Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns

SUMMER MUNCHIES

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shark movies and ‘the dog days’ go together like popcorn and Coke, and that that’s been true ever since “Jaws” ruled theaters for the entire summer of 1975 (and continued to run in some theaters for months after summer was over). And there’s a new shark film playing in theaters now, ’47 Meters Down.’ So, in keeping with that theme, here’s a column about the 1999 movie ‘Deep Blue Sea’ — or more correctly, about seeing the film with my adult sons — published in the Deseret News on Aug. 20, 1999, under the headline, ‘Giant-shark flick makes for a wild boys’ night out.’

Recently, I went to see "Jaws 5" … er, that is, "Deep Blue Sea." It was boys' night out with my adult sons, and they love this kind of thing.

You know, unlikely monsters on the rampage, going after innocent — or not so innocent — people they can chew up and spit out. And it doesn't matter whether it's giant snakes ("Anaconda") or giant alligators ("Lake Placid") or giant Chihuahuas, frogs or beetles — they're up for it. But it's even better when it's giant sharks.

They especially liked the helicopter being chewed up and spit out. (Or was that "Lake Placid"? Or maybe it was "Jaws 2.")

My son-in-law, Mike, summed it up quite nicely as we left the theater: "Sure it was awful — but, hey, it was sharks." In Mike's view, you can't have too many giant-sharks-on-the-rampage movies.

My sons Matt and Dave sort of agree, although they would have preferred the hero to be Jackie Chan or Jet Li instead of LL Cool J. They're into martial-arts flicks of all shapes and sizes. Which is kind of odd, since there was a time when I couldn't get them within 100 kilometers of a foreign-language movie with subtitles.

"Da-a-a-ad," they'd whine. "If we wanted to read, we'd get a book."

Then they discovered Jackie Chan, and suddenly foreign films were cool. As long as someone is getting his face kicked in.

     

Saffron Burrows thinks she's in 'Jaws' but it's 'Deep Blue Sea.'

Anyway, the boys all wanted to see "Deep Blue Sea" … well, all except Danny, my youngest and the only one of my kids who is still at home. (I have about 138 kids altogether, I think, but the rest are all grown and gone.)

Danny's into high school drama and choral singing, and he loves musical theater. So if the sharks had been performing anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, or if Bernadette Peters had been on board doing some kind of song-and-dance ditty, Danny might have come with us. (Come to think of it, "Deep Blue Sea" might have been a better film if Bernadette Peters were one of the sharks' hors d'oeuvres, say, halfway through her first big number … but Danny probably wouldn't have liked that.)

As it was, he said he'd rather stay home and husk corn for his stepmother.

Instead of Bernadette Peters, "Deep Blue Sea" has Saffron Burrows doing a lot of pouting. She's supposed to be a scientist, so maybe she injected her own big pouty lips with collagen. Or maybe she pouted like that because the male actors got bigger paychecks. But after about 90 minutes of her pursed-lip style of acting … if acting is the word … we were ready for Burrows to become an hors d'oeuvre.

In fact, she was so bad that I wondered why in the world she was cast in this movie at all. Until the scene where she strips down to her underwear. Suddenly, it became clear why she was in the movie — to do the gratuitous Sigourney Weaver "Alien" underwear scene, only wetter. (Of course, Weaver was way too tough to ever let herself be an alien hors d'oeuvre.)

     

Samuel L. Jackson takes no guff from the 'Deep Blue Sea' shark.

Anyway, the movie is about these super-intelligent sharks, which is hard to believe because they were created by the dumbest scientists on the planet. They move really fast — the sharks, not the scientists. In fact, the sharks are almost as fast as the snake in "Anaconda."

In fact, the sharks are so smart they have apparently been reading the appliance manuals in the kitchen, since one of them actually turns on the oven to cook LL Cool J. (Silly shark; doesn't he know you shouldn't cook your food in the rapper?) Then the shark heads to the fridge to get some mustard.

Actually, I knew "Deep Blue Sea" was going to be bad when I saw that Renny Harlin had directed — he's the guy who tried to make his former wife, archer/Oscar-winner Geena Davis, a pirate in "Cutthroat Island" and an assassin with amnesia in "The Long Kiss Goodnight." And I especially knew it would be bad when the only actor I cared about became shark chow before the movie even got going. (I don't want to ruin it for anyone … but it's Samuel L. Jackson).

But the movie was really secondary to being out with the boys. This was a major father-sons outing, and it was great fun to spend time with them, and talk and joke.

Although next time we'll pick something Danny will like, too. Maybe Jackie Chan will land the lead in Lloyd Webber's film version of "Phantom of the Opera."

And, hopefully, there will be more munching in the audience with popcorn than on the screen with helicopters.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

SUMMER LEFTOVERS

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017

In the waning dog days, Hollywood often releases movies it has little faith in just to fill out the calendar, or to fulfill contractual obligations before sending them off to video. Such would seem to be the case with this week’s biggest studio release, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” But the other, lower-budget titles, all look interesting.

“Logan Lucky” (PG-13). Three siblings (Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough) known for having bad luck decide to break the curse by pulling off a daring robbery at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a Memorial Day weekend race. So they enlist three criminal brothers to help, plotting to break one of them (Daniel Craig) out of prison, then get him back in before anyone notices. “Ocean’s 11” meets “Two-Way Stretch” in this heist comedy directed by Steven Soderbergh. With Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston and Dwight Yoakam.

“Wind River” (R). When a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent (Jeremy Renner) discovers a body in the remote wilderness of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, he is enlisted to help a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) navigate the harsh winter and isolation of the area so she can solve the mystery. With Graham Greene.

  

“Brigsby Bear” (PG-13). Offbeat comedy-drama about a young man named James Pope (co-writer Kyle Mooney) who doesn’t realize that his “parents” (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams) actually kidnapped him as a baby and have been raising him as their own as survivalists in an underground bunker. They have also allowed James only to watch one TV show, “Brigsby Bear,” which, it turns out, is a fake show they’ve been filming themselves. With Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes and Andy Samberg.

“Step” (PG). This documentary about a Baltimore high school girls’ dance team earned an award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as an uplifting audience favorite, following the young women who come together as a dancing team, hoping to win a championship, and forge a path to college.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (R). Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson star in this profane and violent action comedy about a personal bodyguard hired to protect a former assassin while escorting him from England to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. Turns out, they are mortal enemies and must put their differences aside. “Midnight Run” meets “Rush Hour.” With Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek.


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

A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Shout! Factory continues to upgrade terrific little cult favorites to Blu-ray, the latest being this exceptional jet-black comedy, which earned little notice at the time of its initial release but which found an audience on VHS and then DVD. Here’s my Deseret News review, published on May 1, 1990.

Michael Caine is a remarkable actor. He's played dozens of good guys and several bad guys — both types with equal aplomb. So it seems only natural that in his latest movie he plays a good guy who also happens to be the bad guy. Sort of.

"A Shock to the System" is a very funny, very black comedy-suspense thriller with loads of unexpected twists and turns. And though screenwriter Andrew Klavan should be credited with the wickedly clever dialogue and the sinister corners that abound in the plotting, it is Caine's performance that adds layers to the character and story.

He plays an aging New York ad executive in line for an important promotion. But the company has just been the victim of a hostile takeover and Caine's boss and friend (John McMartin) is being edged out. Everyone thinks Caine will replace him, but the opening instead goes to a slimy co-worker (Peter Riegert).

If that's not enough, Caine goes home each evening to a nagging shrew (Swoosie Kurtz). Even when she's at her most sympathetic his wife has a way of twisting the knife. As he leaves for work one morning she says, "I forgive you for being a failure."

Naturally, Caine is not happy with his life. And, naturally, murder seems like a logical solution.

     

Michael Caine, Elizabeth McGovern, 'A Shock to the System'

This is a Hitchockian thriller about a man who thinks he can commit the perfect murder, and about how the little mistakes he makes along the way trip him up. Or do they?

The story is interesting enough in its own right, but it is the ring of truth coming through the characterizations that makes it all work.

And director Jan Egleson creates an effective mood in the way he uses his camera, his actors — even his sets. There are lots of window blinds, creating sinister shadows and a sense of voyeurism as people peer into other people's lives. There are knowing little jokes, and Egleson is hip enough to let the audience in on things without spelling everything out in too much detail.

And Caine always seems to have something lurking beneath the surface with this character. There's a sense of outrage and a feeling of gradual madness that he squeezes for all they are worth, though most of the way with deep subtlety. His character is both darkly amusing and quite frightening, right up to the film's last moments. And it's a real tribute to Caine as an actor that he makes the audience feel both sympathy for him and repulsion toward his actions.

     

The supporting players are also well cast, with Elizabeth McGovern very effective as a co-worker who is tender and attentive, naive about Caine's sins but, as evidence mounts, smart enough to keep looking over her shoulder. And Kurtz and Riegert, while far from sympathetic, are still human enough that we care about what happens to them. Even Will Patton, in a minor role as an investigating police detective, creates a memorable character.

"A Shock to the System" is yet another modern-day thriller that proves the spirit of Hitchcock is alive and well in modern moviemaking. And this one is better than most.

It is rated a fairly soft R, primarily for profanity, with some violence and sex.


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.

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

STEVE MARTIN & MARTIN SHORT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Comedians and real-life pals Steve Martin and Martin Short are touring the country with a two-man show, swapping stories and jokes from their long careers in comedy (with some music relief from the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass band, which has long backed up Steve Martin’s banjo-playing), and they’re coming to the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City on Aug. 27. So here’s my vintage interview with Steve Martin, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 20, 1991, under the headline, ‘2 new films show 2 sides of multi-talented actor.’

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Steve Martin has two new movies in theaters over the next few weeks, the domestic comedy “Father of the Bride,” which opened Friday, and the more serious, introspective “Grand Canyon,” opening locally Jan. 17.

In the former, Martin is the star, as a 40-something self-employed businessman about to lose his daughter in marriage, and the latter casts him in a supporting role as a self-absorbed, puffed-up movie producer who is struck down by tragedy and changed. Sort of.

Both are fully developed characters in major studio films that are opening during one of the industry’s most crucial times of the year. And Martin is a selling point for both movies.

All of which illustrates just how far Martin has come from “The Jerk.”

His first starring debut in 1979, “The Jerk” was little more than a simple-minded series of vulgar yahoo skits gleaned from Martin’s stand-up act. And I remember pronouncing him at the time as little more than a Jerry Lewis for the ’80s.

In recent years, however, I’ve munched on crow as Steve Martin the actor has grown in such recent successes as “All of Me,” “Roxanne” and “Parenthood.”

“I’m more mature, I’ve had more experience,” Martin said during round-robin interviews at Walt Disney World for “Father of the Bride.” “And I would hesitate to settle and say, ‘This is my style.’ I think I’ve changed and grown in every movie — grown up or down, I don’t know.

“I remember talking to Chuck Grodin when we did ‘The Lonely Guy,’ and I said, ‘Charles, I don’t know how to be funny in a movie. When I was on stage I knew how to be funny, but I don’t know how to be funny in a movie.’

“But now I feel like I do. When I did stand-up, I was completely, 100 percent confident. And now I feel that way again about film. Before, I felt I was all over the place, and now I feel like I know what I’m doing.”

     

Steve Martin, left, Martin Short, 'Father of the Bride' (1991)

“Father of the Bride” is a remake of the 1950 comedy that starred Spencer Tracy in the role Martin now plays. And it isn’t lost on Martin that he’s remaking a film many consider a classic. “You have a lot of feelings, it’s something you worry about, and then it goes away. As long as there’s something new to say – and I think there is — it’s not just doing it again.

“Also, I think there’s an analogy with plays. Because Richard Burton does ‘Hamlet’ doesn’t mean you never do it again. And I think that the movie industry is still defining itself. It’s a very new industry, new to this century, and we’re still figuring out how it’s going to work.”

What attracted him to “Father of the Bride” was the script’s blend of farce and human drama. He says the story taps universal themes, though Martin and his wife, actress Victoria Tennant, don’t have kids of their own. “No children; cats.” After a pause, he adds that if one of his cats got married, “I’d have exactly the same emotions.”

Martin’s own wedding was small and quiet. “It was a justice-of-the-peace wedding in Rome — no wedding party, no reception, just us.” But of the film’s marriage ceremony, he says, “It gives credence to it all and makes the ceremony significant. As you watch the movie and hear the vows again, it’s kind of stirring. It’s a ritual that is meaningful.”

After playing the father of young children in “Parenthood,” the 46-year-old actor said the first thing that struck him about the script was that he’d be playing the father of a 22-year-old woman. “When you get the script, you say ‘Wait a minute, I can’t play a … oh, yes I can.’

“But I don’t let those kind of things stop me. I just don’t think about those things.” Martin then feigns a pompous voice: ‘Oh, no, I want to play opposite young girls; I want to look young.’ ”

     

     Steve Martin, left, Kevin Kline, 'Grand Canyon' (1991)

Asked how he’d feel about playing a grandfather, if the sequel — “Father’s Little Dividend” — were to be remade, he replies, “If there’s a sequel, I’ll think about that when the time comes.”

Of his role in “Grand Canyon,” about disillusioned people in modern Los Angeles, Martin says, “It’s a serious movie. I don’t know how to define the role, I’ll have to leave that to others, because I don’t know if it’s comic or not. I think of it as serious.

“There are some laughs in it, but I get shot and there’s all kinds of things happening. It’s a very serious, and I think, an important movie — very powerful stuff. It’s an ensemble cast; very dark. I’m not the star of ‘Grand Canyon,’ I’m in the movie for 15 minutes. It’s a cameo.”

Martin has also completed “Housesitter,” a comedy with Goldie Hawn, scheduled to open during the summer. And then, it’s time for a vacation.

“I’m laying off for awhile. I was on a roll this year — it wasn’t intended, it just kind of happened.”

And you can bet the studios are glad it did. You can also bet they’ll be trying to keep Martin’s vacation as short as possible.


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

STICK

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: A troubled production that did poorly at the box office, this one found a following with its mid-1990s VHS release, then again for a DVD-R Universal Vault release some years back. Now it’s getting a cheaper, regular DVD release from Universal Home Entertainment on Sept. 5. I wasn’t a fan, as you will see from my April 28, 1985, Deseret News review, but Burt Reynolds’ fans have embraced it as one of his better directing/starring efforts.

Every so often Burt Reynolds takes a day off from his red-necked, car-crash movies to do an angry, R-rated, violent cop picture. His last one was “Sharky’s Machine,” which began with a bearded Reynolds walking along a railroad track. Shortly thereafter, he shaved off his beard and spent the rest of the films in his familiar mustachioed look. He also directed the film.

“Stick” begins with Reynolds in a beard walking along a railroad track. After a while, he shaves off his beard, leaves the mustache, and we’re off on another violent, R-rated crime story. He directed this one, too.

But “Stick” is not related to “Sharky’s Machine,” instead being an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s popular thriller novel, which Leonard also co-scripted.

Leonard is reportedly not very happy with the final product, which is probably the same way the audience will feel.

     

             Candice Bergen, Burt Reynolds, 'Stick'

“Stick” has its moments, and there are some good ones, but unfortunately this is an uneven blend of broad comedy and gritty violence, which never comes to terms with itself or settles into a particular tone.

Reynolds plays the title character, Ernest Stickley, a professional car thief just out of prison after serving seven years for armed robbery. He returns home to Miami, and immediately gets mixed up in a drug deal and sees his best friend killed.

The rest of the film is basically a revenge plot, as Stickley confronts underworld kingpins in an attempt to avenge his friend.

In the process Stick becomes a chauffeur to wealthy George Segal, an eccentric who enjoys hanging around criminal types; gets to know Candice Bergen, a beautiful ice queen who just hangs around as an underused love interest; and encounters — as a weird drug dealer — Charles Durning, wearing heavy mascara and an orange fright wig.

The most interesting character in the film is Dar Robinson’s vicious, silent ruthless killer, who happens to be albino. He’s one of those bizarre, yet extremely threatening screen villains that comes along every now and then, leaving a memorable mark on an otherwise forgettable film. (He also has the film’s most chilling stunt work.)

     

            Burt Reynolds, on the set directing 'Stick.'

Burt Reynolds as a director has done his best work in the black comedy “The End” and “Sharky’s Machine,” both with very good casts working in ensemble fashion. But “Stick” is a star vehicle, although Reynolds, the director, doesn’t seem to understand Reynolds, the star. The result is Reynolds the star creating an interesting, offbeat character throughout the first half of the film, then wasting the second half by winking at the audience.

Bergen has nothing to do, and Segal overplays his role in such a hammy fashion you’d think he was making a Johnny Carson appearance. Durning is better but his character is never well defined.

I have not read the Leonard novel on which “Stick” is based but it would appear that the author’s screenplay was rewritten by Joseph C. Stinson to include more broad humor and make Burt Reynolds’ character more Burt Reynolds-ish.

“Stick,” rated R for violence, profanity and sex, is a major disappointment from an actor-director who has never seemed to find any real focus to his career. This film was completed before Reynolds’ recent illness, after which he claimed to have reassessed his life. Let’s hope his next films reflect a change for the better; he’s a most talented filmmaker when he’s in control.