For, Friday, April 17, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: In this 25-year-old Deseret News column (Oct. 14, 1990), with the headline, 'Old-movie buffs clamor for classics not on video,' I offer praise to the movie studios for releasing so many oft-requested movies to videotape. Interestingly, all of the films mentioned here are on DVD now, except for three that never made it to VHS: ‘Hellzapoppin’,’ ‘The Art of Love’ and ‘The Bramble Bush,’ which have never been on home video in any format.

The movie questions that most often come my way these days are whether particular titles are available on video.

For a long time the No. 1 most-requested title that remained unreleased was "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial." Then Steven Spielberg finally relented and home copies became available.

After that, the most sought-after title seemed to be the Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr romance "An Affair to Remember," which someone would ask about almost every week. That film also belatedly made it to video.

Others that were oft-requested and eventually received video releases were "Carousel" and "State Fair," two Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals; "The Party," a Peter Sellers comedy; "Random Harvest," an amnesia yarn with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson; "How to Murder Your Wife," a comedy with Jack Lemmon; and "Sorcerer," William Friedkin's version of "The Wages of Fear," which just came out Oct. 4.

Another that was on the hot request list was the cult rock-horror-comedy "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," now scheduled for Oct. 25 video release.

Disney animated classics have also been frequently asked about, although many of them have since been given the video treatment — "Dumbo," "Alice in Wonderland," "Pinocchio," "The Sword in the Stone," "Robin Hood," "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Lady and the Tramp," "Bambi," "The Little Mermaid" and now "Peter Pan."


But the folks at Disney release these animated classics on a temporary basis, putting them on moratorium after a few years. "Pinocchio," for example, is now out of release (though video stores that purchased it may still have rental copies) and will return to theater screens in 1992, then come out on video again.

Some Disney animated features have still not been released on tape, however, including "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Fantasia," which the studio says are the only two that will never see the light of video. Others that have not yet been videoized are "One Hundred and One Dalmations," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," "The Rescuers," "The Fox and the Hound," "The Black Cauldron," "The Great Mouse Detective" and "Oliver & Company."

The Disney folks have their own plan for releasing a couple of animated features on video annually, but there are many other, older movies that haven't yet made their way to the market simply because the studios don't give "golden oldies" the same priority as more recent productions, regardless of quality.

Two major movie studios that have made a conscious effort to release a number of old movies on a regular basis are MGM-UA and Universal Pictures. For example, Universal is releasing two Preston Sturges classics, "Hail the Conquering Hero" and "The Great Moment," on Nov. 15, and MGM has issued a spate of video releases over the past year, including "Boys Town," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)," "Blackboard Jungle," "Lust for Life," "A Patch of Blue," "The Scalphunters," etc.

Because the majority of weekly teen renters would rather have a new, color movie than anything more than a decade old or in black and white, we see "Strapless," "Blood Salvage," "Blood Screams," "In the Spirit," "Ghosts Can't Do It," "Satan's Princess" — and other generically titled clunkers that never made it into general theatrical release — coming to video every month.

Yet, there are many older movies — some of them bona fide classics - that have a rabid following but are overlooked when decisions are being made by the powers that be.

So here is an unscientific list of movies that are not on video at the moment, but which local movie fans would most like to rent or buy; those most frequently asked about lead the list:

McLintock! The High and the Mighty, Hondo and Island in the Sky — These four John Wayne movies are in the custody of the star's son, Michael Wayne. "Hondo" is scheduled for a 1991 television release, but the others are in limbo. ("McLintock!" is unquestionably the No. 1 most-requested title of the moment.)

The Hallelujah Trail and Lawman — Two Burt Lancaster Westerns, the first a zany comedy and the second a more traditional shoot-'em-up.

Brigham Young — Frontiersman — The 1940 film about Mormon pioneers, with Dean Jagger in the title role and Vincent Price as Joseph Smith, though the real stars are Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell.

Lost Horizon — The 1973 musical version starring Liv Ullmann and Peter Finch, with songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

O. Henry's Full House — Calls for this one come mostly around the holidays as folks remember this anthology of twist-ending O. Henry stories, with Charles Laughton, Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Allen, etc.

Hellzapoppin — Hilarious Ole Olsen & Chic Johnson madcap comedy, based on their stage hit.

The Brave Little Toaster — An independent animated film that showed up on the Disney Channel a couple of years ago but has never had a theatrical or video release.

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe — Luis Bunuel's classic film version of the Defoe tale, with Daniel O'Herlihy in the title role.

Dracula — The made-for-TV version starring Louis Jourdan.

The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers — Two of Bob Hope's best films (the former established him as a movie star), a pair of memorable horror-comedies.

Abbott & Costello — Of the 36 movies Bud & Lou made, only 12 are on video, along with Costello's only solo film. Invariably someone will call about a title not yet available.

Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula — Though five of the Universal "Frankenstein" movies (including "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein") are on tape, these three are not.

Rome Adventure — Suzanne Pleshette in Rome is romanced by both Rossano Brazzi and Troy Donahue, the latter with a mistress (Angie Dickinson).

Ma and Pa Kettle — None of the nine films in this Universal series are on video yet, though you can get the movie that introduced Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride as these characters, "The Egg and I," starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray.

Union Pacific — Cecil B. DeMille's railroad epic with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrae and Robert Preston.

Without Love and The Sea of Grass — The only two Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy films not yet on video.

The Miniver Story — The sequel to "Mrs. Miniver," with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon reprising their roles.

The Hope & Crosby "Road" Movies — Only three of the seven "Road" comedies are available at the moment — "Road to Utopia," "Road to Rio" and "Road to Bali."

Francis the Talking Mule — Of Universal's seven "Francis" films, only "Francis in the Navy" is available, with Donald O'Connor and a very young Clint Eastwood.

The Art of Love — Carl Reiner's comedy about an American artist (Dick Van Dyke) in Paris who plays dead so his buddy (James Garner) can "find" his newly valuable paintings.

The Bramble Bush - Soap opera about a New England doctor (Richard Burton) in love with his dying friend's wife (Barbara Rush) and pursued by a sexy nurse (Angie Dickinson).



For, Friday, April 24, 2015

A faith film and a pair of fantasies lead new movies in town this week.

“Little Boy” (PG-13) is a faith-based film set stateside during World War II. The title character is an 8-year-old (Jakob Salvati) who believes that if he has enough faith he can end the war to bring his father home. Co-stars include Kevin James, Emily Watson, Michael Rapaport, Ben Chaplin and Tom Wilkinson.

“The Age of Adaline” (PG-13). Romantic fantasy about a young woman (Blake Lively) who finds herself ageless, which may seem like a blessing instead of a curse until you start to think about everyone you care about dying over the decades while you stay young. That’s one of the conceits of this tale, which co-stars Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn and Kathy Baker.

“Ex Machina” (R) is an arty sci-fi thriller with Domhall Gleeson as an Internet employee who wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain retreat of his CEO (Oscar Isaac), where he is introduced to a beautiful female robot (Alicia Vikander). Then things get sinister.

“The Water Diviner” (R) stars Russell Crowe as an Australian man who travels to Turkey following the Battle of Gallipoli to try and find his three missing sons.

“Desert Dancer” (PG-13). True story of young Iranians forming an underground dance company since they live in a country where dancing is forbidden. They learn their moves from YouTube videos of Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly, Rudolf Nureyev, etc., and perform in the desert to elude police scrutiny.




For, Friday, April 17, 2015

Amy Adams delivers a knockout performance in “Big Eyes” as artist Margaret Keane, famous for her portraits of children with huge eyes.

It’s a quirky story that begins in the late 1950s with Margaret Ulbrich, a divorced single mother, moving to San Francisco, where she puts her artistic ability to work on an illustrative assembly line in a furniture factory

On the side, she tries, to little avail, to earn some money with her offbeat big-eyed paintings when she meets another artist named Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), the original silver-tongued devil.

Soon, she’s essentially trapped in their home churning out her work while Walter sells the paintings and takes credit for them as his own. He’s so sleazily manipulative that he almost convinces Margaret that he is indeed the artist.


                          Amy Adams, 'Big Eyes'

Ultimately, this leads to courtroom showdown with an extremely satisfying resolution.

Although Adams won a Golden Globe for her performance, “Big Eyes” underperformed in theaters last Christmas and has all but been forgotten.

Directed by Tim Burton in a manner that is more subtle than his most famous films, “Big Eyes” is a comedy-drama that is quite touching and builds well to its climax.

The biggest drawback is Waltz’s overwrought performance, which looks all the more cartoony next to Adams’ grounded, realistic portrayal. But there is nice support from Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman and Terence Stamp in small but significant roles.

Despite Waltz, the film is quite satisfying and demonstrates a maturity that is revealed all too infrequently in Burton’s films. And now that it’s on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as being available on other platforms, this is your chance to judge “Big Eyes” for yourself.

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, April 24, 2015

It’s tough being a woman in the 1980s, especially when you’re a man.

That’s just one of the lessons Dustin Hoffman learns in the insightful and delightful “Tootsie” (1982, PG), one of the best comedies of that decade (or any of the subsequent decades), and it’s back on the big screen as part of Cinemark Theaters’ latest cycle of classics.

You can see it on Sunday, April 26, at 2 p.m., or on Wednesday, April 29, at 2 or 7 p.m.


        Dustin Hoffman, left, Teri Garr, Sydney Pollack, 'Tootsie'

If you need a refresher, “Tootsie” stars Dustin Hoffman as an aggressive, difficult, chauvinistic New York actor whom no one will hire.

When he takes his girlfriend (Teri Garr) to a soap opera audition, he finds that one of the show’s stars has taken a stage role he yearned for. In anger, he goes home, makes himself up as a woman, returns to the soap auditions — and wins a female role.

In some ways “Tootsie” is just another variation on “Charley’s Aunt” or “Some Like It Hot,” but the clever (and surprisingly clean) script is smart and witty without ever going for cheap gags. As directed by Sydney Pollack, this is high-class comedy of a sort we seldom see these days.


               Jessica Lange, left, Dustin Hoffman, 'Tootsie'

And although the film belongs to Hoffman, whose female impersonation is quite remarkable, there are lots of juicy bits for the other actors, who, in addition to Garr (an Oscar nominee for this film), include Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis and unbilled Bill Murray, who has some of the best lines (which may be adlibs).

If you’ve never seen “Tootsie” on the big screen, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of this opportunity. You’ll laugh much more than you would watching it at home where there are distractions aplenty.

Golden Oldies Finally On DVD Golden Oldies Finally On DVD



For, Friday, April 17, 2015

After his enormous success as James Bond in 1962 with “Dr. No” and the following year with “From Russia With Love,” Sean Connery capitalized on his newfound popularity by making two brooding thrillers before going into production with “Goldfinger” (which would move him up to an even higher level of stardom).

The thrillers were Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie,” and another Hitchcock-like picture that has never been on DVD or Blu-ray until now, “Woman of Straw” (1964). Now Kino-Lorber has finally released the film in both formats.


  Connery, left, Richardson, Lollobrigida, 'Woman of Straw'

“Woman of Straw” gives top billing to Gina Lollobrigida, an Italian actress who reigned during the 1950s and ’60s a notch below Sophia Loren on the international movie-star/sexpot market.

Lollobrigida plays a nurse hired by Connery’s character, the charismatic nephew of and secretary to a wheelchair-bound tycoon.

Ralph Richardson has the latter role, creating a cranky, mean-spirited old man who mistreats everyone around him, especially his black servants whom he belittles and humiliates with demeaning, abusive and racist demands.

Lollbrigida is appalled by Richardson’s behavior and threatens to quit on her first night with him, but after a time she begins to warm to him and Richardson begins to soften.


Meanwhile, Connery approaches Lollobrigida and confronts her with the shady past she’s left behind, seducing and manipulating her, and proposing a plan for her to marry Richardson and inherit his wealth, giving Connery a $1 million fee for his assistance in making it happen.

Eventually, she reluctantly agrees and finds herself developing sincere feelings for Richardson. But things, of course, go awry, secrets and lies abound, and the truth is ultimately revealed in a double-twist final act.

“Woman of Straw” is pretty good, primarily for the opportunity to see Connery and Lollobrigida in their prime. And the story is interesting, if not compelling, benefiting from filming in European locations and that unexpected ending.

The downside is that the stars demonstrate no heat in their relationship and the direction (by Basil Dearden, whose earlier work includes the excellent “The League of Gentlemen”) is sluggish and remote. (There's also a plot device with Richardson late in the film that is meant to be shocking but is instead unintentionally comical.)

A lukewarm recommendation from this corner but it's worth a look for fans of the stars lovers of mysteries.