For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: During the 1980s and ’90s I interviewed Robert Redford on a number of occasions about the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival, as well as his movies. So, with Redford’s impending retirement from acting all over the news this week, I found one that seems appropriate, published in the Deseret News on Sept. 18, 1992, under the headline, ‘Robert Redford gets busy.’ It was a period when he stepped up both acting and directing after a comparatively sparse output in the 1980s. As a footnote, some of the films he talks here about never came to fruition, which is the way it goes in the moviemaking industry.
Robert Redford was calling at odd times from airports and, at one point, while flying in a plane, to confirm a telephone interview. It was difficult connecting because he’s so incredibly busy at the moment — acting in movies, directing movies, promoting movies. …
Is this the same Robert Redford we hardly heard from in the ’80s?
Oh, yes. In fact, his schedule is so hectic that he must have wondered why he ever agreed to this interview, though he would never say so.
Two weeks ago he was being grilled by the national press in Los Angeles for “Sneakers.” Between now and mid-October he will be out selling his latest directing effort, “A River Runs Through It.” In and around all this, he’s starring in “Indecent Proposal” with Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, which will continue shooting until Oct. 2.
“This is really a killer month,” he says wearily from Los Angeles after flying in from Toronto. “This film that I’m on was supposed to be completed before now. So, I’m caught up in premieres (for ‘A River Runs Through It’) benefiting local groups (including one in Salt Lake City), as well as the Toronto Film Festival.”
Moviegoers didn’t see a lot of Redford in the ’80s, though the decade began with his winning an Oscar for his directing debut, “Ordinary People.” Only one other Redford-directed film followed, “The Milagro Beanfield War” in 1988. And during that 10 years he acted in only three movies — “The Natural” (1984), “Out of Africa” (1985), and “Legal Eagles” (1986). “Havana” followed in 1990 but took a critical drubbing and died a quick death at the box office.
But it looks like he’s prepared to make up for his absence with a vengeance in the ’90s.
“Sneakers” was the No. 1 box office hit in the country last week (earning $10 million, a record for a non-sequel during September). Salt Lake audiences will get their first glimpse of “Incident at Oglala” (narrated and executive produced by Redford) next week. “A River Runs Through It” (which Redford directed) opens in October and he’s in the midst of shooting “Indecent Proposal” for director Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction”), which will be in theaters next year. If that’s not enough, he has a pair of directing jobs in preparation, “Quiz Show,” about the 1950s TV quiz-show scandals and an adaptation of Tony Hillerman’s novel “Thief of Time.”
This is all by choice, of course. Redford didn’t work as much during the past decade because he was devoting so much of this time to the Sundance Institute, which has now taken on a life of its own in encouraging and developing independent filmmaking (not to mention the Sundance Film Festival in Park City each January).
Does he regret neglecting his film career — in particular, the directing side? “Sure I do. The Sundance Institute took a lot more time than I expected — but it really has happened now. I had to stick with it to build it into something.”
Redford adds, “I’ve been so busy with Sundance and the environment, it’s really just the last year and a half that I’ve gotten back to work — and right now it really feels good.”
Though Redford plans to do more and more directing, his fans needn’t panic — he won’t be giving up acting just yet. And for more than one generation of moviegoers that’s very good news, perhaps best summed up by Phil Alden Robinson, who directed Redford in “Sneakers”: “He’s the prototype of the movie star of the time in which I live. He’s made more of my favorite movies than anybody.”
Tom Skerritt, who gets top billing in “A River Runs Through It,” was with Redford at the Toronto Film Festival last weekend and reflected on Redford’s directing: “His movies are like custom-made suits. They reflect the good man that he is, his passion for the common man. He’s the best of what America makes.”
Redford says of Skerritt, “You know, he and I were introduced together in 1962 in ‘War Hunt’ and we’ve been friends for 30 years. I was very pleased to be able to cast him in this film.”
Critics and moviegoers at the Toronto Film Festival have been very enthusiastic about “A River Runs Through It,” some suggesting that both Redford and Skerritt will get Oscar nominations. Though he’s obviously pleased, Redford, typically, plays it close to the vest, saying only, “I’m very encouraged by the response so far.”
Get him talking about the movie itself, however, and his enthusiasm is on the rise.
“It was very hard to get going,” Redford said of “A River Runs Through It,” which is about two brothers growing up in Montana after the turn of the century, based on the novella by Norman Maclean. Skerritt plays a Presbyterian minister who raises his sons with a strict hand — but he also teaches them fly fishing, which he treats as a spiritual experience. “It was known around town as ‘Redford’s Fishing Movie,’ so you can imagine the kind of marketing value that has. It was hard to explain by just telling what the story was.
“We made it for $12 million (in Montana), which is a very low budget in today’s market. We had a small crew, no big cranes, no high-tech equipment.
“For me, this story has a lot of elements — family tradition, turn of the century, the West, the brothers and their relationship to the family, the river, the environment that shaped their lives, the father who’s bent on teaching his son ‘grace’ and how grace should be achieved, fly fishing and scholastic pursuits. … There’s a lyrical quality dealing with those traditions of the West. And I was able to retain some of his (Maclean’s) writing by putting it in the mouth of a storyteller.”
Redford himself is that storyteller, providing an occasional voiceover narration in the film that comes directly from Maclean’s text, though that was not his initial intention. “I wanted an old man’s voice and I couldn’t find the right one. I have a very strong attachment to this material and when I could not find an old voice that would carry the weight of the piece, I called on the connection I felt to Norman Maclean. He was very sensitive about this whole journey. After all, it took him 40 years to write it. So, it was out of respect to him.”
Here are Redford’s comments on his other upcoming films:
— “Incident at Oglala,” a documentary Redford executive-produced and narrates, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and has been slowly working its way across the country. The film contends that Leonard Peltier, serving a prison sentence for the murder of two FBI agents on an Indian reservation, was framed: “I don’t know what’s going to happen there. I do know the response has been terrific. Letters are in Congress. A lot of it will have to do with the next election. That’s all we can hope for, really. This man shouldn’t be there. So, we’ll hope for the best.”
— “Sneakers”: “That project was a film I saw as good entertainment — it’s smart, intelligent, fun and dealt with an issue but didn’t clobber you over the head with it.”
— “Dark Wind” (an unreleased film about a murder mystery on an Indian reservation, based on a Tony Hillerman novel and executive-produced by Redford): “ ‘Dark Wind’ is just stuck in the bankruptcy of Carolco (the film’s production company).”
— “Thief of Time,” another Hillerman book, which Redford himself will direct: “I still want to do ‘Thief of Time,’ but it won’t be the next one because it will require a summer shoot.”
— “Quiz Show,” about the TV quiz show scandals of the ’50s: “I’m thinking of doing it this winter. It’s a character story … and the overall themes are interesting to me — I’m interested in this country’s history, the current history and the past.”
— Westerns: “I have two Westerns I want to do. One is called ‘Heart Mountain’ … and I have another one, a film about Geronimo.”
— “Indecent Proposal”: “It’s a unique film, very unusual, very provocative. It’s a post-mortem on the ’80s, on the mentality of greed, with an emphasis on the values of the ’80s in an almost mystical fashion. He (Redford’s character) is a billionaire who offers a million dollars for (one night with) this man’s wife. Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson play the couple. It’s not so much a comedy, not an overt satire but it’s very provocative and quite entertaining.”
The film is directed by Adrian Lyne, who also did “9½ Weeks” and “Fatal Attraction,” but Redford says, “This deals with the same issues abut not as graphically or overtly. It’s (about) what money does to people, how it can obliterate other humanitarian values. It’s a very interesting role.”
— Veteran director Sydney Pollack, Redford’s longtime friend, who has directed him seven times, including some of his most successful films (“Jeremiah Johnson,” “The Way We Were,” “Out of Africa”) and who has had two very successful acting roles of his own this year (in Robert Altman’s “The Player” and Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives”) … the natural question being, would Redford ever want to direct Pollack?
“Sure,” he said with a laugh. “If his ego can handle it.”
‘MEG’ EATS ‘JAWS’ FOR BREAKFAST
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018
“The Meg” (PG-13). The title refers to an extinct giant prehistoric shark called Megalodon, although in this film it’s not extinct after all. Jason Statham, as a rescue diver that encountered the creature five years earlier, is recruited to save the crew of an underwater research facility that has gone deeper into the ocean than any that have come before, apparently awakening the beast. With Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis and Robert Taylor (of Netflix’s “Longmire”).
“BlacKkKlansman” (R). Spike Lee’s latest is the true story of a black detective (John David Washington) in Colorado Springs who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan by phone, changing his voice, and using white cops to show up, pretending to be him. With Adam Driver, Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and, as David Duke, Topher Grace.
“Dog Days” (PG). Light romantic comedy about dog owners coming together, some of whom seem to love their dogs more than each other. Thankfully, the dogs don’t talk in this one. With Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens and Eva Longoria.
“Slender Man” (PG-13). Based on the “creepypasta” Internet meme that represents a supernatural figure that stalks, abducts and traumatizes young people, this is the story of three girls who try to debunk the site. But when one goes missing, her friends dive in deeper to try and find her. Bad idea.
“Hope Springs Eternal” (PG). As a result of her diagnosis with terminal cancer, Hope Gracin (Mia Rose Frampton) gains unexpected popularity in high school when she becomes known as “Cancer Girl” and vlogs about it. So when she is told she’s in remission, Hope is hesitant to let the world know. (Exclusively at the Megaplex District Theaters.)
“The Cakemaker” (Not Rated, in Hebrew and with English subtitles, and in English). A German baker is having a gay affair when his married Israeli lover is killed in a car accident. So he heads to Jerusalem, lands a job with his lover’s widow and ingratiates himself into her life without revealing who he really is. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)
A FEW GOOD MEN
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently reissued in the new 4K Ultra HD format, Aaron Sorkin and Rob Reiner’s first-rate adaptation of Sorkin’s stage play has only gotten better over the years. Here’s my review, published Dec. 11, 1992, in the Deseret News.
The first thing to be said about "A Few Good Men" is that it resembles — perhaps too closely — "The Caine Mutiny." Especially when Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson have their courtroom showdown at the end. (All Nicholson is missing is those steel marbles.)
And in that comparison, "Men" falters, lacking the complexity of "Mutiny," which boasts layers of character development and internal motivations.
Worse, however, "A Few Good Men" holds no surprises. It lays out the map, points to its destination and heads right down the expected road with few, if any diversions.
Still, in the hands of master movie storyteller Rob Reiner — one of the few directors in the business who has never made a bad film — and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (adapting his own play), this is stirring, highly entertaining stuff, with superb performances all the way around and witty dialogue to keep it all moving.
Kiefer Sutherland, left, Kevin Pollak, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, 'A Few Good Men'
The story focuses on a young hotshot attorney (Cruise), a top military litigator after only nine months in the Navy, largely because he knows how to swiftly settle out of court.
When Cruise is personally hand-picked to defend two young Marines (Wolfgang Bodison, James Marshall) who are charged with killing a fellow recruit at a U.S. Naval base on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Cruise finds himself faced with something more.
It becomes apparent early on that the death was likely an accident and that the two defendants may have been acting out a "code red," an illegal order to rough up a fellow Marine who is not quite up to snuff.
Aided by an idealistic and combative superior officer (Demi Moore), who pushes him to do more than simply bargain away the case, as well as a friend and research colleague (Kevin Pollak), who is appalled by the circumstances surrounding the case, Cruise is forced to do some soul-searching that will change him.
The trio goes to Guantanamo Bay and interviews the commanding officer (Nicholson), who says the two men acted on their own, denying that any "code red" actions were condoned, much less ordered. But is he telling the truth?
Jack Nicholson, 'A Few Good Men'
In the end, it comes down to a fairly obvious confrontation between Cruise and Nicholson. And there's never any doubt what is going to happen. But, thanks to the performances, especially by Nicholson, it's a powerhouse (and perhaps Oscar-nominating) moment anyway.
The other performances are also on target, with special mention earned by Pollak, Bodison, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and J.T. Walsh.
While the film could have used some depth and the story might have benefited from a red herring or two, to make things less predictable, it's still quite a compelling audience pleaser.
"A Few Good Men" is rated R for Hollywood's favorite profanity, though the film is no worse than some PG-13s. There is also other profanity and vulgarity, along with the opening scene of violence in a darkened room.
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 (with permission) from my 40 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 no longer writing for the D-News so this is mostly archival stuff, primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.
Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: Everybody’s favorite musical will be shown on the big screen once again on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m., in Ogden at the historic Egyptian Theatre.
“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) is quite simply the best musical comedy of all time. You may disagree, but with all due respect, you’d be wrong.
With its snappy, often-hilarious dialogue and energetic, infectious dancing, along with songs that are funny, warm and memorable, it is one of the few perfect … or near-perfect … movies out there. (Is there such a thing as a “perfect” movie? Subjective, I know.)
The story is set against Hollywood’s 1927 transition to sound movies, as “talkies” replaced “silents.” Gene Kelly is a swashbuckling silent-movie star and Jean Hagen is his leading lady. When the change comes, Kelly is smart enough to realize that his latest picture needs to be adapted for sound and decides to make it a musical, with help from his best friend, played by youthful Donald O’Connor.
But Hagen not only can’t sing, she can’t talk — at least not in a way that audiences will accept without laughter . Her voice is too high, squawky and inarticulate.
Gene Kelly is 'Singin' in the Rain'
Hagen also can’t seem to help confusing her on-screen life with her off-screen life. She’s convinced that Kelly loves her, though he is in fact wooing a would-be ingénue, played by 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds in her first lead role.
When Kelly, O’Connor and the studio chief decide to dub Hagen’s voice with Reynolds’ … well, fireworks on the Fourth of July aren’t any more colorful than Hagen’s reaction.
“Singin’ in the Rain” boasts many hysterical sequences, perhaps the most famous being the “Yes, yes,” “No, no” miscue when the film with Hagen’s voice is screened for an audience, along with O’Connor’s classic “Make ’Em Laugh” song-and-dance routine.
Other musical highlights include Kelly and O’Connor doing their “Fit as a Fiddle” stage number and their impromptu performance of “Moses Supposes” while receiving elocution lessons. And all three stars shine as they sing and dance to “Good Morning.”
On the more serious, romantic side, there is also Kelly’s unforgettable dance number to the title tune, performed on a city street during a downpour (actually rain machines on the MGM back lot but who’s quibbling?), and his wonderful “Broadway Melody” ballet with Cyd Charisse.
This is a rare opportunity to see "Singin' in the Rain" on the big screen. Don't miss it.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: Before Melissa Benoist was born, Helen Slater was ‘Supergirl’ in a big-screen adaptation intended to continue the ‘Superman’ movie franchise. Unfortunately, the film was much less successful, both artistically and financially, than her cousin’s 1978 and 1980 blockbusters, ‘Superman’ and ‘Superman II.’ But there is still enough of a following for Warner Archive to reissue the film in a new Blu-ray upgrade, with all of the bonus features of previous releases. Here’s my review, published Nov 22, 1984, in the Deseret News.
If you like your comic book movies as flat as the comic books, you may get a kick out of “Supergirl.” But this is definitely designed to attract teenyboppers who do not require any logic in the course of story progression
No feminist version of “Superman” this. It’s more like a teen novel. As a fantasy, to call “Supergirl” juvenile is to understate.
On the other hand, juveniles will probably like it for all the reasons most adults won’t. The story is simplistic and simple-minded.
The film opens in a crystal city, not unlike Krypton in the first two “Superman” flicks. There, Kara, a 15-year-old girl, is getting some instruction from Zaltar … which is really intended to give us a plot foundation, of course.
Zaltar explains that this is Argo City in inner space, that they are the last survivors of the explosion that destroyed Krypton. To make some bizarre modern sculpture come alive, Zaltar has “borrowed” the city’s power source, a little ball called the Omegahedron Stone.
He drops it and Kara begins playing with it, letting it escape from the city. The ball heads into outer space, so to correct her mistake, Kara boards a space craft and heads out after it.
Veteran Faye Dunaway and newcomer Helen Slater pose for a publicity photo for 'Supergirl' (1984).
The Omegahedron Stone falls to earth and is taken by evil Selena, who is studying black magic. It intensifies her power, and she starts on a single-minded journey toward earth domination.
Kara parks her space ship in a lake, then comes out — inexplicably dressed in a costume very much like her cousin Superman’s. Although, this costume is more revealing, of course. And there are several scenes that seem to rely more on magic than superpowers, which may dismay D.C. Comic purists.
Superman is off in outer space on a peace-seeking mission (my friend called him an intergalactic Henry Kissinger), so Kara, or Supergirl, if you will, is up against Selena alone. Selena’s weapons range from giant monsters to the evil Phantom Zone.
What charm “Supergirl” has is largely in its cast. Helen Slater, who makes her film debut here, is very good as Supergirl and her alter ego, Linda Lee. And Peter Cook has some dry-witted fun as a henchman to Selena, as does Brenda Vaccaro as another of the witch’s aide de evil.
But as Selena, Faye Dunaway overacts outrageously, as she has done for several films in a row now. It goes beyond camp into something that is neither funny nor charming. It’s just there. Peter O’Toole, as Zaltar, is better but he’s pretty hammy as well.
No one else has enough to do, so it’s hard to tell whether or not they are doing it well. As an example, to call Mia Farrow’s appearance a walk-on is to exaggerate her time on screen.
The big question, of course, is, does Christopher Reeve appear? Only on a poster as the Man of Steel.
Having a Girl of Steel is an interesting twist (based on her own comic books) but whether she’ll be around for sequels remains to be seen. If the teenyboppers get out there and put down their hard-earned allowances, she just might be around for “Supergirls II & III.”
If not, Helen Slater can test her mettle with something that will appeal to audiences over the age of 14.