BLOG BLOG

‘SUPERMAN’S’ EXTENDED FLIGHT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 3, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve exhausted all the Marvel superhero choices in your quest for entertainment during your forced at-home coronavirus-induced time off, how about going back to the Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ movies? And if you know those films by heart, have you checked out the rejiggered versions that have been released over the past decade-and-a-half? Just three years ago the extended three-hour version of ‘Superman’ (1978) was released in a widescreen hi-def version and 14 years ago an alternate version of ‘Superman II’ (1980) came out. Last week we looked at the latter in this space; this week, it’s an assessment of the former in a column that was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 25, 2017.

These days it’s not uncommon for major-studio movies to be reworked, extended and generally altered by filmmakers from what was originally released in theaters.

The innovation of DVD and Blu-ray discs in this century has afforded an opportunity for studios to release multiple versions of movies by adding a few deleted scenes or, in some cases, allowing the director to fiddle with the entire film.

The ubiquitous “director’s cut” is today as much a marketing tool as it is a filmmaker’s artistic choice. (Some would say more.)

But back in the day — which is to say, before George Lucas began tinkering with his original “Star Wars” trilogy and Ridley Scott came up with five different versions of “Blade Runner” — there was the rare but not unheard-of practice of restoring deleted footage to extend a movie for broadcast television.

One reason you don’t see these versions on video today, however, is that we now have high-definition TV screens that give us widescreen images and stereo sound. When widescreen/stereo theatrical movies went to television back then, the soundtrack had to be monaural and the picture had to be reduced to pan and scan, with the image sliding back and forth to focus on pertinent action or dialogue in a squareish frame.

     

Margot Kidder, Christopher Reeve, 'Superman' (1978)

Take, for example, “Superman,” or “Superman — The Movie” if you prefer the advertising title over the title as it appears on the film.

When Christopher Reeve’s debut as the Man of Steel landed in theaters in December of 1978, it had a running time of 143 minutes — eight minutes of which was the closing credits (the longest in movie history at the time).

Normally, a film of this length would have been shown over an entire three-hour primetime evening, squeezing in as many commercials as feasible and possibly deleting a couple of scenes.

In this case, however, ABC aired the three-hours-plus “Superman” in two-hour blocks over two nights in February 1982, which allowed for even more commercials.

And now, that version is coming to home video for the first time in “Superman: The Movie: Extended Cut & Special Edition 2-Film Collection” (DC/Warner, 1978, two discs, two versions of the film, bonus features for the “Special Edition”).

What really makes this interesting is that Warner Bros. has gone back to the extra footage and restored it to its original widescreen and stereo format, so that it runs uninterrupted (and without commercials, of course) for more than three hours, just as it would play in a theatrical release. Only in this case it’s a hi-def Blu-ray release.

The 40 minutes-plus of footage that had been left on the cutting-room floor does have an impact on the pacing, making the overall experience more sluggish than either the original 143-minute release or the 151-minute “Special Edition” version included in this set.

     

But it nonetheless includes some nice gags and little moments that are fun to watch, ranging from the expanded sequences on Krypton to scenes of Clark Kent (Jeff East) as a teenager and more of Lana Lang (Diane Sherry) to extended scenes in the frozen Fortress of Solitude to more banter in the Daily Planet’s newsroom.

A lot of the extra footage, however, revolves around Lex Luther (Gene Hackman), his bumbling assistant Otis (Ned Beatty) and Lex’s floozy Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine) in a series of farcical sequences that many — including yours truly — consider the film’s weakest link. And by that I mean in its shorter, original form.

In fact, there’s so much more of this trio in the “Extended Cut” that a real case could be made that it’s the poster child for the argument that less is more.

Having said that, however, there is a simple remedy — the fast-forward button on your remote.

“Superman” is still a great movie, and for me it was fun to watch this longer version — and if you’re a fan or a collector or a completist, you may feel the same way.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

PANIC AT THE MULTIPLEX

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 20, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the pandemic, all movie theaters have been shuttered for the foreseeable future, though not for too long we hope. And a number of major movies have seen their dates shoved back to later in the year anyway … and in the case of the newest ‘Fast & Furious’ sequel, to next year. So, no new movies to alert you to this week; you’ll have to pop some corn, relax on your couch and settle for Netflix — preferably on a widescreen TV and not your phone.


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

VICTORY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 3, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: The unlikely duo of Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone headlines this World War II yarn, directed by … wait for it … John Huston! It’s an enjoyable romp not to be taken too seriously and it’s newly on Blu-ray, courtesy of Warner Archive. My review was published in the Deseret News on Aug. 5, 1981.

 “Victory” is a snappy, straightforward action picture. Though directed by John Huston, it isn’t particularly distinctive of his style but it is a pleasant blend of “The Longest Yard” and “The Great Escape.”

Huston, director of a wide range of excellent drama from “The Maltese Falcon” to “Wise Blood,” is, at 74, the second-oldest active American director (George Cukor, 81, recently completed “Rich and Famous” with Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset).

     

Sylvester Stallone, center left, and Michael Caine in 'Victory' (1980).

But age hasn’t slowed Huston one bit (he’s currently directing the film version of “Annie”), and “Victory” hardly has a dull moment from start to finish.

The story has Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Pele, the soccer star from Brazil, playing prisoners of war in a camp in southern Germany during World War II. Max Von Sydow (who else?) is the camp’s Nazi intelligence officer.

The plot, which is thoroughly preposterous, has Caine as a former soccer star urged by Von Sydow to form a POW soccer team for a morale-building game against the Germans. Von Sydow’s superiors, however, decide to use the game as a Nazi propaganda scheme. So the team decides to use the game to escape.

     

The machinations of the plot really don’t matter, though. Stallone, as the American who is a chronic escapee, is good in the role, but Caine and Von Sydow, in more low-key performances, are much better. Pele’s soccer kicks are a show all their own. And the plot is merely a framework for their roles and the action (the last half of the film is the soccer game).

This is an audience-manipulation movie, designed to gain the audience’s sympathy, then turn it into a cheering section for the POW soccer team.

“Victory” — rated PG for some violence, a few profanities and a briefly glimpsed male backside — is simply an example of film as a commercial entertainment form.

And to that end, it is very successful.


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

HOUSTON, AND EVERYWHERE ELSE, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 20, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Upcoming golden oldies scheduled for big-screen revivals — including ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Apollo 13,’and maybe ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Airplane!’ — have, of course, been canceled/postponed due to the pandemic. Stay tuned.


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

PARADISE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 3, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a movie that’s so forgettable I forgot it even existed, much less that I reviewed it nearly 20 years ago. But here it is, newly upgraded to Blu-ray by the ever-surprising Kino Lorber label. My review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 4, 1991.

As a genuine change of pace, Don Johnson leaves behind the shoot-'em-up films he's been making since he left TV's "Miami Vice" and plunges headlong into the genre Hollywood used to refer to as "weepies."

In "Paradise" Johnson and real-life wife Melanie Griffith play a rural couple who have grown apart since the death of their toddler son a couple of years earlier. But when a quiet, intelligent 10-year-old city boy (Elijah Wood) comes to stay for two weeks, he unintentionally forces them to come to terms with their feelings for each other.

In some ways, "Paradise" plays like a made-for-TV movie — modest budget, modest expectations, modest results. But the sincerity of the performances and the charm of the players help bring the material to a higher level than it might otherwise have achieved.

     

Don Johnson, left, Elijah Wood, Melanie Griffith, 'Paradise' (1991)

Mary Agnes Donoghue, who wrote the screenplay for Goldie Hawn's "Deceived," as well as Bette Midler's hit "Beaches," also wrote and makes her directing debut with "Paradise," an Americanization of the French film "Le Grand Chemin (The Grand Highway)."

The film is a faithful adaptation of its source, right down to the unnecessary scene where the kids watch an older girl having sex in the barn. (Disney's French-film remakes never seem to make the films better; they just make them again.)

That is, it's faithful except for one very important area: "Le Grand Chemin" is about the boy, not the adults. And that film's greatest pleasure is derived from the tomboy next door showing the lad how to unobtrusively observe adult behavior, which ultimately leads to his acceptance of his own parents' troubled marriage.

"Paradise," on the other hand, leans a bit too far toward Johnson and Griffith's relationship. Where the French film showed the couple's problems leading the boy to a voyage of self-discovery, the American version seems to be more about the boy leading Johnson and Griffith to that voyage.

    

Donoghue also tosses away any opportunity for developing supporting characters and never really settles on a point of view — is it the boy's or Griffith's or Johnson's. Worse, her dialogue for the children — especially for tomboy Billie (Thora Birch) — sounds less like kids having casual conversation than like words written by an adult.

Still, there are some things to savor here, including the genuine chemistry between Johnson and Griffith, whose performances are restrained and believable; the comic relief provided by Sheila McCarthy ("I Heard the Mermaids Singing") as the ditsy next-door neighbor; and especially the performances of the kids — Elijah Wood and Thora Birch.

Wood is superb, a really natural young actor who never behaves like a Hollywood kid. (Wood had a prominent role in "Avalon" and stars in the upcoming "Radio Flyer.") And Birch has the film's most genuinely touching moment when she confronts her father for the first time and he rejects her.

"Paradise" is rated PG-13 for sex, brief nudity, some vulgar remarks and a few scattered profanities.