BLOG BLOG

WHEN CLINTON WAS ‘GUMPED’

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: When I was writing about movies for the Deseret News I would occasionally see Donald Trump — yes, our (insert adjective here) president — in movies doing cameos as himself: ‘The Associate,’ ‘The Little Rascals,’ ‘Two Weeks Notice,’ ‘Zoolander.' And if you look up his credits on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) you’ll see that he has no less than 27 credits in his ‘Filmography’ list and 379 in the ‘Self’ list, meaning talk/variety/political shows on which he was a guest — which includes his appearances on ‘Fox and Friends’ and other shows during the past four years. But it also includes such TV shows as ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Spin City,’ ‘The Drew Carey Show,’ ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and the daytime soap opera ‘All My Children.’ No kidding!

 

But for previous presidents, such frivolous appearances were something they didn’t even consider — to include the years before and after their presidencies. As an example there’s this column I wrote back in the late ’90s. Under the headline ‘Clinton in “Contact” is amusing despite what the White House says,’ published on July 20, 1997.

 

And, strangely, this does dovetail into current politics when altered videos are routinely used to discredit opponents and promulgate disinformation. When fiction becomes prediction, if you will.

 

President Clinton has been Gumped. And he's not happy about it.

Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, who won an Oscar for "Forrest Gump," cleverly worked news-conference footage of the president into "Contact," thanks to the advanced computer technology that so seamlessly blended Tom Hanks' interaction with President Nixon in “Gump."

In "Contact," it appears that Clinton is on the movie set with the film's actors, offering up approval of the space exploration program that is the film's subject.

Of course, our chief executive didn't really participate in the film.

The main speech used was given some months ago in the Rose Garden of the White House, and he's actually discussing a rock believed to have come from Mars. Zemeckis and crew simply placed the video of Clinton into the movie, so that it appears he's in a room with Jodie Foster, Tom Skerritt, James Woods, Angela Bassett and other actors.

  

From left: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Ford, all in their 70s and still doing action films.

Steve Starkey, a co-producer of "Contact," told the Los Angeles Times that presidential speeches "are in the public domain. We didn't alter a word he said. We just digitally replaced the setting. We took him from the Rose Garden to the pressroom."

The White House is not amused, however, and has lodged a complaint with the filmmakers.

Maybe they'd like to put the film in arbitration. Clinton could get into the Screen Actor's Guild, and his speechwriter could receive a writing credit — or at least a fee.

What's most interesting about all this is how well Clinton's remarks fit into the context of "Contact." These particular news clips provide a perfect example of how easily a pontificating generic political speech, which actually says nothing, can be adapted to any situation.

In that sense, it's pretty funny. And I was more amused by Clinton's appearance in the film than anything else. (There was also a titter that ran through the audience when he appeared onscreen.)

On the other hand, it does set a strange precedent. "Contact" may be the first movie to use public domain footage rather than simply hire an actor.

Who knows where it might lead?

Maybe all those 50-year-old action heroes — Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford — will be able to continue doing slam-bang movies longer than anyone thought, with digital computer-generated bodies doing all the work.

They'll be 90, still banging heads and saving the world.

 

And movie producers will still be giving them 25-year-old female co-stars.

  

Wolf Blitzer, left, Bryant Gumbel, Jay Leno, at their day (or late-night) jobs in 1997.

-— CNN RSVP ASAP: Someone else who got his feathers ruffled by "Contact" was CNN President Tom Johnson, whose highest-profile reporters appear in the film, making pronouncements about the fictional plot as if they are reading legitimate news.

CNN's senior news anchor Bernard Shaw, anchors Bobbie Battista and Linden Soles, several field reporters and, of course, Larry King, all show up.

A range of non-CNN types — from Bryant Gumbel to Jay Leno — also appear in "Contact." But because CNN is owned by Time-Warner, which also owns Warner Bros., the movie studio that made "Contact," there has been some question about the ethics of so many CNN reporters showing up on various TV screens in the movie. (Only CNN White House correspondent Wolf Blitzer formally declined.)

Of course, CNN has also been a strong presence in a number of other recent movies — "Independence Day," "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," "Face/Off" and many more.

Johnson said the intention was to help promote the Cable News Network — but now he feels that it has become a bit embarrassing.

Though a formal announcement has not been made Johnson indicated he may not let any of his reporters appear in future movies.

That will be a relief to struggling actors who audition for roles as news anchors.

ENDNOTE: Wolf Blitzer, by the way, has since been seen in such films as ‘The Campaign,’ ’Skyfall’ and ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout,’ along with such TV shows as ‘House of Cards,’ ‘The Brink’ and ‘Alpha

 House.’


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

SEVEN NEW MOVIES AND NOTHING TO WATCH

  

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020

 

It’s a mixed bag of new movies at the multiplexes this weekend, with a couple of independently produced Sundance Film Festival winners appearing to be your best bets. Or you could just wait for them to be on some streaming site, which will happen all too soon.

 

There are also a few older films that have crept into theaters this weekend, including a 1963 classic and a couple of fairly recent films about the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

 

“The Last Shift” (R). A sad, over-the-hill, faintly racist bachelor and former high school jock (Richard Jenkins) is about to retire from a fast-food joint when he clashes with his replacement, a young black man (Shane Paul McGhie) who rails against white privilege in this comedy-drama. With Allison Tolman and Ed O’Neill. (Had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.)

 

“Kajillionaire” (R). Richard Jenkins is also in this comedy-drama (which also had its world premiere at Sundance) about a cynical con artist (Evan Rachel Wood) who works with her criminal parents (Jenkins, Debra Winger) but who feels upended when another crook is invited to join them on a heist. With Gina Rodriguez. (To be on video-on-demand Oct. 16.)

 

“Ava” (R). Jessica Chastain stars as a seasoned assassin working for some kind of killer-for-hire worldwide organization is blindsided by hit gone wrong and begins to think she was set up. With Colin Farrell, Geena Davis, Common, John Malkovich, Joan Chen. (Also available on video-on-demand.)

 

  

 

“Leap” (Not Rated, in Mandarin with English subtitles). Chinese biographical film covers 40 years in the lives of members of China women’s national volleyball team. Gong Li stars as a coach. (Exclusive at the AMC Theater in West Jordan.)

 

“Shortcut” (R). A mysterious monster terrorizes five school kids whose bus has taken a wrong turn in this English-language Italian creature feature.

 

“Break the Silence: The Movie” (Not Rated, in Korean with English subtitles). South Korean documentary follows the band BTS (aka The Bangtan Boys) during its “Love Yourself” world tour and is being sold as a sequel to the 2018 documentary “Burn the Stage: The Movie.”

 

  

 

“Candy Planet” (PG, dubbed in English). A group of kids in a jungle setting perform one task after another — derived from the “Candy Crush Saga” video game — to save their friends on Candy Planet. The full title for this children’s animated feature from China is “Jungle Master 2: Candy Planet.”

 

Older films landing in theaters this weekend include the two about Justice Ginsberg — the biographical film “On the Basis of Sex” and the documentary “RBG,” along with the Hictchcock-like comedy thriller “Charade,” with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, as well as “The Empire Strikes Back” and the animated features “Akira,” “Madagascar,” “The Land Before Time” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” Others that are hanging in there include “Jurassic Park,” “School of Rok,” “Inception” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”


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

FULL METAL JACKET

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanley Kubrick’s still stunning and still disturbing ‘Full Metal Jacket’ recently earned a 4K reissue on video, so here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on July 10, 1987. (And despite my prediction in the final paragraph, none of the actors was nominated for an Oscar, although R. Lee Ermey was nominated for a Golden Globe.)

 

Stanley Kubrick movies are events, no getting around it.

 

When a filmmaker of his stature makes a film only every seven or eight years, his fans tend to look forward to each venture with great expectations.

 

He doesn’t always live up to what we hope for, but even Kubrick’s less successful films — “The Shining,” for example — have so many fascinating elements about them that movie buffs inevitably return to them.

 

And his best films — “Paths of Glory,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001 — A Space Odyssey” — are classics.

 

“Full Metal Jacket,” Kubrick’s dissertation on the Vietnam War, is an oddly structured film, essentially in three parts. The sum of those parts may not add up to a classic but the parts themselves are composed of powerful filmmaking, particularly the final third.

 

       

 

   Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey, 'Full Metal Jacket' (1987)

 

Kubrick has taken a different approach than “Platoon,” so comparisons, though inevitable, are not really valid. Where Oliver Stone followed a rich kid who volunteered for combat and showed us how the war changed him, Kubrick follows his main character – a recruit who becomes a Stars and Stripes reporter – almost incidentally. There is some voice-over narration, but it’s limited, rather stilted and unnecessary. That, however, is where the resemblances end.

 

“Full Metal Jacket” begins in boot camp. You may think you’ve seen it all before, but you haven’t. Not like this.

 

Though the aforementioned main character, Joker (Matthew Modine), is prominent early on, the showstoppers are Vincent D’Onofrio as “Gomer Pyle” and Lee Ermey as the drill instructor. There is little dialogue exchanged here, the soundtrack being filled instead with the obscenities of the D.I. as he puts his troops through the rigors of basic training.

 

The boot camp portrayed here reveals more realistically than any movie I’ve ever seen the combination of comedy and tragedy, humor and heartbreak that make up that eight-to-12 week experience. And the end of this segment is a shocker.

 

Then we follow Joker to Vietnam, where his character is established as a conflicting mix of rebel, trooper, peace-lover and killer. But gradually one of the Marines in his group takes over our attention, Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin).

 

      

 

And before long the latter third of the film takes us to the destroyed city of Hue during the Tet Offensive as this rat-tag bunch of sad sacks find themselves without a leader. The chaos that ensues as they are confronted with a sniper is as powerful a piece of filmmaking as you are likely to see on the subject. It reveals incredibly well the sense of young boys playing war — for keeps — and the difficulty of making decisions in the ultimate stress situation.

 

“Full Metal Jacket” has its flaws but Kubrick’s technical prowess is so overwhelming that those flaws seem largely unimportant. His characters may be underdeveloped, the story may meander from time to time, but the overall picture of the horror of war is clear, and the power with which it is told is at once repugnant and compelling.

 

Rated R for extreme violence and profanity, “Full Metal Jacket” would seem to round out a trilogy of war films by Kubrick — “Paths of Glory,” about the insanity of World War I; “Dr. Strangelove,” about the insanity of nuclear war; and now “Full Metal Jacket.”

 

Summer seems an odd time to release a movie of this intensity but maybe it’s just what we need in the midst of all the standard silly movies out right now.

 

And you can bet on Baldwin, D’Onofrio and Ermey as strong contenders for next year’s Oscar race.


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

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although it received some backlash because it is darker in tone and arguably more violent than its predecessor, ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ remains a wild ride and a satisfying entry in the serial-spoofing quadrilogy from Steven Spielbeg. (I can’t say that I’m thrilled that he is handing the reins to another director for the upcoming fifth ‘Indiana Jones’ flick.) And it’s playing now at the Megaplex Jordan Commons multiplex in Sandy. My review was published in the Deseret News on May 23, 1984.

You may recall that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” opened with the Paramount Pictures logo — a snowcapped mountain — fading into a South American mountaintop as we were introduced to that intrepid archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Indiana Jones. I remember the preview screening, when the Villa curtains parted to reveal the scope of the 70mm film, and the audience “oohed” and “ahhed.”

Something similar happened Monday night at the Villa’s preview of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” the “Raiders” sequel. The Paramount snow-laden summit faded into an engraved mountain on a gong in a Shanghai nightclub. Again, the audience “oohed” and “ahhed” as the 70mm screen filled and everyone in the theater knew immediately we were off to another rousing rollercoaster ride from Steven Spielberg. And that’s exactly what it is.

Prior to that, fans wondered if Spielberg could possibly pull it off — a satisfying sequel to the fifth biggest hit movie of all time. Could “Indiana Jones” possibly be as fantastic as the nonstop action of “Raiders,” building thrill upon thrill, leaving the audience excited and exhausted? But by the time “Indiana Jones” was over — possibly the fastest two hours you’ll ever spend at the movies — there was no doubt.

Steven Spielberg has done it again.

“Indiana Jones” is different from “Raiders” in several significant ways. The period is set before the first film, in 1935. We first see Indy in a tux, of all things, while the locations range from Shanghai to India, and most of the second half is confined to a palace and its underground caverns, though there is nothing static about it.

      

From left, Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (1984)

The film begins in the aforementioned Shanghai nightclub, where American showgirl Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) is warbling a Chinese version of “Anything Goes” (shades of Mel Brooks’ “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish in “To Be or Not to Be”).

In the club, Jones confronts an evil villain and finds himself in a free-for-all reminiscent of Spielberg’s nightclub scene in “1941.”

Indy and Willie are rescued, momentarily at least, by his young friend Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), and they board a cargo plane that eventually loses its pilot. Their escape is incredible, unbelievable and wonderful, setting the pace for what is to come.

Eventually the main plot unfolds as they agree to find a sacred stone stolen from a drought-ridden Indian village, and with it the village’s population of children.

How Indy and his two companions manage to do so, bringing the children home in Pied Piper fashion, makes for an incredible two-hour visceral experience that will exhaust and excite you every bit as much as “Raiders” on its first go (the high point has to be a wild underground coal-car chase).

Harrison Ford is perfect as Indiana Jones, using his ironic sense of humor frequently here. He’s heroic yet accident-prone, in possession of nine-plus lives, and there are lots of wonderful little comic bits that occur in and around the action.

Kate Capshaw’s blonde singer is pampered and spoiled, afraid of everything — especially getting dirty or breaking a nail — and she’s very funny in the role.

      

But the real charmer is Ke Huy Quan as the little Chinese boy Short Round, Indy’s sidekick, who manages to rescue Indy almost as often as he is rescued by him. (Quan is actually a 12-year-old Vietnamese boy living in Los Angeles, and though he has never acted before he has a very engaging and natural screen presence.)

Spielberg’s direction is lickety-split, of course, and he works the camera like a character, pulling us through the story and the action. He truly is the master of his craft. John Williams’ score is rousing, the technical credits and effects are superlative, and the script is clever and funny.

A warning, though: Like “Raiders,” “Indiana Jones” is very violent. A man’s heart is torn out of his chest while he remains alive, and various people are shot, fall from great heights, are devoured by crocodiles and die in other sundry ways. And though there are no snakes or tarantulas, there are such delights as cockroaches galore, vampire bats, and the eating of disgusting Indian delicacies (such as live eels) to raise your adrenalin.

In other words, heed the warning below the PG rating: “ … may be too intense for younger children.”

My only real complaint about “Indiana Jones” is that the only female in the film is a stereotypical nincompoop, whereas “Raiders” offered just the opposite in the wonderful characterization by Karen Allen. But when you consider the source material for this film, the old ’30s and ’40s serials with their stereotypes and contrivances, it is certainly a faithful element.

On the whole, prepare for a wonderful, tremendously invigorating, old-fashioned cliffhanger time at the movies.


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

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: With its recent Shout! Factory reissue in a Blu-ray ‘Collector’s Edition’ with copious new bonus features, ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ — a real change of pace for director John Carpenter, of ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Thing’ fame — is worth looking back at again. My review was published in the Deseret News on July 4, 1986.

 

“Big Trouble In Little China” is very funny, in an oddball “Buckaroo Banzai” kind of way, with Kurt Russell and Dennis Dun as gambling buddies who team up to take on an evil ghost, the spirit of a 2,000-year-old sorcerer. That ghost is searching for a green-eyed woman to sacrifice so he can once again become flesh and bone.

 

Russell is truck driver Jack Burton who is drawn into the adventure by his friend Wang Chi (Dun). Initially all Burton wants is a gambling debt Chi owes him, but when his truck is stolen, and his livelihood along with it, Burton is forced to join in.

 

Burton and Dun trade quips and battle the bad guys together, but while Dun is revealed to be a full-fledged hero (in a deadpan spoof of Bruce Lee martial arts pictures), Burton is little more than a good-natured oaf.

 

       

 

Kim Cattrall, left, Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Suzee Pai, 'Big Trouble in Little China' (1986)

 

The plot is complex and more than a little ridiculous, but director John Carpenter (who also did the music) keeps the pace moving so fast you won’t notice until it’s all over. And by then you probably won’t care.

 

W.D. Richter, who gave us “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai,” is credited here with “story adaptation,” and some of the dialogue has that “Buckaroo Banzai” ring to it. When the chief heroine, for example, is told the evil ghost’s victim is a woman with green eyes, she says with a straight face, “That’s like patent-leather bucket seats; it doubles the price.”

 

Probably the most interesting aspect of “Big Trouble in Little China” is that it appears to be the first flat-out spoof of “Rambo,” as well as an obvious Indiana Jones knock-off. With his John Wayne swagger and his Inspector Clouseau klutziness, Russell’s character is also something of a variation on Tom Selleck’s “Magnum, P.I.,” though more of a male chauvinist. Despite Russell’s macho, redneck attitudes, however, he gives Jack Burton a warmth that belies his outward facade.

 

       

 

Dennis Dun’s Wang Chi could have been little more than just another “sidekick” character but Carpenter and Dun have made him an equal partner to Jack Burton, in laughs and heroics — and in fact, he repeatedly surpasses Burton in the latter, beating up the bad guys while Burton bumbles along.

 

Kim Cattrall’s character, a hard-nosed attorney, is not very well developed but she does get a few laughs and provides Russell with some romance. Victor Wong (also in the current “Dim Sum”) fares much better as the good-guy sorcerer, who drives a Chinatown tour bus on the side. Wong is something of a Chinese Wilford Brimley, excellent in everything he does.

 

“Big Trouble in Little China” which is quite violent for its PG-13 rating, isn’t going to win any awards. But during a summer when there is no “Indiana Jones” movie, a pseudo-Indiana Jones will do.