For, 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



For, 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



For, 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.

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, Sept. 13, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A high point in Emma Thompson’s career came in 1996 when, three years after winning the best-actress Oscar for ‘Howards End,’ she earned the best-screenwriting Academy Award for ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ and her film remains arguably the best of the spate of Jane Austen films that were popping up around that time. If you’ve a hankering to see it on the big screen, Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogden is showing the film on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. as part of its ‘Chick Flick’ series. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Jan. 19, 1996.

Elinor loves Edward. And Edward seems to love Elinor. But Edward runs off to London and we discover that he's already engaged.

Middle-aged Col. Brandon loves young Marianne. But Marianne loves the dashing John Willoughby.

Willoughby seems to love Marianne in return, but then he also makes a hasty, unexplained retreat and heads for London.

So what's in London that causes these men to run off? Will our heroines link up with them again? And what of poor, honorable Col. Brandon?

Sound like an English version of "Days of Our Lives"?

Guess again. It's the latest — and finest — of the Jane Austen resurgence, "Sense and Sensibility," with a wonderful screenplay by Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who also stars as Elinor. (And helmed with taste and style by Taiwanese director Ang Lee, of "Eat Drink Man Woman.")


Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, 'Sense and Sensibility'

Full of little mysteries, unabashed romanticism and delightful comedy, "Sense and Sensibility" is an utterly winning comic melodrama. And it unfolds casually, Merchant-Ivory style, with all the lush trappings of late 18th-century rural England.

As the story begins, Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) is widowed, and according to law her huge estate reverts back to the oldest son by a previous marriage. So, when snobbish John Dashwood (James Fleet) and his even more snobbish wife Fanny (Harriet Walter) move in, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne (Kate Winslet) and young Margaret (Emile Francois) are forced to move out.

But not before they meet Fanny's younger brother, Edward (Hugh Grant), a real charmer, despite his shy, self-effacing manner. He is attracted to Elinor, but their courtship is cut short when Fanny contrives to have him called to London.

The Dashwood women move to smaller quarters, taking charity from Mrs. Dashwood's cousin, the comically uncultured Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy) and his matchmaking mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs).


Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, 'Sense and Sensibility'

There, Marianne meets Col. Brandon (Alan Rickman), who is obviously attracted to her, though she won't give him the time of day. And then, in one of those romantic Austenesque moments, she meets Willoughby (Greg Wise), who quite literally rides in on a horse and sweeps her off her feet.

Col. Brandon mutes his jealousy and watches from afar, as Elinor and her mother observe Marianne's head-over-heels romance with some reservations. And, then, Willoughby takes off for London without explanation, leaving Marianne heartbroken.

Eventually, Elinor and Marianne will be afforded a trip to London, allowing them an opportunity to meet Edward and Willoughby again, and to learn the mysteries behind their abrupt departures.

Trying to explain this film in plot terms, however, can only make simplistic what is really a heartfelt story, filled with rich characters and compelling events, however low-key.

The performances are all excellent, with standouts including Thompson, Winslet, Jones, Spriggs and Walter.

"Sense and Sensibility" is rated PG, but there is nothing offensive (unless you are bothered by the cleavage of heaving bosoms in traditional 18th-century English garb).

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



For, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A notorious production plagued with on-set acrimony, this comedy has been all but disowned by everyone involved (although their on-set meeting put Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin on the road to a nine-year marriage), but someone must like it since Kino Lorber has chosen the title for a Blu-ray upgrade. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 5, 1991.

The main problem with "The Marrying Man" is a simple one: It's a comedy and it isn't funny.

The leads are appealing: Kim Basinger as a torch singer, who seems to be patterned after Madonna doing Marilyn, and especially Alec Baldwin in a Cary Grantish playboy role.

The story is interesting, supposedly based on a real-life situation where a volatile couple married and broke up and married again three or four times.

And the supporting cast features some enjoyable character players: Robert Loggia, Paul Reiser, Elisabeth Shue, Armand Assante.

Yet the script, by Neil Simon of all people, doesn't develop the characters or even define them very well, lets the story meander all over the place and has very few laughs. It doesn't help that first-time live-action director Jerry Rees (he also helmed the animated feature "The Brave Little Toaster") lets the film, though slick, hang together raggedly.


Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin, 'The Marrying Man' (1991)

"The Marrying Man" is set primarily in the late 1940s and early ’50s. Baldwin is a Los Angeles millionaire who has never worked a day in his life. He is heir to a toothpaste fortune and about to marry the daughter (Shue) of a powerful Hollywood producer (Loggia).

Six days before his wedding, he goes to then-budding Las Vegas for a bachelor party with four buddies (Reiser, who narrates the film, along with Fisher Stevens, Steve Hytner and Peter Dobson). At a casino they watch the floor show and see a young singer (Basinger), and for Baldwin it's lust at first sight.

Though he's told she is the girlfriend of gangster Bugsy Siegel (Armand Assante), Baldwin just can't resist making a pass, and later in the night Bugsy catches them in the act.

Instead of killing Baldwin and Basinger, however, he forces them to get married. Naturally, neither of them wants marriage — or so they think — so they have it annulled and go their separate ways.

Fate, with a nudge from Simon, has other plans, of course, so they eventually are thrown back together — several times.


All of this has the makings of very funny stuff on the order of an old Ernst Lubistch screwball comedy, especially when Baldwin has to take over the family business in Boston and Basinger has to learn to cope with the chic elite.

But whether it was tension on the set (Premiere magazine recently did an article on Basinger's and Baldwin's alleged temper tantrums, which supposedly caused major setbacks in production) or just a dull script by Simon, the possibilities are never realized.

Even the supporting characters, usually a strength in a Simon film, seem to be just hanging around with little or no purpose.

"The Marrying Man," rated PG-13 for sex, violence, profanity and vulgarity, is simply not funny.

And as a postscript, yes, according to the movie's press kit, Basinger really did sing all her own songs — complete with the silly cartoon sexuality she displays, which may remind viewers of Madonna's antics on the Oscar show.