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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

TRUE BELIEVER

     

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

EDITOR’S NOTE: A rather forgotten film of the late 1980s is this thriller, with Robert Downey Jr. playing a role that was emblematic of his early career, playing a young, often idealistic newcomer that learns the hard way from a seasoned, often hardened, veteran (in this case, James Woods). This one’s pretty good and deserves its Blu-ray revival from the Mill Creek disc label. My review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 17, 1989.

After his ill-fated “Cop” and “The Boost,” James Woods has finally come up with a winner in “True Believer,” a murder mystery that is as involving as his eccentric characterization.

Woods plays a former ’60s protest attorney now practicing in Manhattan, and spending most of his time getting sleazy drug dealers off. Along comes idealistic young law-school graduate Robert Downey Jr., who wants to work with the civil liberties champion he expects to find in Woods.

Naturally, Downey is rather disappointed to see pot-smoking, burned-out Woods has been bought off. But when an intriguing murder case comes into the office, Downey sees it as a way to get Woods back on track.

     

James Woods, left, Robert Downey Jr., 'True Believer' (1989)

The case is a Korean-American who has been in prison for eight years on a murder rap. He claims innocence still, of course, but now he’s charged with killing a fellow inmate as well. For that crime he claims self-defense.

Woods at first refuses the case, but then sees it as a way to take on the establishment one more time, by clearing his client not of the second murder charge, but of the first.

His journey into Chinatown and gang warfare and ultimately back into the powers-that-be in Manhattan makes for a complex, believable murder-corruption mystery that is most intriguing as it unravels, and it can be solved by the audience, though not too easily.

One of the problems with murder mysteries today is that they are either far too easy to figure out, following as they do the step-by-step movie-cliché path (as with “Physical Evidence”), or they are impossible to figure out, with the killer being revealed in the end as a red herring (as with “Suspect”).

     

But “True Believer” balances the mystery with offbeat characterizations essential to this genre, while providing plenty of suspense and laughter along the way.

James Woods is terrific, as usual, as the ponytailed, hip lawyer, and he carries the film when it tends to sag. The minor characters, particularly among those in the police department, D.A.’s office and the underworld, are quite good, but others, primarily Margaret Colin as a private eye, get short shrift. Robert Downey Jr., in a role that seems patterned after the Emilio Estevez part in “Stakeout,” is purposely low-key but it tends to work against him since everyone else is so flamboyant.

For the most part, however, this is one of the better mystery-suspensers to come along in some time.

“True Believer” is rated R for violence, profanity and considerable drug use (marijuana smoking), along with a fleeting shot of a nude photo.


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

HOOP DREAMS

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 24, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Salt Lake art houses the Broadway Centre and Tower theaters are running a series of vintage films, several each week, under the banner, ‘The Greatest: Life-Changing Documentaries,’ through June and into July. A highlight next week is ‘Hoop Dreams,’ playing afternoons at the Tower beginning Friday, May 31. My review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 13, 1995; though unrated at the time, the film has since received a PG-13. (For updates on the principles involved, go to these links: Internet Movie DatabaseWikipediaThe GuardianChicago Tribune.) And if you miss it at the Tower, it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

"Hoop Dreams" follows two inner-city Chicago youths during their high school years, boys who display a natural talent for basketball and who are encouraged to pursue the American Dream, which in this case means aiming for an NBA contract. (OK, maybe it's the Nike Dream.)

As the film begins, it seems obvious which of the two will most successfully chase that dream — but by the end, the characters seem to have switched places, after their lives have taken a variety of unexpected twists and turns in this nearly three-hour epic journey.

Meanwhile, the boys themselves display remarkable character, fortitude and dedication, despite the pressures, family problems and economic difficulties that bear down on them.

This is the plotting and character development of great drama, the kind that makes the best movies so compelling and believable. Except that in this case it wasn't scripted. "Hoop Dreams" is a documentary, and these kids — along with their families and friends — are real. And filmmakers Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert, who dedicated seven years to this project, have come up with a film that is so rich, so involving, so compelling … that superlatives seem inadequate.

     

Told in a chronological, straightforward manner, the film has only occasional narrative interruptions, necessary to clarify certain moments.

"Hoop Dreams" begins as young Arthur Agee is spotted by a "street scout" who is on the lookout for talented ball players. He sees Arthur playing street ball and recommends him to St. Joseph High School, famed alma mater of Isiah Thomas, superstar player for the Detroit Pistons — and Arthur's longtime personal hero.

But in this largely white Catholic school, Arthur begins to falter. He confesses that he is intimidated at being surrounded by white people, he isn't used to the kind of pressure his coach exerts, and his grades, which were low to begin with, do not improve. As a result, his self-confidence begins to wane.

There are problems at home, also. His parents split up as his father sinks into a crack-cocaine habit and eventually goes to prison (he later gets himself straight and, for a time, is reunited with the family). Meanwhile, Arthur's mother, suffering from back problems, struggles to keep the family alive, while training to become a nurse's assistant. (One of the film's most emotional moments comes when she achieves that goal.)

But before completing his freshman year at St. Joseph's, Arthur is kicked out of school, leaving his family $1,500 in debt for tuition. Mrs. Agee is one of the film's most compelling characters and in just one of many candid moments, she bitterly says that the St. Joseph's debt is unfair, that she feels deceived by broken promises and that the experience has cost her son his self-confidence.

A couple of years later, as Arthur is progressing through his senior year at public school, he is told he needs his transcripts from St. Joseph's to graduate — but St. Joseph's won't release them until Arthur's parents begin making payments on the $1,500.

     

At the beginning of the movie, as Arthur begins his tenure at St. Joseph's, we also meet the film's second subject, William Gates, a student who seems to be on the fast track for his own superstardom. His coach and a gaggle of self-important sportswriters talk him up as "the next Isiah Thomas."

Though he begins with a disappointing academic status that parallels Arthur's, William's grades improve remarkably and he is the light of his coach's eye. But soon William is sidelined by an injury, which has a dispiriting effect on him.

At home, William lives with his mother and siblings. His father, who has been gone for some time, pops up late in the picture but is never a figure in William's life. At St. Joseph's, William's talent and prospects have prompted school officials to find him a sponsor, alleviating tuition problems, but after he fathers a child and ponders marriage, he becomes more and more disillusioned with both school and basketball.

There is much more here, with plots and subplots masterfully woven together by the filmmakers, along with a huge number of amazingly well-drawn characters — from parents, siblings and friends who figure in the boys' day-to-day lives to authority figures who appear only briefly.

Much more than a movie, "Hoop Dreams" is a genuinely heartfelt experience. It works on so many levels and successfully explores so many issues that not only is the audience left thinking about each in a new light, audience-members are also bound to have new respect for documentary filmmaking as an art form.

"Hoop Dreams," which won the Audience Award at last year's Sundance Film Festival, is not rated but would probably get a PG-13 for a few scattered profanities (mostly from coaches during the heat of practice) and some cussing in a rap song, which one character listens to on a CD player.


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.