The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on September 13, 1991 · Page 38
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September 13, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 38

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C-16Movies THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Friday. September 13, 1991 Parker pushes 'Commitments' to excellence i X A ' X.. ' ( "'V J ?-)- 3 A , . ... "' 'J'. - ,- v- . y . F. ' ! i ?f 'V. V' BY JOE DeCHICK The Cincinnati Enquirer If Alan Parker's critics could hear him now. The director of Midnight Express, Angel Heart and Mississippi Burning, hammered so often as polemical and unsubtle, is using words like "subtext" to describe his new film The Commitments, which opens today in the Tristate. "I've been criticized for actually shouting too loud," Parker jokes from Los Angeles in a voice that's a smoky rasp of cobblestone and carcinogens. "So maybe I'm learning as I get older." Maybe and maybe not. Loud and proud The film, a hilarious, high-energy charmer about a band of young working-class Dubliners playing American soul music, is loud and proud of it. On its flip side, though, is a low-key look at poverty, survival and the daily struggle for hope and redemption. If The Commitments signals Parker's growth as an artist, so be it. Regardless, the film has received the best reviews of the 47-year-old London native's career, which spans 16 years, 10 movies, five Oscars and 19 Academy Award nominations. All Parker really wanted after three serious films in a row was to reject it," he says. "I also wanted to reject things that had been overused in other movies." The next task was picking the band. Parker auditioned 3,000 young actors and musicians in Dublin, home to 1,200 garage bands. Narrowed to 100, the field of hopefuls was further weeded out after jamming with a session band. With casting almost completed, Parker received an urgent call from an aide. Andrew Strong, 16-year-old son of one of the session singers, had begun belting "Mustang Sally" into a microphone. "I went down to the rehearsal room," Parker recalls, "and I couldn't believe the sound coming out of this young, white Irish face. It was so mature. It's such an incredible soul voice. "I just smiled. I'd always said, 'You find me the voice, I'll turn him into an actor.' I read with him a couple of pages and thought, well, I'm going to have my work cut out from a dramatic point of view. But you cannot deny that kind of talent when you hear it." Working with a cast of unknowns and molding 10 musicians into actors, two actors into musicians was an added challenge. "It's more difficult to work with someone who's never done a scene before, than working with someone like Gene Hackman. "But I did truly enjoy it, more than any film I've made. The spirit of the kids actually rubs off on you when you're making it." Because "they hadn't been to acting classes to learn any tricks, bad or good," says Parker, their performances were uncluttered by the baggage a "name" actor or actress brings to a role and the baggage an audience carries when watching familiar faces. Land of limos The last time Parker worked with a large cast this tender was in Fame (1979). The difference: "The kids in Fame were already in a privileged situation. They expected success as their right. But the Dubliners were more accustomed to expecting failure. They thought almost that they'd won the lottery just by being in the film. "We brought them to New York and Los Angeles for the premieres, and they couldn't believe it. They'd never seen a limousine in their life. Mind you, on the second day, they asked where was their limo." With The Commitments behind him, Parker is weighing options. But whatever he does, he'll let his heart, not his critics, lead the way. "One has to be truthful to oneself. And if you don't do that, I'm just a hired had like everyone else. That wouldn't be right for me." tainly Britain almost to the exclusion of everything else." He's heard the heated, 3 a.m. arguments over bands and concerts, records and radio stations. "That kind of passion is often evangelical in some ways. It's the same as I used to be with politics." Sweet soul music Parker figures it's ironical, but quite logical, that The Commitments, a group of Irish kids, would choose to play the gutty American rhythm and blues of Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. "In Britain and Ireland, almost all contemporary rock 'n' roll has its roots in black American music. They have been inspired by it, used it, developed it, changed it, in many ways," he says. "I think that's because it's great music. "One could explain it more politically in so much as the Irish have had almost five centuries of being oppressed. And they've always turned to song, as many oppressed people do, to express their pain and pleasure. In that respect, there are parallels with the black American experience." In picking music for the film which features at least 60 songs; the band performs 12 Parker was careful not to cross an imaginary "soul line." "If you crossed it too much into Motown, I would 'Commitments' defines soul of rock V roll Alan Parker . . . director lightens up lighten up. "I wanted to do something that was funny and something with music." In late 1988 he read The Commitments, by Dublin schoolteacher Roddy Doyle. The novel screamed "NEXT PROJECT!" and the subtext was built in. "It makes its sociological point without it being right up front," Parker says. "They're working-class kids, and their only chance of getting out of where they are is music." A father of four, including two musicians, Parker has learned that "music is, culturally, the most important thing in the lives of most young people in Ireland and cer Robert Arkins portrays Jimmy in soused but packs pipes as sweet as an angel's, as gritty as Pickett's and as big as Blarney Castle. Jimmy and his raw mates wangle instruments and rehearsal space, allowing the 10-piece band i . : 777. : ' Ji i : k i f: I ... v r - r v- 1 if k Irish actors got the beat The Commitments, The Commitments, MCA The best R&B band in the land comes from the black-and-white landscape of Dublin. The Commitments, a band of musically inclined Irish actors, uses the movie's soundtrack reveal rhythm and blues' gritty essence. When they heat up "Mustang Sally," "In The Midnight Hour" and "I Never Loved A Man," the music gives off a strong perfume of raw sex and reckless abandon. None of the Commitments save for Maria Doyle has any big-league music experience. Doyle, one of the three Commitment-ettes, has record credits with Hothouse Flowers and her current Black Velvet Band. Her sultry . "I Never Loved A Man" hints at Janis Joplin and holds more passion and power . than the entire recorded output of Madonna. The treat is lead singer ' Andrew Strong. With a voice tougher and more soulful than Joe Cocker's and a face fatter than Meat Loaf's, the 16-year-old Strong becomes one with his character, Deco Cuffe the singing busman. He rides herd on "Mustang Sally" and works the late shift "In The Midnight Hour." Both numbers are sung with such authority, you'd swear the chestnuts were written for the likes of a man named Deco Strong. CLIFF RADEL BY JOE DeCHICK The Cincinnati Enquirer The Commitments is a raucous, ripsnortingly funny rock Y roll fantasy about a Dublin band playing American soul music in a film directed by Briton Alan Parker. Forget the United Nations-flavored premise. And forget Parker's (Fame) tendency to hammer-fistedness. Neither is a match for a cast of unknowns who act and play up a storm that moves with exhilarating and occasionally awe-inspiring energy and intensity. The film, based on the same-titled 1987 novel by co-screenwriter Roddy Dovle. is set in the Dovertv- and unemployment-wracked Northside of contemporary Dublin. Not content to spend life as a workine-class hero, limmv Rah- bitte (Robert Arkins) accepts the otter of pals Derek (Ken McClus-key) and Outspan (Glen Hansard) to manage their fledgling band. But Jimmy envisions this band as being more than just another U2 clone. "Your music should be about who you are and where you come from," he says. "It should speak the language of the streets. It should be about struggle and sex." It should be, he decides, the black American music of the late 1960s, the gritty, grinding rhythm and blues of Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. So Jimmy places a newspaper ad and wearily withstands the most uproarious band auditions since The Fabulous Baker Boys. Later, at a wedding, he discovers Deco (Andrew Strong), the band's lead singer. He's pudgy, snotty and Movie review The Commitments (R; extreme profanity) Robert Arkins. Running time: 117 minutes. babies by day, and chase the spirit of Memphis and Motown by night. It's not important to know anything more about The Commitments. In short, the band gets really good good enough to jam with Pickett, an opportunity on which their fate ultimately hinges. What matters is that the redemptive power of soul and rock 'n' roll offers drab lives hope and the promise of something better. Parker is true to his characters vividly detailing two dozen in two hours and their dreams and the pulse that drives them. So what if the band gels too quickly (this is, after all, a movie) and doesn't play originals (but they play hard and with heart)? Parker also makes sociological noise about Dublin's working class not from atop a soapbox, his usual perch, but from a drum kit. On other levels, the film also is about egotism, ambition, lust, jazz, backstage bickering, going solo, Elvis, the Pope, James Brown and a priest correcting a supplicant, in the confessional, about who sings "When a Man Loves a Woman." It's Percy Sledge. And may the spirit of the best rock 'n' soul movie in years be with you, forever and ever. Amen. u Leather Interiors has recently contracted with tanneries in Germany and Sweden to purchase a quantity of PREMIUM SELECT HIDES to be sold at BELOW BASE GRADE PRICING!!! William Russ portrays an ex-major-league relief pitcher in . Pastime. I Low-key 'Pastime' I hits homer New films at Clifton's Esquire Theater celebrate two of Ameri-! ca's current passions: baseball and ; Soviet Union-watching. Reviews: ; Pastime (PG; profanity). Talk about a double switch. If changing the title of this left-field sleeper from One Cup ot Coffee to Pastime rates Miramax Films a clean single, the pennant-race timing of the movie's release is worth at least a triple. Joe DeChick Film ; The setting is Central California in 1957. The Steamers are struggling in the class D league. D is for dull, dreary and the dogs that booze-hound team owner Peter La-Porte Geffrey Tambor) sells in the stands when he's not playing public-address announcer. On the diamond, pitching pals Roy Dean (William Russ) and Tyrone (Glenn Plummer) are throw-' ing 90 mph in opposite directions. Roy Dean, 41, a reliever, lasted three weeks in the major leagues 12 years ago. In his only mound appearance, he surrendered a grand slam to Stan Musial after being ahead on the count, 0-2. Meanwhile, Tyrone is 17 and destined for the bigs, but he's ignored by his all-white teammates because he's black. Decent and fair, Roy Dean befriends Tyrone and teaches him to respect himself and his talent. But if Roy Dean looked in the mirror, he'd see a man whose pride and passion for the game obscure the simple fact that his best wasn't good enough for the bigs. A man who realizes too late that there's more to life than baseball. A man true to himself but not truthful with himself. It's the difference between knowing and believing. Rookie director Robin B. Arms trong and screenwriter D.M. Eyre Jr. swing for the fences. The result ' is low-key but rich, tough-minded yet sentimental, familiar but un predictable. While Plummer is terrifically understated, Russ captures the honesty and basic human dignity of Roy Dean. Russ, a veteran of Dis organized Crime and Cruisin', plus ' TV's Wiseguy and Capitol News, is one of the most underrated actors ' on any size screen. , ' Look for cameos by ex-big leaguers Ernie Banks, Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Bill Mazeroski, Don Newcombe and Duke Snider. Freeze Die Come to Life (Not rated; profanity, nudity). ' ; Honored as the best first feature at the 1990 Cannes Film - Festival, this Soviet drama takes . its title from a children's game similar to "red light, green light." The games-players are young Galiya (Dinara Drukarova) and Val-erka (Pavel Nazarov). Best friends ; and business rivals each sells tea at a flea market their lives ' are day-to-day in Suchan, a chilly chunk of the vast Soviet Orient just ' after World War II. Suchan doubles as a mining town and labor camp ' for prisoners of war. ' From the viewpoint of the boy ' and girl, writer-director Vitaly Ka- nevski criticizes the Stalin years, as well as the social, emotional and ' economic ravages of war. ' Shot in stark black-and-white, . Freeze is smart, wry, uncompro- mising and occasionally unpleasant. , Largely episodic, it's sort of a Russian Hope and Glory crossed with The 400 Blows. . The finale, sadly, has a jarring (, in-jokfcness that suites the whole, i . .A Alan Parker's The Commitments. including two horn players and three female backup singers to begin brewing Dublin soul. They call themselves The Commitments for these folks gut fish and process pork and rear with a bang Freddy Krueger goes out m i - i i ii tt 2 r""' ""i 1 ( Sectionals from $3,695.00 Sofasfrom$l,695.00 ENQUIRER NEWS SERVICES Say goodbye to the man of your dreams. Freddy Krueger, hero and villain of the five Nightmare on Elm Street films and one-man box-office machine, is about to be retired with extreme prejudice. New Line Cinema the how-lucky-can-you-get distributor that was a low-voltage art house before stumbling onto Freddy and then the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is killing off its cash-cow psycho in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which opens today (yes, Friday the 13th). Yes, Freddy will go out with a bang in Nightmare No. 6. New Line isn't screening Freddy's Dead in advance, but we already know: Freddy will die permanently (he always dies at the hand of a heroic teen, but in the past has been resurrected to slash and earn again). H Freddy will not just die. He will die in a horrendous, 15-minute finale presented in three-dimensional "Freddyvision" (glasses included). There will be guest stars galore. Besides Alice Cooper and Rfiseanne and Tom Arnold, there's Johnny Depp, whose first movie was the first Nightmare. There will be special effects. Freddy traps a kid in a video game. And Freddy will leave a son behind a little Freddy Jr., as bad-looking as his dad. Freddy Jr.? A sequel maybe? Already you're saying, "Aha!" And you are right to be skeptical. But with interest in Freddy waning, New Line founder Robert Shaye vows: "This is the end. We don't think, creatively, that we have anywhere left to go. It's time for the old guy to check out." A brief look at the previous five Nightmare movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Opening day: 103184. Box office: $26 million. Plot: Teens in Springwood, USA, start popping No-Doz when their dreams are invaded by Freddy Krueger and his razor-fingered glove. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) Opening day: 11185. Box office: $30 million. Plot: A new family takes up residence at 1428 This is a rare opportunity to acquire some of our finest pieces upholstered in MAGNIFICENT, GLOVE-SOFT PURE EUROPEAN AN ALINE leathers at a fraction of their regular prices. These fine leathers are available in limited quantities, so ACTNOW. If you 're shopping for leather, you can 't afford to miss this Wins Chairs fivm$m00. Recliners Many styles from $995.00 (Compare at $2,175.00) INTERIORS CINCINNATI T i ..Ml i it & jb m v.. - JJ llt, Lisa Zane, left, and Robert Englund in a scene from Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. Elm St. and pretty soon Freddy is back to tell the town's teens "nighty-night." A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) Opening day: 22787. Box office: $45 million. Plot: Springwood kids continue to drop like drowsy flies after a spate of teen "suicides." Survivors are put in a psychiatric ward. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Afaster(1988) Opening day: 81988. Box office: $50 million. Plot: Can't keep a good bogeyman down. And Freddy is back to boogie as he goes after the survivors of Nightmare 3 and new kids. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) Opening day: 81189. Box office: $25 million. Plot: Alice graduates only to find she's pregnant but is boyfriend Dan the dad or is it Freddy? opportunity. OF WW Cincinnati's Only Total Leather Store 8740 Montgomery Road Cincinnati. Ohio 45236 (513) 745-9997 Enquirer film critic Joe DeChick's review oFred-dy'sDead will appear in Monday's Tempo sccon. 3

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