CLASSIC TV MAY BE COST-PROHIBITIVE
For Hicksflicks.com, Feb. March 7, 2014
For those who collect their favorite vintage TV series on DVD, the purchasing process can be pricey (alliteration unintended).
Sometimes ridiculously so.
And the cost is so disparate for shows with a similar number discs and episodes that one has to wonder why some are so outrageously expensive and others are relatively cheap.
For example, here are a few TV series, all black-and-white half-hour shows from the 1950s and '60s; all are first-season box sets of shows released over the past decade, the releasing company, the number of discs and episodes in each set, and the retail price:
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (Universal, three double-sided discs, 39 episodes, $34.98)
"The Dick Van Dyke Show" (Image, five discs, 30 episodes, $39.99)
"Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre" (VCI, four discs, 29 episodes, $29.99)
"Gunsmoke" (CBS/Paramount, six discs, 39 episodes, $42.99)
"McHale's Navy" (Shout!, five discs, 36 episodes $44.99)
"The Twilight Zone" (Image, six discs, 36 episodes, $69.99)
All of these prices were discounted 40-50 percent at Amazon.com on the first day of release, which is the site's usual practice. But even $20-$40 per season set can add up quickly. And consider that some subsequent seasons of "Gunsmoke" and many other series have been split into two parts, so it isn't just $20-$40 per season, it's $20-$40 per half-season!
This is especially frustrating when you consider that the primary audience for these 50- to 60-year-old shows has likely reached retirement age, people on fixed incomes who are careful with their entertainment dollars.
And, sadly, it looks like it's just getting worse.
Not only are many of your favorite shows from the era not going to ever turn up on DVD, those that do will cost you a lot more than the above titles.
Last December, the first season of the 1950s Western series "The Rifleman" was finally released on DVD — for $69.95. And Amazon is not discounting the price. That's nearly $70 for 40 half-hour episodes on eight discs.
Similarly, Universal, which released the first five seasons of Alfred Hitchcock's anthology series from 2005 through 2012 at fairly reasonable prices, last November released "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Six" as an Amazon exclusive in an inferior five-disc DVD-R manufacture-on-demand set of 38 episodes for $44.98, discounting the price to $40.48.
We have seen the future of classic TV on DVD — and it's going to cost an arm and a leg.
BLOODY F/X VS. THE WABAC MACHINE
For Hicksflicks.com, March 7, 2014
This week's major movies are a bloody, R-rated sequel and a family-friendly remake of a TV cartoon, while over at the art houses are a foreign film, a documentary and a comic caper.
"300: Rise of an Empire" (R). If you saw "300," you know what to expect: stylized (as in computer-animated) violence and gore, as well as foul language, sex and nudity. The story begins after the events of the first film, as Persian forces march and conquer, and a mortal-turned-god leads the charge against them. Eva Green has a prominent role and Lena Heady returns as Queen Gorgo.
"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" (PG) is a computer-animated reboot of the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments of the "Rocky and His Friends" (aka "The Bullwinkle Show") TV series of the late 1950s and early '60s, in which a super-intelligent dog (Mr. P.) and his pet/adopted human boy (Sherman) travel through significant events in history via the WABAC Machine (pronounced "Wayback").
"Omar" (not rated, in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles) is a Palestinian thriller about a baker who joins his friends to battle the Israeli army by night, but soon he is arrested and coerced into becoming an informant. Is he playing along or simply playing his captors? Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas in downtown Salt Lake City.
"Tim's Vermeer" (PG-13) is a documentary about inventor Tim Jenison's efforts to duplicate the painting techniques of Johannes Vermeer. From satirical magicians Penn and Teller, who co-wrote the film, while Teller directed and Penn co-produced. Exclusively at the Broadway.
"The Art of the Steal" (R) is a comedy-caper flick with former art thief Kurt Russell giving up the straight life to go after the heist of a lifetime — the Guttenberg Bible. He rounds up a gang of experts that includes Matt Dillon and Jay Baruchel. Terence Stamp co-stars. Exclusively at the Tower Theatre at 9th and 9th in Salt Lake City.
For Hicksflicks.com, March 7, 2014
The popular TV series "L.A. Law" (1986-94) has been a long time coming to DVD, but here it is at last — and although it was groundbreaking in its outrageousness in the 1980s, well, actually, it's still pretty outrageous. Even in the television landscape of the anything-goes 21st century.
A combination of serious exploration of sensitive subjects, satirical comedy that sometimes waffles between laugh-out-loud funny and off-the-wall weird, and a first-rate cast playing characters that only confirm our suspicions about attorneys, "L.A. Law" is never less than entertaining.
The Los Angeles law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak is the setting. And the character whose name is third in the firm's partnership, Chaney, dies in the first episode's opening moments, with a shocking secret about him later revealed at his funeral.
The other partners are played by, respectively, Richard A. Dysart, Alan Rachins and Harry Hamlin, and attorneys in the firm include Susan Dey, Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Michael Tucker, Michele Greene, Jimmy Smits, Blair Underwood and others that come and go.
Of those names, Hamlin is perhaps the best known (he starred in the original "Clash of the Titans"), along with Susan Dey (a former member of "The Partridge Family") and Jimmy Smits (who hit it bigger in "NYPD Blue"). And fans of "Psych" may not even recognize Bernsen, who now plays Shawn's bald, paunchy middle-aged dad in that show. Here, Bernsen plays a dashing, blonde-haired, unrepentant womanizing cad. He's also a divorce attorney, and his escapades contribute many of the show's laughs.
If, from this description, you are still unsure of "L.A. Law's" tone, perhaps a look at its backstage pedigree will help. Co-creator Steven Bochco came up with this show after "Hill Street Blues" and before "NYPD Blue." And his chief writer, who eventually took over running "L.A. Law," was David E. Kelley, who would go on to create and write "Picket Fences," "The Practice," "Ally McBeal," "Boston Legal" and "Harry's Law," among others.
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.
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.
HOORAY FOR (DIGITAL) HOLLYWOOD
For Hicksflicks.com, March 7, 2014
Those of you who are art film fans know that the Broadway Center Cinemas downtown has been holding fundraising events to afford a switch to digital projectors, since there are hardly any 35mm prints being struck for new films these days.
In celebration of achieving its goal, the Broadway will show three classic vintage films and one more recent movie with visually arresting cinematography to demonstrate its new technology and, hopefully, wow its audience.
The "DCP Celebration" (DCP stands for Digital Cinema Package) runs Saturday through Thursday, March 8-13.
The films are "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962, PG), an epic that benefits greatly from being seen on a movie-theater screen; "From Here to Eternity" (1953, b/w), the all-star wartime film set against the days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; "Samsara" (2011, PG-13), a documentary art film without dialogue that relies on stunning visuals to link nature with the industrial age; and "2001 — A Space Odyssey" (1968, G), Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi art film with a malevolent computer and an enigmatic monolith.
Each film will show daily at varying times; check out the Broadway's website for specifics.
CAGNEY FLEXES HIS FISTS
For Hicksflicks.com, March 7, 2014
James Cagney's best-known movies are all on DVD singly and in various collections, but there are still a few that linger on studio shelves. Now, however, there are three fewer to yearn for thanks to the manufacture-on-demand website Warner Archive.
These new releases include a military romantic comedy-drama, a boxing melodrama and … wait for it … a Western.
Yes, Cagney made Westerns (though only three), but here's the kicker: He co-stars with Humphrey Bogart (who made only two).
Fair to say both were more at home in urban settings.
"Here Comes the Navy" (1934). Frequent Warner Bros. movie rivals Cagney and Pat O'Brien are at odds when cocky Cagney joins the Navy and finds himself on O'Brien's ship. The stars' chemistry is palpable here and both are in top form.
Gloria Stuart — the actress who earned an Oscar nomination for James Cameron's "Titanic" some 60 years later — is Cagney's love interest here, and O'Brien's sister.
Of historical interest: Much of the film was shot aboard the battleship Arizona, which would sink during the attack on Pearl Harbor some six years later. Also prominent in the film is the Navy's dirigible Macon, which would crash into the Pacific Ocean during a storm off California less than a year later, killing two of its 76 crew members.
"Winner Take All" (1932) has Cagney as boxer torn between two women, society dame Virginia Bruce and a widowed single mother, played by Marian Nixon. Three guesses who wins him in the end.
Bruce leads Cagney along, which prompts him to get plastic surgery and also affects his boxing style; he doesn't want to damage his face. But she really has no interest in him and it takes awhile for the punch-drunk pug to realize Nixon is the one for him.
"The Oklahoma Kid" (1939) casts Cagney and Bogie as competing outlaws, and the film opens with Cagney stealing loot that Bogie has just stolen. (Is that like re-gifting?)
But when Bogie arranges for Cagney's father to be falsely accused of murder and hanged, Cagney's ready for revenge — and maybe to go straight.
Routine Western fare in every way except the casting, and it's a hoot to see these guys scrapping in the Old West.