BLOG: New thoughts/old stories BLOG: New thoughts/old stories

HAPPY (OR GREEDY) ANNIVERSARY

          

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 16, 2021

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: You may have noticed that home video loves an anniversary, which is to say the studios are up for any excuse to re-release titles from their libraries. Hey, it’s all profit for something that was in theaters 20 years ago or 25 years ago or 75 years ago. This year there’s already been the 25th anniversary reissues of ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and coming up are the 40th anniversary re-releases of ‘Chariots of Fire’ (April 20) and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (June 8). So this nine-year-old column, published on May 10, 2012, seems appropriate to review — and maybe it will remind you of a title or two you’d like to watch (again).

 

Movie studios love to re-release older films on their anniversaries. Any excuse to squeeze a few extra bucks from fans of a fondly remembered title, especially now that upgrading them from DVD to Blu-ray offers an additional incentive.

 

Some of the more popular pictures, from “Citizen Kane” to “Star Wars,” have been released in so many VHS/DVD/Blu-ray sets that completists — those really obsessive fans that have to own every new edition — could conceivably have as many as 10 different versions of the same title on their shelves.

 

So far this year we’ve had Paramount’s “To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition” (its Blu-ray debut) and a massive box set from Warner Bros., “Casablanca: 70th Anniversary Edition,” marking the umpteenth reissue for both. Even 20th Century Fox’s “Wizards: 35th Anniversary Edition” marks that film’s fourth or fifth home video release.

 

And if a studio doesn’t have enough “classic” titles whose dates work out, there are other celebratory excuses. How about the fact that the studio itself has managed to endure for a century? That’s what one of the major movie studios is doing this year with a string of titles under this banner: “Universal 100th Anniversary Collector’s Series.”

 

Universal’s 100th has so far given us Blu-ray book-packaged re-releases of a number of off-year vintage favorites, including “All Quiet On the Western Front,” “Out of Africa,” “Buck Privates” and “Pillow Talk,” along with regular Blu-ray reissues of “The Deer Hunter,” “Charade,” “My Man Godfrey” and “Sullivan’s Travels.” And it’s only May.

 

          

 

There are many others that could conceivably celebrate even-numbered anniversaries in 2012, some of them yearned-for titles, so here are that I’d like to see:

 

— It’s the 90th anniversary of Harold Lloyd’s 1922 silent feature “Grandma’s Boy,” in which he’s inspired by his grandmother’s stories of their ancestors. This very funny picture has historical significance as well. Along with Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” the year before, “Grandma’s Boy” is a pioneer of the long-form comedy, proving that audiences would respond to character development and story depth in a feature-length farce.

 

— An 80th anniversary worth noting is the jungle melodrama “Red Dust,” starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. One of 1932’s biggest moneymakers, this one still has a large fan base and in 2006 was cited as worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. Yet, believe it or not, “Red Dust” has never been on DVD! (Where’s Warner Archive when you need them?)

 

— In addition to “Casablanca,” it’s also the 70th anniversary of a pair of 1942 Veronica Lake vehicles, neither of which has seen the light of DVD: “The Glass Key,” a terrific film noir thriller co-starring Alan Ladd, and “I Married a Witch,” a witty supernatural comedy with Frederic March. (Maybe we need a Veronica Lake box set!)

 

— It’s the 60th anniversary of “The Quiet Man.” If ever a movie screamed out for a Blu-ray upgrade, it’s this boisterous 1952 romantic comedy-drama starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and directed by the great John Ford. This is a lovely ode to Ford’s beloved Ireland, and he won an Oscar for it, as did his cinematographers for their gorgeous, eye-popping location filming on the Emerald Isle.

 

— Similar sentiments can be expressed for “Lawrence of Arabia,” another winner of multiple Oscars, including best picture, best director (David Lean) and best cinematography. This one came out in 1962 and shares its 50th anniversary year with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and while it’s nice to have that one in high definition now, I’m not sure there’s any movie that has more fans clamoring for a Blu-ray upgrade than “Lawrence of Arabia.”

 

 

 

— From 1972, it’s the 40th anniversary of “Jeremiah Johnson,” and the good news is that Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack’s outdoor adventure, which has loads of gorgeous Utah scenery, has been released on Blu-ray for the first time.

 

— And 30th anniversary films from 1982 that have not yet found their way to Blu-ray include the top three moneymakers of that year: “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (really, “Poltergeist” from the same year is on Blu-ray but not “E.T”?),  “Tootsie” and “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

 

Earlier this year, Disney reissued “Good Morning, Vietnam” for its Blu-ray debut but did not make note of its 25th anniversary this year. Hey, 1987 also brought three of my personal favorites: “84 Charing Cross Road,” “La Bamba” and “Radio Days,” none yet in hi-def.

 

And, realistically, those three are not likely to go there. In fact, there’s a much higher probability of getting a 10th anniversary reissue of 2002’s “27 Dresses” or “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” even though they’re already on Blu-ray.

 

Of course, the major studios don’t always wait for celebratory excuses. “Chinatown,” for example, received its Blu-ray debut in 2012, just last month, even though it’s only two years away from its 40th anniversary.

 

There could be a practical reason, I suppose. Maybe Paramount isn’t sure Blu-rays will still be a go-to technology two years from now.

 

EDITOR’S ENDNOTE: All of the movies listed here are now available on DVD and those cited as needing Blu-ray upgrades have received them. Also, a new home-video technology, 4K, did come along a few years later — and now we have online streaming, which is rapidly attempting to overtake all of these formats.


New Movies In TheatersThis Week New Movies In TheatersThis Week

ANOTHER WEAK WEEK

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 16, 2021

 

Only three new movies are opening this week, and as you might expect since we’ve been getting a lot of them lately, one is a horror flick, another is a wild thriller and both are British.

 

“SAS: Red Notice” (R). A Special Forces operative (“Outlander’s” Sam Heughan) goes up against an army of mercenaries who are plotting to blow up the Channel Tunnel underwater railway that connects England and France in this British thriller. With Hannah John-Kamen, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis and Tom Wilkinson.

 

“In the Earth” (R). As the world searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, a scientist and a park scout venture deep into a forest for a routine equipment check and encounter a folk legend come to life as an evil spirit causes physics-defying events and terrorizes the two. British horror yarn.

 

“Monday” (R). Sebastian Stan (best known as Marvel’s Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier character) and Denise Gough (an Irish actress) star in this tale of two Americans who meet on a Friday, spend a weekend together in Athens and then must decide if it’s a fling or something more serious. This drama has already garnered a reputation for its depictions of graphic sex.


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

THE WILD LIFE

          

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 16, 2021

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another inexplicable Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber, which is fast becoming less of a boutique operation than a desperate one. My very negative review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 5, 1984. The late Chris Penn (bother of Sean) stars; he would suffer an untimely death at age 40 in 2006. (FYI, if you want to play spot-the-star, in addition to those mentioned in the review, the film also features Eric Stoltz, Hart Bochner and Sherilyn Fenn, as well as filmmaker Cameron Crowe (‘Jerry Maguire’) and musician Nancy Wilson (of the band Heart).

 

If you’ve seen the ads for this film, you might think it’s little more than another “Porky’s” clone. And you’d be right. Somehow, however, this one makes “Porky’s” look like high art.

 

“The Wild Life” is from the author and producer of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” which had as its one saving grace a very funny wacko supporting performance from Sean Penn as a spaced-out surfer. “The Wild Life” has Christopher Penn, brother of Sean, in a similar role – but he’s the nominal lead and about half as funny.

 

What little story there is has Penn as a wild party-time guy whose limited vocabulary consists mostly of reacting with, “It’s casual,” to any given situation.

 

          

 

     Eric Stoltz, left, Chris Penn, 'The Wild Life' (1984)

 

He moves into a swinging singles apartment with a much more sedate buddy, and needless to say, this teenage “Odd Couple” gets into and out of a number of vulgar, idiotic, stupid situations intended to be much funnier than they are.

 

As usual, females are sex objects, males are jerks and everybody wants sex, beer and drugs, not necessarily in that order.

 

Subplots abound, including Rick Moranis as a wimpy (what else?) department store manager trying to hit on Penn’s girlfriend; Lea Thompson as a clerk in a donut shop, being led on by a married cop; and two younger boys who idolize a doped-up Vietnam veteran, with Randy Quaid as the vet, a role that lasts about two minutes.

 

A Van Halen score battles a number of popular ’60s tunes by Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, etc – and the ’60s tunes win by a mile.

 

Penn has proven his ability to project screen charm in “All the Right Moves” and “Footloose,” but in the underwritten part given him here, he just flounders.

 

          

 

    Rick Moranis, Jenny Wright, 'The Wild Life' (1984)

 

Lea Thompson is likewise a strong screen presence, and Jenny Wright as her best friend fares pretty well here, but they too drown in the material.

 

Directed by Art Linson — whose only other directing effort is the dreadful “Where the Buffalo Roam,” which has the distinction of being Bill Murray’s only box-office flop — the attempts at humor are forced, and gag after gag thuds as the film progresses.

 

But “The Wild Life” also tries to be serious, and subplots about the married cop and the Vietnam Vet become downright embarrassing in their clichéd predictability.

 

The real question is, what in the world are Rick Moranis and Randy Quaid doing in trash like this?

 

Rated R for sex, nudity, profanity, violence and vulgarity, all in abundance, “The Wild Life” is a bore and a drag on every count.


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.

Older Movies On the Big Screen Older Movies On the Big Screen

BOYZ N THE HOOD

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: John Singleton died last year at age 51 but he will always be remembered for the critically and commercially successful drama ‘Boyz N the Hood,’ which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and earned him status as the first black filmmaker to be nominated for a best-director Oscar, and as the youngest person to be so nominated. He was 24. To celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are presenting a big-screen revival that will play in local Megaplex and Cinemark multiplexes on Sunday, Feb.. 28, and Wednesday, March 3. My review was published on July 14, 1991.

 

"Boyz N the Hood" could easily be dismissed by cynics — in particular those who haven't seen it — as just another angry black film finding its way into theaters on the heels of Spike Lee's mainstream, studio-backed success. And the cynic in me does see that as part of the reason Columbia Pictures picked up this low-budget independent picture.

 

But "Boyz" is the best so far of the string of such movies we've gotten recently because it is more thoughtful than angry and focuses on its characters rather than their tragedies.

 

                

 

Actor Ice Cube, left, and writer/director John Singleton, 'Boyz N the Hood' (1991).

 

The central character in this ensemble piece is young Tre (Desi Arnez Hines II), whom we meet when he's 10 years old. His mother reluctantly decides to let him move in with his father (Larry Fishburne), whose South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood seems to be a fairly ordinary, lower-income suburb — until you start noticing the background noises and the subject of the conversations between Tre and his friends.

 

The sounds are sirens and helicopters, so distracting that we see at one point a high school girl at home unable to concentrate on her studies. Casual conversation often centers around drugs, sex and drive-by shootings, all ordinary, everyday concerns to these kids.

 

After Tre settles in and the characters are established, "Boyz" jumps forward seven years as Tre (now played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his buddies are seniors in high school.

 

His best friend Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a football star who is attracting college scholarship attention, is saddled with a young wife and child; Ricky's brother Doughboy (rap star Ice Cube) is into drugs and theft; another friend has wound up in a wheelchair, apparently the result of a drive-by shooting; and Tre is frustrated with his chaste girlfriend. All are worried and confused about their futures — if they have futures.

 

        

 

Ultimately, they will become involved in the neighborhood violence they've strived so long to avoid, with tragic results. But 22-year-old writer-director John Singleton isn't a doomsayer. And while there are lengthy speeches here about solutions to problems, he manages to avoid preachiness or the temptation to justify radical action.

 

Rather, he approaches the subjects he raises quite simply, suggesting each person is responsible for his or her own actions. And in the end, though there is certainly tragedy and frustration, Singleton also allows a glimmer of hope.

 

Though "Boyz N the Hood" does falter here and there, overall it is very affecting, with many powerful moments and understated performances. Singleton proves he understands the language of the medium better than many of his more seasoned peers.

 

It is unfortunate, however, that Singleton includes what have become the clichés of wall-to-wall profanity and graphic sex, since those elements may well limit his audience.

 

The film is rated R for considerable profanity, as well as violence, sex, nudity, vulgarity and drugs.


New DVDs/Blu-rays, Part II New DVDs/Blu-rays, Part II

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE

          

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 16, 2021

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Criterion Collection has given a Blu-ray boost to another Albert Brooks comedy (the boutique label also distributes ‘Lost in America’), and this one is what I consider to be, arguably, his best film: ‘Defending Your Life,’ co-starring Meryl Streep. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 5, 1991.

 

Not counting the films in which he has been merely a performer (the most memorable being "Broadcast News"), writer-director-comic actor Albert Brooks has made only four features in 12 years, but each has been better than the one before.

 

"Real Life," which had an obnoxious filmmaker following a suburban family around for a documentary, was flawed but occasionally very funny; "Modern Romance," about angst among yuppies who can't commit, similarly ran out of steam before it was over but had some terrifically bright moments; and "Lost in America," with a yuppie couple chucking the materialistic life and hitting the road, only to lose everything at a Las Vegas casino, was a scream before ultimately revealing it could not quite sustain itself to the end.

 

But with "Defending Your Life," Brooks has made his best, most fully realized film, a hysterical look at the afterlife.

 

The premise alone is a winner, beginning with a pre-credits sequence that has Brooks again playing a well-to-do yuppie, this time buying a new car on his birthday only to run head-on into a city bus.

 

          

 

Meryl Streep, Albert Brooks, 'Defending Your Life' (1991)

 

As the credits roll, he awakens in a stupor to find himself being herded with hundreds of others into trams that will take him to Judgment City. He's put up in an adequate hotel and the next day meets with his defense counsel, Rip Torn, who explains that he has died and is in the way station between heaven and Earth.

 

Torn tells him that over the next few days he must confront two judges and a prosecutor (Lee Grant) as they watch selected moments from Brooks' life on a huge video screen. Ultimately, Brooks will either be deemed worthy to move on to the next level of life, or he will return to Earth to give mortality another whirl. He's on his 20th try.

 

Brooks is feeling OK about all this until he meets a woman (Meryl Streep) and falls in love, only to see that she is staying in a posh hotel, viewing far fewer days of her life on Earth and is an obvious candidate for the next level.

 

This is a great idea, and Brooks takes full advantage of its comic potential, showing Judgment City as clean and pristine with everyone dressed in white robes as they visit such amusement sideshows as "The Past-Lives Pavilion," where people can see what some of their other lives on Earth were like. (And special kudos for the side-splitting quick cuts of "misjudgments" in Brooks' life.)

 

          

 

Albert Brooks must answer for himself as scenes from his life are reviewed by a panel that includes a prosecutor (Lee Grant, far right) and a defense lawyer (Rip Torn, far left) in 'Defending Your Life' (1991).

 

In addition to a bevy of sight gags and hilarious set pieces, Brooks has a field day with one-liners and great supporting characters he confronts during his brief stay in Judgment City.

 

Brooks is in fine form, on camera and off, and he's complemented perfectly by Streep, who seems to be having a great time in a wonderful comic role. Torn is also great, filling out the film's own brand of logic as he vaguely answers Brooks' many questions.

 

This may be arguable theology but cinematically it is one riotous piece of entertainment. And if it leaves you thinking a bit about your priorities in this life, who's going to complain?

 

"Defending Your Life" is rated PG for a few scattered profanities and a couple of vulgar jokes.