Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns

REMEMBERING ROGER MOORE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 26, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Roger Moore, best known as James Bond for seven films that gradually pushed the 007 franchise into self-mockery, died this week at age 89. As has been well chronicled since his death, Moore was quite the wiseacre which apparently made him an enjoyable companion, but it also made hime less than ideal for journalism. I had occasion to interview Moore (along with a gaggle of other entertainment writers) for the Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only,’ and the result was this story, published in the Deseret News on June 26, 1981, under the headline: ‘With Roger — no Moore than you ask for.’

NEW YORK – Roger Moore is the perfect example of an actor who is always “on.” That may be an admirable trait for the life of a party, but it makes interviewing a subject more arduous than it has to be.

Ask a question, get a quip.

And when Moore did happen to accidentally get started on a serious train of thought, he would suddenly realize what he’d done, jump the track and go into another joke.

“I have to keep up the image of a movie star,” he said wearing a summer suit and tie, puffing on a huge cigar and declining to remove his oversized sunglasses.

Movie star Moore was part of a large entourage gathered in New York City at the Warwick Hotel to discuss the latest James Bond adventure, “For Your Eyes Only.”

     

The film, Moore’s fifth appearance as British agent 007, licensed to kill, was screened the night before for some 150 print and broadcast journalists.

Now Moore, several cast members and the producer and director are table-hopping, talking to entertainment writers that are in clumps of 10 at each table.

As an introduction, Moore describes himself as “witty” and “modest.”

“My greatest sin is humility.”

Then, the questions and answers go something like this:

Will you do the next James Bond movie? “I don’t know; they haven’t asked me.”

Do you tire of the constant comparisons to the first James Bond, Sean Connery? “Oh, I don’t know. I played Sherlock Holmes but they never compared me to Basil Rathbone.”

     

How about your change-of-pace role in “The Cannonball Run”? “It was fun to do.”

Who would you like to work with? “Glenda Jackson, Jill Clayburgh. … ” Then a pause, and with a leering smile, he adds, “I’d really like to do a couple of things with Raquel Welch.”

How do you keep so fit and trim? “I have Jack La Lanne videocassettes sent to me wherever I am.”

And so forth.

For all the information gleaned about the man, he might just as well have stayed home.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

AN OCEAN OF BLOCKBUSTERS

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 26, 2017

Two big waterlogged summer flicks are opening this weekend, the latest in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and a raunchy spoof of the TV series “Baywatch.” Who says there’s nothing original at the multiplex? On the other hand, two art films opening this week offer something different.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (PG-13). Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Capt. Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) are back for a fifth “Pirates” movie, this time taking on evil Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghost crew, who have vowed to wipe out all pirates. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are listed in the cast, as well, after having skipped the fourth film.

“Baywatch” (R). Dwayne Johnson is veteran devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchanan (David Hasselhoff’s character in the television series) who finds himself in conflict with newbie Matt Brody (Zac Efron) in this vulgar rehash of the popular ’90s show. Hasselhoff and another TV “Baywatch” veteran, Pamela Anderson, also make appearances.

 

“The Lovers” (R). Both the wife and husband (Debra Winger, Tracy Letts) in a long-stagnant marriage are having affairs with others, but one morning they wake up in bed next to each other and a spark ignites. Before long they’re having an affair with each other, and trying to hide it from their extramarital partners in this independent romantic comedy.

“My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” (PG-13). You can take the title of this mixed-media-animated teen comedy literally, as it follows a pair of sophomores whose high school is on a cliff edge above a fault line, and one day, due to structural shortcuts by the administration to save money, falls from that cliff and into the sea. Voice cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)


New DVDS/Blu-rays New DVDS/Blu-rays

UNFORGIVEN

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 26, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re a 4K collector, you’ll be interested in this new re-release of Clint Eastwood’s masterful western, released in a 4K Ultra HD multipack (with Blu-ray and Digital HD copies) for the film’s 25th anniversary. Here’s my Aug. 7, 1992, Deseret News review of the film.

After a brief prologue, the opening sequence of "Unforgiven" is dark and horrifying. In the town of Big Whiskey, a cowboy in a brothel, angered by the prostitute he has been with, calls to his partner to hold her. He then proceeds to cut up her face.

That same night, a brief "trial" follows and the sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), a rigid former gunfighter, imposes his own kind of justice. But the women in the brothel don't think it's enough — so they post a $1,000 reward for anyone who will kill the two men who mutilated their friend.

The film then moves to a Kansas hog farm where William Munny (Clint Eastwood) is having trouble making ends meet. A young punk who calls himself the "Schofield Kid" (Jaimz Woolvett) shows up and asks Munny to join him in going after that reward. But Munny, a widower with two children, declines, insisting that it's over, this life he once led as a drunken, psychotic gunman with a reputation for being the meanest in the land.

But, with the woman who married and tamed him having passed on and Munny sorely in need of cash to make a life for his two youngsters, he soon changes his mind. Enlisting the aid of his former partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), who is equally reluctant to go back to his old ways, Munny joins the "Kid" as they head toward Big Whiskey.

Meanwhile, Little Bill is shown to be a mean-tempered sadist who rules Big Whiskey with fear. When English Bob (Richard Harris), a bounty hunter arrives, accompanied by his biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek), we see Little Bill go berserk. He also takes great delight in deflating English Bob's self-important yarns about his own exploits, which have taken on mythic proportions as written by Beauchamp.

     

      Morgan Freeman, left, Clint Eastwood, 'Unforgiven'

Eventually, when these parallel stories merge, it is with violence, of course. But this violence suggests that the glamour of Old West gunplay is greatly exaggerated.

Clint Eastwood is probably the only filmmaker today who could mount and successfully direct a Western of the magnitude of "Unforgiven." Shot entirely on location with gorgeous vistas and a real sense of the wide open spaces of the untamed American West, this film has a look, a cinematic grandeur that is more often read about in film books than seen on the screen anymore.

Yet, it is also revisionist in the way it punctures the romantic notions that surround our movie-made view of the Old West. Guilt-ridden confessional monologues are spoken by reformed bad men, and scenes that are set up as traditional Western moments instead turn into something else (Little Bill confronting English Bob, a box canyon standoff), something with a deeper, darker subtext. It is also suggested that killing someone can be almost as painful for the killer as it is for the victim.

This is a risky proposition in a time when movies treat graphic violence as either a prelude to a verbal zinger or as a punchline. To make a Western at all is risky, of course, but to make one that qualifies as an artistic work with a serious message would almost seem like cinematic suicide.

Yet, if there is any justice, "Unforgiven" will not only gain the audience it deserves, it will also remain in voters' memories come Oscar-nomination time. Hackman, who delivers a very complex and chilling performance, deserves a best supporting actor nomination. But Eastwood should absolutely be remembered when ballots are cast for best director. Aside from being one of the highlights of Eastwood's long career, this film unquestionably offers one of his top directing efforts, right up there with "Bird."

     

The rest of the cast is also excellent. Performances by Freeman, Harris, Rubinek and young Woolvett are terrific, as are those by Anna Thomson as the prostitute who is the victim of violence and Frances Fisher as the woman who runs the brothel.

Though much of the film is brooding, "Unforgiven" is not without humor and there are many clever touches in the superb script by David Webb Peoples ("Blade Runner"). Kudos as well to cinematographer Jack Green, production designer Henry Bumstead and the haunting score by Lennie Niehaus.

"Unforgiven" is rated R for violence and profanity. There is also some vulgarity and, in the opening moments, a sex scene.


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.

Cheers,
Chris H.

Shameless Hucksterism Shameless Hucksterism

  Click cover for Parents.com 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

THE GODFATHER

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 26, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although ‘The Godfather’ frequently shows up on classic-film revival schedules, it never disappointments. You can see it on various Cinemark Theater screens, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, on Sunday, June 4, and Wednesday, June 7, at 2 and 7 p.m. Here’s my review of the film, published in the Deseret News on April 4, 1997, during a 25th anniversary theatrical re-release.

When “The Godfather” originally opened in March 1972, it was received with mixed reviews nationally, from raves in Newsweek and Time to a more guarded critique from Variety, the show-business trade paper.

But thanks to the popularity of its source material, the best-selling novel by Mario Puzo, audiences flocked to it immediately and word-of-mouth kept it going.

“The Godfather” became the first movie ever to reach $85 million at the box office, which was especially surprising at the time for an initial release (“Gone With the Wind” and “Sound of Music” took many years to come close to that amount).

As a result, “The Godfather” essentially ushered in the movies’ blockbuster era, unseated as the all-time movie champ the next year when “The Exorcist” went higher, and subsequently by “The Sting” and “Jaws.”

     

  James Caan, left, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, John Cazale

Now, of course, “The Godfather” is recognized as an American classic, and, along with its first sequel, “The Godfather, Part II,” a remarkable cinematic achievement by director Francis Ford Coppola. Both films won best-picture Oscars.

On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, “The Godfather” is back in theaters with fresh prints (the negative didn’t need restoring, though the stereo soundtrack has been enhanced) in hopes of cashing in on the revival mania brought on by the “Star Wars” special editions.

A violent and dark look at the American dream, focusing on Mafia family loyalties and replete with Shakespearian overtones, “The Godfather” was gorgeously photographed by Gordon Willis, sharply written by Coppola and Puzo, and vividly, stylishly directed by Coppola.

And like “Hamlet,” there are a surprising number of familiar catch-phrases, characterizations and scenes (“An offer you can’t refuse,” the horse’s head, etc.).

The cast is also remarkable, led by Marlon Brando (who won an Oscar) and featuring equally stunning turns by Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Diane Keaton and many others.

     

      Marlon Brando, left, Rober Duvall, 'The Godfather'

In retrospect, the performance that is most startling, however, is Pacino’s, a quiet, subtle turn, and an acting style he abandoned fairly quickly. (Though he has returned to it for his performance in the current “Donnie Brasco.”)

“The Godfather,” like its first sequel, relies heavily on flashbacks, Coppola also edited the two films together in chronological order for “The Godfather Saga,” which aired on television and then went to video. And that version is also recognized as a marvelous piece of filmmaking.

Which just proves that when you make a movie this good, no amount of tampering can hurt it.

“The Godfather” is playing at the Cineplex Odeon Broadway Centre Cinemas. Rated R for violence, profanity and brief nudity.

No word yet on whether “The Godfather, Part II” will follow.


Oldies New to DVD/Blu-ray Oldies New to DVD/Blu-ray

THE SHELTERING SKY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 26, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of print for some time, this film was recently reissued on DVD by Warner Archive, so here’s my Jan. 11, 1991, Deseret News review. I’m not a fan, as you will see, but for the record, here it is.

"The Sheltering Sky" is the kind of "art" film that discriminating audiences either embrace or find incredibly boring and pretentious. And, in the end, that seems to pretty much sum up most of Bernardo Bertolucci's movies.

Take them or leave them, "The Conformist," "Last Tango in Paris," "1900," "Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man" and even Bertolucci's most accessible picture, the Oscar-winning "The Last Emperor," are not easy films. They are daring, risky ventures all, and the Italian writer-director seems to love rolling the dice.

Likewise, "The Sheltering Sky" is a demanding film, but for me it falls into the realm of those least likable.

     

      Debra Winger, John Malkovich, 'The Sheltering Sky'

Based on Paul Bowles' 1949 novel, the film focuses on Kit Moresby (played by Debra Winger) and, to a lesser extent, her husband, Port (John Malkovich), who are remnants of the postwar idle rich. They consider themselves intellectuals, noting that they are "travelers," not "tourists." They are also rather arrogant in their romantic notions about North Africa and seem to be in the dry-rot final stages of a disintegrating marriage.

As the film opens, they embark on a voyage of self-discovery in Tangiers, in the company of their friend, George (Campbell Scott), who is not so secretly in love with Kit. As their trip becomes more of a trial, however, George abandons them.

Kit and Port explore North Africa in an attempt to understand the exotic and the forbidden, while becoming more self-indulgent along the way. Initially there seems to be a desire to save their marriage, but it becomes gradually less important the farther they get from the "civilized" world.

Eventually, a tragedy occurs — or is it? — plunging Kit into something akin to a state of shock as she links up with a wandering tribe and becomes a sex-slave of sorts.

     

Over the course of the film's nearly 2-1/2 hours, Bertolucci seems more interested in painting pretty pictures than telling a story, and there are long stretches when even the most patient moviegoers will wonder if it's worth all the vapid dialogue spouted by vapid characters. True, the pictures are very pretty, and there are some intriguing ideas set up periodically, but most of the way I just found the narrative tedious and the characters obnoxious.

It is no doubt quite difficult to portray self-indulgence without the work itself taking on an air of arrogance, and certainly "The Sheltering Sky" fails on that level, despite the impressive location photography, a fine score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and an excellent lead performance by Debra Winger.

Some moviegoers will also no doubt be offended by the film's graphic sex scenes, not to mention a peculiar closeup shot of Malkovich's genitals at one point.

"The Sheltering Sky" is rated R for quite a bit of sex and nudity, with some profanity and violence.