BLOG BLOG

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite the tenor of these cynical times, good deeds are sometimes rewarded. The late John Earle, who was the head of the Utah Film Development office (now the Utah Film Commission) for eight years and, in 1978, was one of the founders of the Utah/US Film Festival (now the Sundance Film Festival), was just being his affable, helpful self when he unintentionally had a positive impact on a major movie being filmed locally. This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, under the headline ‘Utah’s no joke, Hollywood filmmakers learn,’ was published in the Deseret News on May 26, 1985. Two months later, Earle unexpectedly passed away. This anecdotal column is intended as a tribute to him, and more importantly some 34 years later, a reminder that putting your best self forward can sometimes earn unintended happy consequences.

The other day Joe Walker in his TV column discussed Utah jokes in national television series, explaining that our fair state is often the butt of uninformed humor around the country.

Movies also rib Utah from time to time and next week a film opens that offers more than its share of Utah jokes.

     

 “Fletch,” the new Chevy Chase comedy-thriller, is partially set in Provo, Utah (and was partially filmed in Salt Lake City), and from time to time you hear such jokes as:

— “You don’t got to Utah to escape boredom.”

— “That makes him a bigamist – even in Utah!”

And there are others.

But it was interesting to find out — quite accidentally on a trip to Los Angeles this past week — that the number of Utah jokes in the film were considerably toned down.

On a tour of the Disney studios last Tuesday I was shown the set of a new film going into production and the film’s art director happened to be there. After an introduction, he mentioned that he had been Utah last year shooting “Fletch,” as art director on that film.

     

During the course of our brief conversation I mentioned that there were many Utah jokes in the film and he commented that after they were so well treated by John Earle and the Utah Film Development Office, the producers of the film felt bad about including so many negative jokes about Utah. As a result, a number of such jokes were excised during the final editing.

There are still some unflattering jokes in “Fletch” but it’s interesting to note what a little positive P.R. can do for the image of the entire state.

Good for you, John, keep up the good work


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

AN ECLECTIC WEEKEND

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

A variety of genres hit local movie theaters this weekend, including a locally-made historical film, a musical documentary, a true whistleblower thriller, a comedy, a heist yarn and a couple of unusual teen dramas.

“Out of Liberty” (PG). The latest Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-themed movie to come to town is this dramatization of events surrounding the incarceration of Joseph Smith in a newly built jail in Liberty, Missouri, in the winter of 1839. The film is told from the point of view of Samuel Tillery, the jailer tasked with guarding Smith and other Latter-day Saint Church leaders as mobs harass them each night. Tillery is played by Jasen Wade (“17 Miracles,” “The Cokeville Miracle”), with Corbin Allred (“The Saratov Approach,” “Saints and Soldiers”) as Porter Rockwell.

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (Not Rated). Documentary about the popular singer with the remarkable vocal range who became a rock star in the 1960s, filled arenas in the ’70s and then branched out to various other forms of music, including country, comic operetta, American standards and Mexican ballads sung in Spanish. Ronstadt was forced to retire in 2013 when she was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease. With Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt and many more.

  

“Official Secrets” (R). True story of a British government employee (Keira Knightley) who leaked a secret memo exposing an illegal spying operation by the United States in a plot to blackmail United Nations diplomats voting on a resolution regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Matt Smith, Matthew Goode and Ralph Fiennes.

“Brittany Runs a Marathon” (R). Twenty-seven-year-old New Yorker Brittany (Jillian Bell) is a hard-partying good-time girl but she’s also overweight and unhappy. So when her doctor tells her she needs to get healthy she decides to train for the New York City Marathon, which, as this comedy demonstrates, it’s not as easy as it looks. A hit at the Sundance Film Festival.

  

“Hustlers” (R). Jennifer Lopez headlines this heist comedy/drama about a crew of savvy strip-club employees who come together to take down their obnoxious Wall Street clients. With Constance Wu, Cardi B, Julia Stiles and Mercedes Ruehl.

“The Goldfinch” (R). A young teenager witnesses his mother’s death in the bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and steals the titular painting. He grows up troubled and eventually becomes an art forger in this drama adapted from the 2013 novel by Donna Tartt. With Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson and Jeffrey Wright.

“Adam” (Not Rated). High schooler Adam gets permission from his parents to visit his sister in New York, who has, unbeknownst to them, come out as a lesbian. So, in order to fit in with her friends, Adam pretends to be a trans man and starts dating an older woman. Controversial comedy was another hit at the Sundance Film Festival. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)


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

CINDERELLA

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes it was a top-10 hit in 2015, but let’s forget the live-action remake by Disney of its own 1950 animated classic, ‘Cinderella’ and talk instead about the original. Back in the day, Disney was on a cycle of releasing its animated classics into theaters every seven years or so, but with the advent of home video, the studio now reissues titles on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD or whatever the latest home-library technology may be. And that’s all the reason you need for the latest Blu-ray incarnation of ‘Cinderella’ from the folks at Disney. My review below was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 1, 1982, when the film was back in theaters for the umpteenth time. Haven’t shared it with your kids who are too busy watching ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ for the 45th time? Shame on you. Now’s the time.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy good, funny animation, and this work of Walt Disney is both nostalgic and offers unlimited imagination and creativity.

After 30 years, “Cinderella” still holds up as one of Disney’s finest animated achievements — largely due to the delightful animals that populate the title character’s world.

Jaq and Gus-Gus, the two lead mice; Lucifer, the evil fat cat; Duke, the old dog that eventually saves the day; and the various birds, horses and such that we meet in this feature are always busy, doing interesting — and often hilarious — bits of business.

     

The fairy tale of put-upon Cinderella and her wicked stepmother, along with her two equally wicked (actually spoiled brat) stepsisters and her eventual landing the handsome prince at the Royal Ball (thanks to her fairy godmother and that glass slipper) is by now too familiar to offer any surprises, and may even be a bit tame to the sophisticated youngsters brought up on “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” but the duller musical pauses and romantic aspects tend to travel by rather quickly.

Parents are likely to enjoy “Cinderella” every bit as much as their children, thanks to a heavy amount of humor and a number of truly delightful characters.

     

While it’s true there’s very little family fare in the form of new movies this Christmas season, it’s nice to know that Disney is still thinking of material for parents and children to see together — even if it’s recycled material.

And, as it should be, “Cinderella” is rated G.


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

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: When people … older people, of course … talk about movies that need to be seen in a theater on a 40-foot screen instead of at home on a TV screen — even a 65-inch screen — the film that sets the standard is ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ Originally released in 1962, the multiple Oscar-winner was given a meticulous two-year restoration and re-released in theaters in 1989. And now it’s back for two days, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, on Sunday, Sept. 1, and Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. in several Cinemark theaters and at 1 and 6 p.m. the Megaplex Jordan Commons theater. My review below was published in the Deseret News on March 17, 1989. (And, of course, the Regency Theater mentioned at the end has long been absent from the Salt Lake movie landscape.)

Despite powerful performances in films that post-date "Lawrence of Arabia" — such as "Becket," "The Lion in Winter," "The Ruling Class," "The Stunt Man," "My Favorite Year" and "The Last Emperor" — Peter O'Toole is seldom named in the company of great actors.

Yet his "Lawrence" remains truly great acting, and what he does with his face and body as we see the gradual evolution of T.E. Lawrence in the course of this nearly four-hour film, is nothing short of amazing.

When David Lean picked the unknown actor, with only three minor film roles to his credit at the time, to be his "Lawrence," he knew what he was doing. There are lingering moments here when we see O'Toole's sun-bleached blond hair and striking blue eyes against the bright blue sky or expansive yellow desert, and his expression says more than reams of dialogue could ever approach.

     

Peter O'Toole, left, Anthony Quinn, 'Lawrence of Arabia'

In fact, though I've seen this film's truncated version a couple of times since 1962, I had forgotten just how little dialogue there is, and how deeply textured the film becomes as it progresses. The desert is a prominent character here, and it changes and shapes T.E. Lawrence as much as the horrors of war that he endures.

If ever there was a movie worthy of restoration and reissuing it is "Lawrence of Arabia," which too often is catalogued under "epic" film and simply aligned with every other big-budget, cast-of-thousands movie ever made.

But "Lawrence" is much more, with a strong central character who undergoes stark changes over the course of several years as a British military officer, initially assigned to size up Prince Feisel (Alec Guinness) during the 1914 campaign against the Turks in Arabia. Despite his fair skin and English uppercrust demeanor, Lawrence idealizes the Arab people and tries to become one of them, ultimately heading for his downfall when he begins to think of himself as something more than a man.

 

It is a complex performance complemented by Lean's superlative direction, which is indeed epic in scope, but which never allows that scope to overwhelm the story or characters. It is a film with action and adventure, yet it defies those genre types.

Lean isn't afraid to let his camera rest on images that fill the 70mm screen and allow the audience to work a bit at picking out the importance of them. And, as a friend put it, you'll find yourself leaning forward in your seat and looking across the screen, almost as if you yourself were in the desert instead of a movie theater.

O'Toole is also complemented by a terrific supporting ensemble, with Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn all in rare form, as are Anthony Quayle, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Kennedy and Claude Rains.

Don't wait for this one to hit video in its newly restored, richly enhanced form. And don't wait for it to go into second-run theaters. See it in 70mm and Dolby Stereo at the Regency Theater and you will be amazed at what movies are capable of being.


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

JURY DUTY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Puzzlements of the universe include the existence of mosquitoes, haggis and the movie career of Pauly Shore. His movies were always awful but Shore hit some kind of nadir with this one some 24 years ago. Still, as yet another unfathomable entry in the no-accounting-for-taste department, Mill Creek Entertainment has elected to give the alleged comedy a Blu-ray upgrade as part of its ‘Retro VHS Look’ series. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 18, 1995.

"Jury Duty" is the latest outing from Pauly Shore, who abandons much of the deadhead delivery he parlayed into movie stardom with "Encino Man," "Son-in-Law" and "In the Army Now." Not that it matters, since what is left is even worse than those films.

Shore is a failed male stripper (at a club owned by his uncle, played by unbilled Andrew Dice Clay). And he's actually happier sitting at home watching "Jeopardy!" with his dog in his mother's mobile home. (His mother is played by Shelley Winters.)

     

         Tia Carrere, Stanley Tucci, 'Jury Duty'

When Shore receives a notice that he is to serve jury duty, he throws it away — until his mother announces she is off to get married. With no place to live, Shore retrieves the notice and finagles his way onto the jury of a lengthy, highly publicized murder trial — so he can live in a hotel and receive room service each night.

Eventually, when the rest of the jury wants to convict the alleged killer, Shore does everything he can to stall.

     

                      Pauly Shore, 'Jury Duty'

The trouble is, there isn't a laugh to be had in this mess, despite a competent supporting cast that includes Tia Carrere, Stanley Tucci, Brian Doyle-Murray and other familiar faces.

"Jury Duty" is rated PG-13 but should be rated R for considerable vulgarity, profanity, violence and partial nudity.