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Looking ahead to some of the most anticipated films of the fall

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After a two-year dry spell, Hollywood summer blockbusters finally busted some blocks this year. Superheroes, dinosaurs, Minions and a certain Navy fighter pilot brought moviegoers back to cinemas. Now, the question is how to keep that momentum going. Bob Mondello has a couple dozen answers in his fall movie preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: In case there was any doubt, things will not get quieter as the weather cools.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: The Black Panther lives.

MONDELLO: When actor Chadwick Boseman died two years ago, there was never a question that the Black Panther saga would go on. But the palpable grief that powers the trailer for "Wakanda Forever" suggests that it's not just the characters, but the cast and crew who are preparing to do battle in Boseman's memory.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER")

ANGELA BASSETT: (As Ramonda) I am queen of the most powerful nation in the world, and my entire family is gone. Have I not given everything?

MONDELLO: All of the first film's women warriors are back, and they'll be joined at the cineplex by some real-life predecessors. In the historical epic "The Woman King," Viola Davis plays a 19th-century African general who led an all-woman army against European slave traders.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE WOMAN KING")

VIOLA DAVIS: (As Nanisca) We are Dahomey.

MONDELLO: Also based on true battlefield exploits, the Korean War drama "Devotion," which centers on a pair of Navy top guns - Black pilot and white wingman - at a time when that pairing raised eyebrows.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DEVOTION")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: It must be hard being the...

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Jesse Brown) A naval aviator?

(SOUNDBITE OF AIRPLANE FLYING)

MAJORS: (As Jesse Brown) Absolutely.

MONDELLO: But no one's spoiling for a fight quite as much as Black Adam.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK ADAM")

DWAYNE JOHNSON: (As Black Adam) I was a slave until I died.

MONDELLO: Dwayne Johnson is the DC superhero...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK ADAM")

JOHNSON: (As Black Adam) Then, I was reborn a god.

MONDELLO: ...Who's been nursing a grudge for centuries.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK ADAM")

JOHNSON: (As Black Adam) Now, I kneel before no one.

MONDELLO: Less prone to pronouncements but arguably with more at stake is the 13-year-old title character in the science fiction thriller "Vesper" - a girl who's living in a future where biological experiments have wiped out all the Earth's edible plants and where her talent for biohacking is unique.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "VESPER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: Vesper, you can change everything.

MONDELLO: Gorgeous effects work does a lot of the world building in "Vesper." Enough with the fighting for survival, you say? Well, Hollywood's not just about battles on a global scale, though sometimes even romantic comedies can play like warfare.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TICKET TO PARADISE")

JULIA ROBERTS: (As Georgia) Oh, come on.

GEORGE CLOONEY: (As David) You've got to be kidding me.

ROBERTS: (As Georgia) Excuse me, ma'am? I need to sit somewhere else. We used to be married.

CLOONEY: (As David) Worst 19 years of my life.

ROBERTS: (As Georgia) We were only married for five.

CLOONEY: (As David) I'm counting the recovery.

MONDELLO: Julia Roberts and George Clooney...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TICKET TO PARADISE")

ROBERTS: (As Georgia) In four days' time...

CLOONEY: (As David) Our daughter's going to marry a guy she just met.

MONDELLO: ...Join forces in "Ticket To Paradise" to keep their daughter from making the same mistake they did.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TICKET TO PARADISE")

ROBERTS: (As Georgia) We need to trick her into dumping him. As much as this will pain us both, we have to call a truce to make this work.

CLOONEY: (As David) We have to be in lockstep.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAMA TOLD ME NOT TO COME")

THREE DOG NIGHT: (Singing) Mama told me not to...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TICKET TO PARADISE")

KAITLYN DEVER: (As Lily) Hey. Did you make a pact to not murder each other until you murder me first?

ROBERTS: (As Georgia) We are here for you, my love.

CLOONEY: (As David) Yes, we're in lockstep.

ROBERTS: (As Georgia) Yes.

MONDELLO: Meanwhile, in the comedy "Bros," commitment-phobic Billy Eichner thinks he doesn't want any part of romance until he meets muscle gay Luke Macfarlane.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BROS")

MONICA RAYMUND: (As Tina) You met a guy?

BILLY EICHNER: (As Bobby Leiber) I don't think I'm his type. He's like gay Tom Brady.

What are you into? One of these ripped idiots with no opinions?

LUKE MACFARLANE: (As Aaron) No, I'd like someone who's physically very frail and won't stop talking.

MONDELLO: And while they're falling in love in "Bros," a couple of lifelong Irish pals have a falling-out in "The Banshees Of Inisherin."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN")

COLIN FARRELL: (As Padraic Suilleabhain) Now, if I've done something to you, just tell me what I've done to you.

BRENDAN GLEESON: (As Colm Doherty) But you didn't do any to me. I just don't like you no more.

FARRELL: (As Padraic Suilleabhain) But you liked me yesterday.

MONDELLO: Because "Banshees Of Inisherin" is the work of writer-director Martin McDonagh, count on it being both darkly funny and menacing. That also describes two cruise ship satires - "Triangle Of Sadness," a literal takedown of wealth and privilege...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TRIANGLE OF SADNESS")

WOODY HARRELSON: (As Captain Thomas Smith) On a $250 million luxury yacht.

ZLATKO BURIC: (As Dimitry) The ship is going under.

MONDELLO: ...And "Menu," in which Ralph Fiennes has a surprise for his passengers.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MENU")

NICHOLAS HOULT: (As Tyler) He's not just a chef. He's a storyteller. The game is trying to guess what the overarching theme of the entire meal is going to be. You won't know till the end.

MONDELLO: Actually, they figure it out pretty quickly.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MENU")

RALPH FIENNES: (As Chef Slowik) This menu...

JUDITH LIGHT: (As Anne) The pictures - they're of us.

JOHN LEGUIZAMO: (As Movie Star) Jesus Christ.

JANET MCTEER: (As Lillian Bloom) This is just theater. It's stagecraft.

MONDELLO: Also caught unawares - the women in a social experiment in the film "Don't Worry Darling." They live in a 1950s suburban paradise isolated in the desert while their husbands do - well, that's not entirely clear, but it rattles the walls.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DON'T WORRY DARLING")

OLIVIA WILDE: (As Bunny) Boys and their toys - at least we know they're getting work done.

KATE BERLANT: (As Peg) What do you think they're really doing out there?

FLORENCE PUGH: (As Alice Chambers) What do you mean?

MONDELLO: "Don't Worry Darling" stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Chris Pine.

In the Sundance sensation "Nanny," Anna Diop plays a Senegalese woman who's just as blindsided when her job with a wealthy New York couple takes a dark turn. A whole acting company gets blindsided in the comedy "See How They Run" when the murder mystery they're rehearsing results in an actual murder.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SEE HOW THEY RUN")

SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Constable Stalker) Victim's name is Leo Kopernick, sir. Seems he was killed in the costume store, and then he was deposited here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

RONAN: (As Constable Stalker) Staged, so to speak. Sorry, sir.

MONDELLO: And there appears to be a similar issue in the movie "Amsterdam," a secrecy-shrouded whatsit from "American Hustle's" David O. Russell.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AMSTERDAM")

CHRIS ROCK: (As Milton) Got a dead white man in a box - not even a casket - doesn't even have a top on it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Burt) Do me a favor. Try to be optimistic.

MONDELLO: That's good advice - and for me, too. I've been dwelling here on relatively dark fall movies. There are plenty of others that are bright and optimistic - a new Disney animated film, for instance, created in the style of a 1950s sci-fi flick.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STRANGE WORLD")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: "Strange World" - a new motion picture event.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: Brace yourself.

MONDELLO: And the live-action comedy "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile," about a boy who has a reptilian pal who's voiced by pop star Shawn Mendes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE")

WINSLOW FEGLEY: (As Josh Primm) Mom, I swear to you, he's not dangerous.

CONSTANCE WU: (As Mrs. Primm) He's a crocodile.

FEGLEY: (As Josh Primm) He's not like that. He wears a scarf.

(SOUNDBITE OF DINGING)

FEGLEY: (As Josh Primm) And he can sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOP OF THE WORLD")

SHAWN MENDES: (Singing) At the top of the world...

MONDELLO: Steven Spielberg has a warm family film called "The Fabelmans," based on his own childhood in Arizona. And there's even a seriously upbeat documentary, "Good Night Oppy," about NASA's Mars rover, which is called Opportunity. Oppy was expected to have a lifespan of three months, but to everyone's astonishment, she kept overcoming obstacles for 15 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOOD NIGHT OPPY")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: She noticed that she was sliding too much downhill and stopped just centimeters from the tip of her solar panel. We all had heart attacks. But her autonomy saved us.

MONDELLO: Oppy has a serious WALL-E vibe. She could be his cousin - if robots had cousins. Tougher stories, meanwhile, are largely left to biopics, some of them clearly aiming for awards consideration. Start with "Till," which recounts the tragic story of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was abducted, tortured and lynched in Mississippi in 1955. His mother Mamie's insistence that he have an open casket...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TILL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: Can I at least just fix him up a bit?

DANIELLE DEADWYLER: (As Mamie Till-Mobley) No. They have to see it for themselves.

MONDELLO: ...Changed the course of the civil rights movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TILL")

DEADWYLER: (As Mamie Till-Mobley) The lynching of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us anywhere in the world had better be the business of us all.

MONDELLO: Other true stories include "The Silent Twins," about sisters in 1960s Britain who communicated only with each other...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SILENT TWINS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #7: If there's something you want to communicate, you best say it now.

MONDELLO: ...And found themselves institutionalized for 11 years. There's also "Tar," a portrait of Lydia Tar, a groundbreaking German symphony conductor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONDELLO: She's played by Cate Blanchett in a film that looks to be ferociously stylized. And then there's a case of Hollywood airing its own dirty laundry.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHE SAID")

ZOE KAZAN: (As Jodi Kantor) We're from the New York Times. I believe you used to work for Harvey Weinstein?

MONDELLO: "She Said," the story of the investigation at the heart of the #MeToo movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHE SAID")

SAMANTHA MORTON: (As Zelda Perkins) People have tried to write this story before. He kills it every time.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #8: Harvey adamantly denies any allegation of assault.

MORTON: (As Zelda Perkins) He played people. He was a master manipulator.

MONDELLO: "She Said" is directed and scripted by women, who really ought to have the last word as we head into Thanksgiving, saving the holiday attractions for next time - "Avatar 2," anyone? I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.