Fall means that kids go back to school. It also means that films for adults are in the offing -- from Martin Scorsese's disturbing sexual thriller "Cape Fear" to John Sayles' drama of smoldering ethnic tensions, "City of Hope."
The exception that proves the rule is that the first movie of the fall is really the last movie of the summer: "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare," which opens here Friday the 13th and will be the sixth -- and supposedly final -- installment of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series featuring dream slasher Freddy Krueger.
On the same day, Alan Parker's "The Commitments," which is about an Irish soul group in Dublin and has been delighting audiences in other cities for several weeks, finally arrives here.
Later that week (Sept. 17) comes Bernard Tavernier's "Daddy Nostalgia," a romantic film with a performance by the great Dirk Bogarde (as a dying man who reconciles with his daughter) that has critics grasping for superlatives.
The potentially interesting "Late for Dinner" opens Sept. 20. Two brothers accidentally undergo an experiment in 1962 that shuttles them -- physically unchanged -- to their hometown 29 years later. The film's director is W. D. Richter -- his "Buckaroo Banzai" is a cult classic -- who's got a phenomenal touch with such nutty material.
"Barton Fink," the sendup of Hollywood by the Coen brothers ("Raising Arizona" and "Miller's Crossing") that has been rivaling Kenneth Branagh's "Dead Again" as an intellectual's delight, also makes its belated Baltimore debut on the 20th. Then there's "Ramblin' Rose" with Laura Dern, Diane Ladd and Robert Duvall, and "Livin' Large," a comedy about a black TV newsman who slowly turns white because he tries so hard to assimilate in the white world.
In town at the Charles for only two days (Sept. 24-25) is "The Miracle," a new film by Neil Jordon ("Mona Lisa") in which a teen-age boy's fascination with a mysterious woman reaches a miraculous climax.
Sept. 27 will be busy with six new movies due, including "The "Fisher King" from director Terry Gilliam (of the strange and wonderful "Brazil" and the even more bizarre "Baron Munchausen"). It recasts the myth of the Holy Grail as a story about a big shot radio personality (Jeff Bridges) who falls on hard days and is redeemed by a crazed but visionary homeless person (Robin Williams).
Other films scheduled include: "Hangin' with the Homeboys," another in a spate of recent movies by young black directors; "The Super," a comedy starring Joe Pesci as a slum landlord forced to live in one of his own buildings; and "Deceived," in which Goldie Hawn -- in a rare non-comedic role -- discovers that her dead husband had been living with her under an assumed identity.
Also slated that weekend is "Necessary Roughness," a football comedy about a college team made up of over-the-hill, continuing education types; and "Married to It," a comedy about three married couples with a cast that includes Cybill Shepherd, Ron Silver, Beau Bridges and Stockard Channing.
Films scheduled for September but without specific release dates include "The Pope Must Die," an "Airplane"-like spoof about the Vatican whose title and subject matter has already caused some newspapers to turn down ads, and "Love Crimes," which stars Sean Young as a prosecuting attorney who becomes involved with an accused rapist.
On Oct. 3 comes independent filmmaker Richard Linklater's "Slacker," a movie about kids in the college town of Austin, Texas, who drop out of school and just hang out. Reviews and reception in other cities suggest that it will be to hip, young filmgoers what "Metropolitan" and "sex, lies and videotape" were in previous years.
Three films open the following day (Oct. 4) -- "Shout," a coming-of-age film set in the '50s starring John Travolta as a music teacher; "Ricochet," starring John Lithgow as a criminal obsessed with destroying the cop (Denzel Washington) who once sent him to prison; and "Paradise," which stars Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith in a drama about a couple who must overcome the death of their son.
Three important movies open Oct. 11. John Sayles' "City of Hope" explores racial tension and ethnic identity in ways that are sure to provoke debate for weeks. "Frankie and Johnny" is Terrence McNally's adaptation of his wonderful play ("Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune") about a love affair between a short-order cook (Al Pacino) and a waitress (Michelle Pfeiffer).
"Little Man Tate" promises to be interesting because of its subject (the battle for the soul of an extraordinarily gifted child between his mother and his psychologist), because it is the first film to be directed by Jodie Foster (who also stars) and because it features an original screenplay by Scott Frank, whose script for "Dead Again" is so impressive.