Chris Noth, left, George Dzundza, Michael Moriarty and Richard Brooks were the main cast members of the first (1990-91) season of 'Law & Order.'

For, Friday, April 10, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re looking for something to watch on television during our shut-in period due to the pandemic, you could do worse than the stalwart police procedurals/courtroom dramas of the ‘Law & Order’ franchise. Ten years ago the original ‘Law & Order’ TV series left the CBS schedule after 20 years on the air, prompting this treatise on the program’s demise and the ubiquitous reruns of the various ‘L&O’ shows that would continue to fill cable channels — and in 2020 they still do. This column was published on May 28, 2010, and it should be noted that ‘Law & Order: Los Angeles’ was canceled in 2011 after a single season, ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ also ended in 2011 after 10 seasons, and ‘Law & Order: SVU’ remains a Thursday night staple and has just been renewed for the 2020-21 season, which will be the show’s 22nd year, with 476 episodes having been aired as of this date, now the new record-holder for longest-running TV drama!

“Law & Order” is dead — long live “Law & Order.”

Literally, since the reruns are bound to continue forever on various cable channels. And maybe even NBC, if the network’s new fall shows fail.

I once joked that I expected to see a “Law & Order” cable channel pop up one day — and by golly it’s here. Going under the name TNT. At least it feels that way when the original “L&O” series and “SVU” reruns are shown all day and into the night.

Anyway, as “L&O” franchise fans know, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” received a healthy renewal on NBC and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” continues on USA (albeit with an all-new cast) and that upstart newcomer “Law & Order: Los Angeles” is scheduled for NBC in the fall.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see the old-timer, “Law & Order: No Subtitle,” bite the dust after 20 years.

Oh I know, the ratings had drastically dipped in the beloved youth-market demographic. Only old fuddy-duddies like me seemed to be watching it these days.

And since everyone knows that over-50s never buy cars or toothpaste or cold remedies, NBC’s losses in ad revenue prompted the network to call it a day.

Too bad. “Law & Order” in any form just won’t be the same without Sam Waterston lurking around.

Or S. Epatha Merkerson, who holds the record as the longest running continuous “L&O” character, Lt. Anita Van Buren.


Linus Roache, left, Alan de la Garza and Sam Waterston starred in the final season of 'Law & Order' (2009-2010).

And despite what other critics may say, I thought “L&O” had earned a new lease on life with the current cast. I’ve especially enjoyed the one-upmanship between district attorney Jack McCoy (Waterston) and his top dog Michael Cutter ().

Their verbal sparring was the treat of the past two seasons, as McCoy saw a little too much of his impetuous younger self in Cutter. I’m sorry to see that go away.

Not that I’ve seen all the “L&O” episodes … but then, who has? After all, over 20 years the program has churned out 456 shows.

Producer Dick Wolf had hoped to win the crown for longest-running prime-time drama, which has been held forever by “Gunsmoke’s” two decades(1955-75). But, alas, it is now a tie. Although, with 635 episodes under its gunbelt, “Gunsmoke” ekes out the lead on a technicality.

One thing about “L&O” that I’ve found interesting over the years is how many of the rotating regular cast members actually made early appearances on “Law & Order” as other characters.

The show has had many well-known guest stars, of course, but it may hold some kind of record for actors who did one-shot episodes, then went on to earn series-regular status.

In the annals of television history, there are two such examples that have gained some kind of geek notoriety.

One was when Harry Morgan played a crazy general in the first episode of Season 3 on “M*A*S*H” and then became Col. Potter from Season 4 through end of the 11-year series.


S. Epatha Merkerson, left, Chris Noth, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach and Jill Hennessy were 'Law & Order's' lead players for the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons (1993-96).

The other is when Jerry Orbach played an attorney during “Law & Order’s” second season, then landed the iconic role of Det. Lennie Briscoe in the third season and remained with the show for 12 years!

But Orbach wasn’t the only one who had a “Law & Order” role before becoming a regular cast member.

Jeremy Sisto, who has been Det. Cyrus Lupo for the past three seasons, played a different character in a Season 17 episode.

Melina Govich was in a 16th season episode before becoming Det. Nina Cassidy for the 17th season.

Michael Imperioli, who had a five-episode run as Det. Nick Falco in Season 15, played a different role in a Season 6 episode.

Annie Parisse was in a Season 12 episode before becoming assistant D.A. Alexandra Borgia in Season 15.

And before J.K. Simmons became recurring character Dr. Emil Skoda, he appeared in a Season 4 episode as someone else.

Then there’s Anthony Anderson, who has played Det. Kevin Bernard for the past two seasons. He had a role as a different detective in the seventh season of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

Even Lt. Van Buren herself … er, S. Epatha Merkerson … played a different character in a Season 1 episode of “Law & Order” before landing the long-running Van Buren role in Season 4.

For me, the original is “Law & Order Classic.”

Cherry, Vanilla and Diet are all pretty good — but only one is the Real Thing.

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, 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



For, Friday, April 10, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Barbra Streisand the filmmaker joins the Criterion Collection family as ‘The Prince of Tides’ receives a new Blu-ray release from the boutique disc/streaming label, with the usual copious bonus features. I really liked the film when I wrote this review, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 25, 1991. (And by the by, Nick Nolte did earn his first Oscar nomination for this film and has been nominated twice more since; the film also earned nominations for Kate Nelligan as best supporting actress, and for best picture, adapted screenplay, art direction/set direction, cinematography and James Newton Howard for best original music score, but no wins.)

Nick Nolte gives the performance of his career in "The Prince of Tides," an adult drama based on Pat Conroy's popular novel about a dysfunctional family in South Carolina, and how one member faces up to closeted secrets when he goes to Manhattan on his sister's behalf.

In fact, Nolte is so good, if he doesn't win at least an Oscar nomination as best actor, it will be to the Academy's shame.

Nolte plays Tom Wingo, an unemployed football coach whose marriage to Sallie (Blythe Danner) is crumbling because he can't open up. Tom would seem to love Sallie, and he obviously adores his daughters, but he hides behind one-liners, and though his jokes are often funny, Sallie's been accepting them for too long and is on the verge of giving up trying to communicate.


   Nick Nolte, Kate Nelligan, 'Prince of Tides' (1991)

The story gets rolling when Tom's mother (Kate Nelligan) arrives with the tragic news that his sister Savannah (Melinda Dillon) has attempted suicide in New York. So Tom packs his bags and heads for Manhattan.

There he meets Savannah's psychiatrist, the elegant Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand), and before long it becomes apparent that to help Savannah, Tom is going to have to ferret out some of his deepest, darkest family secrets. And it won't be easy.

Meanwhile, he becomes close to Lowenstein, tries to help her smart-mouthed son (Jason Gould, Streisand's real-life son) learn to play football and has a run-in with her obnoxious husband (Jeroen Krabbe). And he realizes that the doctor has some serious family problems of her own.

There are some big themes in "The Prince of Tides," chiefly the suggestion that we carry around too much guilt and sometimes live our lives in a futile attempt to apologize for others.


   Melinda Dillon, Nick Nolte, 'Prince of Tides' (1991)

And Streisand the director builds her film to some powerful emotional climaxes, giving Nolte a real showcase for his full-bodied, complex performance. She also pulls superior performances out of her first-rate supporting cast — everyone looks good here, including Streisand, and the unexpected casting of Nelligan as Nolte's mother is a surprise that works.

But there are some serious flaws here, not the least of which is that the film feels extended beyond what should be its ending. When Tom and Lowenstein finally have their romance, it seems to go on forever and causes the film to sag badly. And the suggestion that this fling is a healing, cathartic reaction to his finally coming to terms with his past feels like a cheap device.

Still, most of the emotion here is honestly achieved, and, though Streisand is not the most inventive director, she certainly has a way with actors. And her film is one of the more satisfying efforts of this holiday season.

"The Prince of Tides" is rated R for harsh language, a shockingly violent flashback scene, 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 (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.

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



For, 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



For, Friday, April 10, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another sleazy 1980s flick is inexplicably rewarded with a Blu-ray upgrade by the Vinegar Syndrome label (with loads of bonus features). My review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 9, 1984.

“High school honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night.” This is one case where the ads tell it all. Almost.

All the ads for “Angel” leave out is that it’s also one of the most ridiculous exploitationers this season.


                   Donna Wilkes, 'Angel' (1984)

Having been abandoned by her parents at age 12, Donna Wilkes (now 15) continues her studies and makes good, but she finances her lifestyle by being a prostitute by night.

Considering the crummy apartment she keeps, she should consider waitressing instead.


         Dick Shawn, Donna Wilkes, 'Angel' (1984)

In this fantasy world, pimps, streetwalkers and hoods are all friendly, good-hearted folk, including transvestite Dick Shawn and aged cowboy Rory Calhoun.

And there’s a vicious killer on the loose, of course.

Rated R for violence, sex, nudity, profanity, “Angel” is a dreadful film, a real mess, with only occasional unintentional laughs (and not enough of those) making it barely bearable. (And I’m not embarrassed to admit that I walked out of this one early.)