Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns



For, Friday, March 17, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every once in a while I would stray from the movie beat and write about another subject, and if you read this bit of St. Patrick’s Day malarkey, you’ll understand why I quickly returned to movies. With the headline, ‘The key word, folks, is Blarney,’ it was published in the Deseret News on March 13, 1980. (It’s a wonder they kept me on the payroll.)

St. Patrick’s Day is one of our most misunderstood and overlooked holidays.

Even those with a little of the Irish in them often ignore St. Paddy’s Day.

But I knew there must be some reason for its being remembered each year by the people who fill in holidays on calendars. And I am of Irish extraction (the same way dentists are of tooth extraction).

So, I did a little research … and I came up with a little story. This is the story of March 17 and why we all dress in green and run around pinching each other (perfect for conversation at your next party).


Once upon a time in Ireland, before Catholics and Protestants knew they were different, there lived a man by the name of Patrick O. Blarney.

As a young man, Blarney was eager to be a success in his field. He was in the potato field at the time.

Blarney knew that there were many potato farmers in his neighborhood and if he was going to make it big he’d better think of a unique way to market his potatoes.

So he tried a number of innovative methods to turn his product into a marketable commodity.

The first of these came about purely by accident. While loading his truck one day, he dropped some potatoes on the ground and stomped on them as he gained his footing. Thus, he invented mashed potatoes. Blarney thought he really had something there, but he found them impossible to store.

His next effort was a baked potato. He took his crop to the local bakery, but found that a potato with candy flowers, and a bride and groom on top, just wouldn’t sell.


Then his brother-in-law suggested potato pancakes. Blarney got up bright an early the next day … well, he got up early, anyway … and poured maple syrup over his crop. As a result, they were easier to pick, but the taste was horrible.

Potato chips didn’t work because the poker game had to be stopped frequently to sort out the crumbs.

And when someone mentioned potato flakes, Blarney thought it referred to his farmhands.

Then one day, March 17th to be precise, it came to him while he was painting a crop of cauliflower green — which might sound like a silly activity, but Blarney mistook the cauliflower for a crop of pale broccoli.

During his effort, he accidentally spilled some of the paint on his potato crop. And since he couldn’t sell green potatoes, he gave them to his friends as doorstops.

That’s why, to this day, we still exchange green potato doorstops each March 17 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (he was an Irish citizen and could not be knighted, so he was made a saint).

As a footnote, Patrick O. Blarney’s brother Marvin O. Blarney was the inventor of the Blarney Stone. But you’ll have to wait for St. Blarney’s Day to read that story.

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, March 17, 2017

Despite some controversy, Disney’s live-action remake of its Academy Award-nominated animated feature “Beauty and the Beast” is still on track to be a major blockbuster, all but kicking off the summer-movie season quite early.

“Beauty and the Beast” (PG). Emma Watson (the “Harry Potter” flicks) stars as Belle and Dan Stevens (TV’s “Downton Abbey”) is the Beast in this ultra-hyped musical that is expected to hit it big at the box office this weekend. With Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson and Audra McDonald.

“My Life as a Zucchini” (PG-13, evening screenings in French with English subtitles; matinees dubbed in English). After his mother disappears, a 9-year-old boy nicknamed “Zucchini” is sent to a foster home, where he meets other children and with the help of a friendly policeman learns how to trust and how to love. French animated film was nominated for an Oscar.


“The Belko Experiment” (R). Counterprogramming reaches some kind of zenith (or nadir) here with a film that is the complete opposite of Disney’s potential blockbuster. This one is an R-rated horror film about 80 white-collar Americans in a high-rise office building that are locked in and ordered to engage in a literal game of kill or be killed. Stars include John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona and John C. McGinley.

“The Sense of an Ending” (PG-13). Adaptation of Julian Barnes’ novel about an elderly man (Jim Broadbent) haunted by his past when a mysterious bequest causes him to re-evaluate his life and reconsider events as he has understood and remembered them. With Charlotte Rampling, Emily Mortimer and Michelle Dockery (TV’ “Downton Abbey”). (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“The Lure” (not rated, in Polish with English subtitles). Horror musical about bloodthirsty mermaids that try to sublimate their true nature after assuring a human family they won’t eat them, even as they are recruited to join the family’s band for gigs in a Warsaw nightclub. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)

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



For, Friday, March 10, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: I liked ‘Creepshow’ (1982), but ‘Creepshow 2,’ not so much. Still, it has a following, and the exploitation-flick ‘boutique’ label Arrow has given it the Blu-ray special-edition upgrade that really should have gone to the first film. So here’s my May 29, 1987, Deseret News review of the sequel.

Though most critics did not, I quite enjoyed “Creepshow.” Call it a guilty pleasure, if you like, but the outrageous Stephen King short stories in that film (most of them, anyway) were alternately frightening and amusing, frequently shocking me or making me laugh – sometimes at the same moment. And isn’t that what a horror movie is supposed to do?

But “Creepshow 2” seems to jump into all the pitfalls the first film avoided.

For the record, the first “Creepshow” was scripted by King, five stories based on five of his own published works. And it was directed by George A. Romero, of the “Night of the Living Dead” trilogy fame.

For “Creepshow 2” Romero did the screenplay, basing it on three King short stories, two of them unpublished. And there may be a reason two remain unpublished.


           George Kennedy and friend, 'Creepshow 2'

Like the first film, “Creepshow 2” begins with a young kid who reads a horror comic called “Creepshow” (based on the old E.C. Comics, like “Tales from the Crypt”), and whose latest issue contains the stories that will unfold in live-action for us.

But unlike the first film, “Creepshow 2” has the boy introducing each story in animated form, complete with a supposedly horrifying animated conclusion. But this element is the worst in the picture, with cheap animation and a pretty dumb story.

As far as the three real horror yarns in this anthology are concerned, the first, “Old Chief Wood’n-head,” is a very predictable tale of a wooden Indian that comes to life to avenge the killings of its owners (George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour); the second, the only published story, is “The Raft,” about pot-smoking teens on a raft in the middle of a small lake that has some kind of killer oil slick on its surface; the third, “The Hitchhiker,” is as predictable as the first, with Lois Chiles as an adulterous wife whose car strikes a hitchhiker, and when she just drives away the hitchhiker returns to haunt her journey home.


The first is the worst, and the last story isn’t a lot better, though it does offer a few chills in spite of itself. But the middle tale is a pretty scary one as the goo in the water attacks the kids on the raft one by one. It’s well staged and has a terrific climax (which is unfortunately included in the theatrical previews).

“Creepshow 2” is also more graphic than the first film, throwing in gratuitous sex, nudity, profanity and drug use, as well as the expected gore, all accounting for the R rating.

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, March 10, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Megaplex Theaters is reviving ‘The Princess Bride’ next weekend to coincide with Fan X, as three of the film’s cast members — Cary Elwes, Wallace Shawn and Chris Sarandon — will be participating. The film will be shown at 9 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, March 17 and 18, in the Gateway Theaters in downtown Salt Lake City. Here’s my review of the film, published in the Deseret News on Oct. 9, 1987.

William Goldman’s popular novel “The Princess Bride” has at last come to the screen, adapted by Goldman himself. And why not? Goldman has two Oscars on his mantle already (for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”), and he’s given us “Marathon Man,” “Harper” and many others in the past.

And Rob Reiner, whose “Stand By Me” and “The Sure Thing” proved movies about kids don’t have to be stupid, has directed with great affection for the material and a wonderful sense of comedy.

On the surface these two men may seem like odd collaborators for this venture, considering it is very much a movie quite unlike anything either has done before. But consider this: Goldman’s “Princess Bride” is to “Robin Hood” what “Butch Cassidy” was to “The Searchers.” He has somehow managed to affect both an homage to the genre and a spoof of same.

You may recall that “Butch Cassidy” was a similar accomplishment. His western managed to really be a western in every best sense of that word, yet he had great fun spoofing cowboy conventions. And “The Princess Bride” is very much a fairy tale/adventure that would be great fun on its own, but with an added dimension of hilarious comedy.

Reiner’s first was “This Is Spinal Tap!” both a satire of rock documentaries and at the same time a very real-looking documentary-style homage to rock music and musicians.

This was indeed the perfect match.


        Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, 'The Princess Bride'

“The Princess Bride” also manages to correctly capture Goldman’s story-within-a-story motif. As the film begins, a modern-day young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed. When his mother enters his room he switches off his video games but he soon wishes she’d left them on. Grandpa (Peter Falk) comes in and announces he would like to read the boy a fairy tale.

The lad’s reluctance gradually lets down, however, as he interrupts his grandfather, at first complaining that this sounds like “a kissing book,” but eventually because he can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, the story Grandpa is reading unfolds before us as we meet Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her true love Westley (Cary Elwes).

Westley goes off to find his fortune, vowing to return to Buttercup, but word eventually comes back that he has been killed by a pirate. So Buttercup allows herself to be betrothed to the kingdom’s evil prince (Chris Sarandon), who plans to kill her. Then. …

Come to think of it, I don’t want to give too much away — so suffice it to say there are kidnappings, giants, magicians, monsters and all sorts of other wonderfully funny and scary things going on here — including the most hilarious fencing match (between Patinkin and Elwes) since Danny Kaye squared off against Basil Rathbone in “The Court Jester” — adding up to completely enchanting entertainment for all ages.


Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, 'Princess Bride'

Very young children will doubtless be frightened by the sea serpents and giant rats, but for the most part this is one of those rare films that will delight every age group.

“The Princess Bride” isn’t perfect. There are technical glitches, such as edited camera shots that don’t quite match and cardboard mountains and trees that look very much like cardboard mountains and trees — but for me that just added to the zany sense of fun. And it could be argued that Billy Crystal, under tons of makeup, doing a Mel Brooks-style “2000-Year-Old-Man” voice as an aged sorcerer, is out of place — but he’s so funny you won’t care.

Both Goldman and Reiner deserve applause for their accomplishment, and the wonderful cast (did I mention Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Peter Cook and Andre the Giant) is obviously relishing every moment.

This is in some ways a non-vulgar, Americanized version of how Monty Python might do a fairy tale. And it is great fun from start to finish.

“The Princess Bride” is rated PG for violence (there is some blood, several deaths and a couple of torture scenes) and two profanities (one spoken by the young boy in bed, one by Patinkin).

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



For, Friday, March 10, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: A quirky romance that fans have asked about from time to time, ‘Year of the Comet,’ finally made its DVD debut last year on MGM’s vintage label, MGM Limited Edition. Here’s my Deseret News review, published April 26, 1992. (Note that star Tim Daly, minus the mustache he wears here, is now playing the husband of ‘Madame Secretary’ on CBS’s hit TV series.)

In the comedy-thriller "Year of the Comet," Penelope Ann Miller and Tim Daly try their darnedest to be the Grace Kelly and Cary Grant of the ’90s, but they wind up more like the Cybill Shepherd and Burt Reynolds of the ’70s.

And the film itself is more like a hard-to-remember TV movie of the week than "To Catch a Thief" or "North By Northwest," which are its most obvious inspirations.

This is especially disheartening since it comes from the typewriter of William Goldman, who has given us a wide range of excellent films including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "All the President's Men" and "The Princess Bride," and the direction of Peter Yates, most famous for "Bullitt" and "Breaking Away."


         Tim Daly, Penelope Miller, 'Year of the Comet'

But "Year of the Comet" is little more than rehashed plotting, lame one-liners and surprisingly sexist characterizations in what can only be described as a very cheesy-looking production.

The plot centers around a huge bottle of wine, which was owned by Napoleon. Miller, as the Americanized daughter of a British wine auctioneer, is the first to discover the wine bottle in the cellar of an old Scottish castle.

Daly is a self-described "troubleshooter" who takes it upon himself to link up with Miller, follow her around — from America to Scotland to France — and promptly rescue her whenever any of the bad guys (there are three distinct groups of bad guys in this movie) attack her and try to steal the wine.

Chief among the villains is Louis Jourdan, who has certainly seen better days. Here he is reduced to a suave French stereotype, offering threats and jokes in his most seductive manner.


And, as it turns out, he's not even after the wine! He's after a "secret formula" hidden behind the wine bottle's label.

Don't ask.

There are helicopter and airplane chases, motorcycle and car chases, and even a scene where Miller and Daly must rescue the bottle from the bottom of a Scottish lake.

But there is no style and little wit.

Miller ("Awakenings," "Kindergarten Cop") and Daly (TV's "Wings") are appealing, but with this script Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman would have trouble.

"Year of the Comet" is rated PG-13 for considerable mayhem, along with a sex scene, some blurry nudity (a hallucination by Jourdan after he takes a drug), profanity and vulgarity.