Deep breath ... summer blockbusters now officially a thing of the past, and I'm looking forward to quieter movies coming up.
One, actually, is reeeeeeeeally quiet: The Artist, a jazz-age epic that is, of all the crazy things to be in an age of digitally perfect sound, a silent movie. There's a logic, let's note. It's a silent movie about the end of Silent Movies back in the 1920s. Shot in black and white by French director Michel Hazanavicius with a few Hollywood names (John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell), it tells a story about a big-screen leading man (Jean Dujardin) who's on his way out and a dancer (Berenice Bejo) who's on her way up. Neither silent star nor dancer needs words to be expressive, obviously, and apparently the film doesn't either, because it won Dujardin a Best Actor nod at Cannes, and was nominated for the Festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.
I'm also intrigued by what George Clooney's throwing into the beginning of primary season: The Ides of March, a political thriller in which Clooney plays a presidential candidate and Paul Giamatti plays a rival political operative trying to seduce trusted staffer Ryan Gosling away from the campaign.
Both Artist and Ides are already being mentioned as Oscar candidates. Not being mentioned in the same breath anywhere but in this post: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. Neil Patrick Harris apparently survived that whorehouse shooting in Texas. He's unrepentant. Can't wait.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel. While summer is still officially with us for another couple of weeks, the summer movie season is definitely winding down. The multiplex brought us a familiar onslaught of sequels, superheroes and retreads - from "Conan" to "Captain America," "Transformers" to teen wizards. Well, it's time to put down those 3-D glasses, take a deep breath and look forward to the fall. From vampires to birdwatchers, our film critic, Bob Mondello, has a preview of what movie studios have in store for audiences as the weather turns cooler.
BOB MONDELLO: Start with the vampires. After four movies of anguished glistening in the latest installment in the "Twilight" series, Edward will finally make an honest woman of Bella.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1")
ROBERT PATTINSON: (as Edward Cullen) No measure of time with you will be long enough, but we'll start with forever.
MONDELLO: Wedding bells are going to chime, and so, no doubt, will multiplex cash registers. Nothing else this fall is going to match "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" at the box office, but there will be a few other reasons to head for the Cineplex, not all of them entirely escapists. For instance, director Steven Soderbergh has a star-studded picture specifically designed for the start of flu season: "Contagion," about a deadly virus outbreak.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CONTAGION")
KATE WINSLET: (as Dr. Erin Mears) I really need you to get off that bus. It's quite possible you've come in contact with an infectious disease and that you're highly contagious. Do you understand?
DAN AHO: (as Aaron Barnes) I'm getting off.
WINSLET: (as Dr. Erin Mears) And stay away from other people.
AHO: (as Aaron Barnes) Now, what do I do?
WINSLET: (as Dr. Erin Mears) Don't talk to anyone. Don't touch anyone. That's the important thing.
(SOUNDBITE OF COUGHING)
MONDELLO: Ready to scare you to death, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and, no doubt, some guy sneezing in the row behind you. There's also a high-finance thriller for those who found this summer's Dow Jones roller coaster insufficiently alarming. "Margin Call" shows what happens when a rouge trader puts his brokerage firm in jeopardy.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MARGIN CALL")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Character) Just look at these people, wandering around with absolutely no idea what's about to happen.
MONDELLO: Remember that feeling? So bankruptcies, plagues, vampires, what else could scare us? Well, it's the start of primary season. How about politicians? Ryan Gosling is a trusted staffer in George Clooney's presidential campaign in "The Ides of March."
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE IDES OF MARCH")
MAN: (as Character) The next president of the United States of America, Governor Mike Morris.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as Character) Do you really want this story getting out?
GEORGE CLOONEY: (as Governor Mike Morris) Dignity matters. You were off the campaign, but you thought it was important to fix things?
WOMAN: (as Character) Stephen, don't do this.
RYAN GOSLING: (as Stephen Myers) I'll do or say anything if I believe in it, but I have to believe in the cause.
MONDELLO: For what it's worth, Clooney is also in a fall comedy of sorts. "The Descendants" is about a guy trying to hold his family together while his wife is in a coma.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE DESCENDANTS")
CLOONEY: (as Matt King) We have to go through this thing together, you and Scottie and me.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: (as Alexandra) You really don't have a clue, do you? Mom is cheating on you.
MONDELLO: "The Descendants" is from the writer-director of "Sideways," who knows a little something about turning life's rough patches into dramedy. So do the folks behind "50/50," a surprisingly funny look at two friends, one with cancer, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the other trying to look on the bright side, played by Seth Rogen.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "50/50")
JOSEPH GORDON: (as Adam) You really think there's a girl who's going to go for me just because I have cancer?
SETH ROGEN: (as Kyle) For the millionth time, yes.
GORDON: (as Adam) Great song.
WOMAN: (as Character) Totally.
GORDON: (as Adam) I have cancer.
ROGEN: (as Kyle) I was wrong. I was wrong. It was weird. It's weird like that.
GORDON: (as Adam) Yeah. That's too soon.
ROGEN: (as Kyle) It's not - it doesn't sound cool.
GORDON: (as Adam) No.
MONDELLO: "50/50" is based on the real experiences of Rogen and a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. Less reality-based comedies include "Tower Heist" with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TOWER HEIST")
EDDIE MURPHY: (as Slide) You know, this is a bad idea, right?
BEN STILLER: (as Josh Kovacs) That's it. I don't want you talking to me for the rest of the robbery.
MONDELLO: "Jack and Jill," in which identical twins are played by Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler...
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JACK AND JILL")
ADAM SANDLER: (as Jack) OK.
MONDELLO: ...and "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas."
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR CHRISTMAS")
JOHN CHO: (as Harold Lee) (Unintelligible) to trip out a little bit.
KAL PENN: (as Kumar Patel) Those kids put something in here.
CHO: (as Harold Lee) Dude, we're clay-mated.
PENN: (as Kumar Patel) Awesome.
MONDELLO: For the younger set, there will be two youth-oriented pictures about robots, "Real Steel" and Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," as well as a slew of name-brand kid flicks, including the first outing for "The Muppets" in more than a decade, a rerelease of "The Lion King" in 3-D, a "Shrek" spinoff called "Puss in Boots" and penguins running amuck in "Happy Feet Two."
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAPPY FEET TWO")
ROBIN WILLIAMS: (as Ramon) Here's what we're going to do. We count to three. Push me on two.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (as Characters) One...
WILLIAMS: (as Ramon) Ah.
(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
WILLIAMS: (as Ramon) Baby penguin, cute but ruthless.
MONDELLO: In addition to all this fantasy, the fall will feature a bunch of real-life stories about the famous and not-so famous. Director Clint Eastwood could have called his latest picture Hoover, but presumably so no one would think it was about a vacuum cleaner, he called it "J. Edgar" instead. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the longtime head of the FBI and promises to rummage through Hoover's, shall we say, closet of secrets. Other biopics include "Machine Gun Preacher," about a born-again former drug dealer who started an orphanage in Sudan...
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MACHINE GUN PREACHER")
MAN: (as Character) The entire rebel army has put a bounty on your head.
GERARD BUTLER: (as Sam Childers) I must be doing something right.
MONDELLO: ...also "My Week with Marilyn," in which Michelle Williams impersonates Marilyn Monroe, "Moneyball," in which Brad Pitt plays Oakland A's manager Billy Beane, "Dolphin Tale," in which the dolphin Winter who lost her tail in a crab trap plays herself, and then there's a more speculative look at a real-life figure, the film "Anonymous," which wades into the supposed mystery of who wrote Shakespeare's plays. The movie claims it was the 17th Earl of Oxford...
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ANONYMOUS")
VANESSA REDGRAVE: (as Queen Elizabeth I) None of your poems or plays will ever carry your name.
MONDELLO: ...who hired the actor William Shakespeare to impersonate a playwright.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ANONYMOUS")
MAN: (as Character) Promise me you'll keep our secret safe.
MONDELLO: This bit of revisionist history from Roland Emmerich, the disaster flick dude who brought you "Godzilla" and "Independence Day." Meanwhile, the guy who made "Resident Evil" has another cataclysm up his sleeve.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE THREE MUSKETEERS")
MATTHEW MACFADYEN: (as Athos) We are surrounded by enemies. War will engulf the entire continent. Only we can prevent the coming apocalypse. D'Artagnan, you want to be a musketeer? This is your chance.
MONDELLO: That's right. "The Three Musketeers" in 3-D for the crowd that thinks the dozens of previous versions were just too flat. But of all the odd pictures this fall - and there will be plenty - from Pedro Almodovar's latest provocation, "The Skin I live In," to the comic bromance "The Big Year" starring Steve Martin and Jack Black as competitive birdwatchers, perhaps the oddest is the surprise from this year's Cannes Film Festival, "The Artist," a jazz-age epic shot unconventionally in black and white, and of all the crazy things to be in an age of digitally perfect sound, a silent movie.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONDELLO: A silent movie about the end of silent movies back in the 1920s and a leading man on his way out and a dancer on her way up, neither of whom needs words to be expressive. "The Artist" is said to be a likely Oscar contender, and it's opening - just before Thanksgiving - will kick off the rush for end-of-year awards, a whole slew of holiday prestige pictures that we'll save for another day and another preview. I'm Bob Mondello.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.