Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns



For, Friday, April 28, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week I ran a 26-year-old column chronicling my complaints about movie theaters and this week it’s the sequel, 26-year-old responses from readers. The column was headlined ‘Readers decry “mall mentality” of movie theaters,’ published in the Deseret News on June 23, 1991.

Some interesting responses came in regarding a recent column about the many hazards of going out to a movie these days, ranging from the expected complaints about concession prices, people talking during the show and commercials preceding the feature, to some that were quite unexpected.

Several people involved in local film and video production told me their biggest complaint is that the films they see in theaters are so often out of focus or without the stereo sound working properly. They didn't know whether to be more frustrated because there wasn't a projectionist to talk to or because other members of the audience didn't seem to notice.

Writer-director Trent Harris, whose first feature film "Rubin and Ed" had its world premiere at the Tower Theater recently, said, "It's that mall mentality, with all those little theaters. There's some 14-year-old kid running the place who doesn't know what Dolby sound is. The picture's not as good, the sound isn't as good — the popcorn's definitely not as good."

At one local theater a patron watching a movie that wouldn't hold still — the picture slightly jiggled — went into the lobby and told two young employees at the candy counter about it. Both looked at each other and both moaned about the prospect of having to go upstairs and check it out, but they said they would. The problem, however, continued throughout that show.

There were a number of stories about projector breakdowns, which, of course, are mechanical problems no one plans on. But the frustration felt by customers had more to do with not being able to find anyone to start it up again. In one such incident, the projectionist was "on his break" and wasn't even in the theater. When he finally returned, some 10 minutes later, he corrected the problem and the film resumed.               

A couple of people complained about how quickly the lights go up after the film is over — before the end credits begin to roll. This seems to be especially bothersome to macho men who find themselves misty-eyed at the conclusion of a sad ending and don't want to show it.


Then there was the radio-sponsored screening of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," where the air conditioning didn't work, and the 800-plus people in the audience felt like they were in a giant steam bath.

The opposite occurred at a local mall theater where the auditorium was freezing, literally so cold that the backs of the chairs felt like ice, despite 80-degree temperatures outside. Customers were told the mall controls the air conditioning.

In a more offbeat vein, retired Deseret News music critic Harold Lundstrom, who still contributes a weekly chess column to the paper, said he ran into an unusual moviegoing hazard back in the late 1920s when he worked in a movie theater. Lundstrom was an organist toward the end of the silent era, and the most common problem at the time was women carrying parasols. When they would enter the theater in the dark, these ladies would jab the parasol into a seat to see if it was occupied — often injuring whoever might be sitting there.

And, of course, we get letters:

I feel you gave Cineplex Odeon Theaters a bum rap in your article.

I am a frequent moviegoer, most every Friday and Saturday night, and some of the better theaters I have visited have been Cineplex Odeon. Where else can you use discount tickets anytime for all shows? Nowhere other than the Cineplex theaters that I am aware of.

On occasion I have had a reason to complain about some of the same things you mentioned, but whenever I have brought it to the attention of the manager it has more often than not been taken care of immediately. On one occasion a group of young people had water guns in the theater and were randomly squirting people. When we informed the manager he handled it very promptly and courteously. And it was in a Cineplex Odeon theater.

I would like you and your readers to know that I can't always get discount tickets, but the admission prices at the Cineplex theaters have gone down in the last six months, which makes it a lot easier on my pocketbook.

Even though you occasionally run into a problem when you go to a movie, there is no substitution for the big screen. I, for one, feel I can overlook a problem or two for the enjoyment I get from the movies.

Bill Rogers

West Jordan

Your (article) has prompted me to write about a moviegoing experience my husband and I recently had.

On Saturday evening, May 25, we went to see the movie "Impromptu" at the Trolley Square Theater. We sat about two-thirds of the way back in the center. All through the entire movie we could hear the clicking sound of the projector. It was most distracting during the parts of the movie which featured the beautiful piano music of Chopin.

I have never before experienced the annoyance of having the mechanical movements of the movie projector in a "modern" movie theater.

Marilyn M. Oswald               

Salt Lake City


I read your article in the Deseret News on Sunday and I couldn't believe that you don't like the singing cats at the beginning of the movies at  (Cinemark Theaters). Sometimes on weekends, my parents take me and my brother to Valley Fair to see movies and the singing cats are my favorite part. I think the other theaters are boring. Front Row Joe rules!

Holly Rodgers, age 12


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, April 28, 2017

Opening this weekend is a thriller that preys on our fears of technology, along with a trio of smaller movies.

“The Circle” (PG-13). Emma Watson plays an up-and-comer hired by the most powerful technology company in the world, whose co-founder (Tom Hanks) encourages her to join a groundbreaking social-media experiment that quickly begins to affect the lives of her friends and family in unexpected ways. A thriller with sci-fi overtones, co-starring John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly.

“How to Be a Latin Lover” (PG-13). Mexican actor/filmmaker Eugenio Derbez (“Instructions Not Included”) stars in this farce about a gigolo who marries a rich older woman, lives a spoiled life for 25 years, and then, to his complete surprise, is unceremoniously dumped by her for a younger guy. So he goes on the prowl for another wealthy target and begins to eye the grandmother (Raquel Welch) of his nephew’s school friend. With Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell.


“Growing Up Smith” (PG-13). Family comedy-drama about an immigrant couple (Bhaaskar Bhatnagar, Poorna Jagannathan) and their young son Smith (Roni Akurati) as they try to adjust to American culture without losing their Indian identity, and their interactions with the redneck family next door (Jason Lee, Hilarie Burton) whose teenage daughter (Brighton Sharbino) becomes Smith’s best friend. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Graduation” (R, in Romanian with English subtitles). A physician in a small mountain town pushes his daughter to study and live abroad when she’s 18, but just as she’s in line for a scholarship to a British university she is assaulted, and her subsequent depression torpedoes her ambition. Dad has some ideas about making things right but they’ll involve him doing some wrong things, which can only lead to tragedy. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

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



For, Friday, April 21, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: The British boutique label Arrow Films has given a gorgeous Blu-ray upgrade to one of 1990’s best movies, the Italian Oscar-winner for Best Foreign-Language Film, ‘Cinema Paradiso.’ Here’s my May 4, 1990, Deseret News review. As you’ll see, the film was unrated when I reviewed it, but it was later given a PG rating.  Then, for a 2001 re-edited ‘director’s cut,’ the film earned an R for a couple of sex scenes that were added. The Arrow Blu-ray edition includes both versions.

"Cinema Paradiso" is at once a love letter to the movies and a tender, unabashedly sentimental coming-of-age story set in a small Sicilian village during the post-war years.

The story is told in flashback after Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), a famous, successful, but unfulfilled film director, is awakened by a phone call from his mother telling him his old friend Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) has died, and the funeral is the next day.

Salvatore is unable to sleep, and for most of the rest of the film he remembers days gone by, primarily his growing-up years amid a bevy of zany eccentrics.

Most of his youth was spent in the small movie theater that bears the film's title, where he could be spirited away from his tenuous, unhappy real life to the reel world of fantasy, not just when the theater was open to the public.

The projectionist, Alfredo, is at first annoyed that this boy keeps sneaking in, and he kicks him out repeatedly, especially when he watches as the local priest screens films and orders Alfredo to cut out all the "kissing" sequences, along with anything else the priest deems to be in questionable taste.

But gradually Alfredo warms up to Salvatore and eventually becomes his father figure. Meanwhile, Salvatore gradually learns how to operate the booth.


Philippe Noiret, left, and Salvatore Cascio in 'CInema Paradiso.'

These early moments in the film are heart-warming and funny, but it isn't long before melodrama begins to take over. A lesser film might sink under the weight of such contrivances as a fire in the projection booth that has tragic consequences, acting as a rather heavy-handed metaphor.

But despite his story's occasional lumbering turns, writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore has a light touch with his dialogue and direction so that even at its weakest moments the film remains remarkably compelling. It's a balancing act that can make the difference between a success and a failure, and here Tornatore is more than up to the task.

The performances are all first-rate, the lush Ennio Morricone score perfectly accentuates the action and the photography is lovely.


As a coming-of-age picture "Cinema Paradiso" is more like "Amarcord" than "My Life as a Dog," especially in scenes where the villagers attend movies to participate instead of merely watch. It is in these scenes we meet dozens of zany characters, giving the film its mild Felliniesque feel. But it also provides one of the movie's best moments, as Alfredo projects a film on a wall in the village square for the townfolk who couldn't get into the movie.

"Cinema Paradiso" does not cover unfamiliar territory, but it manages to find its own romantic voice and, like the classic films it celebrates, becomes an enchanting fantasy that should happily spirit away even the toughest cynics.

And the climax is one of the most satisfying and delightful movie endings to come along in many a moon.

Anyone who loves movies is going to love this movie.

"Cinema Paradiso" is not rated, but would probably carry a PG-13 for some relatively mild nudity, sex and profanity. It is in Italian with English subtitles.

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, April 28, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This sci-fi thriller was a modest worldwide hit in 1997 but gained a bigger following — especially in America — on video, and now it’s about to receive a 20th anniversary big-screen revival for a couple of days, courtesy of Fathom Events. If you’re a fan, check it out at local Cinemark Theaters on Sunday, May 14, and Wednesday, May 17, at 2 and 7 p.m. Here’s my May 9, 1997, Deseret News review.

There’s no question that French filmmaker Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element” is the wackiest, goofiest, strangest $100 million-budget movie ever.

Imagine Mel Brooks and David Lynch collaborating to remake “Blade Runner.”

After this picture, we may better understand why the French love Jerry Lewis.

Stealing liberally from “Blade Runner,” “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and dozens of other lesser sci-fi fantasy epics, ranging from “Stargate” to “Species” (not to mention “The Love Boat” … sort of), Besson has concocted a wild, weird 23rd-century world where giant iron-shelled scarab beetles are saviors of the universe and huge, ugly, rubber-faced monsters can morph into human form by sheer will (though they can’t hold it for very long).

On Earth, meanwhile, roads have apparently gotten so over-crowded that vehicles now fly through the air — though airborne traffic is still ridiculously heavy. The president (of the federation territory) is played by hulking Tiny Lister Jr. (who is surprisingly effective in the role). And Bruce Willis is a retired “space fighter” who lives in a cramped apartment (really more of a hallway) and drives … er, flies … a Brooklyn cab.

One day, a young woman (Milla Jovovich) drops into Willis’ cab — literally — and a wild-eyed priest (Ian Holm) reveals that she is the title character. That is, you have your air, earth, water and fire — and this young woman is the fifth element.

To save the world from a raging, “evil” planet-sized fireball, she must be placed between sacred stones representing the other four elements. This will form a weapon designed to destroy evil.


             The blue opera singer in 'The Fifth Element.'

OK, it makes no sense — and I warned you that it’s weird.

Anyway, to get to that point, Willis and Jovovich must go through a series of adventures that are increasingly bizarre with the film unfolding as a zany comedy. Honest!

— Chief villain Gary Oldman looks like a fey Chinese warlord, walks with a limp and speaks in a goofy Southern accent.

— A large woman who is assigned to impersonate Willis’ wife wears her hair in two huge buns, a la Princess Leia.

— A blue soprano who resembles one of the “Alien” creatures performs a lovely operatic solo on a stage.

— A wild-and-crazy talk-show host (Chris Tucker), who helps Willis and Jovovich save the world, is an amalgam of (the artist formerly known as) Prince, Arsenio Hall and Richard Simmons with a voice that sounds as if it’s on helium.

— And they all come together on a spaceship-cum-vacation-cruise-liner to try and locate the sacred stones.

Trying to figure out the convoluted plot is probably futile but what holds the film together — as far as it holds together — is its dazzling visuals.


       Bruce Willis, left, Chris Tucker, 'The Fifth Element'

Besson has obviously spared no expense for the film’s look, and scenes of vehicles flying around high-rise buildings, a cruise ship floating through space, special-effects details from pets to giant spaceships, etc., provide some wonderful eye candy.

And there are plenty of individual moments that are truly captivating, such as the Chinese junk that pulls up to Willis’ apartment window to deliver lunch, the aforementioned blue soprano’s performance and many others.

But as a whole, the chaotic effect is more on the order of a train wreck.

This is especially disconcerting in the final act, as the film turns into “Die Hard In Space.” Even when crazy weapons are used, gunfire and explosions are still just gunfire and explosions.

Even worse, however, is Tucker’s character, who is amusing at first but then quickly becomes so obnoxious you just wish he’d go away. Oldman similarly wears out his welcome before the film is over.

Sci-fi fans will want to check it out but don’t expect too much in the story department.

“The Fifth Element” is rated PG-13 for violence, nudity, sex, profanity and vulgarity.

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



For, Friday, April 7, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This sequel to the one-two gory-horror punch of ‘Evil Dead’ and ‘Evil Dead II’ is so popular a cult hit that it led to a TV series, ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead,’ on Starz, which has shown two seasons, with a third scheduled for the fall. The ‘Army of Darkness’ film has now earned a Blu-ray collector’s-edition release from the Shout! Factory. Here’s my Feb. 23, 1993, review.

OK, we're in "Buckaroo Banzai" territory here.

"Army of Darkness" is as loopy a movie as you have ever seen. An anachronistic, comic-horror, time-traveling, gonzo-reveling, wacked-out adventure, as silly and crazy as it can possibly be.

This is high camp, bad-movie making like we just don't get very often these days.

And it's also kind of fun.

While it's true that "Army of Darkness" is not going to appeal to everyone, this is the kind of zany film that cries out for a cult following.

Director and co-writer Sam Raimi, whose wild comic-book thriller "Darkman" flopped at the box office but found an audience in its video incarnation, made "Army of Darkness" as a bigger-budget follow-up to his two underground "Evil Dead" movies, a pair of no-budget, very gory and sometimes amusing horror yarns.


                 Bruce Campbell, 'Army of Darkness'

This time, our one-handed hero Ash (again played by Bruce Campbell), finds himself thrust into the past, the Dark Ages to be precise. There, he must once again battle evil spirits to save the world — and to get back to his own time.

The only things he has with him are the ripped-up clothes on his back, a 12-gauge shotgun, a broken-down chainsaw and his trusty 1973 Delta 88 Oldsmobile … which isn't running at the moment.

Upon landing in this poverty-ridden medieval place, Ash is corralled with a renegade band of criminals and taken to a castle, where he must duel with monsters to gain his freedom.

With wisecracks and his shotgun — which he explains is his "boomstick" — he manages to gain some control of the situation and makes plans to get back to his own time. But to do so he must first go on a quest for a book, uttering the magic words, "Klaatu barada nikto!" (OK sci-fi fans, what's that line from?)


Of course, when he finally gets the book, Ash forgets the phrase, which leads to an army of the dead — a band of skeletons, mostly — rising up to do battle with Ash and his reluctant comrades.

The special effects here range from spectacular to cheesy and the humor from hilarious to stupid. Meanwhile, Raimi gleefully steals from any number of other, better movies — the Indiana Jones trilogy, Clint Eastwood's "Dollar" trilogy, Ray Harryhausen's Sinbad pictures, etc. Even the Three Stooges. And a case could be made that the plot is really just "Beastmaster 2" in reverse.

But Raimi, with his ever-roving camera and brash, in-your-face style, along with Campbell's droll impersonation of an obnoxious yuppie playing hero — he's sort of Indiana Jones as a twit — make this unlikely adventure more fun than it has any right to be.

What can I say? It made me laugh. Out loud. Several times.

(By the way, look fast for Bridget Fonda in a quick flashback as Ash's dearly departed girlfriend.)

"Army of Darkness" is rated R for violence, gore, profanity and vulgarity.