JoBeth Williams smokes a joint in Steven Spielberg's 'Poltergeist' (1982).

For, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Golden Globes last Sunday were true to form, vulgar as all get-out and unwatchable in places. So this 12-year-old column seems fitting as it laments the entry of extreme vulgarism into mainstream entertainment and crudity at large. Sadly, things have only gone further downhill since then. Under the headline, ‘Golden Globes a surprisingly vulgar show,’ it was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 19, 2007.

Some 25 years ago I interviewed Steven Spielberg for “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Poltergeist” before they were released in the summer of 1982.

During the course of our conversation I told him that there was one thing about “Poltergeist” that bothered me. The main characters were meant to represent a typical suburban family, but one scene rang false, a moment where the parents sneak marijuana into their bedroom, hiding it from their kids.

I told Spielberg that I’m not naïve, I know there are people who smoke pot, but I added that most of my friends and acquaintances who used marijuana in the ’60s had given it up by the time they entered the workforce, married and began having children.

In other words, the scene might not be unrealistic in some circles but it struck me as false for a family that meant to have universal appeal, to represent the “everyfamily.”

Spielberg paused a moment and said, “Really? I’m surprised at that. All my friends smoke marijuana.”

The lesson I learned was that even Spielberg, “the people’s filmmaker” at the tie, could be as unduly influenced by the Hollywood community as anyone. From my perspective, he had fallen out of touch with Middle America.


'Grey's Anatomy' won the best dramatic TV series Golden Globe in 2007.

All of this came rushing back as I watched some of the Golden Globes broadcast on Monday.

I haven’t watched the Globes in many years. I don’t pay much attention to any of the many show-biz awards anymore. There are so many t hat they’ve become less meaningful than they were when there weren’t as many. And they weren’t terribly meaningful then.

Anyway, my wife and I were home on Monday so I decided to record the show while we watched a movie. When the movie was over we started watching the Globes, fast-forwarding through much of it, stopping to hear some of the stars we were interested in.

I was taken aback at how vulgar these shows have become.

We expect MTV’s award shows to be sleazy, and others that crop up on cable networks. And I know there have been incidents at the Grammys and other programs that have made viewers cringe. I also know that, these days, there doesn’t seem to be any clothing too revealing or level of crass behavior too low.

But I have to say that I was a bit surprised at Tom Hanks’ seemingly unrehearsed, sloppy and vulgar introduction for Warren Beatty’s career-achievement awards.

But he was topped by the tasteless-speech-of-the-night, given by Sacha Baron Cohen. Yikes!


Sacha Baron Cohen, and Warren Beatty with Tom Hanks at 2007 Golden Globes.

Baron Cohen, who won for his portrayal of “Borat” — a film that a lot of people have not seen, despite its being a touchstone for references that seem to suggest everyone on the planet has embraced it — gave a speech, which, in contrast to Hanks, was very well-rehearsed.

It was also woefully misguided and completely disgusting.

I realize that “Borat” was a box-office hit, and I know people who have seen it — and who defend it by saying that it is indeed sleazy, but that it’s also very funny.

You can say that about nearly every sitcom on TV, too. And I don’t watch those either.

I’m sad that audiences allow this kind of thing to pass for comedy.

I’m sad that it’s rewarded, with both money and congratulatory awards.

I’m sad that what was once left on the cutting-room floor passes for A-list entertainment these days.

Let’s just hope the Oscars don’t try to top the Golden Globes.

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019

A potential Oscar nominee, a family film and a bit  of a departure for Kevin Hart lead off this week’s new movies.

“On the Basis of Sex” (PG-13). Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the subject of this biographical legal drama that primarily focuses on her challenges to laws enforcing gender-based discrimination. Felicity Jones stars, with support from Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates and Sam Waterston.

“A Dog’s Way Home” (PG). Bryce Dallas Howard voices a dog in this live-action family comedy-drama about a pooch that travels more than 400 miles to reunite with his master (Jonah Hauer-King). With Edward Ashley Judd, James Olmos, Wes Studi and Alexandra Shipp.

“The Upside” (PG-13). Kevin Hart is a paroled felon who is reluctantly hired by a wealthy quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston) and his assistant (Nicole Kidman) to help with the man’s day-to-day needs. This comedy-drama is a remake of the 2011 French film “The Intouchables.”


“Replicas” (PG-13). In the near future, after his wife (Alice Eve) and three children are killed in a car accident, a neuroscientist (Keanu Reeves) violates the law and his team’s scientific principles with his attempts to bring back his family back to life.

“Buffalo Boys” (Not Rated, in Indonesian with English subtitles). In 19th century Java after a brutal massacre, a sultan’s brother travels with his two infant brothers to the American wild west in this martial arts-spaghetti western mix. Eventually the trio returns home to avenge their father’s death. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Jordan Commons Theaters.)

“Perfect Strangers (Perfectos Desconocidos)” (Not Rated, in Spanish with English subtitles). A group of best friends gather for a dinner party where the hostess initiates a game that requires guests to put their cell phones on the table, read aloud all incoming messages and put calls on speaker for the entire group to hear. Naturally, this results in more than a few embarrassing revelations. A Spanish comedy of 21st century manners and mores. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Valley Fair Theaters.)

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



For, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every once in a while a romantic comedy will exceed rom-com expectations, entering the battle-of-the-sexes conversation — and staying there. Such is the case with this 30-year-old sleeper that boosted the stardom of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan while allowing Carrie Fisher to prove she was a talent to reckon with beyond ‘Star Wars.’ The Shout! Factory has just released a 30th anniversary Blu-ray edition, so here’s my review of the film, printed in the Deseret News on July 21, 1989.

Director Rob Reiner, who also wrote much of "When Harry Met Sally. … ,” though he gets no screen credit for that, seems to pride himself on doing films that are very different from each other.

First there was the hilarious spoof of rock documentaries, "This Is Spinal Tap!," followed by the teen comedy "The Sure Thing," the preadolescence drama "Stand By Me" and his biggest hit, the fantasy-comedy "The Princess Bride."

Now comes Reiner's "When Harry Met Sally. … ,” which could be called his Woody Allen movie. More correctly, a Woody Allen movie without all the angst. Unfortunately, it's also a Woody Allen movie without the complexity of character. But most moviegoers won't mind.

Despite a certain superficiality, "When Harry Met Sally. … ”  is an adult romantic comedy in a time when we don't get very many, and it has one thing going for it that gives it an enormous boost — it's very funny.


Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in 'When Harry Met Sally's' infamous restaurant scene.

Billy Crystal is "Harry" and Meg Ryan is "Sally," who meet as college graduates driving together to New York City (shades of "The Sure Thing"). It's hate-at-first-sight as Harry, an opinionated snob, spouts off theories about men and women, as well as his own penchant for promiscuity, then tries to get Sally to go to bed with him. She declines and they part ways.

Several years later they bump into each other on an airplane but this meeting isn't much more successful than the first, and besides, Sally's in love and Harry's about to be married.

Several more years pass and they meet again. This time both are licking their wounds from failed relationships, but they have matured and somehow hit it off and become friends. Just friends.

We know, of course, that they will eventually acknowledge their love for each other, and recognize that romance and friendship should go hand in hand rather than be mutually exclusive, and in the end there is a nice endorsement of both — and of marriage as well.

But the bulk of the film is made up of comic set pieces that are at once very funny and helpful to the narrative. Some, like this movie's most notorious moment during a restaurant scene, get big laughs, but in retrospect don't seem very realistic. Others are both amusing and insightful.


"Harry/Sally" is well cast, with special kudos to the stars — Meg Ryan is a complete delight, with some wonderful little character nuances that make her role utterly real, and Billy Crystal controls his penchant for doing shtick, which has marred some of his other film appearances, and uses to advantage his natural tendency to be a bit overbearing in creating a character who is occasionally obnoxious but not without charm.

Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, as their respective best friends, are also excellent. Fisher is carving out a nice post-"Star Wars" niche for herself with "best friend" character roles, and she's good at it. Will she evolve into the Eve Arden of the ’90s?

As for the Woody Allen comparisons — fans will see them easily, from the stark black-and-white credits that open the film to the "interview"-testimonials to the old tunes in the background to the ending that parallels "Manhattan."

Call it Rob Reiner's "Annie Hall." But it's funny in its own right and should appeal to a broad audience looking for something other than the slam-bang special effects dominating theater screens at the moment.

"When Harry Met Sally. … ” is rated R for profanity, though there isn't really a lot, and some vulgarity as the characters talk frankly about sex.

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.

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



For, 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



For, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another film that lodged itself into the zeitgeist was this one, though not to the same degree as one of its main inspirations, ‘Fatal Attraction.’ I wasn’t a fan but this one retains enough popularity for The Shout! Factory to give it a Blu-ray upgrade. So here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Aug. 14, 1992.

Considering how often critics complain about there being so few showcases for actresses in leading roles these days, it almost feels hypocritical to have to knock the rare efforts that do come along.

But, as with "Death Becomes Her" and especially "Whispers in the Dark," the new thriller "Single White Female" is quite disappointing, despite its two strong female leads.

A by-the-numbers shocker, "Single White Female" has Bridget Fonda kicking her boyfriend out of her rent-controlled New York apartment when she finds that he's been cheating with his ex-wife. But she's insecure and lonely, so she advertises in the classifieds for a roommate (hence, the title), and winds up with mousy Jennifer Jason Leigh.


'Single White Female' begins with a cheery outlook for roomies Bridget Fonda, left, and Jennifer Jason Leigh ... 

At least she's mousy when the film begins, but it isn't long before Leigh is showing her true psychotic colors. And it doesn't help that Fonda makes up with her boyfriend and Leigh thinks she might have to move out after she's barely settled in.

It isn't enough that Leigh becomes possessive and demanding and starts taking over bits and pieces of Fonda's life. Soon, Leigh is wearing clothes and even changing her physical appearance to resemble Fonda.

Meanwhile, Fonda has to put up with a male chauvinist jerk who hires her computer fashion-design business only to reveal more sinister motives.

This latter subplot, with its sexual-harassment elements, feels like a forced attempt to be up-to-the-minute with current headlines. But even if it felt profound or important it wouldn't help the rest of the film, which is mired in horror clichés and suspense button-pushing.


... but things go downhill fast when Leigh, left, develops a psychopathic obssession for the life that Fonda has.

All of this escalates in its level of ridiculousness until there are unintentional laughs attending a new use for stiletto heels and a chase through Fonda's tenement building, which never seems to have any tenants in sight.

"Single White Female" does deserve to be congratulated for its one cliché-busting moment. Instead of the killer rising from the dead, this film has a murder victim rising from the dead. Ah, progress.

"Single White Female" is rated a very hard R for considerable sex and nudity in addition to the expected violence and gore. There is also some profanity.