GREMLINS - Home
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE …
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.
IS THERE A DOLITTLE IN THE HOUSE
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020
A new, oddly action-packed version of “Doctor Dolittle” opens this weekend, along with a belated sequel and several art-house films.
“Dolittle” (PG). Robert Downey Jr. stars as Hugh Lofting’s beloved Doctor Dolittle in this live-action/computer-animation mix that has the Victorian-era vet who has conversations with animals setting out on a voyage to find a mythical island that has a cure for Queen Victoria’s ailments. With Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent and a voice cast that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Octavia Spencer, Criag Robinson, Tom Holland, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez.
“Bad Boys for Life” (R). This third in the infrequent action-comedy franchise (the first film was released in 1995, the second in 2003) reunites Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Miami Police detectives Mike and Marcus. This time they’ve gone their separate ways, Mike as a police inspector and Marcus training millennial cops, but they are reunited when a fierce cartel mob boss comes after them with revenge on his mind. With Vanessa Hudgens and Joe Pantoliano.
“Invisible Life” (R, in Portuguese and Greek with English subtitles). In 1950 Rio de Janeiro, two young adult sisters living at home with conservative parents dream of better lives, one to become a renowned pianist and the other to find true love. But soon they are separated, one taken to Europe while the other stays in Rio, each determined to find the other again. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)
“Les Misérables” (R, in French with English subtitles). After a divorce, a young French police officer moves to Paris to be near his son and finds himself assigned to the impoverished suburb where Victor Hugo wrote the famous titular novel. As part of the local Anti-Crime Brigade he investigates the theft of a baby lion from a circus, which leads to a confrontation with a young thief and his cronies that is streamed by a drone and spirals into a neighborhood riot. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)
“Varda By Agnès” (Not Rated). This personal autobiographical documentary about her own career was the final film by acclaimed French filmmaker Agnès Varda (“Cléo from 5 to 7,” “Faces Places”), a free-spirited cinematic tour through her six-decade artistic journey. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)
“Cunningham” (PG). Merce Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer who died a decade ago at the age of 90, is profiled in this unique 3-D documentary, which focuses on three decades, 1944-72, and includes members of his dance company performing in such evocative backdrops as a tunnel, a rooftop and a forest. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)
“Weathering With You” (PG-13; depending on the showtime you choose this film is in Japanese with English subtitles or dubbed in English). Japanese-anime romantic fantasy about a high school boy who runs away from his home in Tokyo and is befriended by a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather.
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.
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.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sure, ‘Gremlins’ is a Christmas movie! The same way ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas movie! So if you’d like to revisit ‘Gremlins’ on the big screen, it will play Saturday, Dec. 7, at 1 p.m. in the Regal Crossroads theaters in Taylorsville. My review was published on June 8, 1984.
“Gremlins” opens with a pre-credits sequence in that mystical state of mind, Chinatown. Which Chinatown or where it is we’re never told. But it looks very much like an old waterfront movie, as goofy inventor Hoyt Axton tries to peddle his wares, at the same time looking for a Christmas present for his son.
In an old, worn shop, Axton tries to sell mysterious Keye Luke, who wears a glass eye, his latest invention, the “Bathroom Buddy,” an automatic razor/toothbrush/comb combination that tends to spit toothpaste all over its user. Luke’s not very interested.
Then Axton spots a wooden box emitting strange squeaks, goes over and is fascinated by its contents, a little singing creature called a mogwai. He wants to buy it as a pet for his son, but Luke won’t sell. His grandson, however, knows they need the money, so he spirits the creature to Axton outside the shop, explaining that there are three important rules to follow in caring for a mogwai: Don’t expose him to bright lights (“sunlight will kill him”), don’t get him wet, and especially don’t feed him after midnight.
Axton goes home to the small town of Kingston Falls — again in Anywhere, USA — and presents the new pet to his adult son (Zach Galligan), a would-be cartoonist who works in the local bank. The mogwai is dubbed “Gizmo.”
And that’s when the magic of “Gremlins” really begins to weave its spell.
Another stunning bit of movie magic, blending the mechanics of “E.T.” with the furry cuteness of the Muppets, the little mogwai seems amazingly real, and is sure to capture the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.
Phoebe Cates, Zach Galligan and Gizmo, 'Gremlins' (1984)
After a while, Galligan begins to find that his mogwai is also very intelligent. It reads, watches television and even corrects him as they play a tune together on a small piano.
But then, the inevitable happens. Water and late-night feedings lead to some scary moments as several little mogwai appear on the scene (in much the same way that tribbles multiplied on an old “Star Trek” episode) and they go into a transitory state — eventually turning into nasty, vicious mischief-makers who go wild and virtually destroy Kingston Falls, killing quite a few people along the way.
I don’t want to go into the details of how the film unfolds, since that is a major part of the joy of “Gremlins” — there are surprises at every turn — but before you pack up your little ones for this picture, be advised that the film goes from a benign sweetness in the “E.T.” vein to a horror-movie motif, with the nasty mogwai resembling Muppets going berserk.
In some ways the nature of this film is best tipped off by a scene in the movie itself, where the leader of the rapidly multiplying mogwai is on a toy shelf in a department store when he flips an E.T. doll to the floor. “Gremlins” is the flip side of “E.T.”
Yet, despite the mayhem they cause, you have to love the little guys when they set up their own midnight screening of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and sing along with it.
“Gremlins” is also a movie buff’s dream, with more in-jokes and references to old movies than any film in recent memory — or perhaps ever. A movie double-bill at a Kingston Falls theater is playing “A Boy’s Life” and “Watch the Skies,” which were the working titles of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” and “Close Encounters.” “Watch the Skies” was also the last line in the original version of “The Thing,” and that film’s star Kenneth Tobey has a small role in “Gremlins.”
Gizmo celebrates the holidays on a keyboard in 'Gremlins' (1984)
Robby the Robot makes an appearance and quotes from “Forbidden Planet.” In the background at an inventor’s convention you can see “The Time Machine,” which has mysteriously disappeared in the next scene. Jackie Joseph and Dick Miller play a Kingston Falls married couple, both having appeared in the cult classic “The Little Shop of Horrors.” And Kingston Falls looks suspiciously like the town featured in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” — which this film in many ways resembles.
But you don’t have to be able to spot any of these things to enjoy “Gremlins.” It’s just an added bonus for movie fans like me and a trademark of director Joe Dante, who did the same thing in “Piranha” and “The Howling,” as well as his segment of “Twilight Zone — The Movie.”
One aspect of this film is like an extension of the latter, with Dante paying homage to Warner Brothers cartoons, right down to having animator Chuck Jones in a cameo role. (And some of the mogwai themselves resemble the cartoon Tasmanian devil.)
“Gremlins” is also a frenetically paced movie and you may feel a bit frazzled when it’s over, if not completely wrung out. But you will certainly have had your money’s worth. Dante is a dazzling director.
Most of the actors are very good here, especially Axton, whose low-key style is a perfect counterpoint to the bevy of weird inventions he is constantly coming up with. Zach Galligan, a newcomer, is a very appealing youngster who should have a bright future in films. Polly Holliday scores well as the mean-spirited owner of half the town. And Frances Lee McCain is wonderful as Galligan’s mother, who doesn’t take kindly to what the mogwai do to her kitchen.
On the downside, Phoebe Cates proves that keeping her clothes on doesn’t make her a better actress, and that comes to an embarrassing zenith when she explains why she hates Christmas, which is unbelievably unfunny and should have been cut.
Rated PG, but decidedly not for young children, being loaded with violence, “Gremlins” is a lot of fun for film enthusiasts, special-effects fans and those who are looking for a wild-eyed piece of escapism.
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.