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For, Oct. 17, 2014

It's a strange thing for a movie critic to see his name pop up in the credits of a movie. Not the name of some caterer or gaffer that happens to be the same as yours — but your name.

This has happened three times to me in my 36-year career, and it's always a bizarre feeling.

The first time was in the 1990s after local filmmaker Craig Clyde had appeared on KSL's "The Movie Show" with Doug Wright and me. For some reason he felt compelled to put our names in the "Thanks" credits at the end of his next movie, "Walking Thunder."

It was an odd sensation to see my name pop up in the end credits. I had a sense of not belonging.


It didn't happen again until 2011. At his behest, I read the script for local filmmaker T.C. Christensen's next film, "17 Miracles," and over lunch I offered my two-cents worth of suggestions. To be honest, I don't recall what I told him and I'm not sure he even used any suggestions I gave, but he nonetheless listed my name with a passel of others in a "Thanks" list among those end credits.

The third, and I'm pretty sure final, time is on the LDS-backed movie "Meet the Mormons." I was approached a little over a year ago to help the filmmakers with the clips of Mormon gags that open the movie, since I'm known in certain circles as a guy obsessed with collecting mentions of Mormons in movies and TV shows.


So I gathered a bunch of DVDs and a VHS or two, along with a list of suggestions, and passed them on.

At the time, "Meet the Mormons" was being targeted as a film for the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Building in downtown Salt Lake City, and maybe some visitor's centers around the world.

When it was decided to give it the film a national theatrical release, it took everyone by surprise. Still, I didn't expect to get a credit for my minor level of input.

But there it is, among many other names in the end credits.

I've often been asked over the years if I had any yearnings to make movies. The answer is no.

But I don't want to seem ungracious. So I'll take these small tokens for what they're worth.

Movies of the Week


For, Oct. 17, 2014

Lots of new movies are opening this week, including two wartime films — a Brad Pitt vehicle and a documentary on Vietnam — along with an eclectic mix of genres among six other titles.

"Fury" (R). Pitt leads the cast in this World War II action drama about a five-man crew taking a Sherman tank behind enemy lines during the Allies' final push against the Nazis in Europe. Co-stars include Shia LeBeouf and Michael Pena.

"The Book of Life" (PG). Stop-motion-style computer animated feature about two gods toying with a love triangle on earth between an aspiring singer/guitarist and a strutting military hero, both of whom are pursuing a free-spirited young woman, which leads to obstacles to be overcome in three fantasy worlds. Voice cast includes Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Diego Luna, Christina Applegate, Ron Perlman, Ice Cube, Danny Trejo and Hector Elizondo.

"The Best of Me" (PG-13). The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation has former high school sweethearts reuniting 20 years later, after the boy has served a prison sentence and the girl has moved on, getting married and having a child. Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Gerald McRaney and Caroline Goodall star.

"The Song" (PG-13) is a faith film with a familiar story as a failing singer-songwriter suddenly hits the big time and finds himself succumbing to the usual temptations. This, just after he has married and written a song for his wife, which becomes his first hit. Alan Powell and Ali Faulkner star.

"Men, Women & Children" (R). Timely, raunchy comedy-drama with multiple storylines about teens and adults navigating the ever-changing world of social media. Stars include Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Emma Thompson and Judy Greer.

"Last Days in Vietnam" (not rated). Documentary about the moral quandary of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam who are told to evacuate only Americans during the final weeks of the war as Saigon falls and panicked Vietnamese civilians attempt to escape. Exclusively at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City.

"Pride" (not rated). British comedy based on the true story of gay activists who worked to help miners during a lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. Stars include bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Dominic West. Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cienmas in Salt Lake City.

"Addicted" (R). Successful businesswoman (Sharon Leal) runs an art gallery, has a husband and two children but can't resist indulging a sex addiction that leads to dangerous affairs. Exclusively at the Cinemark Jordan Landing in South Jordan.

DVD of the Week



For, Oct. 17, 2014

Of all the whackadoodle sci-fi movies I've seen — and that covers a lot of territory — few have been quite as bonkers as "Snowpiercer" (R for violence and language), which lands on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday (Oct. 21).

Released in art houses over the summer, this global-warming cautionary tale has the last inhabitants of a frozen-over Earth traveling the globe in a train that never stops. And to be forceful with the metaphor, the "haves" live in luxury at the front of the train while the brutalized "have-nots" do the dirty work and live in squalor at the back of the train.

Once the setup is understood, the plot is pretty simple: The "have-nots" revolt and start forcing their way to the front of the train, though they aren't quite sure what they'll do once they get there.

"Snowpiercer" is directed and co-written with panache by Bong Joon-ho, whose gripping Korean movies "Host" and "Mother" were well received around the world, helping the level of interest in this film to rise.


Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, far left; Chris Evans, center: 'Snowpiercer'

And he's managed to gather an interesting cast, led by "Captain America" himself, Chris Evans, who becomes the de facto head of the group, leading them to glory or maybe to death.

Going with him are Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and John Hurt, with Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris representing the bad guys who are running things.


Obviously, this is not a film for everyone, and it is brutal in places. But Bong Joon-ho is a filmmaker to watch and with "Snowpiercer" he has delivered yet another odd but engaging piece of entertainment.


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


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



For, Oct. 10, 2014

"Gigi" (1958) was the last of MGM's classic-era musical extravaganzas, a cinematic adaptation of the Broadway smash that sprang from the 1944 novella "Gigi" by French author Colette.

The film garnered nine Academy Awards, including best picture, best director (Vincente Minnelli) and best screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner).

Today "Gigi" remains an enchanting fairy tale of sorts, with a completely winning performance by Leslie Caron in the title role and such still-vibrant songs as "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," "The Night They Invented Champagne," "I Remember it Well" and, of course, "Gigi," by Lerner and Frederick Loewe (whose other Broadway hits include "Brigadoon," "Camelot" and "My Fair Lady").

Set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, the lavish production begins with a wraparound narration by Maurice Chevalier as Honore Lachaille, who introduces us to young Gigi, living with her doting grandmother (Hermione Gingold) and often visited by their friend Gaston (Louis Jourdan), who is Honore's nephew.


                      Hermione Gingold, Maurice Chevalier, 'Gigi'

Soon Gigi is sent to an aunt to be groomed as a courtesan, and in the process she grows up, much to Gaston's consternation as he is confronted by his own feelings, which have blossomed from friendship for a free-spirited girl to love for a cultured woman.

The film is colorful, and the set design and costuming are sumptuous, earning Oscars for art direction, cinematography and costume design.

Jourdan is very charming and Gingold is funny and likable, and a variety of supporting players also have their moments (Eva Gabor among them).

But it's Caron's film and she is utterly delightful at the center of it all, singing, dancing, a buoyant and alive tomboy who transforms comfortably into an adult in full bloom.


It must be said, however, that Chevalier, the sly old scene-stealer, really shines as the film's voice of wisdom, and he has two particularly memorable highlights, his solo with "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and a marvelous, hilarious duet with Gingold, "I Remember it Well."

"Gigi" will play at 10 a.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 21) at the SCERA Center in Orem.

Golden Oldies Finally On DVD



For, Oct. 10, 2014

Making its disc debut (after a short life on VHS back in 2000), "The Girl Hunters" (1963, b/w) is one of those much sought-after titles that isn't really a great film, but it is a pretty good one for a certain genre, and now the boutique label Kino Lorber has decided to give it another life on Blu-ray and DVD.

The film is based on Mickey Spillane's novel about tough-as-nails private eye Mike Hammer, with a screenplay by the author — and Spillane also stars as Hammer!

While his performance wasn't likely to be noticed by the Motion Picture Academy, it's actually not bad in the oeuvre of writers-as-actors (which is larger than you might think). In fact, it may be the only one where a writer plays an iconic character he created himself.

And it must be said that as a result this particular gumshoe yarn has an aura of authenticity like no other, despite its modest budget.

As "The Girl Hunters" opens, Hammer is in a drunken funk, which he's maintained since the disappearance of Velda, his girl Friday. But with help, he sobers up and vows to track down the bad guys and find out what happened to her.


      Shirley Eaton, sunbathing with protection, 'The Girl Hunters'

The film gets a boost from Lloyd Nolan in support and a pre-"Goldfinger" Shirley Eaton as the love interest, along with some solid black-and-white cinematography and a really jazzy musical score.

As for Spillane, his dialogue delivery is strictly a staccato monotone but after a while it grows on you and sort of suits the character.

Among the annals of pulp-fiction sleuths, Mike Hammer is notable and notorious for his propensity for fisticuffs and shootouts. In fact, some of the character's TV incarnations have been condemned for being too violent.

By 1963, Hammer had been on the small screen once, with Darren McGavin's "Mike Hammer" series in the 1950s, and on the big screen three times in B-movie form: "I, the Jury" (1953), "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) and "My Gun Is Quick" (1957). Of those, only the TV series and "Kiss Me Deadly" have been released on DVD.


There was one more big-screen effort in the 1980s, a remake of "I, the Jury," with Armand Assante. But the most famous incarnation is Stacy Keach's, which he honed on two TV series, one in the 1980s and another in the late 1990s, along with some TV movies. For some reason, only the latter is on DVD.

But one has to think that Spillane in "The Girl Hunters" was bringing to the character all the tough-guy elements he thought were necessary, and it shows.