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SUNDANCE PURSUES DIVERSITY

     

Robert Redford holds court at the Sundance Film Festival.

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hollywood is struggling with diversity as evidenced by the many female movie directors and filmmakers of color who are calling out the recent Oscar nominations as being too white and too male. But this is nothing new. The Sundance Film Festival article below is 28 years old but co-founder and benefactor Robert Redford was noting even then that the event was intended as an antidote to Hollywood’s lack of diversity, and that mandate remains. The 2020 Sundance Fest gets underway this weekend. This Deseret News story was published on Jan. 20, 1992.

PARK CITY – Robert Redford said Sunday that when his Sundance Institute took over the financially troubled U.S. Film Festival seven years ago, “the hope was to keep alive the most important feature of independent film – diversity.”

Now called the Sundance Film Festival, this annual showcase for independent filmmaking has certainly achieved that. Set against the backdrop of Park City’s snow-covered mountains each year, when as many skiers as moviegoers are in town, the festival is thriving — and the movies are as diverse as movies get.

During a press conference in the Yarrow Hotel, flanked by festival staff members, Redford answered questions from a room full of reporters about the festival’s history, it’s current status and where it may be headed..

Redford said films this year range “from avant-garde to extremely accessible,” citing three as examples of “pushing the boundaries of film” — “The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez,” a “silent” movie by stage director Peter Sellars; “Fool’s Fire,” a unique adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story by puppetmeister Julie Taymor; and British artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman’s “Edward II.”

     

He’s also pleased with the new Piper-Heidsieck Tribute honoring actor John Turturro on Thursday. “Actors have long been an unsung part of the process,” Redford said. “We’re giving credit to actors in a world that gives credit only to directors and writers.”

The festival has been financially successful for two years in a row, Redford said. “We’d like to think we have a pretty exciting festival this year.”

Yet, seven years ago, when he was first approached about getting involved he was reluctant. There were too many film festivals, Redford explained, and something had to set this one apart. “I was only interested in a festival that would produce action on the back end,” a showcase to help launch independent films into the marketplace. “It was born out of an idea to create a workplace for filmmakers of independent vision.”

Redford said last year that he intended to lower his profile a bit with respect to the festival, to encourage the operation to run on its own steam. And apparently that has happened. He’s been working on several film projects – directing “The River Runs Through It,” which opens in the fall; executive producing “The Dark Wind,” scheduled to open next month; narrating and executive producing “Incident at Oglala,” which is in the festival and in search of a distributor; and acting with Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and River Phoenix in “Sneakers,” currently shooting in Los Angeles.”

     

“I’m working this year, so I’ve been gone, and it’s doing great. (But) I’ll always be here as a part of the festival. It’s close to my heart.”

As to the future, Redford addressed the problem of growth, though he admitted there’s no real solution yet. Especially toward the end of the festival’s 10 days, moviegoers mob Park City but often can’t get into movies.

“Yes, we’re going to buy Park City,” he joked. The festival has approached Park City about the issue of upgrading theaters and expanding, though Redford disdains minitheater complexes. At one point, the festival threatened to pull out and go elsewhere. “This has been a problem coming for the past three years. And after every festival that’s the first issue addressed.

“Maybe next year’s festival will answer your question.”


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

BUSINESS AS USUAL

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

This weekend’s entries return to genre stuff aimed at audiences that have a taste for certain types of movies.

“The Last Full Measure” (R). The true story of Vietnam hero William H. Pitsenbarger, a pararescueman pilot who flew nearly 300 missions and personally rescued at least 60 men before being killed in one of the war’s bloodiest battles. Thirty-two years later a Pentagon staffer (Sebastian Stan) is assigned to discover whether Pitsenbarger should receive the Medal of Honor. With Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, LisaGay Hamilton, Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, Bradley Whitford and John Savage.

“The Gentlemen” (R). British filmmaker Guy Ritchie (the two ‘Sherlock Holmes’ flicks, the live-action ‘Aladdin’) returns to his roots (‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,’ ‘Snatch’) with this violent thriller about a tabloid editor (Eddie Marsan) insulted by a cannabis dealer (Matthew McConaughey) at a party, which leads to a dust-up with a private eye (Hugh Grant) involved with a lord and his drug-addict daughter. With Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Henry Golding and Colin Farrell.

  

“The Turning” (PG-13). In this umpteenth variation on Henry James’ 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw,” a young woman (Mackenzie Davis) is hired as a governess for two disturbed orphans, a pre-teen girl (Brooklyn Prince) and a teenage boy (Finn Wolfhard) in a mansion that appears to be haunted.

“The Song of Names” (PG-13). During World War II a 9-year-old violin prodigy and orphaned Polish-Jewish refugee is taken in by a London family and quickly grows as close to the family’s youngest son. Years pass and on the eve of his first concert at age 21, the violinist disappears without a trace. With Tim Roth and Clive Owen. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Coda” (Not Rated). An aging famous concert pianist (Patrick Stewart) discovers he has stage fright late in his career but then is inspired by a free-spirited music critic (Katie Holmes). With Giancarlo Esposito. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Jordan Commons Theaters.)

  

“Pain and Glory” (R, in Spanish with English subtitles). The latest from eccentric Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar has been compared to Fellini’s “8½” with its story of a gay filmmaker (frequent Almodóvar muse Antonio Banderas) looking back on his career and relationships. With another Almodóvar regular, Penélope Cruz. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“The Rescue” (R, in Mandarin with English subtitles). Spectacular action scenes highlight this Chinese disaster flick, whose storyline is driven by the soap opera personal lies of members of a Chinese Coast Guard rescue unit struggling to resolve personal differences. (Exclusively at the AMC West Jordan Theaters.)

“Gauguin from the National Gallery, London” (PG-13). This documentary explores the life and work of controversial French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, to include a private view of the National Gallery exhibition of Gauguin portraits. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Jordan Commons Theaters).

 


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

BREWSTER'S MILLIONS

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Brewster’s Millions’ was a popular novel in 1902 and an equally popular play some four years later. Counting foreign versions, in the ensuing 114 years it has been made into no less than 13 films. The two best-known versions in this country are the 1985 comedy with Richard Pryor and the 1945 version with Dennis O’Keefe. Now the Shout! Factory has given the Pryor version a Blu-ray ‘Collector’s Edition’ upgrade and has included among the bonus features the rarely seen O’Keefe film (which is worth watching for O'Keefe's over-the-top mugging and especially Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson's scene-stealing wisecracks). My review of the Pryor film was published in the Deseret News on May 22, 1985.

Richard Pryor is back after an absence of a couple of years (“Superman III” was his last film), and it’s good to see him again. But it would be more fun if “Brewster’s Millions” were better.

Not that it’s actually bad, mind you. It’s just not very good.

A rather laid back remake of the oft-filmed yarn about a man who must spend millions within a month and show no assets so he can inherit millions more, “Brewster’s Millions” is pleasant enough … it’s just not funny enough.

Pryor is Montgomery Brewster, a down-on-his-luck baseball player who finds himself the recipient of a $300 million inheritance (it was $10 million back in the ’40s … ah, inflation). The Catch-22 is that he must spend $30 million in 30 days with no assets at the end of that time — just plenty of receipts.

     

Lonette McKee, last seen in “The Cotton Club,” is the bookkeeper assigned to tag along and make sure Pryor is honest and above-board. But the law firm overseeing the estate is not so honest, and since it stands to inherit the money if Brewster fails, it takes steps to ensure that he will.

The film takes a while to get rolling but once it does the majority of its humor centers around Pryor’s becoming a ridiculous spendthrift, investing in idiotic schemes (most of which make him an unwanted profit) and spending thousands on friends, hangers-on and parties.

His best friend (John Candy), a catcher on their baseball team, at first just joins in the fun, but as he sees Pryor throw his money away, he and McKee try to help him manage it better. They think Pryor’s let it all go to his head but it is a condition of the will that he tells no one why he is spending his entire $30 million so rapidly.

There’s great potential here, and occasionally it moves toward fulfilling it. Pryor hires McKee’s fiancé (Stephen Collins), to decorate his hotel suite, and he in turn hires his own ex-wife (Tovah Feldshuh), an eccentric interior designer, to help him — resulting in some humorous “modern” furnishings. And at one point Pryor decides to oppose New York’s two candidates for mayor by urging voters to vote for no one.

     

The 1945 version of 'Brewster's Millions' is included among the bonus features on the Richard Pryor Blu-ray.

But on the whole, “Brewster’s Millions” just never catches fire. It fails to reach any zenith of zaniness that might bring forth the promised big yuks. I kept expecting to laugh out loud and never did.

Pryor is good, and he has some funny lines and asides during all the madness that surrounds him, but Candy is rather wasted as the best friend, with very little to do. Likewise McKee, Collins, Feldshuh, Pat Hingle and many other familiar faces seem to be merely window-dressing. (There is a funny cameo with unbilled Rick Moranis as an obnoxious mimic, however.)

Part of the problem is apparently director Walter Hill, better known for his violent melodramas laced with humor (“The Long Riders,” “The Warriors,” “48 HRS.”). Perhaps he was uncomfortable with a flat-out comedy. But some of the blame must also go to screenwriters Herschel, Weingrod and Timothy Harris, who also gave us the equally uneven “Trading Places.” “Brewster’s Millions” just seems loaded with setups that never pay off.

Pryor fans, and those just looking for a nice little comedy-fantasy escape, may be pleasantly entertained. But considering the talent involved, “Brewster’s Millions” should have been a lot funnier.

It is rated PG for profanity.


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 (with permission) from my 40 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 no longer writing for the D-News so this is mostly archival stuff, primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.

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 Shameless Hucksterism

 

Click here for Deseret News interview.

Click here for Deseret News review.

Click here for Amazon store.

Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen

THE PRINCESS BRIDE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes a zany premise just works and this one comes together on all levels, and looks even better now than it did 33 years ago — and it looked pretty good back then. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen a trip to Ogden might be worth the drive; it’s showing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in Ogden's Egyptian Theater. My review was 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.

     

Fred Savage, left, Peter Falk, 'The Princess Bride' (1987)

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.

“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 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.

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

NIGHT PATROL

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: All these years later Murray Langston is probably still best known for his 150 appearances on the original and very weird TV series ‘The Gong Show’ as The Unknown Comic in the 1970s and ’80s. He also appeared in a number of films and even wrote and directed one (1990’s ‘Wishful Thinking’). But before that he wrote and starred in this one, which, for some unknown reason, Kino Lorber has given a Blu-ray upgrade. My review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 13, 1985.

You may remember Murray Langston as The Unknown Comic, that frenetic comedian who rapidly spouted one-liners while wearing a paper bag over his head as a regular on the now-defunct “Gong Show” — that is if you were unfortunate enough to have seen “The Gong Show.”

Well, now Langston stars in a police comedy called “Night Patrol,” in which he plays a bumbling patrolman who moonlights as a standup comic, but doesn’t want his colleagues to know, so he wears a paper bag over his head and calls himself The Unknown Comic.

However, if this movie were to be shown as one of the acts competing on “The Gong Show” even Langston himself would probably give it the gong. If not, maybe Jaye P. Morgan would. And, as it happens, Morgan costars in “Night Patrol” as Langston’s agent.

     

Murray Langston, left, Pat Paulsen, 'Night Patrol' (1985)

Meanwhile, as Langston pulls his double duty, a robber is going around town committing crimes with a paper bag over his head, while he tells his victims bad jokes. Unfortunately, paper bags are not provided for the movie’s audience. They should be.

Among Langston’s costars are Linda Blair, the possessed youngster in “The Exorcist,” now grown up and playing the police-station receptionist who loves Langston but is ignored by him. She doesn’t know when she has it good.

Pat Paulsen is Langston’s veteran patrolman-buddy, and manages to get off a few good deadpan, dog-faced one-liners, but he looks pretty tired throughout the entire effort.

Then there’s Billy Barty as Langston’s grousing police chief, who’s every screen appearance is accompanied by sound effects simulating flatulence. Jack Riley, best remembered as one of Bob Newhart’s patients when Newhart was a psychiatrist on the old “Bob Newhart Show,” apparently learned something as he is now Langston’s psychiatrist. And Pat Morita, of “The Karate Kid,” has one truly embarrassing scene as a rape victim whose voice is dubbed in by a woman.

     

Murray Langston wearing his 'Unknown Comic' paper bag, with Linda Blair in 'Night Patrol' (1985).

The script, co-written by Langston and three others, is in the Mel Brooks/“Airplane!” style of off-the-wall, bizarre, completely nonsensical rapid-fire jokes that come so fast and furiously that some of them have to be successful. With Brooks, the ratio is usually about 70-30, with “Airplane” it managed to be about 75-25 but with “Night Patrol” it’s much lower. About 10-90, and that may be overestimating.

Though there are a few inventive gags here and there, even the good ones are destroyed by the film’s technical ineptness. Bad timing, bad setups, bad quality in the film and, worst of all, lousy editing, tend to make even this film’s brighter moments less than humorous.

But the worst aspect is that “Night Patrol” is in such poor taste, it is consistently raunchy, vulgar and offensive. As you might expect, “Night Patrol” is rated R for all these elements plus nudity, sex and profanity.

The saddest part of “Night Patrol” is that Murray Langston is a cheerfully endearing comedian and some of his Unknown Comic bits are really quite funny. But you’ll never get a sense of that because this movie is such a total failure that it makes everyone in the cast look as inept as the movie’s technical aspects.