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UDOT OLYMPIC FEVER REDUX

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Twenty years ago, some four years before the 2002 Olympics came to Salt Lake City, UDOT began roadwork like we’d never seen, and we’d seen plenty. The city was being spruced up for the influx of Olympics-goers and it was evident that Salt Lakers were already going a little nuts in anticipation. So I wrote this column, published in the Deseret News on March 27, 1998 under the headline, ‘Olympic Fever could be the death of us yet.’

Do you know someone who is suffering from Olympic Fever? Or, more correctly, do you know someone who is insufferable because he or she has Olympic Fever?

We’re talking 2002 Olympic Fever, of course. And don’t think this warning is premature just because there is an epidemic of Ute Fever at the moment, or because Jazz Fever is expected to be hot on its heels.

After all, 2002 is just around the corner — and there are many unexpected symptoms of Olympic Fever.

— Does she have a work-in-progress scrapbook of every newspaper article published on the 2002 Olympics?

— Has he painted a huge multicolored Rorschach logo on the front of his house?

        

— Are there autographed photos — of Tara Lipinski or Akebono or Mayor Corradini on skis wearing a red jumpsuit — plastered around her workplace?

— Does he refer to his children as Snowlets?

— Does she go around singing the “Sesame Street” theme song as a tragic lament, substituting “Picabo Street” for the chorus, with lyrics about how she needs to recover before 2002 or David Letterman won’t have enough jokes.

— Does he say he’s lighting the Olympic torch each time he turns on the oven?

— When she takes the eastbound I-80 exit from I-15 does she speed up and say she’s shooting the luge?

These are just a few of the more obvious signs of 2002 Olympic Fever.

And if you’re looking for a cure … good luck.

My advice? Take two gold medals and call me in four years.

     

LOOP THE LOOP: Speaking of I-15 construction (see “shooting the luge” above), it’s getting so complicated just to drive around the valley these days that you have to factor extra travel time into every trip, no matter how brief — and maybe pack a lunch.

Does anyone else have trouble remembering which exits are closed and which are open?

Which ones can be entered going north but not going south, or exited going south but not going north?

Or where it drops from two lanes to one during an unexpected surge of traffic?

My favorite news-speak on TV now is this line: “I-15 construction is gearing up for the summer season.” Gearing down is more like it.

If they shut down any more freeway entrances or surrounding streets, we’ll have to stop going anywhere. Can you shop at the mall by phone?

And what is this doing to tourism? How do people driving from Idaho to Arizona feel about having to go around Utah?

For my part, I’ve started referring to the freeway as “Ay-yi-yi-15!”

And that belt loop is more like a suspender loop these days.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

YIPPEE KI-YAY

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 13, 2018

An action thriller starring the actor formerly known as The Rock and a cartoon sequel are the big summer releases this week, along with four “art” films, including a documentary filmed in Utah.

“Skyscraper” (PG-13). Dwayne Johnson finally gets his “Die Hard” movie (it was only a matter of time) as a former FBI agent who is now head of security for the tallest and “safest” skyscraper in Hong Kong, where he also lives with his family. Naturally, terrorists move in and Johnson is framed for the attack, and his family is taken hostage. Co-starring Neve Campbell (where’s she been?).

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” (PG). This third animated creature comedy about hotelier Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his monstrous family and friends has them taking a cruise, unaware that the ship’s captain (Kathryn Hahn) is a Van Helsing and she’s plotting revenge her grandfather’s fate at the vampire’s hands. Other voices include Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Jim Gaffigan and Mel Brooks.

“Leave No Trace” (PG). A single father suffering from PTSD and his 13-year-old daughter are living an isolated existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie star in this low-key, moody independent film.

  

“Sorry to Bother You” (R). Lakeith Stanfield (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Get Out”) stars in this offbeat comedy set in an alternate-universe version of Oakland as a telemarketer who discovers he can earn customers and rise in the business by adopting a “white voice” over the phone. With Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer and Forest Whitaker.

“Church & State” (Not rated). Locally made documentary exploring the behind-the-scenes movement on several levels that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court made it legal in all 50 states. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“The Night Eats the World” (Not rated, in French with English subtitles). This meditative horror yarn focuses on a young man who awakens hung over the morning after a big party and finds that he is alone and zombies have invaded the streets of Paris. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)


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

BULL DURHAM

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The boutique label Criterion Collection has upgraded this beloved baseball picture with a new release in both Blu-ray and DVD, and loads of bonus features. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on June 15, 1988.

If baseball is anywhere close to a religion for you, perhaps you can identify with Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) — or for that matter, up-and-coming pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) or down-and-nearly-out catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner).

These are the folks who make up the romantic triangle of “Bull Durham.” But it’s not your typical triangle. Nor is this your typical baseball movie.

A lighthearted, leisurely romantic comedy about life in the minor leagues, “Bull Durham” has its heart in the right place, if not always its head, and may appeal to adult audiences looking for some raunchy sports-minded humor among the summer releases. (It is rightly rated R for sex, nudity and language.)

     

Kevin Costner, center, with Tim Robbins to his right and Robert Wuhl to his left in 'Bull Durham.'

Though a bit too leisurely for its own good at times — the film slows down to a virtual halt in some places — “Bull Durham” is an interesting slice of Americana. The focus is on a minor ball club — the Bulls — of Durham, N.C., as seen through the eyes of Annie. (Point of view is also a problem here as it shifts from Annie a time or two, causing the film as a whole to waver.)

With a little baseball shrine in her living room and a penchant for Edith Piaf records and Walt Whitman poetry, Annie picks the top player for the Bulls every year and spends the season with him. She is monogamous, she explains, within the framework of the baseball season.

But each year the best player moves on to “The Show” — the major leagues — and Annie moves on to a new man.

This year, however, the choice is too close for her to call — between Ebby and Crash. Ebby is the flavor-of-the-month, with genuine talent (a fastball that needs work to keep it in the strike zone) and no brains. Crash has been with the minors too long, has the memory of a 21-day fling with the majors that he clings to and isn’t crazy about Annie’s approach. So he walks out and lets Ebby have her. Or lets her have him.

But eventually Crash and Annie will fall in love, and Annie will learn that love is more powerful than … dare we suggest it? … even baseball.

     

What “Bull Durham” mainly has going for it is a series of very well-written scenes that are alternately touching and funny, grounded in the quirkiness of eccentric characters that make up the ball team (My favorite is when half the team is on the field in the middle of a game trying to decide on a wedding gift for another team member.)

Writer-director Ron Shelton (he also wrote “Under Fire” and “The Best of Times”) has a real knack for creating human behavior, and he extracts wonderful performances from both Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. But it is Susan Sarandon as Annie who gives the film its special oomph. She is utterly charming and delightful as the sexy, sharp-eyed and slightly loopy Annie.

Rated R for sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity (all in fair abundance), “Bull Durham” is a nice adult change during a summer filled with adolescent-oriented fluff.


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 no longer writing for the D-News so 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

BIG

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Hanks was already an above-the-title leading comic actor when he made ‘Big’ but this is the film that pushed him into the stratosphere, and his star only rose from there. In 1988, however, it was no sure thing. Some felt that it might slide into oblivion since it was released on the heels of three other movies about kids in adult bodies, none of which did very well. But with critical approval and solid word of mouth, ‘Big’ proved the naysayers wrong, and, well, you know the rest. You can catch it on the big screen courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, July 15, and Wednesday, July 18, at 2 and 7 p.m. in selected Cinemark theaters. Here’s my review, published June 3, 1988.

“Big” is the fourth incarnation of the kid-in-an-adult-body plot we’ve had in less than a year — “Like Father Like Son,” “Vice Versa” and “18 Again!” have all been released since last October.

But if you didn’t see those — or if you saw them and didn’t particularly like them (only “Vice Versa” had enough humor to hold an audience very long) — you may get a kick out of “Big,” which proves to be not only funny but genuinely sweet and poignant.

Unfortunately, the sex angle is dealt with here, as it was in the other films, in a way that is less than tasteful, and one scene in particular may be enough to steer young ones in another direction, despite the PG rating.

     

                  Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, 'Big'

The story focuses on a pre-adolescent boy (David Moscow) who is tired of being too small to stand up for himself. The final straw comes when he is humiliated at a carnival — standing in line with a girl he has a crush on he is told he’s not tall enough to go on a ride.

Then he spots a mysterious fortune-telling machine, which works even though it’s not plugged in, and he makes a wish — to be “big.” The next morning he wakes up as Tom Hanks. But it’s only his body that has grown. He’s still an immature 12-year-old in his mind.

Needless to say he’s rather shocked, so he runs away from home and tries to make some sense of it with help from his best friend (Jared Rushton). Soon, through a series of misadventures, he finds himself an executive in a toy manufacturing company — the perfect job for someone who is still childlike. There he meets cynical Elizabeth Perkins and soon melts her with his genuineness.

“Big” is an affecting, very funny movie with many memorable scenes — the party where Hanks wears an outlandish tux, Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing on a computerized piano, Hanks nostalgically observing his old haunts and realizing that he misses being a child.

     

                                   Tom Hanks, 'Big'

Director Penny Marshall (she used to be the first half of TV’s “Laverne and Shirley”), for her second feature (after “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), has taken a low-key innocent approach to the first-time script by Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Gary Ross. The result is a textured, three-dimensional film that is quite different from the others of this genre, all of which merely tried for wacky slapstick.

But the glue that holds “Big” together is the superlative performance by Tom Hanks. In his other films Hanks has always been appealing and charming and funny, but there hasn’t been much to distinguish him from the Bill Murray-Steve Guttenberg-Chevy Chase school of smart-alecky one-liner delivery that has been a staple of film comedies in recent years. With “Big,” however, Hanks proves himself to be quite adept at subtlety and nuance, and his treatment of this character as an innocent child with an incredible sense of wonder gives the picture an enormous boost.

There is a serious problem with a subplot here. Marshall and her writers never come to grips with how to deal with the boy’s grieving mother, who thinks her son has been kidnapped. This element is extremely distasteful and never adequately resolved. Also unresolved is the boardroom climax where Hanks’ design of a toy is being considered — that aspect is left dangling as Hanks simply walks away.

And, unable to avoid the question of whether a 13-year-old boy (he has a birthday in the picture) in a man’s body wouldn’t welcome being seduced by a beautiful woman, there is a scene that implies a sexual liaison between Hanks and Perkins. (There is also the use of “The Eddie Murphy Word,” which supposedly nets an automatic PG-13 — though this movie is rated PG.) Parents should be advised that this isn’t particularly a film for young children.


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

THE ASSOCIATE

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Younger moviegoers probably don’t realize that Whoopi Goldberg was groomed for movie stardom following her Oscar-nominated debut in ‘The Color Purple’ (1985) with a string of pictures in the late ’80s in which she had top billing. Most of them were big-budget studio films, everything from R-rated comedies and action thrillers to gentle family fare. But among her many movies, she remains best known for the ‘Sister Act’ comedies (1992/1993) and the supernatural melodrama/mystery ‘Ghost’ (1990), for which she won an Oscar for her comic-relief supporting role. This is one of Goldberg’s failed post-“Sister Act” comedies, which has nonetheless received a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber. Here’s my review, published on Oct. 25, 1996.

Following in the footsteps of Robin Williams' "Mrs. Doubtfire" gig, Whoopi Goldberg does the cross-dressing thing in "The Associate."

If you've seen the trailers, you know the Whoopster undergoes a makeup-enhanced gender-switch in "The Associate." In her case, however, it's also a race switch. She masquerades as a white man.

The ploy is just as coy in the film as it is in the trailer, building up to the moment when we finally see Goldberg as a man. But it's a letdown, since the plastic face is so phony that it's hard to believe anyone standing next to her would believe this is a real person.

       

Whoopi Goldberg adjusts her male white-face prosthetic in 'The Associate.'

Has it really been 14 years since Dustin Hoffman pulled off "Tootsie" in a much more believable fashion? Where are all the movie-makeup advancements when you need them?

Anyway, before that happens, the bulk of the film is devoted to a men-are-pigs storyline, as Goldberg discovers that she can't compete with the good-old-boys network on Wall Street, despite her remarkable talent as a financial analyst. The male-chauvinist wheelers and dealers want to do business only with other men.

So Goldberg invents "Robert S. Cutty" as her partner, a fiction accepted by the bigwigs, despite their being unable to meet him. But she finds it difficult to keep the deception going, even with help from super-secretary Dianne Wiest.

All the predictable plot devices are here, from Goldberg having to show up as Cutty to her eventually trying to kill him off, then being arrested for his murder.

          

But it's not very funny. Just plodding and unimaginative.

There is, however, an unexpected moment when the film threatens to come to life, as a genius computer nerd (Austin Pendleton) begins exchanging goofy romantic glances with Wiest. They have terrific chemistry, and this brief spark suggests a wonderful subplot in the making.

But it's dropped as quickly as it's introduced.

"The Associate" certainly had potential but like so many of Goldberg's recent pictures — from "Sister Act 2" to "Eddie" — it never catches fire.

"The Associate" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgarity and nudity in a strip club.