Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns

THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN

       

                          Prince, 'Purple Rain'

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 29, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Did you know that waaaaay back in 1984, the year Prince made his movie debut with ‘Purple Rain,’ he won an Oscar for that film? Yes he did — for best music score. So with his untimely passing last week at the age of 57, I’m running my review of his movie, which is being revived by the Tower Theater this weekend (below, right) and this little ‘Hicks on Flicks’ item below ran in the Deseret News on March 24, 1985, headlined ‘Eddie Murphy top attraction at box office in 1984.’ Why am I running it? Because Prince gets a mention. Hey, I never interviewed him; this is all I’ve got.

Eddie Murphy was the top box office attraction of 1984.

That’s no surprise, of course, but it is the result of a new poll.

Boxoffice, the motion picture industry trade magazine, just published the results of an annual poll of its subscribers (primarily theater owners around the country).

Murphy was named “top male attraction” for his work in “Beverly Hills Cop,” while Sally Field won as “top female attraction” on the strength of “Places in the Heart.” (We won’t mention Murphy’s “Best Defense” here.)

     

              Eddie Murphy, 'Beverly Hills Cop'

Following Murphy among the men were Bill Murray for “Ghostbusters” (we won’t mention “The Razor’s Edge”), Clint Eastwood for “Tightrope” and “City Heat,” and Harrison Ford for “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” in that order.

Following Field were Goldie Hawn for “Protocol” (… and we won’t mention “Swing Shift,” either), Kathleen Turner for “Romancing the Stone” (did someone ask about “Crimes of Passion”?), and Meryl Streep for “Falling in Love” (the less said about that one …).

“Most promising new attractions” were Tom Hanks (“Splash,” “Bachelor Party”) and Kate Capshaw (“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Dreamscape,” “Windy City” and “Best Defense”).

      

Sally Field during her famous 'You like me. ... ' Oscar speech.

And runners-up here were Prince (“Purple Rain”), Joe Piscopo (“Johnny Dangerously”), Lori Singer (“Footloose”) and Catherine Mary Stewart (“The Last Starfighter,” “Night of the Comet”).

One result is certainly obvious.

You don’t have to be in a hit to make the poll.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

‘MOTHER’S DAY’ IS NOT A HORROR MOVIE (I THINK)

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 29, 2016

Mother’s Day is a week from Sunday, so this weekend we get a new movie for the occasion titled … wait for it … “Mother’s Day.” Also, an IMAX documentary, a cartoon for kids, a cute kitty movie that is decidedly for adults and several independent productions.

“Mother’s Day” (PG-13). Filmmaker Garry Marshall directed this sentimental ensemble comedy after the fashion of his earlier forays into similar territory with “Valentine’s Day” (2010) and “New Year’s Eve” (2011). This time he’s focusing on a divorced mother (Jennifer Aniston), a career woman (Julia Roberts) who gave up her daughter a couple of decades ago, and a woman (Kate Hudson) who gets an unexpected visit from her overbearing mother (Margo Martindale), and their stories will intersect. Co-stars include Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant and Jon Lovitz,

“A Beautiful Planet” (G). Eye-popping imagery is promised as Jennifer Lawrence narrates this 45-minute IMAX documentary that explores Earth from the vantage point of the International Space Station. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Jordan Landing Theaters.)

“Ratchet & Clank” (PG). This animated feature is based on the first of the platforming video game series, a sci-fi action comedy that tells the origin story of the titular characters, how they met and joined forces to save the Solana Galaxy. Voice cast includes Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Rosario Dawson and Sylvester Stallone.

  

“Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” (R). True story of the late journalist/TV screenwriter Denne Bart Petitclerc (Giovanni Ribisi), who traveled to Cuba in 1959 to meet Ernest Hemingway (Adrian Sparks) and found himself in the midst of a revolution. Based on a script begun by Petitclerc at the time of his death in 2006, this is the first Hollywood movie made in Cuba since 1959. Joely Richardson co-stars; Hemingway’s real-life granddaughter, actress Mariel Hemingway, has a cameo.

“The First Monday in May” (PG-13). Documentary about the creation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most-attended fashion exhibit, “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which displays Chinese-inspired Western clothing. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Keanu” (R). Clarence and Rell (TV comics Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) attempt to retrieve Rell’s cat after it goes missing, which causes them to become involved with a notorious gang in this raunchy action-comedy. Co-stars include Method Man, Will Forte, Nia Long, Luis Guzman and, as the voice of the title cat, Keanu Reeves.

“Green Room” (R). After performing a quick gig at a skinhead bar in the Pacific Northwest, members of a punk-rock band witness a murder and go on the run to escape the white-supremacist neo-Nazi killers in this gory thriller.

“Purple Rain” (R). After his passing last week, Prince’s 1984 film debut is revived, a sort of cross between “Rebel Without a Cause” and “The Rose.” See my 1984 review to the right on this page.

“Blue Velvet: 30th Anniversary” (R). This is a reissue of the notorious David Lynch film (for which he was Oscar-nominated as best director) about sleazy goings-on in a small American town. See my 1986 review below. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)


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

BLUE VELVET

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 29, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since a national art-house revival run of the notorious ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986) begins today locally at the Tower Theater, it provides me with an excuse to run my review, published in the Deseret News on Oct. 5, 1986. Why is it under the “DVD of the Week” listing? Hey, it’s on DVD.

Writer-director David Lynch is certainly a talented craftsman, but he is fast developing a reputation as the most unpredictable, and perhaps slickest and sickest filmmaker to come along since Ken Russell or Brian De Palma.

Lynch’s first film, a low-budget, independent, extremely strange movie was “Eraserhead,” a maddening film filled with stark, fascinating, and often disgusting imagery.

Next came “The Elephant Man,” an eloquent telling of an ugly story, filled with pathos and character, and embraced by both critics and the public.

Then “Dune,” an obviously heavily trimmed, overwrought and frequently incomprehensible film version of the Frank Herbert science-fiction classic.

Now we have “Blue Velvet,” which in some ways is comparable to Russell’s “Crimes of Passion” and DePalma’s “Body Double,” but which manages to surpass even those films in its depravity.

Yet, as with those films – and others by Russell and DePalma – “Blue Velvet” leaves one admiring the technological talent. Lynch does have an eye for imagery and an undeniably original touch. But this is not a pleasant film and repulsion is the one feeling that lingers more than any other.

The film begins with a very weird sequence, one which certainly sets the tone for the next two hours. We see images of small town Americana but in something of a time warp. Some of the set designs and costuming appears to be right out of the ’50s, while other aspects indicate the present day.

That’s deliberate, I’m sure, as Lynch is interested in establishing a sort of nether world, a little “Twilight Zone” all his own where he can tell his story without having to rely on too much reality.

   

      Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, 'Blue Velvet'

The surrealistic overtones continue as we see flowers and nicely trimmed lawns and eventually an older man watering his front yard. He has an apparent heart attack and falls to the ground while his wife watches television in the house. A dog jumps on the man, drinking form the hose he still clutches. A baby toddles in the yard. The camera goes to slow motion, with amplified sounds of indiscernible screams and explosions (a device repeated throughout the film at various dramatic moments).

Then the camera takes us through the yard, into the grass, under the earth to reveal a mountain of bugs frantically digging and crawling and pulling at each other, as the amplified sound continues.

It is apparent we are going to be shown the contrast between Middle America and its sordid underbelly – and that’s exactly what follows.

The story has young Kyle MacLachlan (he had the lead in “Dune”) as the son of the man who had the heart attack. MacLachlan walks through a field where he finds a human ear, and he immediately takes it to a police detective who lives on his street.

MacLachlan’s curiosity about the severed ear gradually leads him into underworld intrigue involving a young woman (Isabella Rossellini, who resembles her mother Ingrid Bergman, and to some degree Nastassja Kinski) whose husband and son have been kidnapped by a drug dealer (Dennis Hopper) who brutalizes her repeatedly in various violent sexual rituals. (The rating here is a very hard R, by the way; this is exploitive, sleazy, perverse stuff.)

And in many ways the brutalization seems to extend to the audience. Not only is Rossellini’s character consistently dehumanized, people who view this film are likely to feel the same way.

The young man becomes involved with her, hoping to be her savior, and at the same time he begins dating the innocent young daughter (Laura Dern) of the police detective. Another obvious contrast. (At one point Dern says, “It’s a strange world.” She ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)

     

                   Kyle MacLachlan, 'Blue Velvet'

MacLachlan’s initial meeting with Rossellini involves a ridiculous and very sordid male-chauvinist fantasy, and virtually all of her scenes in the film are the most shocking and brutal to appear in a movie in many years. Yet they seem to be without any real dramatic point.

We get the idea quickly enough, but Lynch forces the audience to wallow continually in Rossellini’s humiliation, and the result is more than uncomfortable. It’s like reading some sick magazine you’d be ashamed to have anyone see you holding.

Lynch does successfully show us the seamy side of the street, his actors – especially Dern, and in a bizarre cameo, Dean Stockwell, and Hope Lange and Brad Dourif, who have nothing to do – perform very well, the photography is excellent, there is some good humor and tension, and the Angelo Badalamenti score is most intriguing. And some of Lynch’s directing choices here are mesmerizing.

But when you come out of a theater feeling like you should be sprayed with disinfectant, the filmmaker has simply gone too far.

Lynch is a very talented artist, but one hopes his future efforts will be less inclined toward shock for shock’s sake, or visions so obscure you wonder if even he knows what they mean.

In the case of “Blue Velvet,” audiences are likely to leave the theater saying to themselves, “That’s entertainment?”


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

PURPLE RAIN

    

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 29, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: As noted above, Prince died last week, and his Oscar-winning debut film ‘Purple Rain’ has been revived in local theaters, so here’s my July 27, 1984, Deseret News review.

Remember the good old days, when a boy showed his affection for a girl by giving her his class ring? These days he gives her his earring.

At least that’s what happens in “Purple Rain,” a surprisingly effective movie designed to fit the talents of Prince. To those who have no idea where KRSP is on the AM radio dial, Prince may sound like the name of a dog, but it’s actually the stage name of a rock sensation, whose current number one hit “When Doves Cry” is featured in this film.

“Purple Rain” is an independently produced film spotted by Warner Bros. as a potentially strong moneymaker, and therefore picked up for distribution.

Something of a combination of “Rebel Without a Cause” and “The Rose,” “Purple Rain” is the story of a young aspiring rock star called The Kid, played by Prince, who has converted the basement of his parents’ broken-down home into a place where he can privately submerge himself into this music. At night he and his band play at a local club.

     

               Prince, Apollonia, 'Purple Rain'

Part of his need for escape stems from a desire to hide from his parents’ constant battling, and there is a strong subtext here about the passing on of wife-beating syndrome from father to son. The Kid finds himself inadvertently stepping into his father’s footsteps, and the turmoil that causes inside him is partially responsible for his angry musical talent.

On stage, The Kid shows he has tremendous talent, but his music is perhaps too personal and self-obsessed, and the manager of the club says his music doesn’t reach out to the audience. The Kid is also too selfish to acknowledge the musical talent of others in his band.

Meanwhile, Apollonia enters his life, a beautiful young musician who is also struggling to make it in the business. He is at once drawn to her and threatened by her, and his mixed personal feelings arouse in him his greatest fears about being like his father.

Apollonia meanwhile accepts the assistance of another singer, Morris, who has a strong desire to eclipse The Kid’s talent. (Morris Day and his assistant also provide the film’s comic relief, at one point doing a very funny variation on Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine.)

As you may have surmised, “Purple Rain” is a downbeat, emotion-filled drama, but it benefits from a rousing on-stage ending that leaves the audience in an upbeat, toe-tapping, cheering mood. That is admittedly deceiving, since most of the film is much darker than that, but it also serves to have the audience departing on a note that will likely sell the film by word-of-mouth.

      

The R rating is deserved, with the extremely intense violence between The Kid’s parents, and some very explicit sexual material, as well profanity and nudity.

Yet, this is a film that achieves an awful lot. First and foremost is Prince’s talent, which is enormous. His music is highly original, his onstage performances are mesmerizing and exciting, and his acting is first-rate in a complex role. Equally important, those filling the roles that surround him have been carefully cast, and all are very good – especially Clarence Williams III as Prince’s tormented father.

Further, there is the plot element about family violence, a serious problem in our society and very seriously addressed here. Director Albert Magnoli, who also co-wrote and edited the film, handles this sensitive subject extremely well, while guiding his cast expertly and providing some beautiful photography of the Minneapolis locales. And his editing skill is largely responsible for the film’s energetic flow, while maintaining deep interest in his characters.

“Purple Rain” is a surprisingly well-executed step in Prince’s fast-moving career, and a sharp piece of filmmaking in its own right. There are a few missteps, occasional scenes that seem weak, possibly because they are improvised, and some moments that seem especially cruel – though it is not exploitative. But the message here is a positive one, and on the whole, this drama/concert film blend works very well.


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

JINXED!

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 29, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bette Midler’s second starring role (after her Oscar-nominated turn in ‘The Rose’) was in the film noir comedy ‘Jinxed!’ —  and it apparently was jinxed, as explained in my review below, published in the Deseret News Oct. 26, 1982. As for its video history, following a VHS release in 2001, it went out of print until a couple of years ago when it popped up as an Amazon exclusive on a double-feature DVD with ‘A Matter of Time.’ And last month Olive Films gave ‘Jinxed!’ a Blu-ray upgrade. It’s not a great film but Midler fans know she’s great in it.

“Jinxed!” is Bette Midler’s second acting effort (you can’t really count “Divine Madness,” which is a concert film), and she still shows a high-energy potential for being a major influence in films – but like “The Rose,” “Jinxed!” is notable mainly for her, and it doesn’t have “The Rose’s” tremendous musical numbers to hold it together.

A black comedy version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Jinxed!” is a bizarre little film that is almost three separate movies.

For the first third, we have the story of Willie (Ken Wahl) the blackjack dealer, whose plague is Harold (Rip Torn). Willie can’t keep a job because Harold is his jinx, following him around from job to job, playing blackjack and winning every hand. Bonita (Midler) is Harold’s woman. She gets singing jobs (allowing for two musical numbers) in the casinos to help set up Willie.

   

                 Ken Wahl, Bette Midler, 'Jinxed!'

The second third of the film has Willie arranging to meet Bonita, the two of them falling in love and eventually plotting to kill Harold.

The third section has dead Harold being carted around like luggage, then evolves into a scavenger hunt of sorts, as Bonita sets out to find Harold’s hidden fortune.

There is a lot that goes unexplained in this film, such as who Harold makes all those mysterious phone calls to – and who he really is, for that matter. And it’s impossible to believe that Bonita and Willie can really fall in love so quickly. Whatever else she is, Midler is not irresistibly alluring.

But the real problem is one of general character development. There is no chemistry between the stars, no understanding of what Bonita sees in sadistic, nasty Harold in the first place, and as a result, the entire picture becomes unbelievable.

Individually, Midler and Torn are fascinating to watch, and Wahl displays a certain amount of charm, but they never seem to get together, and the film is so often somber that it seems to contradict the comic musical score that accompanies the action. Further, a scene with Jack Elam as a curmudgeon miner is totally out of place – and looks as if it belongs in yet a fourth movie.

     

“Jinxed!” is one of those pictures that looks as if it had some possibilities going in but fell apart somewhere in the making. Rumors are that veteran director Don Siegel and Midler had some two-fisted disputes about making this movie, and it shows. Everything here seems to be at odds with everything else. (Another veteran director who hasn’t made a film in awhile, Sam Peckinpah, reputedly worked on the film as a second-unit director, though he receives no credit.)

Rated R for her usual brand of profanity, as well as some violence, “Jinxed!” is a film that could have – should have – been much better. And it’s one only one of many in that vein that seem to be making the rounds lately.