New Blog

ADIEU, RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH

               

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 29, 2014

Modern audiences probably know Richard Attenborough best as the owner/operator of "Jurassic Park" (1993) or perhaps as Santa Claus in the remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" (1994).

Others may know Attenborough as the filmmaker behind the 1982 epic, "Gandhi" (for which he won producing and directing Oscars).

But he had been acting in movies as far back as 1942, playing a wide range of fascinating characters. And he had been directing films since 1969.

Attenborough, who died this week at the age of 90, was a much bigger movie star in his native England than he ever was in America, yet his face has been familiar for decades on both sides of The Pond.

He had prominent roles opposite Steve McQueen in both "The Great Escape" (1963) and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), and starred with James Stewart in "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) and Rex Harrison in "Doctor Dolittle" (1967).

      

Attenborough, McQueen, 'The Great Escape'; '10 Rillington Place'

Among his British hits that also found success in this country are "Brighton Rock" (1947), which provided Attenborough with his breakout role as a weaselly thug; the comedies "Private's Progress (1956) and "I'm All Right, Jack" (1959); "Séance on a Wet Afternoon" (1964), in which he plays a henpecked husband who allows his phony-medium wife to talk him into a kidnapping; and especially his chilling performance as a real-life serial killer in "10 Rillington Place."

"Jurassic Park" and "Miracle on 34th Street" made him a familiar face to young audiences in the '90s, but it was "Gandhi" that gave him a stalwart place in film history as the force behind the multiple Oscar-winning film that brought the Indian peacemaker's life to the attention of a new generation and made Ben Kingsley a star.

    

Kingsley, Attenborough on 'Gandhi' set; showing off their Oscars

Among his other directing achievements are the film version of the Broadway smash "A Chorus Line" (1985); the anti-apartheid drama "Cry Freedom" (1987), with Denzel Washington; the biography "Chaplin" (1992), starring Robert Downey Jr. as the iconic silent comedian; and "Shadowlands" (1993), a stirring drama about the unlikely romance between middle-aged British academic/author C.S. Lewis and feisty American poet Joy Gresham, played by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Attenborough's death marks yet another loss among the dwindling community of Golden Age movie icons, albeit from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

But there is an ocean of movies among these that anyone who loves cinema should seek out


Movies of the Week

SUMMER FLICKS FADE IN THE SUNSET

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 29, 2014

The final films of summer 2014 are nothing special, though a couple do promise to provide some minor pleasures for those who are scouting about for something new to see in theaters. Note: "The November Man" got a slight jump on the competition by opening Wednesday.

"50 to 1" (PG-13) is the true story of Mine That Bird, an underdog crooked-footed racehorse that won the Kentucky Derby in a major 2009 upset. This family film stars Skeet Ulrich and William Devane.

"The November Man" (R). Pierce Brosnan leaves 007 and the British Secret Service to play a CIA veteran in this adaptation of Bill Granger's "There Are No Spies," which is actually the seventh novel in the "November Man" series. Here, Brosnan's character is retired but lured back into service, only to find he's being set up.

"Life of Crime" (R), exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas, is based on Elmore Leonard's 1978 novel "The Switch." But since star Jennifer Aniston was in a 2010 comedy by that title, it was changed, albeit unimaginatively. Aniston plays a housewife who is kidnapped and held for ransom, but her wealthy husband (Tim Robbins) doesn't want her back. Before you can say "Ruthless People," she plots with her kidnappers to get revenge.

"Cantinflas" (PG, in Spanish with English subtitles). Biographical film of the titular Mexican comedian who was a already huge star in his native country when he landed his first Hollywood role as Passepartout in "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956).

"As Above, So Below" (R). Found-footage horror about American explorers discovering dangers they hadn't bargained for in the haunted catacombs beneath Paris, France.

"Frank" (R), exclusively at the Tower Theater, is a British comedy based on the true story of a journalist who played keyboards for a band while wearing a huge fake head to hide his identity. Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal star.


DVD of the Week

ENCHANTMENT

                

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 29, 2014

"Enchantment" (1948, b/w) is a star-crossed romantic soap opera set during the two World Wars, with David Niven as an aging retired general named Rollo who has retreated to a solitary life in London during the Blitz, and, in flashbacks, his younger self during the Great War.

During those flashbacks we see a young orphan girl named Lark joining a prominent English family comprised of the father, his daughter Selena and her two younger brothers, Rollo being the youngest.

As the children blossom into adulthood, their father dies, and Selena (Jayne Meadows) takes over the house, treating Lark (Teresa Wright) like a servant.

Eventually Rollo and Lark acknowledge their love for each other but he remains noncommittal, and the scheming Selena takes advantage of his hesitance to sabotage the romance.

          

   David Niven, Teresa Wright, confess their love in 'Enchantment'

The wraparound story has Rollo conjuring up these reminiscences as his niece (Evelyn Keyes) ponders a similar situation with a pilot (Farley Granger), and Rollo fears she is headed for the same unhappiness he suffered.

            

    Evelyn Keyes, Farley Granger need to commit in 'Enchantment'

Contrived romantic machinations but slickly done in this Samuel Goldwyn production, with excellent performances all around.

"Enchantment" has been on DVD before but has long been out of print and this is a welcome return, thanks to Warner Archive, the manufacture-on-demand website.


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.

Cheers,
Chris H.

Shameless Hucksterism

                     

Click cover for Parents.com 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

GHOSTBUSTERS

              

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 29, 2014

"Ghostbusters" (1984, PG) is one of those movies that just gets better with every viewing. But it was also a tremendous success the first time around, ultimately landing in the No. 2 spot on the 1984 box-office hit list, just a few bucks behind "Beverly Hills Cop."

The film was conceived by Dan Aykroyd as an homage to the haunted house comedies of yore, such as Bob Hope's "The Cat and the Canary" (1939) and "The Ghost Breakers" (1940) — but especially those that starred comedy teams: Abbott & Costello's "Hold That Ghost" (1941), Olsen & Johnson's "Ghost Catchers" (1944), the Bowery Boys' "Spook Busters" (1946), Martin & Lewis' "Scared Stiff" (1953), Rowan & Martin's "The Maltese Bippy" (1969), etc.

Call this one Aykroyd & Murray's "Ghostbusters."

Aykroyd and Bill Murray, along with Harold Ramis, play parapsychologists doing research at a New York college when their grant is revoked. So they decide to open a ghost-extermination service, which they advertise with goofy TV ads. The results are surprising — as are the many unhappy ghosts they encounter.

           

Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, 'Ghostbusters'

What makes "Ghostbusters" work and separates it from the pack of modern horror comedies is that it goes for genuine character-driven laughs, eschews the usual sleaze (well, mostly) and even offers some genuinely scary moments.

The characters don't take themselves seriously but the story is plotted in a straight-ahead manner without winking at the audience, thanks to on-target direction from Ivan Reitman (whose most recent film is the 2014 Kevin Costner sports vehicle "Draft Day").

Aykroyd and Bill Murray work very well together, though Aykroyd lets Murray earn the lion's share of the laughs, and the third member of their team, the late Harold Ramis, is great as the introverted intellectual member of the team. And as the eventual fourth member, Ernie Hudson is also good.

           

Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver are possessed in 'Ghostbusters'

Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis and Annie Potts lead the supporting characters, and all are very well played.

Then there's that toe-tapping theme song … "Who ya gonna call?"

"Ghostbusters" is celebrating its 30th anniversary by playing for a week (starting today, Aug. 29) on theater screens around the country, locally in both Cinemark and Megaplex theaters.


Golden Oldies Finally On DVD

FOREVER FEMALE

               

A perhaps forgotten film, the comedy-drama "Forever Female" (1953, b/w) is a good backstage tale with echoes of "All About Eve," though it ultimately goes off in a different direction.

Now it's on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time, courtesy of the boutique label Olive Films.

Ginger Rogers holds court as aging Broadway star Beatrice Page, starring in projects produced by her ex-husband Harry Phillips (Paul Douglas), who still carries a torch for her.

But Beatrice insists on playing characters that are far too young for her, and that perception is beginning to be noticed by the audience, especially those in the front row. She is also dating dashing younger men, much to Harry's chagrin. (As the film opens she is being escorted by George Reeves, who was just about to become a star as TV's Superman).

When Beatrice and Harry's latest play proves to be a flop, Harry sees potential in a script by a young, unproduced playwright named Stanley Krown (William Holden).

             

 William Holden, left, Ginger Rogers, Pat Crowley, 'Forever Female'

His show is written for a younger actress and Stanley wants Beatrice to play the main character's mother, but, of course, Beatrice wants the lead, and after some wrestling with his conscience, Stanley begins reworking his masterpiece.

Meanwhile, a young actress (Pat Crowley) comes along who feels she is perfect for the younger role and is certain Beatrice is too old, and she eventually takes drastic measures to prove her point.

"Forever Female" is a light piece of fluff but it's fun, especially for theater fans, with its portrayal of life among those who trod the boards.

            

Interestingly, at the end of the film, Crowley receives a closeup and special billing as "A future Paramount star."

Although she has worked steadily since her film debut in "Forever Female," she never did rise to the level of stardom, laboring primarily in supporting roles in a variety of films and myriad TV shows.