Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS … ON THEATER SCREENS, ANYWAY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Does it irk you to see Christmas decorations in stores way too early? Believe it or not, ’twas ever thus, as attested to by this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column published in the Deseret News on Oct. 8, 1982 — yes, 1982! — about so-called ‘Christmas movies.’ The headline was ‘A season for film shuffling.’

Have you seen the previews popping up on local theater screens already for coming Christmas pictures?

Sure it’s early, but film marketing is just taking a lesson from local stores. When Halloween costumes go on display the first of September and Thanksgiving place settings the first of October, it’s only logical to begin Christmas hawking in August or so.

Anyway, you’d better look quickly for those previews, since there is so much major-studio film shuffling that they might disappear. For example, there was a trailer (that’s show-biz talk for coming attractions) promoting “Blue Thunder” as a Christmas film, but that Roy Scheider thriller has been pushed back to 1983.

     

Likewise, the highly touted “King of Comedy,” Martin Scorsese’s film with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis; “The Sting II,” with Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis (in the Newman-Redford roles); and “The Pirates of Penzance” with Linda Ronstadt and the Broadway cast, have all been pushed back to February or later.

“Monsignor,” the picture with Christopher Reeve as a corrupt Catholic priest, took the reverse approach; originally scheduled as a Christmas release, it was moved forward and will come out this month.

The biographical picture about actress “Frances” Farmer will get a one-week run in December to qualify for Oscar consideration, but won’t really be released until late January. It was also originally a Christmas release.

     

On the Disney front, the adventure film “Never Cry Wolf” has been moved back from fall to Christmas and the Ray Bradbury chiller “Something Wicked This Way Comes” has gone from Christmas to early ’83.

Even the animated re-issue scheduled for Christmas, “The Sword in the Stone,” has been bumped. Disney’s animated “Peter Pan” will play instead.

Others as previously reported remain the same — so far. With the exception of “Creepshow,” that is. The Stephen King-George Romero horror picture will open Nov. 12 instead of Halloween weekend. But that’s only a two-week delay.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

MORGAN & TOMMY LEE v. THE FRANCOS

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017

A rowdy action comedy and a dark Hollywood satire are the big films opening this weekend, along with a trio of low-budget efforts.

“Just Getting Started” (PG-13). Ron Shelton (“Tin Cup,” “Bull Durham”) wrote and directed this comedy about an ex-mob lawyer (Morgan Freeman) in the Witness Protection Program who is living the high life at a fancy Palm Springs resort when an ex-FBI agent (Tommy Lee Jones) saunters in, just in time for mob hit men to come calling. With Rene Russo, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Joe Pantoliano and the late Glenne Headly (she died last June at age 62).

“The Disaster Artist” (R). James Franco directed and stars in this offbeat (what else?) true story of an aspiring filmmaker with no discernible talent who made a movie called “The Room,” which became a “bad-movie” cult favorite. With Dave Franco (James’ brother), Seth Rogan, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson and Megan Mullally.

  

“Daisy Winters” (PG-13). The 11-year-old title character (Sterling Jerins) has a deep, close relationship with her dying mother (Brooke Shields), and soon goes on a journey to find her father, and in the process, herself. (Exclusively at the Megaplex District Theaters.)

“The Fencer” (Not rated, in Esonian, Russian and Armenian with English subtitles). In the 1950s, a young fencer who is on the run from the Russian secret police returns to his Estonian homeland, starts working at a sports club and begins training a group of young children how to wield a sword. But, of course, his past soon catches up with him. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Aida’s Secrets” (Not rated, in English, and in Hebrew with English subtitles). This personal and emotional documentary follows a World War II survivor who was born in a displaced-persons camp and sent to Israel for adoption, as he tracks his birth mother’s history down a winding path, eventually leading to a reunion with a brother he didn’t know he had. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)


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

BABY BOOM

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This delightful but forgotten domestic comedy recently earned a Blu-ray upgrade from Twilight Time/Screen Archives. Here’s my review, published Oct. 29, 1987, in the Deseret News.

Despite scene-stealing performances by Kristina and Michelle Kennedy, the cute-as-a-bug infant twins who alternately play Baby Elizabeth, I suppose “Baby Boom” is really Diane Keaton’s picture. And that’s no complaint.

Keaton has a real flair for physical comedy, though you may have forgotten since her post-Woody Allen movies have been largely dramatic — “Crimes of the Heart,” “Little Drummer Girl,” “Shoot the Moon,” “Reds.”

So it’s a bit like coming home to see Keaton in “Baby Boom” and it’s a genuine pleasure to have her using that talent full force in the kind of successful romantic comedy that is all too rare these days.

“Baby Boom” is an unabashedly old-fashioned picture. You could almost see Myrna Loy or Jean Arthur or Carole Lombard playing Keaton’s role. Except that this is definitely an ’80s movie, as yuppie ad executive Keaton, who is about to win a partnership, suddenly finds herself straddled with a baby (which she inherits).

     

               'Baby Boom': Diane Keaton, at work ...

Keaton’s live-in boyfriend (Harold Ramis) moves out, her job begins to suffer because she must spend so much time with her child, and eventually she quits, leaves the big city and tries to make a life for her and her daughter in rural Vermont. And when her business instincts surface once more she becomes a self-made millionaire with her own homemade baby goods, meanwhile falling in love with the local veterinarian (Sam Shepard).

Fantastic? Unbelievable? Silly?

You bet.

But “Baby Boom” gets away with it because it is so funny, charming and undeniably entertaining from beginning to end.

This is not a movie to think about in terms of plot. This is a movie to simply enjoy for all its wonderful little moments: Keaton carrying little Elizabeth upside down as she races to a business luncheon, then checking her in at the coatroom; Keaton and Ramis trying to feed Elizabeth linguine and winding up with a pasta-coated kitchen; Keaton weighing Elizabeth on a produce scale to determine what size diapers she wears; and on and on it goes. There are so many screamingly funny, utterly enchanting scenes in this film that they carry the audience along, well past the implausibilities.

     

                        ... and at home.

And through each and every one Keaton shines, her comedic talent making even funnier this very well written and directed film. The rest of the cast is also quite good, Ramis as a most unhip self-obsessed yuppie, Shepard as a real country charmer, Sam Wanamaker as her less-than-understanding boss, James Spader as her arrogant young assistant, Pat Hingle as an important client and especially Victoria Jackson (of TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), who does a very funny cameo as a babysitter.

“Baby Boom” is the product of a husband-wife collaboration. Charles Shyer and Nancy Myers produced. Past credits include “Private Benjamin,” which they wrote and produced, and “Irreconcilable Differences, their first writing/producing/directing combination. Meyers also wrote “House Calls” and “Goin’ South,” among others.

Of those movies, “House Calls” is the best conceived and “Private Benjamin” the most popular, and the others certainly have their moments. But “Baby Boom” is by far the most consistently funny, and easily the most old-fashioned, despite the yuppie theme and sexual innuendo.

“Baby Boom” is rated PG for a few scattered profanities and some sex jokes, one of which includes some brief partial nudity.


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

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This rather vulgar holiday farce in the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” franchise will play at the Regal Crossroads 14, located at 5516 S. Redwood Road in Taylorsville, on Saturday, Dec. 9. For showtimes go to the theater’s website. Here’s my review of the film, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 1, 1989. (And, as you’ll see at the end my review, I was not much of a prognosticator, as many fans do indeed feel that it holds up in repeat viewings — hence this big-screen revival.)

"National Lampoon's Vacation" a few years back was a pretty funny movie, almost in spite of itself. Though lighthearted and goofy, the film contained more than it's share of black humor with many of its very dark satirical barbs aimed at every sacred cow you could think of, akin to the zing of the National Lampoon humor magazine.

Some segments of the audience were offended, but most embraced the film and it was a huge success.

The less said about "National Lampoon's European Vacation," a dismal artistic and box-office failure, the better. If Chevy Chase had not headlined the film it probably would have joined the dumping ground where the remains of many lame National Lampoon comedies lie unreleased.

But the prolific John Hughes, who scripted the first film, was lured back to write the screenplay for a third in the series, and now we have "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo play, for the third time, Clark and Ellen Griswold, and their country cousins from the first film are reprised by Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn. Another returnee from the first "Vacation" is Brian Doyle-Murray, though he tackles a different role this time (as Clark's Scroogelike boss).

     

Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

But the most obvious returning element is "Christmas Vacation's" attempt to get down and dirty like the first film, with a cat instead of a dog being inadvertently abused this time, with more doddering old relatives to sneer at and by a running gag that has Clark lusting after a lingerie-counter saleswoman in much the same way he slobbered over Christie Brinkley. (As for the latter, Griswold, though he is hailed as the last of the old-fashioned family men, seems to yearn for an adulterous affair, an unfortunate mixed message for young people.)

Most of these aspects are missteps. Rather, the film is at its most amusing when it is merely lampooning traditional Christmas rituals — getting a tree, decorating the house with lights, having the family in for turkey dinner, discovering that a wrapped gift contains a live cat, etc. — replete with inventive sight gags and Chase's patented mugging.

Many of those episodic moments, particularly in the film's first half, are hilarious. But as the picture goes along there are far too many dry spells.

One new set of characters are the Griswold's "thirtysomething"-style neighbors, insufferable yuppies whom Clark insults and whose house he partially wrecks with his slapstick antics. A little of these folks goes a long way.

     

Clockwise from lower left: Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis, Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase pose for a Griswold family photo for 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.'

Quaid, as the vulgar, disgusting cousin with no money and a smelly dog, provides some solid laughs, but this is Chase's picture. He gets all the big yucks, and he is at his best when inadvertently driving his car under a truck, locking himself in the attic, sending a block of ice flying through the neighbor's window into his CD player, etc.

Unfortunately, the other players, especially D'Angelo and, as their parents, veteran performers Diane Ladd, John Randolph, E.G. Marshall and Doris Roberts, have little or nothing to do.

Weighing the good with the bad, this picture is worth a look for Chase fans but it may not hold up to repeat viewings.

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is also not necessarily a trip for the kids; it's rated PG-13 for considerable vulgarity and profanity, along with a fantasy scene that has female nudity.


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

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite the holiday trappings, this one, like so many post-“Halloween” horror movies, follows the ‘slasher’ template in a most ordinary way, but the real surprise is that it came from Chuck Sellier, who, at the time, was known for producing, writing and/or directing family films and TV shows (‘The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams’), and religious-themed ‘documentaries’ (‘In Search of Historic Jesus’). And he was based in Utah. Now, for some inexplicable reason, The Shout! Factory! is releasing a new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition — and there’s a more expensive version that includes an action figure (Santa holding an axe!). Proceed at your own risk. My review below was published in the Deseret News on Sept. 21, 1985.

“Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why … Santa Claus is dead!”

Remember that sick joke from grade school?

I have an even sicker one. Santa Claus is a killer.

That’s the storyline of you-know-what. That’s right, “Silent Night, Deadly Night.”

Actually, the Utah-made slasher film is about a killer who happens to wear a Santa suit, which is really not much different than all those other holiday horror pictures — “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “New Year’s Evil,” “Happy Birthday to Me,” “My Bloody Valentine,” etc. (About the only one left is Arbor Day.)

And in fact, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is not the first slasher film to use Christmas as a theme or a man in a Santa Claus suit as a killer. “To All a Good Night” had a Santa-clad killer in a girls dorm, “Black Christmas” was also set in a girls dorm on Christmas Eve, and “They’re Playing with Fire” had just one of its many killings done by a man in a Santa suit.

That’s not the only unoriginal aspect of “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” however. It follows the typical slasher motif right down the line.

     

         Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) attacks a mean nun.

A young boy (named Billy, of course) sees his parents killed by a man in a Santa suit and is traumatized. He goes to an orphanage and gets weird every year around Christmas time (the crazy nun who runs the orphanage doesn’t help as she tortures the child and forces him to sit on Santa’s lap).

Eventually he grows up and starts working in a toy store, and he’s such a true-blue Boy Scout-type he refuses the stronger stuff and drinks milk, then upbraids a co-worker for swearing.

Then, when Santa is needed, guess who is assigned to wear the false beard and red fat-suit? That’s right, good old Billy boy. Eventually he cracks and goes on a rampage, killing everyone in sight.

And, as is required by slasher films, each killing is done in some unique fashion — a man is strangled with Christmas tree lights and another with a phone cord, another is shot with an arrow, a boy on a bobsled has his head chopped off with an axe, and so it goes.

     

 Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) goes in search of new victims.

Billy even chops off the head of a snowman! Now that’s one mean slasher. (The only thing missing was someone being impaled on a candy cane.)

One of the few surprises here is the amount of sex and nudity shown on the screen. Most slasher movies have some but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much in a horror movie.

Of local interest is the amount of Utah talent (with their clothes on) that gets knocked off here — Nancy Borgenicht as a worker in the toy store (she gets the arrow), Jeff Hansen as young Billy’s father (shot with a pistol), Max Robinson as a deputy sheriff (axed in the stomach), etc. (H.E.D. Redford gets to dispatch Billy in the end — he’s the sheriff here.)

Jayne Luke gets off lucky as a mother with one line … but what a line. Billy as Santa is terrorizing her daughter on his lap and mom says, “He sure knows how to handle kids!”

The photography is bland, the direction (by former family filmmaker Charles E. Sellier Jr.) is static and unimaginative, the acting is zombie-like and the songs are outrageously bad (one lyric says “It’s always Christmas on the warm side of the door,” whatever that means).

Occasionally it is so inept that it’s unintentionally humorous (as when the wrong Santa is killed and we are told “It’s Father O’Brien,” who happened to be deaf and couldn’t hear the deputy shouting at him), but mostly it’s just sickening exploitation. “Silent Night, Deadly Night” really goes out of its way to earn its R rating.

And if that’s not sensational enough, the ads are: “The movie that went too far!” “They tried to ban it!” “They didn’t want you to see it!” “Now you can see it uncut … in all its terrifying horror.”

Not one of Utah’s finer hours. In fact, it’s enough to make me look forward to television — and I mean the commercials. At least the local talent won’t be covered with blood there.