Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns



For, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: With ‘Gone With the Wind’ being revived on the big screen next week (see below), here’s a ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column on the subject of ‘GWTW’s’ being the most popular film of all time, under the headline ‘Good News for “Gone With the Wind” fans. This story was published in the Deseret News on May 25, 1983 — and despite all the big moneymaking movies that have followed, ‘Gone With the Wind’ remains the most popular film of all time, according to adjusted-for-inflation box-office numbers. (See Box Office Mojo.)

One of the questions I’m most often asked is whether “Star Wars” (or “E.T.,” now) would still be the top moneymaking film of all time if the figures compiled by Variety, the Hollywood trade paper, were adjusted for inflation.

Well, Variety itself went after the answer, and in the May 4 issue printed a list of the 100 top box-office hits of all time — in terms of 1982 constant dollars, adjusting figures accordingly for films released earlier.

And lo and behold, that 1939 classic, “Gone With the Wind,” was number one.


That’s probably not a great surprise but it’s certainly a nice nod to those who have been dismayed to see “GWTW” sink lower and lower on Variety’s list each year (it is now 13th), after having been number one for so long.

Interestingly enough, even with the adjusted-dollar figures, “Star Wars” is close behind as number two, but “E.T.” is relegated to number five. (In third place is “Jaws,” with “The Sound of Music” solidly in fourth.)

After “E.T.,” in descending order through number 15, are the following:


“The Godfather,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Exorcist,” “The Sting,” “Grease,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Ben-Hur” and “Mary Poppins.”

Variety further noted that “Gone With the Wind” cost $4.2 million to make, but using the adjusted figures, would be in the $40 million range today (assuming Michael Cimino didn’t direct).


One thing’s for sure, the American dollar isn’t what it used to be. I wonder what President Reagan’s movie residuals would be if they were adjusted for inflation . . . ?

That’s certainly a fascinating mix of the old and the new.

ENDNOTE: According to Box Office Mojo, here’s today’s adjusted top 15: 1. Gone With the Wind; 2. Star Wars; 3. The Sound of Music; 4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; 5. Titanic; 6. The Ten Commandments; 7. Jaws; 8. Doctor Zhivago; 9. The Exorcist; 10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; 11. Star Wars: The Force Awakens; 12. 101 Dalmatians (1961); 13. The Empire Strikes Back; 14. Ben-Hur (1959); 15. Avatar.

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016

The first “Jack Reacher” movie did not do terribly well in the United States but it was a box-office smash worldwide, which has, naturally, led to a sequel.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” (PG-13). Tom Cruise plays the role of Jack Reacher for the second time in this thriller based on Lee Child’s 18th Reacher novel, which has the transient loner, a do-gooder who isn’t opposed to violence, trying to clear the name of the commanding officer (Cobie Smulders) who took his position at a Virginia Army base, and discovers himself accused of a 16-year-old murder.

“Denial” (PG-13). The true story of writer/historian Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) who was sued for libel in London in 1996 by Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall), whom she called out in her book “Denying the Holocaust.” This forces her to prove that 6 million Jews were indeed systematically executed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi followers during World War II. Tom Wilkinson plays her lawyer.

“I’m Not Ashamed” (PG-13). Low-budget, independent faith film based on the journals of Rachel Scott, a pious Christian high school girl who was the first victim killed in the 1999 Columbine shooting.


“Keeping Up with the Joneses” (PG-13). Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are a suburban couple whose lives are turned upside down when they discover that their new, seemingly perfect neighbors (John Hamm, Gal Gadot) are government spies. Naturally Galifianakis and Fisher are recruited for a dangerous mission. Patton Oswalt co-stars.

“Boo! A Madea Halloween” (PG-13). Tyler Perry in his drag Madea persona takes on spooky doings on Halloween night while watching over frisky teens in this comedy, a very specific spoof of recent fright flicks, written and directed by Perry.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil” (PG-13). In Los Angeles, circa 1967, a mother-daughter team of scam artists is looking for something to spice up their séance act when the title board comes their way. But neither of them is manipulating the strange things that begin to occur. Henry Thomas stars.


“A Man Called Ove” (PG-13, in Swedish with English subtitles). A grumpy old retiree who fails in a suicide attempt after losing his wife and continues to grouse at his neighbors as their block captain, begins to soften after an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.

“In a Valley of Violence” (R). Ethan Hawke, in his second western this year (he’s also in the current “Magnificent Seven”), stars as a drifter who, with his faithful mutt, wanders through the desert, eventually landing in a remote former mining town where he has a run-in with a band of nitwits led by the son (James Ransone) of the sheriff (John Travolta). Taissa Farmiga co-stars. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Desierto” (R, in English and in Spanish with English subtitles). Mexican migrant workers (led by Gael Garcia Bernal) are crossing the U.S. border illegally, hoping for a better life, when they encounter a vicious armed vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

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




For, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ has earned a new Blu-ray release with copious bonus features. Here’s my July 18, 1986, Deseret News review of the film.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) doesn’t look 57 years older. In space no one can see you age.

Actually, Ripley and her cat have been in suspended animation (they call it “hypersleep”) ever since the end of “Alien,” and it is simply by chance that she is found at all as “Aliens,” the sequel, begins 57 years after the first film ended.

Upon being revived, Ripley is plagued by nightmares and finds herself demoted to warehouse work. “The Company” doesn’t believe her story of a killer creature that did in her crewmates and caused their very expensive piece of equipment to be destroyed. It seems the planet Ripley refers to is now colonized, and no one’s reported anything out of the ordinary.

But they will.           

When contact is lost with the colony, an extremely reluctant Ripley is talked into returning to that hostile planet with a crew of gung-ho Marines. There they find the only survivor, a little girl named “Newt.”

And this time it isn’t just one creature doing the damage. There are dozens of them, all equally as ill-mannered as the one in “Alien.”


Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) rescues Newt (Carrie Henn) in 'Aliens.'

herself in a one-on-one showdown with Mama Alien, answering the question someone asks about halfway through the film: “What’s been laying all those eggs?”

It’s a decidedly bizarre, but very interesting touch, seeing the mother creature fighting to protect her young ones, while Ripley fights to protect Newt. A matriarchal battle to the death, if you will.           

“Aliens” (a much nicer title than “Alien II” would have been) is not just a rehash of the first film. Ridley Scott’s original was a typical haunted house story set in space, and essentially a remake of the old ’50s flick “It! The Terror from Beyond Space” — along with ‘80s gore and gooey special effects, and a fascinating set design.

But James Cameron, the writer-director this time around, takes an entirely different approach. He’s from the “action” school of Roger Corman, and he approaches “Aliens” as an action film. Like Cameron’s previous effort, “The Terminator,” “Aliens” is a non-stop, thrill-a-minute heartstopper that moves like wildfire.

And, like “The Terminator,” when you think “Aliens” is finally over … it isn’t.

“Aliens” gets off to a bit of a slow start, and I must confess to having been a bit put off by the stereotypical Marines as they are drawn early in the picture — meatballs, complete with rookie lieutenant. Obviously meant as a joke, it’s a rather weary one. But there is no question that once it gets rolling, “Aliens” is an incredible piece of entertainment.

Cameron is also not above stealing inspiration from other movies (also evident in “The Terminator”) and you may recognize moments from “The Thing” (both versions), “Star Wars,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Blue Thunder,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and the first “Alien,” along with a couple of nods toward “Rambo” (which Cameron originally wrote before Sylvester Stallone rewrote it). But he plays it straight; no self-mockery here.


As her comrades are gradually wiped out (sound familiar?), Ripley ultimately finds

Cameron is a master at pacing and stunt work and special effects, but he doesn’t sacrifice character to achieve his goals. One of the things that made “The Terminator” memorable was that despite the non-stop movement you cared about the people.

Likewise, one of the things that makes “Aliens” work is the performance by Sigourney Weaver, reprising her role from the first film. She is strong and serious and very human. And she puts to shame the spate of one-dimensional macho heroes we’ve had lately who all look like plastic imitations of each other.

Michael Biehn (who co-starred in “The Terminator”) co-stars here as the most sensible of the Marines (and with just a hint of romantic inclinations toward Ripley), and Lance Henriksen is an android who gets the film’s best line when he’s told to be careful: “I may be synthetic but I am not stupid.”

“In the True Confessions category, however, the biggest laugh at the small critics’ screening I attended came when Michael Biehn’s character falls asleep just prior to the Marine’s first raid. Several of my friends who were there thought it was particularly noteworthy that Biehn is named Hicks, especially when his sergeant shouts: “Somebody wake up Hicks!”

No one’s going to fall asleep during “Aliens.” This is the fastest non-stop, rollercoaster ride since … well, since “The Terminator.”

“Aliens,” rated R for violence (though not quite as much gore as the original film) and considerable profanity, is loaded with thrills and spills. If this one doesn’t get your heart pumping, check your pulse.

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, Oct. 21, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Gone With the Wind’ is back on the big screen, courtesy of Megaplex’s classic-movie series. It will be shown Monday, Oct. 24, and Wednesday, Oct. 26, in various Megaplex theaters. Here’s a review that was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 2, 2014, on the occasion of the film’s 75th anniversary and a new Blu-ray release at the time.

The first time I saw the 1939 Civil War classic “Gone With the Wind” was as a young pup in 1961 when my parents dared to take me to a theatrical revival of the nearly four-hour picture.

They knew that even in my early double-digits I wouldn’t become fidgety because movies of all stripes captivated me. If it was on the big screen, I was there.

And “Gone With the Wind” didn’t disappoint. I was mesmerized at age 12 and have seen it many times since, and it still doesn’t disappoint.

“Gone With the Wind” didn’t invent the historical epic, of course, but it certainly refined movies of the era that were huge in scope and ambitious in multilayered storytelling in keeping with its source material, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell.

And the movie’s ability to focus on one central character while carefully developing so many others in her orbit is something from which many modern filmmakers could take a lesson. (Modern Hollywood might also take something from the fact that the central character is a woman.)

“Gone With the Wind” is also wonderfully cast. Vivien Leigh, the young Englishwoman who was not yet well-known in America, won the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara over dozens of other, more prominent American movie stars — and she proved to be the perfect choice. Leigh’s performance is utterly winning, despite the character’s self-centered motivations.

And Clark Gable, who was always the first choice for Rhett Butler, is also perfect. Thank goodness the filmmakers waited for him and didn’t go with someone else just to get the production moving.


   Vivien Leigh, left, Hattie McDaniel, 'Gone With the Wind'

Great performances also come from the actors in the two secondary leading roles, Olivia de Havilland, whose role of Melanie could have been sappy and grating but is instead quite endearing as the quintessential guileless, sweet-natured optimist, and Leslie Howard as the weak-willed Ashley Wilkes, though the character is not foreign to his earlier work.

But the real scene-stealer is Hattie McDaniel, whose characterization of house servant Mammy is hilarious and sly, witty and warm, as she becomes Scarlett’s unwanted voice of reason.

I’m not going to excuse the film’s oft-vilified romanticizing of the Old South, nor its inaccuracies regarding Reconstruction after the Civil War, nor the slavery stereotypes that reflect the racism of the 1930s as much as the 19th century (most notably Butterfly McQueen’s Prissy and Oscar Polk’s Pork).

But let’s not forget that McDaniel did win an Oscar, becoming the first black performer to be so honored, and in doing so opened some doors. Quite a thing for 1939.

Taken as a whole, however, even if it’s just on a soap-opera level, “Gone With the Wind” is supremely entertaining stuff with many memorable scenes and some startling moments.


Best Cinematography was one of 10 Oscars won by 'Gone With the Wind'

The direction by Victor Fleming (whose other triumph, “The Wizard of Oz,” came out the same year) wonderfully captures the scope of events, even as he was constricted by the square-ish film framing of the time.

Widescreen movies would not become an industry standard until 1953, but some scenes in “Gone With the Wind” nonetheless have a big, wide feel to them, especially sequences at Tara and Twelve Oaks, and the famous moment in Atlanta when Scarlett runs through the streets to find a doctor and stops in shock as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal uncountable wounded, dying and dead Confederate soldiers laid out in the seemingly never-ending main streets.

This music is also memorable, the editing is sharp, the pacing is solid, and in this early era of Technicolor, when black-and-white movies were the norm, “Gone With the Wind” is so vivid and rich in its colors that after seeing it you may want to smack the next director whose movie is bathed in muddy grays or oranges.

That “Gone With the Wind” remains the most popular movie of all time is inarguable. In terms of tickets sold and adjusting the numbers for inflation, not even “Avatar” or “Titanic” can touch it.

This one really is something special when viewed on a theater screen. Don’t miss it.

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



For, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another odd choice for a Blu-ray upgrade, the new Kino Lorber release of ‘Haunted Honeymoon coincides with the recent death of its star and director, Gene Wilder. I’m not a big fan of the film, though I love Wilder, but it has a large fan base that has been anxiously awaiting this release. Here’s my July 27, 1986, Deseret News review.

Even movie critics have favorites, and ever since I first saw Gene Wilder in “Bonnie and Clyde,” followed the next year by Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” I’ve been a fan.

But after his enormous success with “Young Frankenstein,” Wilder was bitten by the Jerry Lewis bug — he wanted to do it all, writing and directing himself in “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother,” “The World’s Greatest Lover,” one of four segments of “Sunday Lovers” and “The Woman in Red.”

When you think of Wilder, the films that come to mind are the Brooks pictures, including “Blazing Saddles,” along with the two movies he made with Richard Pryor — “Silver Streak” and “Stir Crazy” — and perhaps “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

“The Woman in Red” is by far the best (and most popular) of his triple-threat pictures, which isn’t saying a lot; the others are better off forgotten. And now comes Wilder’s fifth writing-directing-starring effort, “Haunted Honeymoon,” and it may be the worst of the lot.


        Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, 'Haunted Honeymoon'

Wilder’s direction isn’t bad, though a few gags seem ill-timed, and his third teaming with wife Gilda Radner is as appealing as the first two (“Hanky Panky,” “The Woman in Red”). But the script (co-credited to production designer Terence Marsh) is dreadful.

The story, set in 1939, has Wilder and Radner as co-stars of a popular radio program, doing a segment called “Haunted Honeymoon.” They are also about to be wed at Wilder’s family mansion where relatives all gather, upset that Wilder is to be the lone heir to the family fortune … unless he dies before matriarch Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise, in drag).

Meanwhile, a psychiatrist relative tries to scare Wilder “to death,” to cure him of a childhood trauma that causes him to be afraid of everything.

Needless to say, the mansion appears to be haunted, with all sorts of weird goings-on, including an apparent werewolf and a bevy of dead bodies.

All that’s missing are the laughs.


Gene Wilder, left, Dom DeLuise, Gilda Radner, 'Haunted Honeymoon'

“Haunted Honeymoon” has its moments … two I think … but most of the gags fall flat. Wilder starts making love to someone in his bed, thinking it’s his bride to be, but it’s a dead body instead. Radner does a Donald Duck voice to a hand shadow on the wall. Jonathan Pryce, as a cousin, hoists Radner on wires so she appears to fly, in an effort to scare Wilder for his own good. There are several comic musical moments, including Radner and DeLuise dancing to “Ballin’ the Jack” (with none of the brilliance of “Young Frankenstein’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz”). But none of these bring so much as a titter.

And jokes that have potential, such as Wilder’s old girlfriend chasing him, or the whole idea of his being constantly afraid of everything, are horribly underdeveloped.

The movie’s biggest gag is having the character of Aunt Kate played by DeLuise. It doesn’t work, and is even a bit embarrassing.

Rated PG for some violence and a couple of profanities, “Haunted Honeymoon” is a sad excuse for a comedy, and the subject and setting just serve to remind us how brilliant Wilder was as “Young Frankenstein.” Unfortunately, that was 12 years ago. Fans — myself included — can just hope he seeks and listens to some solid collaboration next time around.