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IT’S NOT THE TRUTH, IT’S THE MOVIES

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The press is under attack, and newspapers are losing both subscribers and advertisers. It’s a very different scenario than it was 35 years ago when I wrote this column about how movies never seem to get it right when it comes to professions, and especially when it comes to the tactics of newshounds. This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column was published in the Deseret News on March 13, 1983, under the headline: ‘Maligned in the movies? You’re not alone!” I’m reminded of the old maxim that it’s unwise to argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Although these days it’s perhaps even less wise to argue with anyone who has a Twitter account.

Have you ever noticed how sensitive people are about how their professions are portrayed in the movies?

It seems that religions can be misrepresented (certainly Mormons have been, from “Trapped By the Mormons” to “Without a Trace”), biographical portraits distorted (Frances Farmer gets a crude prefrontal lobotomy in “Frances” but not in the recent TV film “Will There Really Be a Morning?”), history torn asunder (witness any number of period pieces that contradict one another), and Hollywood simply calls it “artistic license.”

But when you start stepping on someone’s employment, look out. The higher that profession’s profile, the more public the film’s mistakes are made.

This came home to me when I reviewed “Absence of Malice” jut over a year ago. That film had Paul Newman as the innocent victim of a federal investigator’s setup as reporter Sally Field is duped into writing a phony news story for her paper. Field justifies herself with the First Amendment and Newman plots revenge. The film is a sharp, involving drama laced with humor and romance. It’s also wildly inaccurate in its portrayal of the news media — excluding some supermarket tabloids, of course.

I gave “Absence” three stars, meaning “good,” and went on to praise the performances and crisp direction by Sydney Pollack (whose most recent effort is “Tootsie”). I also noted the misconceptions about journalists (taking into account that the film was written by a veteran newspaperman.

This was easy, of course, since a newspaper reporter (I began at the Deseret News by writing for the City Desk) is going to spot such things right away. But the general public didn’t notice, and it was a popular film. Deservedly so.

 

My colleagues, however, had other ideas. Most of them hated “Absence of Malice,” calling it a malicious slap at the profession. Some were so incensed they couldn’t discuss it without popping a blood vessel or two.

And so it went across the country. National columnists attacked the film, other critics with news experience slammed it — still others dismissed it (but couldn’t help commenting on it, just the same).

To me, it such reactions seemed a bit overboard. But then you have to consider that writers have the outlet to make their views known, and when their profession was stepped upon, they picked up their pens (or typewriters or computer terminals) like swords and attacked the foe.

Then I began to notice that other professions were also taking loud exception to film portrayals of their work. Loudest of all legal eagles incensed by “The Verdict” (though a few doctors got their digs in on that one, too), and the latest is “Lovesick,” an innocuous little comedy that spoofs Freudian psychology, and specifically, the psychiatric profession.

“Lovesick” has the audacity to suggest that there are comic possibilities in a Park Avenue psychiatrist falling in love with his patient, who happens to be about 20 years his junior. The outcry has softened somewhat since the film is not the blockbuster some others have been, but it was vehement and loud just prior to, and shortly after, the film’s release.

And this is no recent phenomenon. “The Hospital,” with George C. Scott, caused a few rages among the medical community back in 1971. The U.S. Army refused to show “MASH” on military bases in 1970. And there are other examples, probably going all the way back to silent movies.

 

The real issue here, however, is … why?

Why bother to gt all worked up over it? Even if it seems to you rather irresponsible that your own working lifestyle is inaccurately depicted, it’s only a movie.

My guess is that police officers, construction workers, secretaries, plumbers, milkmen, door-to-door salesmen, postal workers, artists, writers and waitresses are all equally maligned in films — and no doubt much more often than white-collar professionals.

They just aren’t as loud as lawyers, doctors — and especially journalists.

Yes, it’s artistic license. Yes, it’s exaggeration. Sometimes it’s even downright fantasy.

But it’s also The Movies!

If you want real life, take a bench in Central Park.

The movies are for escaping. And I, for one, don’t mind if the world we escape into doesn’t parallel our own 100 percent.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

JANE, EMMA, ‘OLD MAN,’ ‘FIRST MAN’

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, 2018

A local film of interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a new picture starring Robert Redford and the story of astronaut Neil Armstrong lead this slate of eight movies opening this weekend.

“Jane and Emma” (PG). Jane is Jane Manning, a free black woman in 1844 Nauvoo, Illinois, where she comes to the home of Emma Smith, widow of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, the day after he is murdered by a mob. As Jane comforts Emma, their friendship unfolds in flashbacks in this historical entry in the LDS cinema genre, filmed in Salt Lake City.

“The Old Man & the Gun” (PG-13). In what may be Robert Redford’s final film as an actor, the 82-year-old stars in this light comic story of real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker, who escapes from San Quentin at age 70 and commits a string of heists as a “gentleman bandit.” Sissy Spacek co-stars, along with Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, John David Washington (son of Denzel) and Keith Carradine.

  

“First Man” (PG-13). Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, and who famously uttered, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” in this look at the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. With Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Patrick Fugit and Lukas Haas.

“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” (PG). On Halloween night two young boys accidentally release Slappy the Dummy, allowing him to gather the Goosebumps monsters to force a Halloween Apocalypse. Jack Black reprises his role as R.L. Stine from the first “Goosebumps” movie and also voices Slappy. With Ken Jeong and Chris Parnell.

“The Sisters Brothers” (R). John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as the titular brothers, a pair of assassins in 1850s Oregon who are tracking down a chemist that supposedly has a sure-fire secret formula for prospecting gold. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane and Allison Tolman.

  

“Colette” (R). Biographical film about the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (“Gigi”), who marries renowned Parisian writer Henry “Willy” Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West) in 1893 and begins ghostwriting his work, at least until his oppressiveness, affairs and refusal to give her credit for her work lead to her rebelling against societal constraints. Keira Knightley stars in the title role, with Dominic West as Willy.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” (R). Seven strangers gather at the El Royale novelty hotel on the border of California and Nevada, each harboring a secret that relates to something unnatural that begins to unfold. With Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth.

“Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” (PG-13). The story of Kermit Gosnell (Earl Billings), who was convicted in 2011 on three counts of murder for aborting infants that were born alive (out of hundreds of alleged victims). With Dean Cain and directed by character actor Nick Searcy (Raylan’s boss on TV’s “Justified”), who also co-stars as Gosnell’s defense attorney. This marks Searcy’s second directing effort, 21 years after his first. (Exclusively at the Cinemark Jordan Landing Theaters.)


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

OSCAR

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: By 1991, when Sylvester Stallone took a daring leap into farce with ‘Oscar,’ he had tried his hand at starring in a flat-out comedy only once before, seven years earlier with the woebegone ‘Rhinestone,’ opposite Dolly Parton. (The notorious ‘Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot,’ would come the following year.) ‘Oscar,’ however, turned out to be a genuine surprise. With a Blu-ray upgrade newly offered by Kino Lorber, here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on April 26, 1991.

Sylvester Stallone in a comedy?

Didn't anybody see "Rhinestone"?

But "Oscar" is nothing like "Rhinestone" … thank goodness.

This is a knockabout French farce complete with slamming doors, mistaken identities, accidentally switched suitcases and a number of star cameos (primarily older stars, including Kirk Douglas, Yvonne DeCarlo, Don Ameche and Eddie Bracken).

That is, it's based on a French farce, having been transplanted to 1931 New York with Damon Runyon-style characters.

     

Clockwise from top: Chazz Palminteri, Marisa Tomei, Sylvester Stallone, Ornella Muti, 'Oscar'

Stallone stars as "Snaps" Provolone, a gangster who, in the pre-credits opening, visits his dying father (Douglas). Dad requests, in his own way, that Snaps give up his wayward life and go straight, for the sake of the family name.

Snaps is, of course, reluctant to do so, but he's willing to give it a try.

The film essentially takes place during the course of one day — the day Snaps tries to go straight — as he encounters his accountant (Vincent Spano), who has been stealing his money and wants to marry Snaps’ daughter (Marisa Tomei); his daughter, who claims to be pregnant with the ex-chauffeur's child; his tailors, the fussy Finucci Brothers (Martin Ferrero, Harry Shearer); his even more fussy linguistics professor (Tim Curry); and sundry other characters too numerous to mention.

There are black bags filled with, respectively, $50,000 in jewels, $50,000 in cash and his maid's underwear; a woman who claims to be his daughter but is not — or is she?; and, eventually, a new maid (Linda Gray), who is revealed to be from Snaps' past.

     

The plot machinations are relatively unimportant, however. Comic characterizations are the thing here. Stallone works hard, but like Jack Benny he mainly surrounds himself with funny people and allows them episodic bits to which he reacts. Among the most memorable are Ferrero and Shearer, Curry, Peter Riegert as Snaps' cigar-chomping sidekick, and Chazz Palminteri as his dull-witted bodyguard, all with inspired routines.

And though the film starts off slowly and occasionally gets bogged down (it could use some judicious trimming to tighten things up), "Oscar" somehow gets better as it progresses.

Director John Landis manages to refrain from his usual vulgar excesses (the film is rated PG for some mild violence, profanity and vulgarity) and he does understand farce in general. The main flaw is that things need to be constantly moving along to maintain the pace, but Landis occasionally indulges himself with too many reaction shots. (Since he got a big laugh with Eddie Murphy glancing at the camera in "Trading Places," he has Stallone do it twice here.)

For the most part, however, "Oscar" is enjoyable fluff that provides some laughs.


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

SILVERADO

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Westerns are revived from time to time, such as with ‘The Sisters Brothers,’ opening this weekend. One of the more successful attempts to reinvigorate the genre, however, came from an all-star cast directed by Lawrence Kasdan in ‘Silverado,’ which is getting a big-screen revival Monday, Oct. 15, and Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 2 and 7 p.m., at various Megaplex Theaters as part of its latest Silver Screen Classics Series.

“Silverado” makes “Pale Rider” look awfully pale indeed.

Yet it should come as no surprise that Lawrence Kasdan could pull off the best western ride in years, since he has already breathed new life into several other sagging genres.

Remember, it was Kasdan who wrote “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” giving new life to Saturday matinee serials; and he wrote and directed “Body Heat,” reviving film noir; and he also wrote and directed “The Big Chill,” which proved audiences could enjoy ensemble work as much as big-name stars doing solo acts.

Now Kasdan has taken the western form, and injected into it enough ’80s sensibilities to please even the most cynical moviegoers among us.

The premise is actually nothing new, as four unlikely heroes come together on their way to the town of Silverado, eventually joining forces to take on the wicked sheriff of the town and the evil land-grabbing cattle baron who is trying to drive off pioneers.

That plot is so old it has hoof-prints all over it.

But Kasdan has drawn rich characters, cast the film with some rather offbeat, yet very right choices, and the result is a slam-bang, action-packed, fully developed, utterly entertaining and completely satisfying western, the likes of which we haven’t seen for many, many years.

     

Danny Glover, left, Kevin Costner, Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, 'Silverado'

The first half of the film is a sort of episodic journey, starting off with a bang as Scott Glenn is ambushed by a band of mysterious strangers. Bullet holes in the little shack where Glenn has been sleeping let in streams of light, and when he ventures outside we see a wide expanse of land (the film was shot in New Mexico).

Immediately we know this is going to be a movie with humor, style, wit, action and a breathtaking visual sense. Right on all counts.

Glenn meets up with bearded Kevin Kline, eventually they rescue Glenn’s hotheaded little brother (Kevin Costner), and soon they are joined by Danny Glover, a black cowboy on his way home.

As it happens, all four are headed for Silverado, and for about half the film they are involved together in comic misadventures that bring to mind “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Whey they reach Silverado, the film settles into a more mainstream kind of western sensibility. Glenn and Costner visit relatives. Kline enters the Midnight Star saloon and strikes up a relationship with its diminutive owner (Linda Hunt), and Glover finds his parents’ farm has been ravaged by the local cattle baron’s hired guns.

Eventually the foursome will come together to battle the evil that pervades Silverado, chiefly in the form of an old buddy of Kline’s, now the corrupt sheriff, played with nasty glee by Brian Dennehy.

Kasdan, as usual, has written (with his brother Mark Kasdan) an intelligent, funny, human script, about people searching for their roots and family relationships.

And in addition to rousing music by Bruce Broughton, gorgeous photography by John Bailey and a wonderful, sharp-eyed ’80s style, there is that incredible cast.

Kevin Kline is terrific as the gentle big bear of a man who cannot avoid having to show his strength no matter how hard he tries, and he brings with him a very nice understated humor. (His friendship with Linda Hunt is perhaps the most touching thing in the film.)

Scott Glenn is perfect as the tough guy, and as Kasdan said in an interview, he was born to play a western hero. There’s no doubt after seeing him here that it’s true.

Danny Glover is terrific as the wronged black cowboy, giving the role just the right amounts of dignity and humility that have us rooting for him all the way.

     

                  Linda Hunt, Kevin Kline, 'Silverado'

And Jeff Goldblum has a nice, small role as a gambler from the East, though he seems rather underdeveloped.

But the show-stealers here are Linda Hunt, absolute perfection as a little woman whose philosophy is summed up quite nicely: “Life is what you make it, friend; if it doesn’t fit, you make alterations”; Kevin Costner, having a ball as the quick-tempered ladies’ man (and looking for all the world like a young, demented Leonard Nimoy); and Brian Dennehy, delicious as one of the screen’s most memorable villains of recent years (his second powerfully winning role in a row, after “Cocoon”).

The only real flaw here is in giving Rosanna Arquette short shrift, an unfortunate result of her storyline, about pioneers traveling into Silverado, being cut in favor of the action story. (It would have been better to leave out a scene that implies there is a triangle romance between her, Kline and Glenn, since it comes out of the blue and goes nowhere.)

There are a lot of levels on which to enjoy “Silverado,” but the main thing is that it is a heck of a lot of fun, more fun than any movie we’ve gotten so far this summer — and lately it’s been a darn good summer.

This is a winner all the way — and by all means, see it in 70mm! You have four theaters in the valley to choose from.

“Silverado” is rated PG-13 for violence, and there are two or three profanities.


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

ONCE UPON A CRIME …

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kino Lorber is giving Blu-ray upgrades to a lot of good films, as well as a lot of dubious choices, the latter including this one, an ensemble farce from the early 1990s. Here’s my review, published March 8, 1992, in the Deseret News.

A very broadly played comedy that tries to be both a door-slamming bedroom farce and a murder-mystery spoof akin to the "Pink Panther" movies, “Once Upon a Crime … ” is simply a bore.

The ensemble cast is made up of talented performers who continually appear in mediocre-to-terrible movies — and this one won't improve that reputation.

Sean Young is an American woman stranded in Rome, where she meets down-on-his luck actor Richard Lewis. They both want the reward for a lost dog they've found, so they head to Monte Carlo, where the bulk of the film was shot on location.

Also on hand is compulsive gambler John Candy, who claims to have reformed — until he's tempted by the gaming tables. His wife is played by the gorgeous Ornella Muti. Right.

     

     James Belushi, John Candy, 'Once Upon a Crime ... ‘

James Belushi is also a compulsive gambler with no pretenses of being reformed. His wife is Cybill Shepherd, as a dowdy, mild-mannered homemaker. Right.

Italian star Giancarlo Giannini is the Inspector Clouseau-like police chief, and George Hamilton plays a gigolo, using the same accent he had as Dracula in "Love at First Bite."

When Young and Lewis get to Monte Carlo and try to return the dog, they find the owner dead in her garage. Instead of simply calling the police, they run away — leaving her suitcase behind. They quickly become suspects, of course.

Later, Belushi steals Young's suitcase, and when the murder victim is found stuffed inside, Belushi and Shepherd become suspects, as well. And, as you might suspect, Candy and Hamilton are also eventually accused.

     

   James Belushi, Cybill Shepard, 'Once Upon a Crime ... ‘

Even more predictably, at the end of the film they all get together in a drawing room while the mystery is sorted out by Giannini.

There are no characters here, just cartoons. Lewis uses one-liners from his neurotic standup act, Candy puts on his familiar pseudo-sophisticated airs, Giannini tries to perform subtle sight gags and everyone else screams their lines at peak pitch.

First-time director Eugene Levy (the comic actor; he puts in a cameo in the casino scene) is obviously trying for some rapid-fire frenzied farce here but it all seems forced. And no opportunity for a cheap sex gag is overlooked. (It's hard to believe the script is credited to Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, who fared much better with "Father of the Bride," "Baby Boom" and "Private Benjamin.")

"Once Upon a Crime . . ." is rated PG for comic violence, profanity and vulgarity.