Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on July 2, 1986 · Page 47
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · Page 47

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Wednesday, July 2, 1986
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Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, July 2, 1986 Seolion 5 3 Tempo Complex 'Mona Lisa' spellbinding 2 powerful performances make winner By Gene Siskel Movie critic Dn 1978, Paul Schrader made a film called "Hardcore" about a conservative, Midwestern father's search for his young daughter trapped in the porno world of Los Angeles. That film was both an action picture and a story of culture shock. Now from England comes "Mona Lisa," which has roughly those same elements, as well as an unforgettable and unpredictable love story at its center. The scene is working class London, and a rough character named George has just been released from jail. Arriving home, he's cursed by his wife and not allowed to spend any time with his daughter. Abandoned, George turns to his underworld connections and soon finds himself chaufleuring a high-priced black call-girl named Simone. It is Simone who eventually sends George on a chase similar to the one in "Hardcore," asking him to locate a missing girlfriend, who also is a prostitute. Rising to the task, George becomes Simonc's knight in baggy pants, if not armor, and his battle through the London porno world ends with him being surprised by his courage as well as Simone. "Mona Lisa" has a beautifully complicated script, but the essential power of the film is generated by a pair of superb performances: the bulldog-like Bob Hoskins "The Long Good Friday" as George and the striking Cathy Tyson Cicely Tyson's niece in her film debut as Simone. The role of George was written with the seemingly hard-as-nails Hoskins in mind, but the camera reveals an old softie under his hard shell exterior. Hoskins won the best actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for this performance, and it's certainly one worthy of an Oscar nomination. He's a grunting, plodding, likable presence, and we would follow him anywhere. And when he starts to take a liking to Simone, "Mona Lisa" is very sweet Arts at large indeed. Tyson is a revelation in her own right, playing street smart and seductive as well as it can be played. Director Neil Jordan reveals himself to be quite a talent, taking delight in radically switching the mood of the film as violence constantly intrudes upon quiet while double-dealing regularly interrupts fidelity. The film's title song, performed by Nat "King" Cole, repeatedly asks the question: "Are you warm? Are you real, Mona Lisa?" And it is precisely that question that George is forced to ask most everyone in the film, especially Simone. Michael Caine, who doesn't get enough credit as an actor, turns in yet another solid performance as a vicious mob boss who would like to step on George as if he were a bug. Together with his performances this year in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" and Alan Alda's "Sweet Liberty" in which he was that film's only redeeming feature, Michael Caine is having quite a year. It has been two decades since Caine came to fame with "Alfie" and "The Ipcress File" and he has lost none of his talent. Caine plays the cold edge of reality in "Mona Lisa," and while George has his heart opened by Simone, he always is in danger of having it cut out by Caine. And it is precisely that interplay between tenderness and ruthlessness that is the special excitement of "Mona Lisa," one of the year's most spellbinding films. Film note: This is the last regular film review I'm scheduled to write for The Tribune. After a month's vacation, I'll return to the paper with a new title, "syndicated film columnist." What that means is that I'll be writing my usual assortment of trend stones and interviews each Cathy Tyson above, and left with Bob Hoskins makes her film debut in "Mona Lisa" "Mona Lisa" Mini-review: Hooked with a heart of gold Dlractad by Nan Jordan; written by Jordan and Oavfd Lafand; photoorapnad by Rogar Pratt; adlt-ad by Lauay Waftan muale by Mchaal Kaman; Eroducad by Staphan Woollay and Patrick aaaavattl: an Island Plcturas ralaaia at tha Blograph Thaatar. Ratad R. THE CAST Oaorga Bob Hoakkia 8anona CathyTyaon tortwaH MKAaal CalM Jndaraon CUnta Patara Cathy KataHardla Thomaa RobMa Coltrana week for the Sunday Arts section as well as my column of mini-reviews, called Siskel's Flicks Picks, for the Friday section. A new movie critic, soon to be appointed, will do the daily reviewing. After 17 years of writing about the movies for The Tribune my first and only newspaper job it's a pleasure to continue to do so. See you on Fridays and Sunday beginning in August. Opening tonight MUSIC: Kathleen Battle, soprano; James Levlne, piano; songs by Puree!!, Handel, Schubert, Strauss, Duparc, Faure, Hahn and spirituals, 8 p.m.; Ravtnla Park, Green Bay Road, north of Lake Cook Road, Highland Park. $5-$35. 728-4642. MUSIC: Kool & the Gang, 8 p.m.; Poplar Creek Music Theatre, Hoffman Estates. $11-$16. 559-1212. MUSK?. Troublefunk. 8 p.m.; the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave. $10.50-$ 12.50 cover, two-drink minimum. 853-3636. THEATER: ' Geography of a Horse Dreamer." Sam Snepard's drama about the greed of a group of men who abuse another man's glft" for predicting future events, presented by the American Blues Theatre, at the Prop Theatre, 2360 N. Clybourn Ave.; 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday-Saturday. Note: Also selections of "Hawk Moon," Snepard's personal reflections of growing up in America, will be presented. $8. Through Aug. 10. 86&-1091. Morsels of truth overdone Dn Hollywood, there are two sides to every story behind the scenes and on the screens. In "A Hollywood Education," David Freeman looks for lessons in both, and what he learns just might be the truth. Which is, even in Hollywood, stranger than fiction. Technically, "A Hollywood Education" is fiction, a collection of 1 7 "Tales of Movie Dreams and Easy Money." Freeman, a journalist and screenwriter, distances himself from his narrator, a journalist and screenwriter, by having him recount stories heard at the Chateau Marmont, Morton's and other Hollywood hangouts. "Start with fact," a newspaper editor advises the narrator in the opening story. "Then add whatever you need to make it more revealing. . . . You might even get at some skinny version of the truth." Like any good student of Machiavellian behavior, Freeman recognizes that Hollywood is an education in itself. As an industry town where the main business is make-believe, Hollywood dispenses with at least one layer of deception. Everyone here is hustling, but at least they're honest about it. The difference between postures and private motives provides Hollywood with its natural tension. It also provides Freeman with his central conflict. In the story "Another Bottle of Petrus," a conversation between a screenwriter and a British playwright comes complete with subtitles. "I wouldn't presume to write your script," says the Hollywood hack, while the subtitle reads, "I'll do it and you can pretend to change it and we can be done with this charade." In the story "In the Desert," an associate producer finds himself being propositioned by the boss' mistress: "He knew if he made love to her she'd throw it in Clare's face Book review A Hollywood Education By David Freeman G.P. Putnam's Sons, 268 pages, $17.95 Reviewed by Richard Pane A freelance writer and critic and that would certainly cost him his job. The price seemed a little steep. On the other hand, he thought, this woman could be life-changing, or at the least, seriously deal-making." And deals, Freeman makes clear, arc the only game in town "the true drug, grail and lubricant of Hollywood. Whether it's an agent negotiating from his hospital bed for the rights to his own death, a studio executive "breathing hits and wrapping Porsches around trees" or a U.S. senator selling his soul to a studio mogul, the botton line is the same professional profit and personal loss. Freeman suggests this conclusion without moralizing. He has a journalist's respect for facts, and a fiction writer's insight that facts aren't enough. What he lacks, ironically for a screenwriter, is a sense of when enough is enough. At heart his Hollywood is a small town, the stun of folklore, where the same faces haunt the same places in a frantic search for the fix of the moment drugs, sex, money, movies, diets, even death. No matter that they know better. That only makes the fates of these townsfolk more tragic. They've lived the lessons of A Hollywood Education," but they'll never leam. 'Great Mouse Detective': Vintage Disney, updated By Johanna Steinmetz Dn 1972, six years after Walt Disney died, executives at Disney Productions made an animated decision: cartoon production, which had languished since the '50s in the wake of such Disney diversifications as theme parks and live action movies, would be brought back to its former glory. Newly hired talent would apprentice with the soon-to-retire Disney veterans who had made such classics as "Snow White," "Pinocchio," "Bambi" and "Cinderella." "The Great Mouse Detective" suggests that the renaissance has been artistically successful. Whether it will make it commercially depends on our national level of blood sugar. This movie is cute, cute, cute, but it's a higher grade of cute than "The Rescuers" 19771 and "The Fox and the Hound" 1981. The key to good Disney animation is character and facial expression, and "Detective" abounds in both. The world it inhabits is the mouse society of 19th-century London, a world that parallels and plays ofT human society. There is a mouse Queen Victoria, a mouse toymakcr and, yes, a mouse Sherlock Holmes: one Basil of Baker Street. Basil, the great gumshoe mouse, practices a Holmesian brand of eccentricity involving the violin, Mandarin disguises and elaborate Rube Goldbergian devices that, among other things, smoke his pipe. Into his life comes rotund Dr. Dawson, leading by the hand the fair young Olivia, a mousewaif who has witnessed her father's abduction by an evil peg-legged bat named "The Great Mouse Detective" Mini-review: Mice are people, too. Dlractad by John Mutkar, Ron Clamanta. Cava Mlchanar. Burny Mattfnaon. Baaad on tha book "Baall ol Bakar 8traar by Eva'Tltua. Story adaptad by Pata Young, Vanca Garry, Stava Hulatt. Ron clamanta, John Muakar, Btuca M. Morrta, Matthaw O'caHaghan, Burny Matttnaon, Dava Mlchanar, Marvin Shaw. SuparvlaJng anrmatora: Mark Hann, Qian Kaana, Robart Mfnkoff, Nanoal Butoy. Score by Hanry Manclni. Edtft-ad by Roy M. Bra war Jr. and Jamaa Malton. Produced by Burny Manlnaon, A Buana vista ralaaaa. Ratad a Fidget, henchman to the archfiend Ra-tigan. Ratigan is a deliciously hulking rat who insists he is just an overgrown mouse. His sewer lair is home to a mangy band who are given to Busby Berkeley routines that come out sounding a little like "Springtime for Hitler" from "The Producers. Ratigan has a plot to overthrow the Queen and he has kidnaped Olivia's father, a toymaker, to force him to help with it. Of course, we all know the outcome, and getting there is all the fun. The movie updates some great Disney cliches, as well as one I would like to see put to rest: the notion that amputees, such as peg-legged Fidget, are scary and evil. Remember Captain Hook? There's an inebriated mouse falling into a fountain of pink champagne and emerging with a sou burp; there's Basil, Dr. Dawson and Olivia clinging to the back of Sherlock Holmes' bloodhound, Toby, as he tracks his way through the London streets; there's Dr. Dawson being blown ofT his feet by Toby's sneeze. There are constant plays on miniaturization. And, in perhaps the film's most colorful scene, there is Basil and Dr. Dawson on 'Little China' has trouble as cinematic melting pot Archfiend Ratigan In "The Great Mouse Detective." what might be called their sewercide mission, tracking Ratigan to his lair via The Rat Trap, a tough pub where the warm-up act is a tap-dancing, juggling octopus. Technically, the movie combines traditional, hand-drawn character animation with computer graphics, used for complex backdrops, to a greater extent than Disney has before. The Henry Mancini score manages to cut some of the sugary visuals with a welcome dose of brisk, British-sounding melodies. But it is the character voices that, more than anything, move this film along, particularly those of Vincent Price as Ratigan, former Chicagoan Val Bettin as Dr. Dawson, British actor Barrie Ingham as Basil and veteran Disney voicer Candy Candido as Fidget. What it all comes down to is the basic question: Is this just a movie for children? Not really. It's more a movie for the childlike of any age. By Rick Kogan Df you think there is "Big Trouble in Little China," you should see the big troubles in "Big Trouble in Little China." On second thought, don't bother. You can surely find better things to do with your time than suffer through this 100-minute disaster. Though the film stars Kurt Russell, an actor of palpable cool, and is directed by John Carpenter, heretofore a stylishly interesting filmmaker, it is nevertheless as complicated and frequently indecipherable as a menu in a Chinese restaurant. Choosing one ingredient from column A Action-Adventure, one from column G Ghosts, one from column R Romance, one from column K Rung Fu and one from column M Monsters, Carpenter concocts a messy cinematic meal, derivative in a number of ways and original in hardly any. It takes us into parts of San Francisco's Chinatown that the tourists never get to see. And good thing, too. How might a couple from Pinckneyyille react to a 2, 000-year-old man with a craving for green-eyed girls? That fellow is but one of the strange characters in this imaginary place that has sprung from the minds of screenwriters Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein, with an adaptation by W. D. Richter, who was responsible for another bit of chaos called "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai." This 2,000-year-old-man causes most of the trouble in Chinatown. Looking like an Oriental Howard Hughes, with long nails "Big Trouble in Little China" Mlnl-revlew: Plenty ot troubles Dlractad by John Carpantan. acraanplay by Qary Qoldman and David z. Watnataln, with an adaptation by W. D. Rlchtar; producad by Larry J. Franco; photooraphad by Daan Cun- neat maaiara. Katao ru-ij. and disheveled hair, Lo Pan James Hong is desperate for a green-eyed girl who will free him from an ancient curse and restore his physical form. His henchmen kidnap just such a prize and thus does Kurt Russell a tough-guy, long-distance truck driver named Jack Burton enter into the fray. The girl is the fiance of his pal, Wang Chi Dennis Dun, and together they attempt to get her out of the evil man's clutches. Along the way they encounter all manner of special effects exotica, from a fight between rival Chinese gangs to enemies with names such as Lightning, Thunder and Rain, The Eye, and Sewer Monster, and such places as the Iron Basin, Room of the Upside-Down Hell, Mansion of the Disloyal and Hell of the River of Ashes. These special effects are laid on with increasing carelessness. Occasionally stimulating as in a flying kung fu fight they eventually pander and are interrupted only by romantic interludes of the stiifest sort, most notably between Russell and lawyer Gracie Law Kim Cattrall. Though the film does contain a few minutes of patented Carpenter camera magic, it is unable to sustain either story or character. For all its flash and color, it is a dull film an artless dig in the Spielberg garden. Jim Belushi emerges from shadows with life, survival instinct intact Continued from first Tempo page films, beginning with Michael Mann's "Thief," this spring's "Salvador," and now "About Last Night." In "About Uist Night," produced by Chicagoans Stuart Oken and Jason Brett, directed by former Winnctkan Ed Zwick, and written by Chicagoans Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue, Belushi re-creates the role of Rush Street renegade Hemic Lilko "every single woman's nightmare", a role he first played on stage at the Apollo Theater Center six years ago. "About Last Night" is a contemporary love story, a dramatic comedy filmed on location in Chicago. 1 1 centers on two young singles played by brat packers Rob Lowe and Demi Moore who breach Rush Street ethics by falling in love after a one-night stand, much to the chagrin of their best friends played by Belushi and former Steppenwolf actress Elizabeth Perkins. Throughout the afternoon, John Belushi's name repeatedly weaves its way into the fabric of Jim's conversation, but it becomes clear that he believes he has torn through the oppressive cloak of John's controversial death. He considers himself a survivor, an actor who should be judged on the merits of his own work and not on the legacy of the Belushi name. John Belushi died at age 33 on March 5, 1982, of an overdose of heroin and cocaine. Just as Jim would later do, John got his start at Second City, then went on to star in "Saturday Night Live" and such films as "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers." "John died when I was in the middle of doing 'Pirates of Penzance' at the Shubert in Chicago," he says. "I was devastated. I hit rock bottom. I was swimming, not sure where I was going. I guess you have to hit rock bottom before you can stan coming back up. I made it back. I wish John could have made it. 1 wish he could be here to see how it feels. My head is clear, I haven't taken a drink in a year and a half, and drugs are past history. John did not die in vain. 1 feel like I have lived through him. That I am an extension of him." What happened a year and a half ago to so radically change his lifestyle? "I was fired from 'Saturday Night Live,'" he answers firmly. I haven't really stated this publicly before, but it's true. I was fired from the show. I was drinking too much. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't a drunk; it was pressure related drinking. The pressure would build and I would take a shot of whiskey. I would get into tremendous arguments with Dick Eber-sol producer of SNL, and he finally fired me. It was right around Christmas." To compound matters, his marriage which produced one son, Robert, now 51 also was breaking up. He decided to seek solace in the islands, and he traveled to free-spirited Negril, Jamaica. "It was like going back to 1968," he says of Negril. "People there thought it was cool to be able to walk down the street smoking a joint. Well, I lived through 1968, and I decided I didn't want to live through it again. I needed to talk to my lawyer in New York, but there was only one phone and a long line of people waiting to use it. It was a nightmare. Absolutely the worst time in my life." Upon returning to the United States, Belushi vowed to clean up his act. "1 learned what it is like to be straight," he says. "I found out that you don't have to be high all the time to enjoy yourself. I started to take care of myself. My head cleared, and I started to relate to people better. I am enjoying my life now and I feel in control. I'm doing the best work of my life and I'm not living day by day, I'm planning for the future." "Jim has come to terms with his talent," says coproduccr Brett, "and that is not always an easy thing to do for someone who is as talented, and aware of his talents, as Jim is. He is enjoying his life and you can see this in his performances. You can also see that he is testing himself as an actor, and this is a testament to his growth as a person." It is getting late the seltzer bottle has long been empty and Belushi has a plane to catch back to Los Angeles, where he has been living since January. The conversation continues in the limousine as it rolls through the old neighborhoods along Division Street en route to his Near North Side destination. It is a route he has traveled frequently in more difficult times and in far less comfortable surroundings. Belushi couldn't be more aware of this. "Life," he says, expansively, "is very, very good right now."

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