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Artist's sketch of downtown Salt Lake City's regal Centre Theater.

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re among those who couldn’t wait for the latest ‘Star Wars’ film last month, you may relate to this column from 37 years ago when ‘Return of the Jedi’ was ‘coming soon’ and fans were getting anxious. Note that Salt Lake City’s downtown premiere venue, the Centre Theater, no longer exists (it was torn down in 1989) and the Century Theater is not at all like it was back then (it’s a 16-auditorium multiplex now). Also note the size of the theaters, quite a contrast to the present day when many auditoriums in current multiplexes are just 50 seats! And especially take note of the ticket prices!!! This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column was published in the Deseret News on May 19, 1983.

If you read this column and say to yourself — “Enough on ‘Return of the Jedi’ already,” you are obviously not one of those dozens of people who have called me asking for information regarding play dates, admission prices, show times and other bits of trivia about how the film will be shown.

If you are one of those who has called — you can stop now. Here’s the latest:

“Return of the Jedi” will open at two theaters in the Salt Lake Valley next Wednesday (May 26) – the Plitt Centre downtown and the Century Complex on 33rd South near State Street.

Watch for traffic jams in those areas, because if the calls I’ve been getting are any indication, the audience is ready to start lining up any minute.

     

The 1983 line for 'Return of the Jedi' at a Lowe's Theater in Los Angeles.

The Plitt Centre Theater downtown has 1,174 seats and will play “Jedi” in 70mm (that’s mammoth wide-screen, in case you’d forgotten) and Dolby Stereo. Admission there is currently $4.50, and discount tickets will not be accepted during the first five weeks (if you only have $2.50 in your pocket, hold it until July 5).

The Century Complex will play the film on two screens, one, seating 575 people, will be in 70mm and Dolby, and the other, in 35mm (that’s the standard size) and Dolby, will seat 550. Admission there is also $4.50, and there will be no $2 economy seating price for “Jedi” showings.

It is possible that admission prices could rise to $5 for adults. On the other hand, in the competitive spirit, the two theaters could try to undercut each other, reducing admission prices. But no one is saying for sure at this point.

     

         Salt Lake City's Centre Theater, circa 1966.

As to show times, you’ll have to look at the ads in the newspaper for specifics, but it’s interesting to note that the Centre will essentially screen it around the clock. The first show each day will be 8 a.m., and the last will be 15 minutes after midnight.

To my knowledge, that’s an earlier start and later end to a screening weekday than has ever been offered before locally. As one colleague of mine noted, it’s possible to see the first show before you go to work in the morning — if you’re a bit late. The Century will also run all day, beginning around 10 a.m.

And if you only have $2.50 and don’t want to wait five weeks to know what “Jedi” reveals, you could run down to the Magazine Shop downtown and buy the Marvel comic book, which costs exactly that.

And for those in other areas around the state, “Jedi” will also play in 70mm and Dolby at the Cinedome in Ogden, and in 35mm and Dolby at both the University Mall in Orem and the Capitol Theater in Logan.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

IS THERE A DOLITTLE IN THE HOUSE

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

A new, oddly action-packed version of “Doctor Dolittle” opens this weekend, along with a belated sequel and several art-house films.

“Dolittle” (PG). Robert Downey Jr. stars as Hugh Lofting’s beloved Doctor Dolittle in this live-action/computer-animation mix that has the Victorian-era vet who has conversations with animals setting out on a voyage to find a mythical island that has a cure for Queen Victoria’s ailments. With Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent and a voice cast that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Octavia Spencer, Criag Robinson, Tom Holland, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez.

“Bad Boys for Life” (R). This third in the infrequent action-comedy franchise (the first film was released in 1995, the second in 2003) reunites Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Miami Police detectives Mike and Marcus. This time they’ve gone their separate ways, Mike as a police inspector and Marcus training millennial cops, but they are reunited when a fierce cartel mob boss comes after them with revenge on his mind. With Vanessa Hudgens and Joe Pantoliano.

 

“Invisible Life” (R, in Portuguese and Greek with English subtitles). In 1950 Rio de Janeiro, two young adult sisters living at home with conservative parents dream of better lives, one to become a renowned pianist and the other to find true love. But soon they are separated, one taken to Europe while the other stays in Rio, each determined to find the other again. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)

“Les Misérables” (R, in French with English subtitles). After a divorce, a young French police officer moves to Paris to be near his son and finds himself assigned to the impoverished suburb where Victor Hugo wrote the famous titular novel. As part of the local Anti-Crime Brigade he investigates the theft of a baby lion from a circus, which leads to a confrontation with a young thief and his cronies that is streamed by a drone and spirals into a neighborhood riot. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)

  

“Varda By Agnès” (Not Rated). This personal autobiographical documentary about her own career was the final film by acclaimed French filmmaker Agnès Varda (“Cléo from 5 to 7,” “Faces Places”), a free-spirited cinematic tour through her six-decade artistic journey. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)

“Cunningham” (PG). Merce Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer who died a decade ago at the age of 90, is profiled in this unique 3-D documentary, which focuses on three decades, 1944-72, and includes members of his dance company performing in such evocative backdrops as a tunnel, a rooftop and a forest. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas.)

“Weathering With You” (PG-13; depending on the showtime you choose this film is in Japanese with English subtitles or dubbed in English). Japanese-anime romantic fantasy about a high school boy who runs away from his home in Tokyo and is befriended by a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather.


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

ACE VENTURA, PET DETECTIVE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: As you’ll see, the two Ace Ventura films that made Jim Carrey a star in the mid-1990s are not among my favorites. Not that I haven’t enjoyed some later Carrey pictures, such as ‘The Mask’ (1994), ‘Liar Liar’ (1997), ‘The Truman Show’ (1998) and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004). But those first two … well, I’ll let my reviews speak for themselves, revived here because Sony has reissued both on Blu-ray for the 25th anniversary of the first film. My review of ‘Ace Ventura, Pet Detective’ was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 4, 1994. The second is reviewed elsewhere on this page.

After enduring "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective," I have new respect for Ernest P. Worrell. A little of Jim Carrey's mugging goofiness goes a long way … and 90 minutes is way too much.

Carrey, a comedian whose biggest claim to fame is a number of weird characters on TV's "In Living Color," stars here as the title character, so-called because he ferrets out a living, so to speak, by rescuing stolen, kidnapped and lost pets. He also takes a vast number of them into his home, which drives his landlord nuts.

The plot has Carrey being hired by Miami Dolphins marketing director Courteney Cox to track down the team's kidnapped mascot, a trained dolphin whose absence is sure to cause the team to play poorly during the upcoming Super Bowl. (Shouldn't this film have opened a couple of weeks ago?)

     

Jim Carrey and friends, 'Ace Ventura, Pet Detective' (1994)

Later, quarterback Dan Marino is also kidnapped, but have no fear — Carrey's on the case. And, of course, Carrey and Cox begin an affair, though they seem as ill-matched as any wrong-for-each-other screen couple in the history of film. (But then, who would be right for Carrey's idiot persona?)

Carrey also has regular run-ins with the local police chief, played by Sean Young as a tough-as-nails man-eater.

The desire here is obviously to create a comic character that will be accepted as a ’90s Inspector Clouseau. But there is no cleverness, no intricately choreographed gags, no charm — everything is cheap, sleazy or over the top.

     

Young and Cox gamely try to support Carrey's madness but wind up looking rather embarrassed. They will no doubt be signing up new agents soon.

As for Carrey's comic style, it's very much from the Jerry Lewis school of throw-in-every-broad-gesture-possible-and-make-fun-of-everything-in-sight. But after a while, the audience may wish he'd just settle down, as his never-ending silliness just gets extremely tiresome.

On the other hand, they'll probably love him in France.

"Ace Ventura" is rated PG-13, which seems awfully tame considering the amount of raunchy humor here, with gags about sex, the male anatomy and any number of vulgar subjects. There is also an abundance of profanity and comic violence.


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

THE PRINCESS BRIDE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes a zany premise just works and this one comes together on all levels, and looks even better now than it did 33 years ago — and it looked pretty good back then. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen a trip to Ogden might be worth the drive; it’s showing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in Ogden's Egyptian Theater. My review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 9, 1987.

William Goldman’s popular novel “The Princess Bride” has at last come to the screen, adapted by Goldman himself. And why not? Goldman has two Oscars on his mantle already (for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”), and he’s given us “Marathon Man,” “Harper” and many others in the past.

And Rob Reiner, whose “Stand By Me” and “The Sure Thing” proved movies about kids don’t have to be stupid, has directed with great affection for the material and a wonderful sense of comedy.

On the surface these two men may seem like odd collaborators for this venture, considering it is very much a movie quite unlike anything either has done before. But consider this: Goldman’s “Princess Bride” is to “Robin Hood” what “Butch Cassidy” was to “The Searchers.” He has somehow managed to affect both an homage to the genre and a spoof of same.

     

Fred Savage, left, Peter Falk, 'The Princess Bride' (1987)

You may recall that “Butch Cassidy” was a similar accomplishment. His western managed to really be a western in every best sense of that word, yet he had great fun spoofing cowboy conventions. And “The Princess Bride” is very much a fairy tale/adventure that would be great fun on its own but with an added dimension of hilarious comedy.

Reiner’s first was “This Is Spinal Tap!,” both a satire of rock documentaries and at the same time a very real-looking documentary-style homage to rock music and musicians.

This was indeed the perfect match.

“The Princess Bride” also manages to correctly capture Goldman’s story-within-a-story motif. As the film begins, a modern-day young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed. When his mother enters his room he switches off his video games but he soon wishes she’d left them on. Grandpa (Peter Falk) comes in and announces he would like to read the boy a fairy tale.

The lad’s reluctance gradually lets down, however, as he interrupts his grandfather, at first complaining that this sounds like “a kissing book,” but eventually because he can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, the story Grandpa is reading unfolds before us as we meet Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her true love Westley (Cary Elwes).

     

Westley goes off to find his fortune, vowing to return to Buttercup, but word eventually comes back that he has been killed by a pirate. So Buttercup allows herself to be betrothed to the kingdom’s evil prince (Chris Sarandon), who plans to kill her. Then. …

Come to think of it, I don’t want to give too much away — so suffice to say there are kidnappings, giants, magicians, monsters and all sorts of other wonderfully funny and scary things going on here — including the most hilarious fencing match (between Patinkin and Elwes) since Danny Kaye squared off against Basil Rathbone in “The Court Jester” — adding up to completely enchanting entertainment for all ages.

Very young children will doubtless be frightened by the sea serpents and giant rats but for the most part this is one of those rare films that will delight every age group.

“The Princess Bride” isn’t perfect. There are technical glitches, such as edited camera shots that don’t quite match and cardboard mountains and trees that look very much like cardboard mountains and trees — but for me that just added to the zany sense of fun. And it could be argued that Billy Crystal, under tons of makeup, doing a Mel Brooks-style “2000-Year-Old-Man” voice as an aged sorcerer, is out of place — but he’s so funny you won’t care.

Both Goldman and Reiner deserve applause for their accomplishment, and the wonderful cast (did I mention Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Peter Cook and Andre the Giant) is obviously relishing every moment.

This is in some ways a non-vulgar, Americanized version of how Monty Python might do a fairy tale. And it is great fun from start to finish.

“The Princess Bride” is rated PG for violence (there is some blood, several deaths and a couple of torture scenes) and two profanities (one spoken by the young boy in bed, one by Patinkin).


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

PROPHECY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: If someone were to ask me, of all the films I reviewed for the Deseret News, which is the least likely to be revived in the 21st century for a Blu-ray upgrade, this might have been at the top of that list. But for some reason, the Shout! Factory believes there is a fanbase for it, so it’s back in the catalog. My review was published in the Deseret News on June 18, 1979.

“Prophecy” has the distinction of possibly being the worst movie with which director John Frankenheimer, writer David Seltzer or star Talia Shire have ever been associated.

The ad campaign for this movie is better than the film itself. It is being built up as “THE” monster movie and those hired to work on it were sworn to secrecy so the “original” storyline could not be stolen by someone else for a quick movie rip-off.

But the real reason this plot was kept under wraps is that “Prophecy” itself is a rip-off of the 1977 film “Day of the Animals,” and others of its genre (“The Birds,” “Frogs,” “Night of the Lepus,” etc).

In “Day of the Animals” a group of people are trapped in the wilderness while animals and birds, driven berserk by the sky’s ozone layer, kill all the humans they can find.

In “Prophecy” a group of people are trapped in the wilderness while mutant animals, driven berserk by mercury in the water, kill all the humans they can find.

Horror, monster and science-fiction films are very commercial right now and it’s a shame to see such talented people involved in such a dumb movie. I’d like to think it is good intentions gone awry, not just a chance to make money with a creaky idea.

     

Talia Shire and Robert Foxworth, with Richard Dysart in the background, 'Prophecy' (1979)

But next to such recent horror fare as “Alien” and “Halloween,” “Prophecy” appears to be without style and is certainly without anything scary. And this PG-rated film is every bit as bloody as those R-rated movies.

Though Talia Shire receives top billing here she is reduced to screaming and worrying while her husband, Robert Foxworth, does all the typical hero work. For Shire it is a step backward toward such banal first films of hers as “The Dunwich Horror.”

Foxworth, previously seen in “Damien – Omen II” and “Airport ’77,” handles his role well. He is a dedicated U.S. Health Services doctor taken out of the ghettos of Washington, D.C., to spend two weeks evaluating the northern woods of Maine. It is hoped he will settle a land dispute for the Environmental Protection Agency between a paper mill and local Indians.

He takes his cello-playing wife (Shire) along for the ride as he confronts a bigoted mill boss (excellently played by Richard Dysart) and hostile Indians (Armand Assante, Victoria Racimo).

Foxworth soon discovers the mill has been polluting the water with mercury and it is mutating local fish and animals. He doesn’t know Shire is pregnant and has eaten some of the fish — thus opening the door for a possible sequel.

     

The mutant "bear" or whatever it is in 'Prophecy' (1979)

The first third of the film is pretty good, with Frankenheimer showing his talent for suspense (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “Black Sunday”), as in an ax-and-chainsaw fight scene and with discoveries of a giant fish and a killer raccoon.

But then his actors have to utter such ridiculous dialogue as when they carry a wounded helicopter pilot to a cabin: “Where shall we put him?” asks one carrier; “Let’s take him inside,” the other answers.

When they catch two baby monsters the plot seems to have taken an interesting twist, but it quickly slides downhill as Mama Monster (looking like a giant bare bear) spends the rest of the movie chasing them and her cubs (looking like skinned dogs).

It’s all formula horror. But it’s poorly done and excessively bloody, including a decapitation. The only difference between “Prophecy” and Roger Corman’s 1950s mutant movies is pollution instead of atomic desolation.

The clichés include musical buildups and stark silences as indications the monster is about to jump out at you. You’ll be better off jumping up and leaving the theater.