Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood in which of the movies below?

For, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: For a series of movie quizzes in the 1980s that we called "Screen Test," I teamed up with the late William S. Goodfellow, the classical-music critic for the Deseret News and also quite a film buff. This one was published Dec. 23, 1983.

'Tis the night before Christmas Eve, and we've come up with 12 movies that feature Christmas as a prominent setting (there are many more, of course). From the descriptions below can you name each film?

  1. A young girl who is dying of leukemia wants desperately to dance in "The Nutcracker" before she dies.
  2. In this frenetic comedy, a racetrack gambler is ordered to pay up or else.
  3. In the 1940s, a young man wants nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder air rifle.
  4. A wealthy father learns his young son is going to die and tries to improve his relationship with the boy.
  5. Two French nuns in New England get local people to help them build a children's dispensary.
  6. Two entertainers fall in love with the same woman after one opens a roadhouse devoted to holiday themes.
  7. In the Old West, three bandits find a child in the desert whom they decide to raise.
  8. A man insists he is the real Santa Claus, and eventually must prove it in court.
  9. Detective Philip Marlowe investigates a murder, with the camera taking his point of view exclusively.
  10. Two entertainers who were Army buddies turn their old general's failing resort into a yuletide success.
  11. A prosecutor falls in love with a shoplifter after her trial is postponed.
  12. Two children enjoy a festive Swedish holiday at the turn of the century, until their father dies.

ANSWERS: 1. "Six Weeks" (1982); 2. "The Lemon Drop Kid" (1951); 3. "A Christmas Story" (1983); 4. "The Christmas Tree" (1969); 5. "Come to the Stable" (1949); 6. "Holiday Inn" (1942); 7. "Three Godfathers" (1916/1936/1948); 8. "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947); 9. "Lady in the Lake" (1947); 10. "White Christmas" (1954); 11. Remember the Night"(1940); 12. "Fanny and Alexander" (1982).



For, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

More than five blockbusters, actually, if you count those that opened in the past few weeks and are still playing ("Mockingjay," "Exodus," etc.).

Christmastime movies are always an odd mix of big fantasies and family pictures, and R-rated art films hoping to become Oscar contenders. This week we see the entire mix competing for your moviegoing dollars.

"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (PG-13). The final entry in Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy must deal with the dragon Smaug from the previous film's cliffhanger ending before getting down to the business of the battles alluded to in the title, as Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Iam McKellen) and friends fight to save Middle-Earth. This one opened on Wednesday.

"Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" (PG). Ben Stiller and many of the cast members from previous entries star in this third go-round of the fantasy franchise about exhibits in a New York museum that come to life at night. The late Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Ben Kingsley, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs and the late Mickey Rooney are among those who appear.

"Annie" (PG). Third filmed version of the Broadway musical-comedy (after the 1982 film and the 1999 TV movie) stars Quvenzhané Wallis (the youngest best-actress nominee ever, for "Beasts of the Southern Wild") in the title role of "Little Orphan Annie," with Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks (apparently "Daddy Warbucks" is too dated for 2014), the mogul who takes the child in for publicity purposes but learns to love her. Cameron Diaz is Miss Hannigan. Hey, it's a hard-knock life.

"Top Five" (R). Chris Rock wrote, directed and stars in this comedy-drama as an action-franchise movie star looking to get serious with a new film that has not previewed well, and he finds himself on the defensive with a reporter (Rosario Dawson). Also on hand are Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Sherri Shepherd and J.B. Smoove, with cameos by Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler and Tracy Morgan.

"Wild" (R), based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," stars Reese Withspoon as Strayed, divorced and grieving the death of her mother when she decides to hike more than 1,000 miles as a form of healing. Laura Dern co-stars as her mother in flashbacks.

"The Babadook" (not rated, Australian). Horror film from Australia about a widow's young son slipping into behavioral problems connected with his attachment to an imaginary monster that may not be so imaginary after all. Exclusively at the Tower Theater.

"National Gallery" (not rated, documentary). This film explores the National Gallery in London, which houses a collection of paintings that dates back to the 13th century. Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.




For, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Reese Witherspoon's other big 2014 movie (after "Wild"; see above) was this engaging exploration of the culture shock suffered by the "Lost Boys" of Sudan, as demonstrated by four refugees who find themselves in Kansas City, Missouri, after receiving a chance to start over in America.

Witherspoon dominates the poster and stars in the movie, but she (and the filmmakers, writer Margaret Nagle and director Philippe Falardeau) wisely let the Sudanese refugees take center stage and the film is the better for it.

But even if they had not made that choice, the casting is so perfect that the four Sudanese players would likely have stolen the show anyway.


Their attempts to adapt to their surroundings and struggle with cultural surroundings that couldn't be more different from their homeland, allows for some gentle comedy. But the horrors of the past also come into play. And there are some wonderful plot twists and turns that keep the narrative lively and completely captivating.

"The Good Lie" is now on DVD and Blu-ray and is highly recommended.

Welcome Welcome

Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.

But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.

I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).

This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.

My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.

The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned from my 30-plus years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.

I'm still writing for the D-News and contributing the occasional article to the website Familius, publisher of my May 2013 book, "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?"

This site is a mix of archival stuff (with permission) from the Deseret News, along with an array of non-DesNews material, including new blogs, reviews and stories as often as I can manage to squeeze them out.

Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.

Chris H.

Shameless Hucksterism Shameless Hucksterism

  Click cover for article.  Click cover for interview with Chris.


Click here for Deseret News interview.

Click here for Deseret News review.

Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen



For, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Even if you've seen "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946, b/w) a dozen times, it still manages to capture you in a way that lifts you up.

And if you've never seen it on the big screen, now's your chance. It's even more powerful when you don't have the distractions of home viewing.

James Stewart stars in what has been described as the pinnacle of Frank Capra's stellar directing career as George Bailey, the selfless and rather hapless hero that strives to leave the small town of Bedford Falls time and again only to be repeatedly stymied by his sense of duty and loyalty and love for those around him.

The film is very dark in places, especially when a tragic bit of chicanery by the town mogul, Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore), causes George to give up on life and ponder suicide.


        James Stewart, Donna Reed, 'It's a Wonderful Life'

But thanks to a witty angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) George gets a chance to see what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if he'd never been born. And it's a bit of a shock.

Charming, funny, warm, heartbreaking, romantic, smart and ultimately uplifting, "It's a Wonderful Life" is guaranteed to put a tear in your eye and a bit of joy in your heart.

That it's set during Christmas just adds to the tenor of this truly wonderful film.

"It's a Wonderful Life" will be shown on Sunday, Dec. 21, at 2 p.m., and on Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark Theaters, and on Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 3 p.m., and on Thursday, Dec. 25, — for free — at the Tower Theater.

Golden Oldies Finally On DVD Golden Oldies Finally On DVD



For, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

One of the great romantic-movie teams at the end of the silent-movie era and into the early-sound period was the inimitable pairing of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in a dozen films.

The last of their films together was "Change of Heart" (1934, b/w), which recently made its DVD debut on the Fox Cinema Archives label for manufacture-on-demand discs.

This is a story of four friends graduating from college in Los Angeles and making their way to New York to begin their adult lives.

Gaynor plays a hopeful writer who's in love with Farrell. But he's a lawyer hoping to land a job in a major firm that only has eyes for Ginger Rogers. She's an actress seeking stardom on Broadway and is too flighty to see what a catch Farrell is. And the fourth member of the crew is James Dunn, as a crooner looking for radio stardom who is in love with Gaynor.


         Charles Farrell, Janet Gaynor, 'Change of Heart'

"Change of Heart" is a soap opera, to be sure, but the stars have charm to spare, and Gaynor and Farrell have chemistry to burn.

And it's nice to see Rogers get a chance to steal scenes in an early dramatic role when she was on the cusp of hitting it big as Fred Astaire's dancing/romancing partner.

And look for moppet Shirley Temple in a minor supporting role just before she became a star with "Stand Up and Cheer!"