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GET READY FOR THE RETURN OF ‘LAWRENCE’

     

Peter O'Toole, left, Omar Sharif, 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thirty years ago, when a new restored version of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ began crossing the country, I began to receive phone calls and letters (no email back then) from all over the valley asking when the film would arrive in a Salt Lake City theater. So I wrote a couple of short stories about it in anticipation. When the film finally arrived locally I followed up with a lengthy cover story about the restoration (which will run in this space next week) and a review (which is to the right on this page). But in 1989 things were different; nothing was digital, most theaters were single-screen affairs and a major film might play for weeks, even months, at one venue. And stereo and larger-than-normal screens were at a premium. So bringing in a old classic for exclusive, top-of-the-line screenings was not at all the norm. Under the headline, ‘When’s “Lawrence” coming? Grab a pencil and some paper,’ this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 26, 1989.

What’s the No. 1 question moviegoers are asking these days?

Hands down, it’s “When is ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ coming?”

And at last, an answer – Wednesday, March 15.

Where? Exclusively at the Cineplex Regency Theater.

In 70mm? Absolutely.

And Dolby Stereo? Of course.

Those who are not aware of what’s been happening with “Lawrence” may wonder why all the interest in a 27-year-old movie.

David Lean won an Academy Award for directing the ultimate desert picture — the film won seven Oscars altogether — and Peter O’Toole became an instant star.

Critics agree that of Lean’s later “epic” pictures, this is indeed the best.

But the current fuss is over a restoration project that has put “Lawrence” back together after years of cutting and pasting for various re-releases, TV showings and video dubs, which left it at a mere 187 minutes in length.

     

David Lean gathers the troops for an epic scene on the set of 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)

Now it has been returned to its full 222-minute length (plus intermission, of course), and the film has been subtly, slightly reshaped and enhanced.

Lean and his Oscar-winning editor Anne Coates participated in the restoration, and the surviving actors (O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, etc.) redubbed some of their dialogue.

The result is considered by those who have seen it probably the best example of state-of-the-art film restoration ever.

And there is only one way to see this movie, on the big screen in 70mm, where its scope and expansive vision can be appreciated the way it was meant to be seen.

When you hear the phrase, “They don’t make pictures like this anymore,” this is the movie they’re talking about.

EDITOR’S SECOND NOTE: And on Sept. 27, 2012, the Deseret News published another short piece of mine about the film as it was gearing up for a video release, following yet another restoration (digital, this time), to be preceded by a one-day theatrical reissue. Despite the worry I express here that it might not return to theaters, ‘Lawrence’ has proved to be a regular on the big-screen revival circuit. Thank goodness. (See the review to the right.)

David Lean’s magnificent epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” about real-life adventurer T.E. Lawrence (superbly played by Peter O’Toole), is a film that needs to be seen on a theater screen to be fully appreciated.

     

To say they don’t make ’em like this anymore is to wildly understate, whether referring to the film’s breadth and depth, the vast number of extras in any given sequence or it’s deliberate pacing, which takes its time but is never dull. This is high entertainment with thrills, excitement, comedy, memorable set pieces and thought-provoking drama. It’s also as artistically framed as cinema gets.

Despite its ambitious scope, however, Lean never lets the grandeur overwhelm the story or characters, and he’s not afraid to allow his camera to rest on broadly choreographed images that fill the wide screen, forcing audience members to discover for themselves what is most meaningful at any given moment.

Before its Blu-ray debut in November, “Lawrence of Arabia” will play theatrically for one day, and who knows when or if another opportunity to see it on the big screen will present itself very soon.

Originally released in 1962, the film fell into disrepair over the next two-plus decades, until, after a meticulous restoration process, it was reissued in theaters in 1989. Now, here it is 2012, and yet another restoration has taken place so that it reportedly looks even better, sharper and more vivid than in 1962.

The digital version will play one day, Thursday, Oct. 4, with two screenings, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark theaters. This is a nearly four-hour movie, so plan accordingly.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

END-OF-SUMMER LEFTOVERS

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

A new faith film from the Kendrick brothers looks promising, and a couple of documentaries at the downtown art house, but otherwise it's the end-of-summer business-as-usual collection of films that will likely be forgotten before moviegoers exit the auditorium.

“Overcomer” (PG). A small town is devastated when the nearby manufacturing plant closes, displacing many of the area’s families, and the high school basketball coach (Alex Kendrick) loses most of his team. So he’s given the job of cross-country coach, only to find that he has just one runner (Aryn Wright-Thompson) — and she has asthma! This faith film is directed by Kendrick and co-written with his brother Stephen, who also gave us “War Room” and “Courageous,” among others.

“Angel Has Fallen” (R). This sequel to “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen” brings back Gerard Butler as Secret Service agent Mike Banning and Morgan Freeman as the U.S. president he protects. This time around Banning is framed for an assassination attempt on the president and goes on the run to clear himself. With Nick Nolte, Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo and Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Ready or Not” (R). A young bride (Samara Weaving), with her new husband (Mark O’Brien), visits his rich, eccentric family and is talked into taking part in a wild, freewheeling game of hide-and-seek, only to learn that it’s really a one-sided hunt, she is the prey and the object is murder. With Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell.

  

“Luce” (R). The title character is the adopted son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from a war-torn African country whose upscale parents (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth) are proud of his high school accomplishments. But a teacher (Octavia Spencer) begins to suspect something is off with the boy and she decides to investigate.

“David Crosby: Remember My Name” (R). Cameron Crowe (“Say Anything,” “Jerry Maguire”) offers an overview of the life and turbulent times of musician David Crosby, a founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, who still tours extensively at the age of 78. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“One Child Nation” (R). Directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang use a seires of interviews and observations to explore China’s one-child policy, which lasted from 1979 to 2015 and was designed to control the country’s burgeoning population. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)


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

MOVIE MOVIE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanley Donen, who will always be remembered as the director of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and the co-director (with Gene Kelly) of “Singin’ in the Rain,” died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 94. I only reviewed two of his movies for the Deseret News, ‘Movie Movie’ in 1979 and ‘Blame it On Rio’ in 1984. Loved the first, hated the second. But as both have been given new life on Blu-ray upgrades in the last year, courtesy of Kino Lorber, you’ll find my reviews on this page today. The ‘Movie Movie’ review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 29, 1979.

“Movie Movie” is the kind of movie they don’t make anymore — in fact, it’s two of them.

If you’re one of those folks who stays up until midnight Sunday to catch any old Busby Berkeley film or an old Wallace Beery flick, you’ll love “Movie Movie.” And if you’re not, you’ll still love “Movie Movie.”

Stanley Donen, whose talent has given us such diverse movie entertainment as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Charade” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” has crafted here an old-fashioned double-feature, including coming attractions and complete with hokum.

Donen produced and directed “Movie Movie,” which is composed of a black-and-white boxing film, “Dynamite Hands,” and a splashy color musical, “Baxter’s Beauties of 1933.” Both take place in the 1930s and both begin with the exact same scene. The previews are sandwiched in between.

     

      Trish Van Devere, Harry Hamlin, 'Movie Movie'

Both are also composed largely of the same cast — and a fine acting crew it is, including George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere (Mrs. Scott), Red Buttons, Eli Wallach, Art Carney and Barry Bostwick. Supporting players, appearing in one or the other of the films, include Harry Hamlin, Barbara Harris, Rebecca  York, Kathleen Beller, Ann Reinking and Michael Kidd, who also choreographed “Baxter’s” dancing sequences.

Their deadpan delivery of the hilarious dialogue is excellent in all respect, and Scott, Van Devere, Buttons, Wallach and Bostwick get to show just what fine actors they all are with extremely different roles in each feature.

But kudos would be incomplete without mentioning writers Larry Gelbart (“M*A*S*H” on TV and “Oh, God!” in theaters) and Sheldon Keller. Their script (or scripts) is (are) both a tribute and a send-up. The situations are contrived, the romance is sappy and the dialogue is insipid and delivered straight — in other words, just as Hollywood really used to make them (and often still does). But that dialogue has enough bite, wit, twists and double meanings to keep the laughs coming. They are intentional here, of course, but were not always in the original genres.

     

It’s hard to say which of the two is better. “Baxter’s” is snappy, energetic and a lot of fun, but “Dynamite” is probably funnier, due largely to a hilarious courtroom scene at the end. Gelbart and Keller are particularly adept at taking everyday clichés with anatomical words and twisting their meanings into the ridiculous. (“When you speak with your heart, your mouth is 10 feet tall.”) They become slightly predictable but never stale.

And Donen has captured the sight and sound of ’30s movies; film buffs will notice the brash color of “Baxter’s” and the quivery background music of “Dynamite.”

My personal favorite is the preview in the middle for a black-and-white picture: “See ‘Zero Hour’ — war at its best!” Scott, Carney and Wallach are hysterical as the typical heroes and villains of old war movies.

“Movie Movie” is rated PG but could easily be G. There is nothing offensive, no profanity, but children may become bored, not understanding the humor. Get a sitter and go; you’ll love it. As Baxter tells his beauties: “Idle feet are the devil’s toenails!”


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

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: When people … older people, of course … talk about movies that need to be seen in a theater on a 40-foot screen instead of at home on a TV screen — even a 65-inch screen — the film that sets the standard is ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ Originally released in 1962, the multiple Oscar-winner was given a meticulous two-year restoration and re-released in theaters in 1989. And now it’s back for two days, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, on Sunday, Sept. 1, and Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. in several Cinemark theaters and at 1 and 6 p.m. the Megaplex Jordan Commons theater. My review below was published in the Deseret News on March 17, 1989. (And, of course, the Regency Theater mentioned at the end has long been absent from the Salt Lake movie landscape.)

Despite powerful performances in films that post-date "Lawrence of Arabia" — such as "Becket," "The Lion in Winter," "The Ruling Class," "The Stunt Man," "My Favorite Year" and "The Last Emperor" — Peter O'Toole is seldom named in the company of great actors.

Yet his "Lawrence" remains truly great acting, and what he does with his face and body as we see the gradual evolution of T.E. Lawrence in the course of this nearly four-hour film, is nothing short of amazing.

When David Lean picked the unknown actor, with only three minor film roles to his credit at the time, to be his "Lawrence," he knew what he was doing. There are lingering moments here when we see O'Toole's sun-bleached blond hair and striking blue eyes against the bright blue sky or expansive yellow desert, and his expression says more than reams of dialogue could ever approach.

     

Peter O'Toole, left, Anthony Quinn, 'Lawrence of Arabia'

In fact, though I've seen this film's truncated version a couple of times since 1962, I had forgotten just how little dialogue there is, and how deeply textured the film becomes as it progresses. The desert is a prominent character here, and it changes and shapes T.E. Lawrence as much as the horrors of war that he endures.

If ever there was a movie worthy of restoration and reissuing it is "Lawrence of Arabia," which too often is catalogued under "epic" film and simply aligned with every other big-budget, cast-of-thousands movie ever made.

But "Lawrence" is much more, with a strong central character who undergoes stark changes over the course of several years as a British military officer, initially assigned to size up Prince Feisel (Alec Guinness) during the 1914 campaign against the Turks in Arabia. Despite his fair skin and English uppercrust demeanor, Lawrence idealizes the Arab people and tries to become one of them, ultimately heading for his downfall when he begins to think of himself as something more than a man.

 

It is a complex performance complemented by Lean's superlative direction, which is indeed epic in scope, but which never allows that scope to overwhelm the story or characters. It is a film with action and adventure, yet it defies those genre types.

Lean isn't afraid to let his camera rest on images that fill the 70mm screen and allow the audience to work a bit at picking out the importance of them. And, as a friend put it, you'll find yourself leaning forward in your seat and looking across the screen, almost as if you yourself were in the desert instead of a movie theater.

O'Toole is also complemented by a terrific supporting ensemble, with Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn all in rare form, as are Anthony Quayle, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Kennedy and Claude Rains.

Don't wait for this one to hit video in its newly restored, richly enhanced form. And don't wait for it to go into second-run theaters. See it in 70mm and Dolby Stereo at the Regency Theater and you will be amazed at what movies are capable of being.


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

THE MARRYING MAN

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A notorious production plagued with on-set acrimony, this comedy has been all but disowned by everyone involved (although their on-set meeting put Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin on the road to a nine-year marriage), but someone must like it since Kino Lorber has chosen the title for a Blu-ray upgrade. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 5, 1991.

The main problem with "The Marrying Man" is a simple one: It's a comedy and it isn't funny.

The leads are appealing: Kim Basinger as a torch singer, who seems to be patterned after Madonna doing Marilyn, and especially Alec Baldwin in a Cary Grantish playboy role.

The story is interesting, supposedly based on a real-life situation where a volatile couple married and broke up and married again three or four times.

And the supporting cast features some enjoyable character players: Robert Loggia, Paul Reiser, Elisabeth Shue, Armand Assante.

Yet the script, by Neil Simon of all people, doesn't develop the characters or even define them very well, lets the story meander all over the place and has very few laughs. It doesn't help that first-time live-action director Jerry Rees (he also helmed the animated feature "The Brave Little Toaster") lets the film, though slick, hang together raggedly.

     

Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin, 'The Marrying Man' (1991)

"The Marrying Man" is set primarily in the late 1940s and early ’50s. Baldwin is a Los Angeles millionaire who has never worked a day in his life. He is heir to a toothpaste fortune and about to marry the daughter (Shue) of a powerful Hollywood producer (Loggia).

Six days before his wedding, he goes to then-budding Las Vegas for a bachelor party with four buddies (Reiser, who narrates the film, along with Fisher Stevens, Steve Hytner and Peter Dobson). At a casino they watch the floor show and see a young singer (Basinger), and for Baldwin it's lust at first sight.

Though he's told she is the girlfriend of gangster Bugsy Siegel (Armand Assante), Baldwin just can't resist making a pass, and later in the night Bugsy catches them in the act.

Instead of killing Baldwin and Basinger, however, he forces them to get married. Naturally, neither of them wants marriage — or so they think — so they have it annulled and go their separate ways.

Fate, with a nudge from Simon, has other plans, of course, so they eventually are thrown back together — several times.

     

All of this has the makings of very funny stuff on the order of an old Ernst Lubistch screwball comedy, especially when Baldwin has to take over the family business in Boston and Basinger has to learn to cope with the chic elite.

But whether it was tension on the set (Premiere magazine recently did an article on Basinger's and Baldwin's alleged temper tantrums, which supposedly caused major setbacks in production) or just a dull script by Simon, the possibilities are never realized.

Even the supporting characters, usually a strength in a Simon film, seem to be just hanging around with little or no purpose.

"The Marrying Man," rated PG-13 for sex, violence, profanity and vulgarity, is simply not funny.

And as a postscript, yes, according to the movie's press kit, Basinger really did sing all her own songs — complete with the silly cartoon sexuality she displays, which may remind viewers of Madonna's antics on the Oscar show.