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A ‘CLASSIC’ BY ANY OTHER NAME

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 22, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a surprisingly relevant ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, published in the Deseret News on July 12, 1987, under the headline, ‘World’s largest theater opens doors in — where else — L.A.’ True, an 18-screen multiplex seems quaint now, when we have some big-box theaters right here in the Salt Lake Valley that have more than 20 screens (with every multiplex playing the same titles). But how about pondering when it is that a movie becomes a ‘classic,’ and even if it is hailed as a classic, will it be remembered by audiences several decades down the road? These days, Fathom Events shows 12-plus ‘classic’ films each year in theaters all around the country, and doggone if many of these movies below aren’t often among them (recently, 'It's a Wonderful Life,' 'The Afrian Queen' and ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and coming up, ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ ‘Ben-Hur’ and ‘The Godfather’)!

More so-that’s-where-you’ve-been-hiding material located under the spilled Diet Coke and the sticky Twinkie wrapper on your friendly neighborhood movie critic’s desk:

  • WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE movie?

People ask me that all the time, and I’m hard-pressed for an answer since I see so many and therefore have so many favorites.

But Los Angeles Times readers weren’t hesitant when that question was put to them in a recent poll. (Opinionated sons-of-guns those LA. Times readers.)

The purpose was to provide the new Cineplex Odeon 18-auditorium theater in Southern California with 18 all-time favorite movies to show for its grand opening. (That’s right, an 18-plex. And you thought having two six-plexes out on the Salt Lake Valley’s west side was excessive.)

The Cineplex Odeon Universal City Cinemas, as it’s called, is supposedly the largest theater in the world, with 5,940 seats in its 19 auditoriums.

Radio City Music Hall in New York is No. 2, with 5,874 seats; another Cineplex Odeon 18-plex in Toronto is smaller still.

Anyway, the 18 movies in question (the top 18, from some 1,200 nominated) are:

  1. Gone With the Wind (1939)

     

  1. Casablanca (1942)
  2. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  3. Star Wars (1977)
  4. The Sound of Music (1965)
  5. Citizen Kane (1941)
  6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  7. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  8. The Godfather (1972)
  9. Ben-Hur (1959)
  10. Top Gun (1986)
  11. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

     

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  2. Platoon (1986)
  3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  4. Back to the Future (1985)
  5. The African Queen (1951)
  6. Singin’ In the Rain (1952)

Not a bad list. Those films all played on one night, and in the audiences were James Stewart (seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life”) and Charlton Heston (at “Ben-Hur”).

The next day the regular shows began, 18 new films … and I have to wonder how many of them will be named as “all-time favorites” in the future.

Among them: “Innerspace,” “Spaceballs,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Adventures In Babysitting,” “Benji the Hunted,” “The Believers,” “Beverly Hills Cop II,” “Predator,” “Dragnet,” “Roxanne,” “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Straight to Hell.”


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

DON’T GO TO THE BEACH!

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 22, 2019

A highly anticipated horror film leads new movies this weekend, in a perhaps futile effort to stop the box-office steamroller that is “Captain Marvel.”

“Us” (R). Jordan Peele, writer-director of “Get Out,” has come up with another horror yarn, this one about a family vacationing in a beach house when their peaceful retreat is interrupted by a band of evil strangers — who look just like them! With Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss.

“Gloria Bell” (R). Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelió wrote and directed this remake of his 2013 film “Gloria,” set in 1970s California as a 50-something divorcee with grown children spends her evenings at the local disco, looking for love in all the wrong places. With John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor, Sean Astin, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Rita Wilson.

  

“The Wedding Guest” (R). Dev Patel is the mysterious title character, a British Muslim hired to stop an arranged marriage in Pakistan by kidnapping he bride.

“Woman at War” (R, in Icelandic with English subtitles). A choir conductor decides to disrupt the operations of a Rio Tinto aluminum plant in the Icelandic highlands, repeatedly damaging pylons and wires to cut the power supply. When her application to adopt a child gains traction, her activism becomes an impediment. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Wheely” (PG). This animated children’s film, which resembles Pixar’s “Cars,” follows the adventures of the titular underdog taxicab as he dreams of being a racecar and worships from afar a beautiful luxury town car, described as an, ahem, Italian model. (Exclusively at the AMC West Jordan Theaters.)


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

MOVIE MOVIE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanley Donen, who will always be remembered as the director of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and the co-director (with Gene Kelly) of “Singin’ in the Rain,” died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 94. I only reviewed two of his movies for the Deseret News, ‘Movie Movie’ in 1979 and ‘Blame it On Rio’ in 1984. Loved the first, hated the second. But as both have been given new life on Blu-ray upgrades in the last year, courtesy of Kino Lorber, you’ll find my reviews on this page today. The ‘Movie Movie’ review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 29, 1979.

“Movie Movie” is the kind of movie they don’t make anymore — in fact, it’s two of them.

If you’re one of those folks who stays up until midnight Sunday to catch any old Busby Berkeley film or an old Wallace Beery flick, you’ll love “Movie Movie.” And if you’re not, you’ll still love “Movie Movie.”

Stanley Donen, whose talent has given us such diverse movie entertainment as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Charade” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” has crafted here an old-fashioned double-feature, including coming attractions and complete with hokum.

Donen produced and directed “Movie Movie,” which is composed of a black-and-white boxing film, “Dynamite Hands,” and a splashy color musical, “Baxter’s Beauties of 1933.” Both take place in the 1930s and both begin with the exact same scene. The previews are sandwiched in between.

     

      Trish Van Devere, Harry Hamlin, 'Movie Movie'

Both are also composed largely of the same cast — and a fine acting crew it is, including George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere (Mrs. Scott), Red Buttons, Eli Wallach, Art Carney and Barry Bostwick. Supporting players, appearing in one or the other of the films, include Harry Hamlin, Barbara Harris, Rebecca  York, Kathleen Beller, Ann Reinking and Michael Kidd, who also choreographed “Baxter’s” dancing sequences.

Their deadpan delivery of the hilarious dialogue is excellent in all respect, and Scott, Van Devere, Buttons, Wallach and Bostwick get to show just what fine actors they all are with extremely different roles in each feature.

But kudos would be incomplete without mentioning writers Larry Gelbart (“M*A*S*H” on TV and “Oh, God!” in theaters) and Sheldon Keller. Their script (or scripts) is (are) both a tribute and a send-up. The situations are contrived, the romance is sappy and the dialogue is insipid and delivered straight — in other words, just as Hollywood really used to make them (and often still does). But that dialogue has enough bite, wit, twists and double meanings to keep the laughs coming. They are intentional here, of course, but were not always in the original genres.

     

It’s hard to say which of the two is better. “Baxter’s” is snappy, energetic and a lot of fun, but “Dynamite” is probably funnier, due largely to a hilarious courtroom scene at the end. Gelbart and Keller are particularly adept at taking everyday clichés with anatomical words and twisting their meanings into the ridiculous. (“When you speak with your heart, your mouth is 10 feet tall.”) They become slightly predictable but never stale.

And Donen has captured the sight and sound of ’30s movies; film buffs will notice the brash color of “Baxter’s” and the quivery background music of “Dynamite.”

My personal favorite is the preview in the middle for a black-and-white picture: “See ‘Zero Hour’ — war at its best!” Scott, Carney and Wallach are hysterical as the typical heroes and villains of old war movies.

“Movie Movie” is rated PG but could easily be G. There is nothing offensive, no profanity, but children may become bored, not understanding the humor. Get a sitter and go; you’ll love it. As Baxter tells his beauties: “Idle feet are the devil’s toenails!”


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

SILVERADO

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Westerns are revived from time to time, such as with ‘The Sisters Brothers,’ opening this weekend. One of the more successful attempts to reinvigorate the genre, however, came from an all-star cast directed by Lawrence Kasdan in ‘Silverado,’ which is getting a big-screen revival Monday, Oct. 15, and Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 2 and 7 p.m., at various Megaplex Theaters as part of its latest Silver Screen Classics Series.

“Silverado” makes “Pale Rider” look awfully pale indeed.

Yet it should come as no surprise that Lawrence Kasdan could pull off the best western ride in years, since he has already breathed new life into several other sagging genres.

Remember, it was Kasdan who wrote “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” giving new life to Saturday matinee serials; and he wrote and directed “Body Heat,” reviving film noir; and he also wrote and directed “The Big Chill,” which proved audiences could enjoy ensemble work as much as big-name stars doing solo acts.

Now Kasdan has taken the western form, and injected into it enough ’80s sensibilities to please even the most cynical moviegoers among us.

The premise is actually nothing new, as four unlikely heroes come together on their way to the town of Silverado, eventually joining forces to take on the wicked sheriff of the town and the evil land-grabbing cattle baron who is trying to drive off pioneers.

That plot is so old it has hoof-prints all over it.

But Kasdan has drawn rich characters, cast the film with some rather offbeat, yet very right choices, and the result is a slam-bang, action-packed, fully developed, utterly entertaining and completely satisfying western, the likes of which we haven’t seen for many, many years.

     

Danny Glover, left, Kevin Costner, Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, 'Silverado'

The first half of the film is a sort of episodic journey, starting off with a bang as Scott Glenn is ambushed by a band of mysterious strangers. Bullet holes in the little shack where Glenn has been sleeping let in streams of light, and when he ventures outside we see a wide expanse of land (the film was shot in New Mexico).

Immediately we know this is going to be a movie with humor, style, wit, action and a breathtaking visual sense. Right on all counts.

Glenn meets up with bearded Kevin Kline, eventually they rescue Glenn’s hotheaded little brother (Kevin Costner), and soon they are joined by Danny Glover, a black cowboy on his way home.

As it happens, all four are headed for Silverado, and for about half the film they are involved together in comic misadventures that bring to mind “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Whey they reach Silverado, the film settles into a more mainstream kind of western sensibility. Glenn and Costner visit relatives. Kline enters the Midnight Star saloon and strikes up a relationship with its diminutive owner (Linda Hunt), and Glover finds his parents’ farm has been ravaged by the local cattle baron’s hired guns.

Eventually the foursome will come together to battle the evil that pervades Silverado, chiefly in the form of an old buddy of Kline’s, now the corrupt sheriff, played with nasty glee by Brian Dennehy.

Kasdan, as usual, has written (with his brother Mark Kasdan) an intelligent, funny, human script, about people searching for their roots and family relationships.

And in addition to rousing music by Bruce Broughton, gorgeous photography by John Bailey and a wonderful, sharp-eyed ’80s style, there is that incredible cast.

Kevin Kline is terrific as the gentle big bear of a man who cannot avoid having to show his strength no matter how hard he tries, and he brings with him a very nice understated humor. (His friendship with Linda Hunt is perhaps the most touching thing in the film.)

Scott Glenn is perfect as the tough guy, and as Kasdan said in an interview, he was born to play a western hero. There’s no doubt after seeing him here that it’s true.

Danny Glover is terrific as the wronged black cowboy, giving the role just the right amounts of dignity and humility that have us rooting for him all the way.

     

                  Linda Hunt, Kevin Kline, 'Silverado'

And Jeff Goldblum has a nice, small role as a gambler from the East, though he seems rather underdeveloped.

But the show-stealers here are Linda Hunt, absolute perfection as a little woman whose philosophy is summed up quite nicely: “Life is what you make it, friend; if it doesn’t fit, you make alterations”; Kevin Costner, having a ball as the quick-tempered ladies’ man (and looking for all the world like a young, demented Leonard Nimoy); and Brian Dennehy, delicious as one of the screen’s most memorable villains of recent years (his second powerfully winning role in a row, after “Cocoon”).

The only real flaw here is in giving Rosanna Arquette short shrift, an unfortunate result of her storyline, about pioneers traveling into Silverado, being cut in favor of the action story. (It would have been better to leave out a scene that implies there is a triangle romance between her, Kline and Glenn, since it comes out of the blue and goes nowhere.)

There are a lot of levels on which to enjoy “Silverado,” but the main thing is that it is a heck of a lot of fun, more fun than any movie we’ve gotten so far this summer — and lately it’s been a darn good summer.

This is a winner all the way — and by all means, see it in 70mm! You have four theaters in the valley to choose from.

“Silverado” is rated PG-13 for violence, and there are two or three profanities.


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

BORN IN EAST L.A.

  

   

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 22, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although this ’80s comedy doesn’t really gather any comic steam and feels like the padded parody that it is, you can’t say it isn’t timely in 2019. Still, I suspect Cheech Marin’s fan base will provide the only takers for this new Blu-ray upgrade from The Shout! Factory. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Sept. 2, 1987.

“Born In East L.A.” is Cheech without Chong.

Cheech Marin — didn’t he used to take billing as Richard “Cheech” Marin? — stars in this expansion of his song/video, a spoof of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in America.”

     

Cheech Marin, left, Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), 'Born in East L.A.'

Marin also wrote and directed this movie, which proves that funny things often come in smaller packages — the video is supremely superior.

“Born In East L.A.” has Marin as a third-generation Mexican-American who can’t speak Spanish, and who is accidentally rounded up in an immigration raid and taken south of the border.

In Tijuana he meets strip-joint owner Daniel Stern who takes pity on him and gives him odd jobs to help him earn the money necessary to get back (illegally) to the United States. He also falls in love and shows signs of humanity toward those less fortunate than himself.

     

        Daniel Stern, left, Cheech Marin, 'Born in East L.A.'

All of this shows great potential for hilarity, with the right script and crisp direction — but despite his screen charm, Marin the writer-director is unable to bring it off and the film lumbers along, riding on cheap humor, vulgar asides and raunchy gags that make his character rather unpalatable.

Marin lets all his worse tendencies take over in “Born In East L.A.,” rated R for profanity, vulgarity and raunchy humor.

Next time a collaborator might be wise.

A non-Chong collaborator, please.