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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

END-OF-SUMMER LEFTOVERS

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

A new faith film from the Kendrick brothers looks promising, and a couple of documentaries at the downtown art house, but otherwise it's the end-of-summer business-as-usual collection of films that will likely be forgotten before moviegoers exit the auditorium.

“Overcomer” (PG). A small town is devastated when the nearby manufacturing plant closes, displacing many of the area’s families, and the high school basketball coach (Alex Kendrick) loses most of his team. So he’s given the job of cross-country coach, only to find that he has just one runner (Aryn Wright-Thompson) — and she has asthma! This faith film is directed by Kendrick and co-written with his brother Stephen, who also gave us “War Room” and “Courageous,” among others.

“Angel Has Fallen” (R). This sequel to “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen” brings back Gerard Butler as Secret Service agent Mike Banning and Morgan Freeman as the U.S. president he protects. This time around Banning is framed for an assassination attempt on the president and goes on the run to clear himself. With Nick Nolte, Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo and Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Ready or Not” (R). A young bride (Samara Weaving), with her new husband (Mark O’Brien), visits his rich, eccentric family and is talked into taking part in a wild, freewheeling game of hide-and-seek, only to learn that it’s really a one-sided hunt, she is the prey and the object is murder. With Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell.

  

“Luce” (R). The title character is the adopted son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from a war-torn African country whose upscale parents (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth) are proud of his high school accomplishments. But a teacher (Octavia Spencer) begins to suspect something is off with the boy and she decides to investigate.

“David Crosby: Remember My Name” (R). Cameron Crowe (“Say Anything,” “Jerry Maguire”) offers an overview of the life and turbulent times of musician David Crosby, a founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, who still tours extensively at the age of 78. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“One Child Nation” (R). Directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang use a seires of interviews and observations to explore China’s one-child policy, which lasted from 1979 to 2015 and was designed to control the country’s burgeoning population. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)


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

TRUE BELIEVER

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A rather forgotten film of the late 1980s is this thriller, with Robert Downey Jr. playing a role that was emblematic of his early career, playing a young, often idealistic newcomer that learns the hard way from a seasoned, often hardened, veteran (in this case, James Woods). This one’s pretty good and deserves its Blu-ray revival from the Mill Creek disc label. My review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 17, 1989.

After his ill-fated “Cop” and “The Boost,” James Woods has finally come up with a winner in “True Believer,” a murder mystery that is as involving as his eccentric characterization.

Woods plays a former ’60s protest attorney now practicing in Manhattan, and spending most of his time getting sleazy drug dealers off. Along comes idealistic young law-school graduate Robert Downey Jr., who wants to work with the civil liberties champion he expects to find in Woods.

Naturally, Downey is rather disappointed to see pot-smoking, burned-out Woods has been bought off. But when an intriguing murder case comes into the office, Downey sees it as a way to get Woods back on track.

     

James Woods, left, Robert Downey Jr., 'True Believer' (1989)

The case is a Korean-American who has been in prison for eight years on a murder rap. He claims innocence still, of course, but now he’s charged with killing a fellow inmate as well. For that crime he claims self-defense.

Woods at first refuses the case, but then sees it as a way to take on the establishment one more time, by clearing his client not of the second murder charge, but of the first.

His journey into Chinatown and gang warfare and ultimately back into the powers-that-be in Manhattan makes for a complex, believable murder-corruption mystery that is most intriguing as it unravels, and it can be solved by the audience, though not too easily.

One of the problems with murder mysteries today is that they are either far too easy to figure out, following as they do the step-by-step movie-cliché path (as with “Physical Evidence”), or they are impossible to figure out, with the killer being revealed in the end as a red herring (as with “Suspect”).

     

But “True Believer” balances the mystery with offbeat characterizations essential to this genre, while providing plenty of suspense and laughter along the way.

James Woods is terrific, as usual, as the ponytailed, hip lawyer, and he carries the film when it tends to sag. The minor characters, particularly among those in the police department, D.A.’s office and the underworld, are quite good, but others, primarily Margaret Colin as a private eye, get short shrift. Robert Downey Jr., in a role that seems patterned after the Emilio Estevez part in “Stakeout,” is purposely low-key but it tends to work against him since everyone else is so flamboyant.

For the most part, however, this is one of the better mystery-suspensers to come along in some time.

“True Believer” is rated R for violence, profanity and considerable drug use (marijuana smoking), along with a fleeting shot of a nude photo.


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

THE MARRYING MAN

     

For Hicksflicks.com, 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.