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SUMMER FLICKS THEN AND NOW

             

For Hicksflicks.com, July 4, 2014

Although I started at the Deseret News on Jan. 9, 1978, and wrote my first movie review in June of that year, I didn't become the paper's official film critic until mid-to-late 1980. And I didn't start doing it full time until very late that year.

Lately I've been thinking about that first summer — 1981 — when I was reviewing all the movies that came through Salt Lake City.

This has been on my mind because this summer has been a bit slow for me. Actually, the entire year has been.

My wife and I go to many fewer movies now, of course, and we're much more selective. And I still see some without her (she had no interest in the latest "X-Men" effort or the "Godzilla" remake and I'll also be seeing the new "Planet of the Apes" sequel next week with others). Still, this year we've seen fewer than 30.

If we don't see 70+ by year's end, 2014 will be the slowest year ever for us.

For some of you, five in a year is a lot. So 70 is probably unfathomable. But you have to remember that when I was reviewing full-time, I saw an average of 250 movies each year, not counting festivals and special screenings. My wife saw close 150 to 200 each year with me.

So 70-plus? That's nothing. But 60-minus? That would be less than nothing.

Anyway, I looked up the summer of 1981. It was a great year for summer flicks, even if three of the best were sequels: the second Superman movie ("Superman II"), the second Muppet movie ("The Great Muppet Caper"), the 12th James Bond movie ("For Your Eyes Only").

Arguably, the best movie of the summer — maybe the year — was one that would lead to sequels, the first Indiana Jones movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Other films I vigorously recommended that summer were "The Four Seasons," "Arthur," "Stripes," "First Monday in October," "The Fox and the Hound," "Escape From New York," "Clash of the Titans" and "Wolfen."

Lesser, so-so, recommendations went to "S.O.B.," "Blow Out," "Dragonslayer," "Eye of the Needle," "Bustin' Loose," "Victory," "On the Right Track" and "An American Werewolf in London."

At the bottom of my list were "Zorro, the Gay Blade," "Endless Love," "Tarzan, the Ape Man," "The Legend of the Lone Ranger," "Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams," "Final Exam," "Under the Rainbow," "Student Bodies," "The Cannonball Run," "History of the World, Part 1," "Heavy Metal," "Honkytonk Freeway" and an attempt to revive 3-D, "Comin' At Ya!"

So, happy recommendations for a dozen, lesser recommendations for another eight.

This summer so far (that is, since April and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier") I've seen 18 movies and would enthusiastically recommend maybe five of those, maybe four. And I'd coolly, so-so recommend maybe eight. The rest I could have skipped and been fine.

It's a contrast that doesn't prove anything because, hey, I've changed, my tastes have changed, probably as much as the movies have changed.

Still, I'm looking fondly back at 1981 … and might watch some of those movies again instead of what's coming up for the rest of the dog days.