The summer, a veritable slaughterhouse of brutality, broken glass and not so subtle racism and sexism, usually brings an autumn of romance, contemplation, Meryl Streep and Woody Allen. While Streep and Allen remain as reliable harbingers of fall as shorter days and ripening pumpkins, this year the violence will escalate from the comic book bone-crushing of "Die Harder," "Total Recall" and "Darkman" to a celebration of the real thing in a slew of wise-guy movies.
"We'll all be married to the mob by the time it's over," observes Freeman Fisher of Cineplex Odeon in Washington, who has high hopes for "Miller's Crossing," a Circle Films production by Joel and Ethan Coen. Backed by local moguls Bill Dirkin and Jim and Ted Pedas, the pre-Depression-era gangster movie stars Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney. It will open the New York Film Festival this month but premieres locally in early October.
Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas," an insider's mob history with Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta, opens here a week earlier, along with Peter Hyman's "Narrow Margin," which finds Gene Hackman and Anne Archer on the run from the Cosa Nostra. On Oct. 28, it's on to "State of Grace," with Sean Penn caught between the law and the cold-blooded street gang he left behind him.
November brings "Run," in which Patrick Dempsey, a law student, is wrongly accused of murdering the only son of a very miffed mob boss. And for the holidays, it's kind of bittersweet as the Mafia courts the papal nunzio in a bid for legitimacy in "Godfather III." Al Pacino reprises his role as Don Corleone, and Andy Garcia costars as his illegitimate nephew. The horse head is handed on.
Despite the sorry fates of this summer's sinkers -- "The Two Jakes," "RoboCop 2" and "Back to the Future 3" -- sequels will continue into the dead of winter, beginning with Peter Bogdanovich's "Texasville," Part 2 of "The Last Picture Show." Prince builds on "Purple Rain" in "Graffiti Bridge," and Barry Levinson's Baltimore trilogy wraps up with "Avalon." Chucky's back in "Child's Play II," and the animated mouse agents of Walt Disney's "The Rescuers" return in a squeak-quel, "The Rescuers Down Under." A kangaroo mouse costars.
"Rocky V: The Final Bell" is slated for a Thanksgiving opening, and "Predator II: Body Count" finds Danny Glover pumping the Arn Man's stuff Nov. 21. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, has gone undercover as a preschool teacher in "Kindergarten Cop," a comedy by Ivan Reitman of "Twins."
Frequent Octoberfesters Streep and Allen are also enjoying a change of mise en sce`ne. Instead of her usual major downer, the angst queen slips into something a little more comical -- "Postcards From the Edge," adapted from Carrie Fisher's roman a` clef. And in mid-October, Allen returns to comedy with "Alice," starring William Hurt, Bernadette Peters and Cybill Shepherd. Over the holidays, he teams up with Bette Midler in Paul Mazursky's dramatic comedy of infidelity, "Scenes From a Mall." Oy.
Among the most eagerly awaited of the fall offerings are screen adaptations of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," with Melanie Griffith and Tom Hanks; Glenn Savan's "White Palace," with James Spader and Susan Sarandon; and John le Carre's "The Russia House," with Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Connery. Fingers are crossed for Penny Marshall's "Awakenings," with De Niro -- again -- and Robin Williams as an amnesia victim and his eccentric doctor; and "Pacific Heights," a thriller with Michael Keaton, Matthew Modine and more Melanie Griffith.
Griffith's dance card is full, all right, but the Michael Caine always-in-your-face award goes to ingenue Winona Ryder, who is starring in Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands," a high-tech "Pinocchio"; Richard Benjamin's "Mermaids," a feel-good comedy with Cher; and "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael," a tale of teen acceptance costarring Jeff Daniels. De Niro is also showing up in a third film, "Guilty by Suspicion," a drama about a director during the McCarthy era.