The latest in movie news the week of October 26, 1990 -- The latest projects from Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts, puzzling advertisements for ''The Hot Spot,'' and more

The Hound Of Music
Hollywood loves a good dog. Asta (The Thin Man), Toto (The Wizard of Oz), Mike the Dog (Down and Out in Beverly Hills) and even the drooling Hooch (Turner & Hooch) have all stolen the show from their human costars over the years. Now another pup is set for the big screen: B-I-N-G-O, the subject of that old car- trip pastime tune, has inspired a full-length, live-action feature. But don’t expect Lassie Come Home. Instead, Bingo! describes the cross-country trek of a collie-like mongrel, who encounters a series of ”shady, down-on- their-heels, Jim Thompson-style characters,” says Mark Gill, vice president of studio publicity for Tri-Star Pictures. ”Also, there is a series of satires of favorite movie dogs from over the years — Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Benji all show up in scenes.” As for the soundtrack, well, audiences won’t be able to clap their way through the old folky standard. Instead, rap, rock, and blues versions of B-I-N-G-O are all in the works. Matthew Robbins (*batteries not included) is directing the feature due to be unleashed next summer. Woof!

Dutch Treat
After his comedic role as the sweating, sputtering mobster Mumbles in the summer hit Dick Tracy, Dustin Hoffman is playing the crooked guy straight this time, as the grisly gangster Dutch Schultz in Billy Bathgate. The movie, currently in production in New York, is based on the best-seller by E.L. Doctorow and will reunite Hoffman with his Kramer vs. Kramer director Robert Benton. The 1930s crime saga also stars Nicole Kidman (Days of Thunder) and newcomer Loren Dean as Billy, the urban Tom Sawyer whom Schultz indoctrinates into the glamorously evil underworld.

The Buck Starts Here
Director George A. Romero, who established himself as a horror auteur in 1968 with his amateurish-but-creepy Night of the Living Dead, is staking his reputation on a new, living-color remake of that black-and-white chiller. Why beat a dead zombie? ”When the original came out, we basically got ripped off,” says Romero, who claims a distribution snafu beat him and his investors out of their share of the profits. The original Living Dead has grossed an estimated $50 million, but says Romero, ”After 22 years the film hasn’t yet returned a million dollars to a group of 28 shareholders. The remake wws a shareholders’ decision to turn our ownership of this title into some money.” Still, Romero and other Living Dead-heads acknowledge that the new version has inevitable limitations. ”It can never be that innocent,” he says. ”It can never have that lack of self-consciousness that the original had.”

Sexy Samaritan
Pretty woman Julia Roberts may have found an opportunity to put her Flatliners-medical- school education to use once again. In Dying Young, based on the heavily hyped first novel by Marti Leimbach, Roberts will return to her working-class roots as Hilary O’Neil, a blue-collar worker who takes a job caring for a terminally ill man (played by Campbell Scott, son of George C.). In the midst of their budding romance, Hilary becomes torn between her leukemia-plagued lover and the robust entrepreneur he selflessly encourages her to see. The movie will team Roberts once again with Flatliners director Joel Schumacher when production begins in November.

Adventures in Advertising
The billboard for Dennis Hopper’s steamy new drama, The Hot Spot, had us scratching our heads. Composed of a series of apparently unrelated images (a barren skyscape, a pink Cadillac, and a pair of perfect red lips with a dangling cigarette), the poster focuses on a rather proocative slogan: ”Safe is never sex. It’s dangerous.” Just how does Hopper interpret this enigmatic riddle? Naturally, the offbeat director prefers not to: ”It was originally sex is never safe, it’s dangerous,” he says. ”But I kept making the mistake ke saying it the other way around. It’s totally stupid, but I liked it.”

(G. Benatar, J. Cagle, D. Everitt, M. Gerosa, C. Henrikson)

The Hot Spot
  • Movie
  • 130 minutes