as Character): Why not?

Unidentified Man #3: (as Character) Because we can see we can't see what's in front of us.

Unidentified Man #5 (Actor): (as Character) I'm a little scared.

Unidentified Man #6 (Actor): (as Character) (Unintelligible) giving me the creeps.

Unidentified Man #7 (Actor): (as Character) Let's go.

MONDELLO: "Catfish" was the most talked about documentary at this year's Sundance Festival, and it has lots of fall company, including "Gerrymandering" about the politics of geography, "Wasteland" about a sprawling landfill where garbage is transformed into art, "I'm Still Here" about actor-turned rapper Joaquin Phoenix, "Inside Job" about the causes of the Wall Street meltdown, and "Waiting for Superman" about fixes for an education system that even its defenders say is broken.

(Soundbite of movie, "Waiting for Superman")

Unidentified Man #8 (Actor): (as Character) Among 30 developed countries, we ranked 25th in math and 21st in science. And almost every category, we've fallen behind, except one. Kids from the USA ranked number one in confidence.

(Soundbite of song, "American Idiot")

Mr. Billie Joe Armstrong (Vocalist and Guitarist, Green Day): (Singing) Don't want to be an American idiot.

MONDELLO: Too much reality? Okay, forget documentaries. How about a musical showbiz saga? "Burlesque" with Cher as a diva offering tough love to a small town girl who wants to be a star.

(Soundbite of movie, "Burlesque")

Ms. CHRISTINA AGUILERA (Actor): (as Ali Rose) I can do this.

CHER (Actor): (as Tess) And it's sweet that you think so.

Ms. AGUILERA: (as Ali Rose) Just tell me what you want.

CHER: (as Tess) I can't tell you. Nobody can tell you. You got to make me believe that you belong on that stage, that it's yours, and that nobody can take it from you. Now, you want to show me something? Show me that.

MONDELLO: So she does.

(Soundbite of movie, "Burlesque")

Ms. AGUILERA: (as Ali Rose) (Singing) Oh.

MONDELLO: Because she is Christina Aguilera.

(Soundbite of movie "Burlesque")

Ms. AGUILERA: (as Ali Rose) (Singing) Oh.

CHER: (as Tess) Hold it.

Ms. AGUILERA: (as Ali Rose) (Singing) Yeah.

CHER: (as Tess) Raise the curtain.

Ms. AGUILERA: (as Ali Rose) (Singing) It's a (unintelligible) and emotion. It's (unintelligible).

MONDELLO: Also focusing on women, part three of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy, "Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," and a sophisticated high school comedy called "Easy A." That's smart enough to see the literary connections when its heroine gets an undeserved reputation as the school tramp.

(Soundbite of movie, "Easy A")

Ms. EMMA STONE (Actor): (as Olive) Ironically, we were studying the "Scarlet Letter." This girl named Hester Prynne has an affair with a minister, is besmirched and made to wear a read A for adulterer.

Unidentified Woman #3 (Actor): (as Character) Perhaps, you should embroider a red A on your wardrobe.

Ms. STONE: (as Olive) I'm not proud of this.

MONDELLO: New look - big red A.

(Soundbite of song, "Poker Face")

LADY GAGA (Singer): (Singing) I want to hold them like they do in Texas please.

Ms. PATRICIA CLARKSON (Actor): (as Rosemary) No judgment, but you kind of look like a stripper.

Ms. STONE: (as Olive) Mom.

Mr. STANLEY TUCCI (Actor): (as Dill) A high-end stripper for governors or athletes.

MONDELLO: Several of the season's other comedies are odd couple stories. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis are hoping for a "Hangover" vibe in a road trip movie called "Due Date." Mismatched friends are bringing up a baby in "Life as We Know It." And there's a media mismatch in "Morning Glory" where a lightweight TV personality, Diane Keaton, meets her new co-host, hard news anchorman, Harrison Ford.

(Soundbite of movie, "Morning Glory")

Ms. RACHEL McADAMS (Actor): (as Becky Fuller) What's going on now?

Unidentified Male (Actor): (as Character) Mike is offended by a word in the next story.

Ms. McADAMS: (as Becky Fuller) It's about Easter chicks.

Mr. HARRISON FORD (Actor): (as Mike Pomeroy) I'm not saying the word fluffy.

Ms. DIANE KEATON (Actor): (as Colleen Peck) I suppose I don't have standards?

Mr. FORD: (as Mike Pomeroy) Sure, you do. When you got your pap smear on air, you wore a silk robe.

Ms. KEATON: (as Colleen Peck) Okay.

Mr. FORD: (as Mike Pomeroy) Classy touch.

MONDELLO: Other guys doing their macho thing this fall include Denzel Washington trying to halt a runaway train in "Unstoppable," mountain climber James Franco hacking off his own arm in "127 Hours," Ryan Reynolds struggling to escape death in a coffin in "Buried," and Michael Douglas slithering back to "Wall Street" as Gordon Gekko in "Money Never Sleeps."

(Soundbite of movie, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps")

Mr. MICHAEL DOUGLAS (Actor): (as Gordon Gekko) I once said, greed is good. Now it seems it's legal.

MONDELLO: Speaking of guys behaving badly, let's note that the titles "Knucklehead," "Douchebag" and "Jackass" will be on multiplex marquees this fall, bait presumably for teenagers.

For actual children, there's 3-D animation: "Tangled," which is Disney's take on the Rapunzel fairy tale; an adventure with feathers called "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"; and a comedy about a super villain who calls himself Megamind.

(Soundbite of movie, "Megamind")

Mr. WILL FERRELL (Actor): (as Megamind) In the eternal struggle between good and evil, good has always prevailed. But this time, evil has a secret, incredible, totally handsome weapon: me. Hit it.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: And if all this sounds less than substantial, don't despair. Clint Eastwood is going all meditative and ethereal in "Hereafter," which explores notions of the afterlife. Royal elocution lessons are the subject of "The King's Speech." And believe it or not, poetry will rear its cinematic head in "Howl" about beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and also in "For Colored Girls," a celebrated stage classic that's taken more than three decades to travel from Broadway to the screen - all of this before Thanksgiving and the rush of Oscar hopefuls, which qualifies as cause for hope.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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