Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns

RIDICULOUS RIPOFFS

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, published in the Deseret News on June 6, 1983, under the headline, ‘Is Hollywood genre-ous to a fault?, was prompted by the announcements in trade papers of upcoming movies that, on the surface anyway, appeared to be little more than copycat efforts.

Reading about movies that are in various stages of production, and, for that matter, completed films that have been on the shelf for a time, is a fascinating pastime for a film buff. It’s certainly more interesting than having to sit through many of those same films.

But what’s really a kick is trying to figure out what a movie is about with only its title to go on.

Some are so ridiculous they stand on their own, others are just variations of other titles (and you can bet the movies are just variations on other movies, as well), and when productions are announced in the trade papers (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Box Office Magazine), they often even print an artist’s conception of what the film will be about.

Those drawings are the real giveaways, of course — since they so often resemble ad art from films you recognize.

Each genre seems to have a life all its own. Of course, when you consider how many movies are made compared to how many movies manage are widely released, it’s understandable that titles of low-budget quickies might occasionally try to cash in on past hits. In some genres, however, it is apparently hard for filmmakers to come up with titles at all, hence some of the bizarre films listed below, all real — I didn’t make any up, except as noted — and all advertised in the trades as being in some form of production or planning.

 

As you might expect, it is the horror films that continue to dominate trade-paper ads, and there are some humdingers coming up. The titles probably tell all, and just when you might think they’ve exhausted the weirdest of them … well, try these on for size:

There are those obviously aimed at “Psycho” fans — “Madman” and “Unhinged.”

The zombie-“Night of the Living Dead” rip-offs — “Return of the Living Dead,” “The Evil Dead.”

Damien’s relatives in films resembling “The Omen” (which itself sprang off of “Rosemary’s Baby”) — “The Next One,” “Reborn,” “The Coming.”

Since “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “My Bloody Valentine,” “Silent Night, Bloody Night” and “Happy Birthday to Me” took all the good holidays (I mean who’d go to a film titled “The Arbor Day Killings?”), someone came up with one that has to do with the time of day — “Just Before Dawn.” Who knows what could be next? “Right After Lunch” or “The Midnight Snack?”

 

“Spasms” sounds to me like a variation on “Scanners.”

And “places” are back in vogue — “Mortuary,” “Mausoleum,” “The Attic, “The Black Room” and “Deathouse.”

“Dawn of the Mummy” sounds like a traditional horror film, but “Superstition,” “Hospital Massacre,” “Harlequin,” “Demon Rage,” “Blood Tide,” “The Demons,” “Inseminoid” and “The Romance” (subtitled with bloody graphics, “It’s not a love story”) are anyone’s guess.

One that seems to stand alone is “Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker.” That could lead to all kinds of possibilities. Like perhaps “Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Killed.” Or how about “Little Bo Peep, Come Kill Your Sheep.”

It’s enough to make “Psycho II” more palatable.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

THE TRUTH AND (MOSTLY) NOTHING BUT

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

We have a theme this week with no less than five true stories among the 11 movies opening in local theaters. Is Oscar listening?

“Only the Brave” (PG-13). This is the tragic story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite firefighting team, and their ill-fated battle with the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. With Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch and Jennifer Connelly.

“Same Kind of Different as Me” (PG-13). The marriage of an art dealer (Greg Kinnear) and his wife (Renée Zellweger) is getting rocky until she urges him to befriend a homeless man (Djimon Hounsou) with a troubled past but a great deal of faith. With Jon Voight.

  

“Breathe” (PG-13). Andrew Garfield stars as Robin Cavendish, who, stricken by polio at age 28, became paralyzed from the neck down, and then, with the support of his wife (Claire Foy), became a pioneering advocate for the disabled. With Tom Hollander and Hugh Bonneville. Motion-capture actor Andy Serkis (“Lord of the Rings,” the “Planet of the Apes” reboot trilogy) makes his directing debut here.

“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (PG-13). Felt (Liam Neeson) was the “Deep Throat” informant that led Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to the explosive revelations of the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to President Nixon’s disgrace. With Diane Lane and Tony Goldwyn. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Marie Curie” (Not Rated, in French, German and Polish with English subtitles). This Polish/French drama chronicles the life and struggles of Curie (Karolina Gruszka) as a physicist and chemist in the male-dominated world of science in early 20th Century France. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

  

“Walking Out” (PG-13). Matt Bomer is a reclusive mountain man visited by his teenage city-boy son (Josh Wiggins) in an effort to mend their estranged relationship. But when they go out to hunt a moose, an accident seriously injures Dad so that his son will have to grow up fast. With Bill Pullman.

“Geostorm” (PG-13). In the near future, the Earth’s weather is controlled by super-satellites, which keep natural disasters at bay — until a malfunction that causes a storm of epic worldwide proportions. And it may not be an accident. With Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia.

“Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” (PG-13). Writer-director Tyler Perry reprises his in-drag starring role as Madea in this sequel to last year’s comedy hit. Here, Madea and friends vacation at a haunted campground. (Wait! does this mean we’ll be getting one every year now?)

  

“The Snowman” (R). A police detective tries to catch a serial killer whose signature is leaving a snowman at each crime scene. Adapted from the Norwegian novel, the seventh in Jo Nesbø’s franchise about detective Harry Hole (played here by Michael Fassbender). With Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones and Chloë Sevigny.

“The Florida Project” (R). Among those residing at an extended-stay motel in Kissimmee, Florida, are a rag-tag group of children who get in and out of trouble in this foul-mouthed drama. With Willem Dafoe. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Human Flow” (PG-13). This German documentary is directed by Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei and examines the current global refugee crisis, delving into its overwhelming nature as well as personal stories of affected individuals. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)


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

THE FINAL TERROR

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This routine slasher flick had been on the shelf for a couple of years when it was released to cash in on the higher profiles achieved by Rachel Ward and Daryl Hannah — who would later go on to even bigger things. Now, the Shout! Factory has given it the Blu-ray treatment. Must have a following somewhere. My review was published in the Deseret News on Nov. 2, 1983.

“The Final Terror.”

Why are movies like this always titled “The Last … ” or “The End of … ” or, as with this one, “The Final …,” when in fact they seem to go on eternally?

As you might have suspected form the ads, “The Final Terror” is just another “dead kids in the woods” picture, with a wild-eyed mountain weirdo on the loose, killing all who come within range in extremely gory, yet decidedly unimaginative ways.

I suspect this one has been on the shelf for a few years, since three actors prominent in the cast have gone on to better things — Rachel Ward (“Sharky’s Machine,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and TV’s “The Thorn Birds”), Adrian Zmed (“Grease 2” and TV’s “T.J. Hooker”) and Daryl Hannah (“Summer Lovers”).

     

                   Rachel Ward, 'The Final Terror'

The nominal story has a group of young people heading for the high country, with the intention of river-rafting their way down. As they sit around an open fire, one of them tells a story about a crazy old woman who escaped the local asylum and is hiding in the woods just waiting to kill anyone who’s handy.

Think “Deliverance” by way of “Friday the 13th.”

Naturally, the killings happen just that way, and if you can’t figure out the connection between the legendary old lady and the spaced-out bus driver, turn in your TV-detective badge.

Boring is the word for this one, although it occasionally becomes embarrassing as well. Undeveloped characters, bloody killings with such blunt instruments as tin can lids, and lots of hand-held camera shots of trees and sky, and plot holes large enough to house Lake Michigan.

     

                   Daryl Hannah, 'The Final Terror'

“The Final Terror” would probably have gone unreleased forever if Comworld Pictures (yes, our old friend Charles Sellier) hadn’t picked it up — and, I suspect if it didn’t have the unusual trio of known actors.

Its resemblance to “The Burning,” “The Creeper” and the locally made “Don’t Go in the Woods” is uncanny. Too bad none of those films had anyone who went on to better things.

Boy, am I tired of body-count cinema.

And it is rated R, of course, for violence, sex, nudity and 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 from my some 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 still writing for the D-News, but this is mostly archival stuff (with permission), 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 NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Burton’s beloved Halloween/Christmas mash-up is back in theaters for several days over Halloween — Friday, Oct. 27, through Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 2 and 7 p.m. each day, at the Regal Cinemas multiplex. Here’s my review, which ran in the Deseret News on Oct. 22, 1993.

Tim Burton is warped, there's no getting around it. Who else but twisted Tim would think of blending Christmas and Halloween in one movie?

And though the ad campaign for "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is selling the film as a children's picture, this is very much in "Beetlejuice" territory … albeit in a weird, animated way. (Small children, beware.)

The first question you may want to ask after seeing those ads is about the style of the puppet animation here. Yes, initially the set design looks somewhat cluttered, and yes, the characters are very odd and take some getting used to. But it's a surprisingly quick adjustment; you do get used to them and accept this world quite easily.

And what a world it is.

According to Burton's boundless imagination, there are cloistered communities for each holiday — Easter Town, Thanksgiving Town, Christmas Town, Halloween Town, etc.

The film focuses largely on Halloween Town, where spindly Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, organizes the annual Halloween festivities.

The film opens with a song that pretty much sums up what this Halloween land is all about — creatures under the bed, monsters under the stairs and other ooky, spooky, scary stuff. It is Oct. 31, and Jack and friends put on quite a show, then congratulate each other on another Halloween night well done.

     

Jack Skellington meets Santa in 'Nightmare Before Christmas'

But Jack feels let down, as if his life is missing something. And as he wanders farther into the forest than he's ever gone before, he stumbles upon doorways that lead to other holiday worlds. The one he opens is to Christmas Town, where he experiences the joy and happiness of Christmas, which is quite different than what he's used to.

Naturally, Jack can't wait to share the experience with his friends and neighbors back home. But they can't quite seem to get the hang of it. And, as the film progresses, we see that Jack doesn't really have the hang of it, either.

So, it is inevitable that when Jack's arrogance gets the better of him and he decides to replace Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, he will be a harbinger of horror instead of a jolly old gift-giving elf. Sure enough, as children get out of bed and open their presents, they are confronted with shrunken heads, slithering snakes and the like.

Meanwhile, Jack's accomplices kidnap poor old Kris Kringle and take him to the town's one truly evil character, Oogie Boogie. And it isn't until Santa is in real jeopardy that Jack sees the error of his ways and attempts to rescue Santa and make amends for his misdeeds.

However twisted, the basis for all this is one terrific idea, and it's told very well, with sophisticated, computer-enhanced stop-motion animation and 10 delightful songs that drive the story, courtesy of Burton's longtime music collaborator Danny Elfman, who also sings two of the film's roles.

     

As the warbling voice of Jack, the lead character, Elfman reveals a surprisingly adept acting ability (not to mention a gorgeous voice; Chris Sarandon provides Jack's speaking voice). Also very good is Catherine O'Hara, as the rag doll that loves Jack, a sort of Raggedy Ann and "Bride of Frankenstein" blend.

Still, as good as the story is, there is no question that the screenplay, by Caroline Thompson ("Edward Scissorhands," "The Addams Family") and Michael McDowell ("Beetlejuice"), could use a boost. The film sags here and there and the romance barely gets off the ground.

But Burton, Elfman and director Henry Selick, whose camera movements are more inventive than most live-action pictures, have certainly created one of the most surprisingly unique films to come along in many a full moon.

And while parents may want to steer very young children in another direction, everyone else will likely find much to enjoy here.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" is rated PG for comic violence and scary themes.


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

ONE DARK NIGHT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kino Lorber makes some offbeat choices for Blu-ray upgrades, and this is one of the oddest, a forgotten zombie thriller from the early 1980s with a pre-‘Big Chill’ Meg Tilly in the lead role. Here’s my Feb. 10, 1983, Deseret News review.

No, “One Dark Night” is not another “slasher” or “splatter” picture, but it is another teenagers-in-peril film about a “good” girl being locked up overnight as her peers play practical jokes on her. And, eventually, a real killer plays a few tricks of his own.

To its credit, “One Dark Night” has added something more than just a mad murderer on the prowl here. This time there is a somewhat interesting plot about a psychic who has died, but retains his deadly telekinetic powers, bringing to life the dead bodies that surround him in a mausoleum.

     

                      Meg Tilly, 'One Dark Night'

Meg Tilly, last seen as Matt Dillon’s girlfriend in Disney’s “Tex,” is the “nice” girl who wants to join an “in” high school clique, but first must spend the night in the mausoleum as an initiation.

Her “friends” play cruel practical jokes on her during the night, until the dead psychic takes over and gloppy, gooey dead bodies climb out of their coffins and smear gunk all over their victims. The victims, meanwhile, kick in the remains and tear off the fragile faces, revealing hideous death masks, but the dead keep on coming.

The main difference, in comparison to most horror films these days, is that the gore stops here. Though what I have described is gory, to be sure, the producers have chosen to refrain from graphic dining on living flesh or explicit dismemberments to get an R rating. “One Dark Night” is rated PG.

     

While an admirable step, sadly I must report that the film as a whole is only a slight cut above the majority of such pictures. It delivers a few good scares, but there is a long, weighty period of boredom in the film’s center that drags it down. It begins interestingly, with some imagination, and the climax, though it goes on too long and is redundant, has some punch. But that hour or so in the middle just sags and sags.

Fans of TV’s “Batman” will spot an older Adam West as the psychic’s son-in-law, and young Robin Evans fares well as the nasty leader of the group Tilly longs to belong to. Tilly has little to do but show anger and then scream for half the film … and the other performers are best left unmentioned.

The PG rating covers some violence and a brief nude scene (Evans changing her blouse, an obviously gratuitous moment), and though a few genuine jolts are offered, “One Dark Night” is strictly for horror buffs.