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INCURABLE SEQUELITIS

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 15, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ah, sequels. They’re nothing new, of course; they were a staple way back in the 1930s and ’40s (‘Tarzan,’ ‘Andy Hardy,’ ‘Dr. Kildare,’ ‘The Thin Man,’ etc.), but these days they’re just more expensive, and they’re called, ahem, ‘franchise films.’ Thirty years ago I was bemoaning their proliferation in the 1980s, with, of course, no idea of what was coming. This column was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 31, 1988, under the headline, ‘Some sequels fit to film, but others … ’ It could be published today if the titles were updated. (Some of the prospective titles listed below never happened, of course: ‘Romancing the Stone III,’ ‘Blind Date II,’ ‘Jagged Edge 2’ and ‘Top Gun 2’ … although the latter is now in production, some 32 years later. And when the sequel to ‘Gone With the Wind’ finally landed, it was as a 1994 TV miniseries, ‘Scarlett.’ And the second '3 Men' film was titled '3 Men and a Little Lady.')

IN THIS DAY of sequelitis, it seems there are more movies with Roman numerals behind the titles than without.

We were only 22 days into January when “Missing in Action III” and “Manon of the Spring” (the sequel to “Jean de Florette”) came on the scene, and Dudley Moore can be seen in local theaters now pitching his next film, “Arthur On the Rocks,” a sequel to his biggest hit, “Arthur.”

Other sequels already being hyped in local theaters as “coming soon” items are Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” (the sequel to “Brighton Beach Memoirs”) and “Rambo III.”

And I mentioned here a few weeks ago that “Big Top Pee-wee” (the follow-up to “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”), “A Nightmare On Elm Street IV,” “Cocoon II,” “Police Academy 5” and “Indiana Jones III” are all in various phases of production.

Now the L.A. Times reports that there are a lot of other sequels also on the docket — in what Hollywood calls “development.”

 

Looking over the list, I can understand the interest in some of them. Who doesn’t expect another James Bond movie or “Star Trek V” or “Ghostbusters II” or “Back to the Future II” or “Romancing the Stone III”? I can even understand “Robocop II” and “Fletch II.”

But how about these: “Hellraiser II,” “Caddyshack II,” “Iron Eagle II” and “Blind Date II”? Are they kidding?

And do we really need “The Karate Kid III,” “Halloween IV,” “Psycho IV,” “Terminator II,” “Rocky V” and “Aliens III”?

And I’m not even going to dignify such long-speculated possibilities as “Gone With the Wind II” and “The Godfather III.”

Enough already!

Can’t any movie with a modicum of success stand on its own these days?

Of all these films, only “Manon of the Spring” was intended from the beginning to continue the story of the first film as a sort of big-screen mini-series, not merely an afterthought made simply to cash in on an initial success.

Add to the latter “Top Gun II,” “Beverly Hills Cop III,” “Lethal Weapon II” and “Jagged Edge II,” purely crass commercial ventures.

 

When movies get to this point, the filmmakers often don’t care whether they entertain or are well-made. They just wind up the projects in a hurry to make a quick buck.

Say, haven’t we discussed this before?

Is this the “Sequelitis II” column?

This is more contagious than I thought.

ON THE SUBJECT of sequels, Marilyn Beck reports that Touchstone Films is already gearing up a second “3 Men and a Baby” film, which has the distinction of being the biggest moneymaker ever to come out of Walt Disney Studios. And that Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg will all be back for it.

Of course, in this case they won’t need Roman numerals. The sequel will obviously be called “3 Men and a Toddler” — followed by “3 Men and a Grade-Schooler,” “3 Men and an Adolescent” and “4 Men.”

No, wait — the baby was a girl! And the mother came back! How about “3 Men, a Woman and a Toddler,” followed ultimately by “3 Men and Two Women”? Or they could make it androgynous: “5 People.”

On the other hand, maybe “3 Men and a Baby II” isn’t so bad after all.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

IS PIXAR STILL INCREDIBLE?

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 15, 2018

Pixar has such a great track record that every new release automatically brings with it very high expectations. That’s certainly true of “Incredibles 2,” which is expected to be the summer’s latest box-office blockbuster (at least until we get the latest “Jurassic World” entry next week).

“Incredibles 2” (PG). The latest from Disney/Pixar is a 14-years-later sequel about the family of superheroes, each with a unique power, and a story that revolves around Elastigirl being chosen to save the world, while husband Mr. Incredible is left at home to care for the children. Writer-director Brad Bird is back, along with voice cast members Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Ratzenberger and Sarah Vowell. Also here are Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush and Isabella Rossellini.

“Superfly” (R). Remake of the 1972 blaxploitation thriller about a cocaine dealer trying to make one last score before abandoning his life of crime. The original film was controversial for glorifying drug dealers, but it was a big hit and led to two sequels. This one stars Trevor Jackson.

“Tag” (R). Loosely based on a true story, this raunchy comedy stars Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress as childhood friends who have continued an elaborate game of tag into adulthood. With Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Leslie Bibb and Brian Dennehy.

  

“Hearts Beat Loud” (PG-13). A record-store owner who is a widower and aging hipster tires to talk his college-bound lesbian daughter into joining him in a band for his last stab at rock-and-roll stardom. With Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Blythe Danner and Toni Collette. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“American Animals” (R). Part documentary and part dramatization, this is the true story of four friends in Kentucky who decide to pull of a very unlikely heist by robbing a campus library of a $12 million Audubon book. Real-life participants show up as talking heads in documentary snippets throughout the film. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“The Gardener” (Not Rated). This Canadian documentary is about Frank Cabot’s Les Quatre Vents, aka Cabot Garden, an elaborate private garden in the Charlevoix region near Quebec City. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)


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

JERRY LEWIS 10 FILM COLLECTION

 

The contents of the new set, left, are the same as the 2004 set, right .

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 15, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, Paramount Home Entertainment reissued a 10-film set of Jerry Lewis movies. The 14-year-old column below, headlined, ‘Funny gags abound in 10 newly released Jerry Lewis DVDs,' was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 15, 2004, and since the new reissued collection has no additions or changes (except the box art), the reviews in this column still stand. Nearly all of Lewis’ starring films and his pictures with Dean Martin are available on DVD or streaming services now; the only exceptions are ‘The Sad Sack,’ ‘Way … Way Out,’ ‘Hardly Working,’ and the Martin & Lewis film, '3 Ring CIrcus.'

The French must not be the only ones who love Jerry Lewis. How else do you explain nine of his movies debuting on DVD this week, along with a special-edition reissue?

Only one of the discs is a Martin & Lewis film, and the rest, listed here chronologically, are hit-and-miss choices representing Lewis’ solo career from 1957 to 1965, but skipping over many of Lewis’ better films — where are “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” “The Geisha Boy,” “Don’t Give Up the Ship” or one that’s never been on VHS either, “Visit to a Small Planet”? (They are all owned by Paramount Pictures/Home Entertainment.)

More important, why is there only one Martin & Lewis picture, “The Stooge”? This one is far from their best, though it does have the duo doing a few onstage bits cribbed from their nightclub act. (Since the film is labeled “The Martin & Lewis Collection,” we can assume that more will be forthcoming.)

Despite such quibbling, there are some good choices here, including a “special-edition” rteissue of the film many feel is Lewis’ best, “The Nutty Professor,” as well as his first solo film, “The Delicate Delinquent,” and his first directing effort, “The Bellboy.”

Lewis fans will also go nuts over the bonus features on some titles, archive materials that include outtakes, deleted scenes, rehearsal footage, promo spots, Lewis’ personal on-the-road footage, etc. And “The Nutty Professor” includes a half-hour featurette about Lewis’ solo career.

Lewis even does some audio commentaries, though the anecdotes and informative comments are few and far between. And he’s got his old buddy singer Steve Lawrence beside him on the audio tracks to laugh at the films and tell Lewis what a genius he is.

 

“The Stooge” (1953, b/w, trailer). This one has Dean Martin playing a singer who’s a self-centered jerk, and when he hires Lewis as part of his act, Martin continues to take all the credit and most of the money. (At one point Lewis repeatedly yells, “Lady!” — just like Martin Short’s impersonation.)

“The Delicate Delinquent” (1957, b/w, trailer). This was to be a Martin & Lewis vehicle, but then the team broke up. Darren McGavin takes the Martin role, as a cop ho helps delinquent Lewis get into the police academy. Some funny routines.

“The Bellboy” (1960, b/w, audio commentary, archive materials, trailer). There’s no story in this series of slapstick skits, in which Lewis’ character doesn’t speak (until the final scene). Some hilarious gags in an old-fashioned silent-movie manner. Filmed on location at a luxurious Miami hotel.

“Cinderfella” (1960, audio commentary, archive materials, trailer). Lewis’ colorful reworking of the classic fairy tale has some good gags and a great cast, though it gets bogged down in sentimentality toward the end.

“The Ladies Man” (1961, audio commentary, archive materials, trailer). One of Lewis’ funnier films has him as a houseboy in a girls’ school.

 

“The Errand Boy” (1961, b/w, audio commentary, archive materials, trailer). This one has Lewis wreaking havoc in a movie studio, again with some very funny gags.

“The Nutty Professor: Special Edition” (1963, audio commentary, featurettes, archive materials, trailer). You either love this one or you don’t, but the film is wildly inventive and has some hysterical gags, and Stella Stevens brightens up the proceedings. (On the bonus features the long-held theory that Prof. Kelp’s alter ego was supposed to skewer Dean Martin is debunked.)

“The Patsy” (1964, audio commentary, archive materials, trailer). The supporting cast is a wow – Peter Lorre, Keenan Wynn, John Carradine, Everett Sloane, Ina Balin — but this reworking of both “The Bellboy” and “The Errand Boy,” by way of “Pygmalion,” is way too sappy and sentimental, despite some very funny sight gags.

“The Disorderly Orderly” (1964, archive materials, trailer). Some funny stuff livens up this farce with Lewis driving everyone crazy in a hospital, with the assistance of Susan Oliver and Lewis’ stock company of character actors.

“The Family Jewels” (1965, b/w, audio commentary, archive materials, trailer). Lewis tries to make like Alec Guinness or Peter Sellers by playing multiple roles — seven! And all of them are familiar Lewis characterizations in this sentimental yarn about a poor little rich girl investigating her uncles as potential guardians.


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

SILVERADO

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 15, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the 1980s there was an unexpected resurgence of western movies, and arguably the best was this all-star homage to the traditional style, laced with some good-natured comic skewering the genre’s tropes. And you can see it on the big screen Friday, June 15, at 10 a.m. in the SCERA Center in Orem. Here’s my review, published July 12, 1985, in the Deseret News.

“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,” reviving the style of Saturday matinee serials, as well as writing and directing both the film noir thriller “Body Heat,” and “The Big Chill,” which proved that 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.

     

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

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.

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.

     

               Linda Hunt, Brian Dennehy, 'Silverado'

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 relationship 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.

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.

“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

MY BLUE HEAVEN

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 15, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve Martin is cast against type and Rick Moranis is comfortable playing his usual type in this overlooked but very enjoyable comedy, recently given a Blu-ray upgrade by Warner Archive, which also marked the film’s first widescreen home-video release. My review below of the film’s theatrical debut was published Aug. 19, 1990, in the Deseret News. Despite my optimistic prediction at the end of this review, however, the film flopped and has been largely forgotten. But, having recentlky watched it again, I still believe it deserves to find an audience.

What a pleasant surprise.

"My Blue Heaven" is a delightful farce with two of our best comic actors — Steve Martin and Rick Moranis — in top form.

Why is it a surprise? Because Warner Bros. purposely kept critics around the country from seeing it before it opened. That usually means the movie is a dog and the studio wants to avoid reviews for the all-important opening weekend.

But "My Blue Heaven" is a bright comedy, and my guess is it will receive largely favorable reviews.

The premise is funny all by itself, with Martin as an eccentric New York mobster who's been relocated to a white-bread San Diego suburb under the federal witness-protection program. Moranis is the uptight over-organized FBI agent assigned to keep him alive and in line so he can testify in a mob-hit case.

     

          Joan Cusack, Rick Moranis, 'My Blue Heaven'

Martin's unique manner of integrating himself into the community provides many of the film's biggest laughs, as when he re-prices food in the supermarket and mows the lawn in his usual attire, an Armani suit.

He's also repeatedly thrown into jail by local authorities, headed by assistant D.A. Joan Cusack — where even his cell gets a big laugh.

Moranis gets Martin out of one jam after another, so to repay him Martin fixes up Moranis with Cusack, perhaps the only person in the world more straight-laced than he is. Meanwhile, not unexpectedly, Martin has a profound influence on Moranis' character, helping him loosen up and enjoy life.

There are flaws here, scenes that don't quite click, gags that fall flat and a temporary sluggishness that sets in somewhere in the final third.

But on the whole, screenwriter Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally . . .") and director Herbert Ross ("Steel Magnolias," "Footloose") keep things hopping with loads of sight gags and clever, inventive bits of business, and a surprisingly sweet romance between Moranis and Cusack. This is a movie that defies you not to like it.

Martin and Moranis are very good, both as a team and separately. If Martin's explanation of why a hitman uses a .22 instead of a .45 doesn't have you on the floor you're in serious need of a humor checkup.

     

Rick Moranis, left, Melanie Mayron, Steve Martin, 'My Blue Heaven'

And the rest of the cast is more than up to their standard: Cusack's wonderful straight woman; Melanie Mayron, as a local cop; Carol Kane, as a late-in-the-game romantic interest for Martin; Daniel Stern, as Cusack's obnoxious ex-husband; William Irwin as Moranis' dancing-fool partner; and William Hickey, whose appearance as a pet-shop owner leads to a very funny plot device as a bevy of known hoods under federal protection are reunited.

Patrons of the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City may also recognize Irwin; under the name of "Bill" Irwin, he showed off his multiple talents for a live one-man show at the festival a couple of years ago.

As a point of trivia, this is the third film to open in the past two weeks with a strong baseball subtext, the others being "Taking Care of Business" and "mo' better blues." And it was also interesting to see a plug for Warner's upcoming Clint Eastwood movie "White Hunter, Black Heart" on a movie theater marquee.

Rated a very soft PG-13 for violence and profanity, "My Blue Heaven" is bound to be a summer winner — once the word gets out.