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Artist's sketch of downtown Salt Lake City's regal Centre Theater.

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re among those who couldn’t wait for the latest ‘Star Wars’ film last month, you may relate to this column from 37 years ago when ‘Return of the Jedi’ was ‘coming soon’ and fans were getting anxious. Note that Salt Lake City’s downtown premiere venue, the Centre Theater, no longer exists (it was torn down in 1989) and the Century Theater is not at all like it was back then (it’s a 16-auditorium multiplex now). Also note the size of the theaters, quite a contrast to the present day when many auditoriums in current multiplexes are just 50 seats! And especially take note of the ticket prices!!! This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column was published in the Deseret News on May 19, 1983.

If you read this column and say to yourself — “Enough on ‘Return of the Jedi’ already,” you are obviously not one of those dozens of people who have called me asking for information regarding play dates, admission prices, show times and other bits of trivia about how the film will be shown.

If you are one of those who has called — you can stop now. Here’s the latest:

“Return of the Jedi” will open at two theaters in the Salt Lake Valley next Wednesday (May 26) – the Plitt Centre downtown and the Century Complex on 33rd South near State Street.

Watch for traffic jams in those areas, because if the calls I’ve been getting are any indication, the audience is ready to start lining up any minute.

     

The 1983 line for 'Return of the Jedi' at a Lowe's Theater in Los Angeles.

The Plitt Centre Theater downtown has 1,174 seats and will play “Jedi” in 70mm (that’s mammoth wide-screen, in case you’d forgotten) and Dolby Stereo. Admission there is currently $4.50, and discount tickets will not be accepted during the first five weeks (if you only have $2.50 in your pocket, hold it until July 5).

The Century Complex will play the film on two screens, one, seating 575 people, will be in 70mm and Dolby, and the other, in 35mm (that’s the standard size) and Dolby, will seat 550. Admission there is also $4.50, and there will be no $2 economy seating price for “Jedi” showings.

It is possible that admission prices could rise to $5 for adults. On the other hand, in the competitive spirit, the two theaters could try to undercut each other, reducing admission prices. But no one is saying for sure at this point.

     

         Salt Lake City's Centre Theater, circa 1966.

As to show times, you’ll have to look at the ads in the newspaper for specifics, but it’s interesting to note that the Centre will essentially screen it around the clock. The first show each day will be 8 a.m., and the last will be 15 minutes after midnight.

To my knowledge, that’s an earlier start and later end to a screening weekday than has ever been offered before locally. As one colleague of mine noted, it’s possible to see the first show before you go to work in the morning — if you’re a bit late. The Century will also run all day, beginning around 10 a.m.

And if you only have $2.50 and don’t want to wait five weeks to know what “Jedi” reveals, you could run down to the Magazine Shop downtown and buy the Marvel comic book, which costs exactly that.

And for those in other areas around the state, “Jedi” will also play in 70mm and Dolby at the Cinedome in Ogden, and in 35mm and Dolby at both the University Mall in Orem and the Capitol Theater in Logan.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

THROUGH A SCREEN DARKLY

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019

“Dark Waters” and “Waves” give us some Oscar bait this week, while “The Aeronauts” appears to be pure entertainment. Nothing wrong with that.

“Dark Waters” (PG-13). An attorney (Mark Ruffalo) working for a big-city firm that defends giant corporations discovers some disturbing truths about one of his clients, DuPont, which has been allowing dangerously polluted seepage to enter the water systems of West Virginia farmland. Based on a 2016 true story published in New York Times Magazine. With Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and Bill Pullman.

“The Aeronauts” (PG-13). In 1862 a daredevil balloon pilot (Felicity Jones) and a pioneering meteorologist (Eddie Redmayne, playing a real-life character) attempt to fly higher than anyone has ever gone in an effort to learn more about weather. With Himesh Patel and Tom Courtenay.

  

“Waves” (R). A high school senior on the wrestling team self-medicates when he develops a physical problem so he won’t disappoint his well intentioned but domineering father, and his life becomes more complicated when his girlfriend discovers she is pregnant, which ultimately leads to tragedy and a road to forgiveness. With Kevin Harrison Jr. Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown.

“Frankie” (PG-13, in English and in French with English subtitles). Isabelle Huppert and Marisa Tomei star in this exploration of three generations of a European family that comes together in Portugal, where family dynamics prove to be uncomfortable. With Greg Kinnear and Brendan Gleeson.(Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

  

“Knives and Skin” (PG-13). The eccentric populace of a small Midwestern town reacts in different ways to the news that a young high school student has disappeared in this psychological thriller that takes come cues from “Twin Peaks.”

“The Islands” (PG-13). Chiefess Kapiolani embraces Christianity and helps spread the word throughout the Hawaiian Islands circa 1823 with the help of Baptist missionaries. Mira Sorvino is the most recognizable cast member in this Christian film. (Exclusively at the Regal Crossroads Theaters.)

“Playmobil: The Movie” (Not Rated). A girl enters a fanciful world to find her younger brother in this English-language French-animated feature, which is based on a German building toy but looks like a “Lego Movie” knock-off. Voice-cast members include Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Lambert and Kenan Thompson.

  

“Rising Free” (PG-13). A young woman on the run in the wilds of Oregon in the late 1800s is taken in by a kindly pioneer family, but soon enough her past catches up with her. (Exclusively at the Regal Crossroads Theaters.)

“The Whistleblower” (Not Rated, in English and in Mandarin with English subtitles). After a fatal accident a Chinese expat working for a mining company in Australia learns that he company’s new technology may be come with health risks, so he investigates to learn the truth. (Exclusively at the AMC West Jordan Theaters.)

“En Brazos de un Asesino” (R, in Spanish with English subtitles). An assassin for hire comes to a drug lord’s lair to collect his pay and meets a woman who’s been imprisoned there for nine years. When she hides in his car to escape, the hitman discover his conscience in this thriller from the Dominican Republic (Exclusively at the Megaplex Valley Fair Mall Theaters.)


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

ACE VENTURA, PET DETECTIVE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: As you’ll see, the two Ace Ventura films that made Jim Carrey a star in the mid-1990s are not among my favorites. Not that I haven’t enjoyed some later Carrey pictures, such as ‘The Mask’ (1994), ‘Liar Liar’ (1997), ‘The Truman Show’ (1998) and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004). But those first two … well, I’ll let my reviews speak for themselves, revived here because Sony has reissued both on Blu-ray for the 25th anniversary of the first film. My review of ‘Ace Ventura, Pet Detective’ was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 4, 1994. The second is reviewed elsewhere on this page.

After enduring "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective," I have new respect for Ernest P. Worrell. A little of Jim Carrey's mugging goofiness goes a long way … and 90 minutes is way too much.

Carrey, a comedian whose biggest claim to fame is a number of weird characters on TV's "In Living Color," stars here as the title character, so-called because he ferrets out a living, so to speak, by rescuing stolen, kidnapped and lost pets. He also takes a vast number of them into his home, which drives his landlord nuts.

The plot has Carrey being hired by Miami Dolphins marketing director Courteney Cox to track down the team's kidnapped mascot, a trained dolphin whose absence is sure to cause the team to play poorly during the upcoming Super Bowl. (Shouldn't this film have opened a couple of weeks ago?)

     

Jim Carrey and friends, 'Ace Ventura, Pet Detective' (1994)

Later, quarterback Dan Marino is also kidnapped, but have no fear — Carrey's on the case. And, of course, Carrey and Cox begin an affair, though they seem as ill-matched as any wrong-for-each-other screen couple in the history of film. (But then, who would be right for Carrey's idiot persona?)

Carrey also has regular run-ins with the local police chief, played by Sean Young as a tough-as-nails man-eater.

The desire here is obviously to create a comic character that will be accepted as a ’90s Inspector Clouseau. But there is no cleverness, no intricately choreographed gags, no charm — everything is cheap, sleazy or over the top.

     

Young and Cox gamely try to support Carrey's madness but wind up looking rather embarrassed. They will no doubt be signing up new agents soon.

As for Carrey's comic style, it's very much from the Jerry Lewis school of throw-in-every-broad-gesture-possible-and-make-fun-of-everything-in-sight. But after a while, the audience may wish he'd just settle down, as his never-ending silliness just gets extremely tiresome.

On the other hand, they'll probably love him in France.

"Ace Ventura" is rated PG-13, which seems awfully tame considering the amount of raunchy humor here, with gags about sex, the male anatomy and any number of vulgar subjects. There is also an abundance of profanity and comic violence.


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

THE PRINCESS BRIDE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes a zany premise just works and this one comes together on all levels, and looks even better now than it did 33 years ago — and it looked pretty good back then. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen a trip to Ogden might be worth the drive; it’s showing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in Ogden's Egyptian Theater. My review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 9, 1987.

William Goldman’s popular novel “The Princess Bride” has at last come to the screen, adapted by Goldman himself. And why not? Goldman has two Oscars on his mantle already (for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”), and he’s given us “Marathon Man,” “Harper” and many others in the past.

And Rob Reiner, whose “Stand By Me” and “The Sure Thing” proved movies about kids don’t have to be stupid, has directed with great affection for the material and a wonderful sense of comedy.

On the surface these two men may seem like odd collaborators for this venture, considering it is very much a movie quite unlike anything either has done before. But consider this: Goldman’s “Princess Bride” is to “Robin Hood” what “Butch Cassidy” was to “The Searchers.” He has somehow managed to affect both an homage to the genre and a spoof of same.

     

Fred Savage, left, Peter Falk, 'The Princess Bride' (1987)

You may recall that “Butch Cassidy” was a similar accomplishment. His western managed to really be a western in every best sense of that word, yet he had great fun spoofing cowboy conventions. And “The Princess Bride” is very much a fairy tale/adventure that would be great fun on its own but with an added dimension of hilarious comedy.

Reiner’s first was “This Is Spinal Tap!,” both a satire of rock documentaries and at the same time a very real-looking documentary-style homage to rock music and musicians.

This was indeed the perfect match.

“The Princess Bride” also manages to correctly capture Goldman’s story-within-a-story motif. As the film begins, a modern-day young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed. When his mother enters his room he switches off his video games but he soon wishes she’d left them on. Grandpa (Peter Falk) comes in and announces he would like to read the boy a fairy tale.

The lad’s reluctance gradually lets down, however, as he interrupts his grandfather, at first complaining that this sounds like “a kissing book,” but eventually because he can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, the story Grandpa is reading unfolds before us as we meet Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her true love Westley (Cary Elwes).

     

Westley goes off to find his fortune, vowing to return to Buttercup, but word eventually comes back that he has been killed by a pirate. So Buttercup allows herself to be betrothed to the kingdom’s evil prince (Chris Sarandon), who plans to kill her. Then. …

Come to think of it, I don’t want to give too much away — so suffice to say there are kidnappings, giants, magicians, monsters and all sorts of other wonderfully funny and scary things going on here — including the most hilarious fencing match (between Patinkin and Elwes) since Danny Kaye squared off against Basil Rathbone in “The Court Jester” — adding up to completely enchanting entertainment for all ages.

Very young children will doubtless be frightened by the sea serpents and giant rats but for the most part this is one of those rare films that will delight every age group.

“The Princess Bride” isn’t perfect. There are technical glitches, such as edited camera shots that don’t quite match and cardboard mountains and trees that look very much like cardboard mountains and trees — but for me that just added to the zany sense of fun. And it could be argued that Billy Crystal, under tons of makeup, doing a Mel Brooks-style “2000-Year-Old-Man” voice as an aged sorcerer, is out of place — but he’s so funny you won’t care.

Both Goldman and Reiner deserve applause for their accomplishment, and the wonderful cast (did I mention Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Peter Cook and Andre the Giant) is obviously relishing every moment.

This is in some ways a non-vulgar, Americanized version of how Monty Python might do a fairy tale. And it is great fun from start to finish.

“The Princess Bride” is rated PG for violence (there is some blood, several deaths and a couple of torture scenes) and two profanities (one spoken by the young boy in bed, one by Patinkin).


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

ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS

           

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s a new Blu-ray out of this second and final film in the brief franchise that made Jim Carrey a movie superstar. My review of ‘Ace Ventura, Pet Detective’ is elsewhere on this page. My review of this one was published in the Deseret News on Nov. 12, 1995.

Maybe a more accurate title would have been "Ace Ventura: Take the Money and Run," as this sloppy, incoherent sequel seems to have blown its entire budget on Jim Carrey's $10 million salary.

"Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" relies almost entirely on Carrey's physical antics and grotesque mugging, as well as the expected bodily-function jokes, which include vomiting, spitting, urinating, masturbating, flatulence and just about anything else most of us would rather he kept private.

In fact, there is such desperation here that Carrey and writer-director (and Carrey's pal) Steve Oedekerk even forget their target audience from time to time.

Will the 12-year-olds who dominate the audience get the R-rated movie spoofs (the film opens with a "Cliffhanger" send-up) or verbal references to old TV programs (Carrey does a William Shatner imitation that relates to a "Twilight Zone" episode)?

On the other hand, even if they don't, will they care? (Talk about your critic-proof movies!)

Carrey has built such a loyal following in a relatively short period of time that he could probably spend an hour and a half eating pages from the phone book and the audience would come.

Actually, that might have been more entertaining.

     

The meager story has to do with Ace Ventura's latest case. Still wearing his bright floral shirts and towering pompadour, Ace has taken a vow of celibacy and as the film begins he is meditating with Buddhist monks … and periodically driving them crazy. (They throw a party when he finally leaves to accept a pet-detective job.)

His assignment is to find a missing sacred white bat in the jungles of Africa. If he succeeds, two rival tribes will call a truce. If not, it means war.

But that is merely a thread on which to hang the expected skits, which have Ace wrestling crocodiles a la Tarzan, crawling out of a mechanical rhino so that it appears the creature is giving birth to him (in front of a jeepload of school kids, of course), offering the Tarzan yell with his "talking butt" routine, and generally trying to see how gross he can get with the film's gags and still qualify for a PG-13 rating.

In interviews for this film, Carrey has been pondering his new multimillion-dollar-contract status, saying that he asked himself every day on the set whether his actions were worth the enormous amounts of money he's being paid.

     

If we ask that question strictly in terms of whether box-office return justifies the means, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Is Sharon Stone worth her multimillion-dollar deals? No, because she hasn't had a hit since "Basic Instinct." But Carrey delivers at the box office.

The real question, however, is whether fans will continue to support him if he churns out more quick-and-dirty efforts like this. Fool me once, shame on you, etc.

Perhaps if I was a young boy for whom finger-shadows of nose-picking held some peculiar delight, I would see Carrey's work differently. As it is, oral surgery is more appealing than the prospect of having to review "Ace Ventura 3: Potty Jokes We Forgot Last Time."

"Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgarity, sex, nudity and comic violence.