Nicolas Cage, Cher, 'Moonstruck'

For, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column from the Jan. 17, 1988, Deseret News, ran during the run-up to the Sundance Film Festival (before it adopted the "Sundance" moniker) but the musings on being a movie buff are still relevant.

Spending all my time in Park City for the next week covering the United States Film Festival, and all the preparation and prefest interviews that have occupied the past couple of weeks, hasn't released me from my regular movie-reviewing obligations, of course — and the great flick influx hasn't slowed down a bit, as last week's eight new movies proved.

Pondering my bleary-eyed fate brings to mind a question that is frequently asked by people I meet: "Don't you ever get tired of seeing movies?"

The answer is yes, of course.  But only when I've seen a number of bad movies in a row.

Sitting through "The Couch Trip, " "For Keeps" and "Return of the Living Dead, Part II" last week was more than even a movie critic should have to endure in tandem.

Having them broken up by the likes of "Good Morning Vietnam," "Moonstruck" and Friday's premiere festival showing of "Au Revoir Les Enfants" more than helped.

There have been occasions, however, when there have been as many as 10 or 15 in a row that are pretty awful, prompting me to consider returning to aircraft assembly or door-to-door cutlery sales.

But then that special film comes along — and all it takes is one — and I'm bolstered up and ready to go again.

Don Marshall's article in this section today about the many film festivals he attends and the hundreds more movies he sees than I would want to, makes me wonder where being a movie-buff leaves off and being a rabid addict takes over.

I suspect Marshall is the latter, while I remain the former.  And I'm not sorry about that.  But I understand how he feels, and perhaps only another real film fan would understand.


      Walter Matthau, Dan Aykroyd, Lobby Card for 'The Couch Trip'

There is something magical about being carried away for a couple of hours when a movie really captures your imagination.  Oh, it's wonderful when a movie touches a universal theme that makes us all sigh, cry, laugh or get scared together, but it's also quite nice to be singularly spirited away to another place or time or even an existence so fantastic that only the greatest cinematic imaginations could possibly put it on the screen.

And the only thing more enjoyable than seeing movies is writing about them.  Being able to write about movies makes even suffering through the worst pictures worthwhile.

They call it "Movie Magic," and that pretty well sums it up.

Anyway, all us movie nuts will be up in Park City though next weekend, seeing movies, talking about them, mingling with the people who make them and just hashing over the cinema.

Getting film buffs together all in one place can be pretty obnoxious to the outsider — spouses run screaming from the room, dates go looking for a jock or an accountant, and no one will play Trivial Pursuit's "Silver Screen Edition" with us.

But that's OK.

This week we'll be making up our own.

The Park City edition.




For, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Just like last week, there are not too many new movies in local movie theaters this weekend. After 10 new films three weeks ago and eight new films two weeks ago, last week's measly two movies seemed like a real dearth.

This week we have only have three but all are expected to perform well at the box office, and one looks like a sure-fire Oscar contender.

"The Theory of Everything" (PG-13) is based on an autobiography by Jane Wilde Hawking, the first wife of physicist Stephen Hawking, and is primarily about their relationship as he was afflicted with ALS. Eddie Redmayne who gave noteworthy performances in 2011 in "My Week With Marilyn" and the next year in "Les Miserables," is being touted as Oscar-bait for his starring role as Hawking. Jane is played by Felicity Jones.

"Penguins of Madascar" (PG) is an aninmated spinoff of "Madagascar," its two sequels and the subsequent "Penguins" TV cartoon series. This new film focuses on those scene-stealing penguins as they star in their own spy adventure. The voice cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich.

"Horrible Bosses 2" (R) is a sequel to the 2011 film about a trio of abused office drones (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis) who fantasize about killing their bosses but prove too inept to do so. This time their joint business venture is threatened by Christoph Walz, so they kidnap his son. And who wouldn't? Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey return, and Chris Pine is also on hand.




For, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

The wonderful Helen Mirren stars in "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (PG), a delightful family-friendly comedy-drama that co-stars Indian star Om Puri.

When their family restaurant in Mumbai is caught in the crossfire of an election dispute it burns down and the matriarch is killed. So Papa (Puri) uproots his family and seeks asylum in Europe.

Crossing the border from Switzerland into Southern France, car trouble strands the family in a small village where they learn that an abandoned restaurant building is for sale. Seeing this as divine providence they buy the building and eventually open an Indian restaurant, where one of the sons (Manish Dayal) proves himself to be an expert chef.

Om Puri, left, Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren, 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'

But even before they open, they are confronted with resistance by the owner-chef of an elegant Michelin-starred French restaurant directly across the street. She tries to sabotage their efforts but eventually sees the talent of the son and an uneasy alliance begins.

Based on Richard C. Morais' popular novel, "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is a charmingly constructed as a sort of fable, with underpinnings relating to tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance.

The performances help but the exquisite cinematography helps the mouth-watering food on display often take center stage.

"The Hundred-Foot Journey is making its DVD and Blu-ray debut this week and is one you shouldn't miss.


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, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

"The Polar Express" (2004, PG) is an early motion-capture animated film (the same technique was later used for Jim Carrey's "A Christmas Carol" and James Cameron's "Avatar") and it allows Tom Hanks to show is diversity by playing no less than five roles.

Chiefly, he's the conductor of the strange train of the title, which, on Christmas Eve, pulls up in front of the suburban home of a wide-eyed young boy who climbs aboard. What follows is a visceral experience as the train has a series of adventures on its way to see Santa at the North Pole.

It was quite a spectacle in 3-D on a big screen back in the day, but I don't know how much is lost on your TV with video versions … whether 3-D or flat.


Motion-capture animated Santa, Josh Hutcherson, Tom Hanks.

And although it's not showing in 3-D at the two theaters that are bringing it to town, it will no doubt benefit from being shown on a movie theater screen that can't be matched at your house. (Unless you have an amazing theater in your house.)

It should probably be noted that the boy is played by Josh Hutcherson, who went on to co-star in the "Hunger Games" films.

"The Polar Express" will be screened Sunday, Nov. 28, at 2 and 4 p.m. in the Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden, and at several Cinemark Theaters around the state on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 2 and 7 p.m.

Golden Oldies Finally On DVD



For, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

The TV movie "The Thanksgiving Treasure" (1973) is a sequel to "The House Without a Christmas Tree" (1972) and features the same cast — Lisa Lucas as Addie Mills, Jason Robards as her grumpy father and Mildred Natwick as her sweet grandmother, Robards' mother. (Two more sequels would follow.)

The gentle story is adapted from Gail Rock's novelized memoirs for youth readers and the production values are vivid in this period piece.

It's the 1940s in a small rural town in Nebraska and Addie's schoolteacher encourages the children to make friends of enemies. So Addie suggests inviting to Thanksgiving dinner an elderly man (Barnard Hughes) with whom her father is feuding. Needless to say, Dad says not. Adamantly.

So Addie takes some of her Thanksgiving Dinner to the man and, despite his being twice as grumpy as her father, befriends him and stars taking care of his horse.


     Jason Robards, Lisa Lucas, 'The Thanksgiving Treasure'

It's a sweet story and the cast is wonderful, although it's directed a bit more like a play than a film or TV show. As a result some of the performances are quite theatrical and occasionally off-putting. Especially Lisa Lucas as Addie.

In the end, the warmth of the show stands out more than its weaknesses and watching three old pros like Robards, Natwick and Hughes in action is well worth the price of admission.

This is the DVD debut of "The Thanksgiving Treasure" (it was on VHS in 1998 under the title "Holiday Treasure") and it has been made part of a double-feature disc that includes the first in the series, "The House Without a Christmas Tree," which was previously released as a stand-alone DVD.