Movie blues: which to choose?

On movies

August 23, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

SO MANY movies. So little time.

Five films open today at area theaters. This is a perfect weekend to escape chores, work and summer doldrums to the chilly, popcorn-scented darkness of a movie house.

How to choose one from this crop? Which to see first?

Can't do it by the stars alone. Today, critic Lou Cedrone bestows two stars each on four of the films (and the fifth goes unrated because it's a restored classic).

Maybe a particular genre appeals to you.

One movie roars into town with motorcycle cowboys as rebel-saviors. Two mysteries tempt with suspense. The comedy features a master of disguises. And the restored classic -- a musical -- is dated but much loved.

They're all pretty good bets, Lou says, beginning with the film-noir mystery ''Dead Again." If you're looking for farce, ''True Identity'' is worth a see. So is ''Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man,'' despite its obvious promotions. If the tunes "Ol' Man River" and "Fish Gotta Swim" make you sentimental, paddle over to the Senator for the restored 1951 "Showboat" (see Page D3). Here are Lou's reviews:

'Dead Again''

** A woman, convinced that she has lived before, is certain that she was murdered in her previous life.

CAST: Kenneth Branagh, Andy Garcia, Derek Jacobi, Hanna Schygulla, Emma Thompson

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

RATING: R (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

A synopsis of ''Dead Again'' makes it sound as though the movi is going to work itself into a hole and never dig itself out.

Actually, it does, with more than a little wit, a -- of humor and great style.

''Dead Again'' means to echo the Alfred Hitchcock films and some of those done by Brian De Palma when he was imitating Hitchcock.

Actually, the film is closer to Hitchcock than it is to De Palma, and this is said with more than a hint of approval. ''Dead Again'' has its share of violence, but all this is done with commendable restraint. This is definitely not a film that hopes to emulate the ''Nightmare on Elm Street'' school.

Toward close, the new movie does bring ''Fatal Attraction'' to mind, but its ending is far more satisfying, largely because we have been prepared for it.

Kenneth Branagh stars. He also directed. Branagh, 30, is the young man who won an Academy Award nomination for his work in ''Henry V,'' a film he also directed.

In the new movie, Branagh is Mike Church, an American private eye thrown into the company of a mute young woman who is positive that she has lived before as a pianist who was murdered by her husband, a composer.

The composer dies for the crime, but it isn't long before we suspect that the wrong man may have been executed.

Who did do it? Well, the suspects are many, and they include a refugee woman and her young son.

''Dead Again'' flashes back -- in black and white -- to 1948, the time of the murder. When it returns to the present, the film is in color, a handy device that helps us keep all this straight.

Branagh is completely at ease as the American private eye. His accent is quite good. Emma Thompson is bewitching as the woman who thinks she has lived and died before. Derek Jacobi is an antiques dealer who offers to help solve the mystery. Campbell Scott is a mysterious young man who claims to know the woman and Hanna Schygulla is the refugee woman who had loved the man accused of killing his wife.

Andy Garcia, speaking with an accent, is the reporter who covered the murder trial. He doesn't have that much to do, but he does have one terrific scene in which the very obvious message is ''give up smoking.''

''Dead Again'' is a more-than-serviceable mixture of mystery, comedy and surprise. Go along with it, and you are likely to enjoy it.

''Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man''

** Two bikers, friends, stage a heist that pits them against crime lord.

CAST: Mickey Rourke, Don Johnson, Giancarlo Esposito, Vanessa Williams, Tom Sizemore:

DIRECTOR: Simon Wincer

RATING: R (nudity, violence, language)

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

Hollywood is apparently very fond of ''Butch Cassidy and th Sundance Kid,'' the 1969 film starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. They can't seem to leave it alone. Only a few months ago, we had ''Thelma & Louise,'' a female version of that legend. Now, there's ''Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.''

The film is quite good. At start, it moves leisurely, but in time it develops a nice cadence, dropping more than a few laughs along the way.

Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson are the title characters, and of course, neither Harley Davidson nor Marlboro could hope for better advertising than this.

The promotion is blatant. Both men smoke throughout the film, which is set five years in the future.

According to this film, men on cycles will still be smoking and wearing earrings five years down the road. They will also be as aimless as some members of the present generation. They don't know the word commitment.

''Harley Davidson'' is also a buy-American film. In once scene, Marlboro (Johnson) shoots his Kawasaki to death. Do you need a clearer message than that?

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