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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

SINGERS AND PENGUINS AND FAITH — OH MY!

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

It’s a rare mix of films opening in local movie theaters this weekend — two G-rated pictures and two more rated PG (at a time when two in a year with those ratings is rare), along with three musicals! Yes, it’s another slow week of independent productions in advance of the “Avengers” mega-movie event that arrives next weekend.

“Penguins” (G). Ed Helms narrates the latest of Disneynature’s annual  Earth Day documentaries, this one following an Adélie penguin named Steve that joins millions of fellow males in the Antarctic spring quest to build a suitable nest, find a life partner and start a family, none of which comes easily.

“Breakthrough” (PG). Emmy-winner Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”) stars as Joyce Smith in this true story of the devout Christian mother’s efforts to entreat God to save her teenage son after he falls though the ice on a frozen lake, is trapped underwater for 15 minutes and is thought to be dead before starting to breathe and slipping into a coma. With Josh Lucas, Topher Grace and Dennis Haysbert.

“Twice the Dream” (PG). Utah native Savannah Ostler stars in, wrote and directed this locally filmed musical drama about two sisters pursuing a dream as pop singers until tragedy strikes and derails their ambitions. Ostler and Monica Moore Smith (“Saturday’s Warrior”) play the sisters.

  

“Amazing Grace” (G). Composer Alan Elliott recently finished this documentary, which was begun by the late filmmaker Sydney Pollack in 1972 after two nights of recording Aretha Franklin’s stirring concert with a choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Franklin’s 1972 “Amazing Grace” recording became the best-selling gospel album of all time and remains her best-selling work. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Stuck” (PG-13). When a Manhattan subway train suddenly stops in a tunnel beneath the city, six strangers, a disparate cross-section of New Yorkers, eventually begin expressing their hopes, woes and despair over societal ills — by singing about them. Based on a stage musical, with an ensemble cast led by Giancarlo Esposito, Amy Madigan and Ashanti. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Gateway Theater.)

“Teen Spirit” (PG-13). A shy teenager (Elle Fanning) living in Europe with dreams of becoming a pop-singing star to escape her dismal surroundings and shattered family life thinks she’s found the solution when she enters an international singing competition. With Rebecca Hall.

  

“Little Woods” (Not Rated). Sisters Ollie (Tessa Thompson) and Deb (Lily James) live in a North Dakota oil-boom town where Ollie risks prison to keep her sister and nephew afloat by dealing prescription drugs obtained in Canada in this hardscrabble melodrama. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)

“The Curse of La Llorona” (R). A widowed social worker (Linda Cardellini) is raising her two children in Los Angeles during the 1970s when she takes on a case with striking similarities to supernatural occurrences that haunt her own family. With Raymond Cruz.

“High Life” (R). French filmmaker Claire Denis wrote and directed this eccentric sci-fi thriller about a group of criminals sentenced to death who are sent into space to extract energy from a black hole. Meanwhile, the ship’s doctor (Juliette Binoche) is obsessed with creating a child in space through artificial insemination. With Robert Pattinson. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)


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

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the better film noirs during that genre’s post-‘Body Heat’ revival in the 1980s, is this largely forgotten little gem, which was a box-office disappointment, despite largely favorable reviews. But now it’s been given new life by The Shout! Factory with a gorgeous Blu-ray upgrade, enhancing the gorgeous visuals by director Ridley Scott and cinematographer Steven Poster. My review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 11, 1987.

Director Ridley Scott, whose credits include the first “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and last year’s failed “Legend,” is a master of overkill. He’s so technically impressive in his very artistic work that he tends to let the look overwhelm character and story.

Certainly that applies to some degree to “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the latest in a recent spate of cop-thrillers to hit local theaters — especially when the organ music that accompanies a cop from Queen’s introduction to a fancy Manhattan apartment makes it sound like he’s entering the Sistine Chapel, or when smoky New York streets glisten and bright lights and colors flash.

But Scott has apparently learned a lesson along the way and his storytelling ability has improved remarkably. He manages to subdue those technical instincts throughout most of “Someone to Watch Over Me” so that his characters are in the forefront.

And the story here is certainly familiar, with overtones that bring to mind “Stakeout,” “The Big Easy” and even “Lethal Weapon.” But what Scott and his actors do with that story is rather special — most of the way.

Tom Berenger, recently nominated for an Oscar as the scarfaced sergeant in “Platoon,” plays a street cop recently promoted to detective. He’s a happily married family man whose wife (Lorraine Bracco) is a former cop, and she’s one tough cookie herself. (Their son suffers a bit from movie-child precociousness.)

One of Berenger’s first assignments is to protect a murder witness (Mimi Rogers), so the killer, a total psycho with mobster ties, won’t be able to prevent her from testifying.

     

Tom Berenger, left, Jerry Orbach, John Rubinstein, Mimi Rogers, 'Someone to Watch Over Me'

Berenger and a couple of other cops trade shifts as they watch her apartment — a very swanky place that begins to make Berenger feel as though he’s been living in a slum.

As you might suspect, Berenger and Rogers find themselves drawn to each other, though their class difference is distinct. And soon they are embroiled in an affair. Familiar, yes?

What gives “Someone” its edge, however, is that Berenger feels guilty — really guilty. And his wife, when she finds out, is not about to let any of that guilt let up.

One of the things that makes this movie most unusual is that Berenger’s wife, Bracco, is almost as prominent a force in the film as Rogers. And for my money, Bracco runs away with the film — a strident, tough-minded woman who isn’t about to compromise what she has or what she wants to accommodate her husband’s wandering eye.

But Berenger isn’t really the wandering type, and that’s what this movie’s really about. He is suffering during this affair, but at the same time he is drawn like a moth to a flame, no idle metaphor.

     

Lorraine Bracco, Tom Berenger, 'Someone to Watch Over Me'

In the end, as with many of these kinds of movies, “Someone to Watch Over Me” really goes haywire, requiring the psycho killer to lose all control and do really stupid things — almost as stupid as the cops who ultimately track him down. The film’s explosive climax is extremely ludicrous and almost ruins the movie.

This isn’t the first movie to come along this season that has plenty going for it and then tosses much of it away in the final scenes — and it’s difficult for a critic to write about those moments that require the harshest criticism without giving too much of the ending away.

So I will not do so, except to say that the finale here looks like another boardroom decision. Can’t you hear the studio executives saying, “OK, so you sympathize with the characters, but where’s the shootout?”

Most of the way, though, “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a much more satisfying exploration of adultery and the feelings of the people involved on all sides than “Fatal Attraction” — and though it will doubtless not have near the draw of that picture, one hopes it will find its audience.

As mentioned, Bracco, Berenger and Rogers are all fine, and there are several supporting players who also do quite well. And director Scott is to be congratulated for pulling those excellent performances from his cast. And for allowing the story to control most of the film.

“Someone to Watch Over Me” is rated R for violence, profanity and 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.

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 SANDLOT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This locally-filmed family picture gained much of its enduring popularity after its theatrical release and remains a favorite in Utah — and a lot of other places. The SCERA Theater in Orem is showing the film as part of its ongoing Cinema Classics series and you can see it there on Tuesday, April 30, at 10 am. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 9, 1993.

The new kid in town is a dweeb when it comes to playing ball. But with the help of his reluctant, distracted stepfather and the local kids down at the sandlot where an eight-member team plays daily, he'll get the hang of it. He'll have to. They need a ninth player.

That's basically the overriding storyline in "The Sandlot," set in 1962 in an unnamed small American town. And the new kid, Scotty (Tom Guiry), even narrates the yarn, a la "The Wonder Years," albeit without the wit.

     

James Earl Jones confronts two of the kids playing ball in "The Sandlot."

This is an ensemble film, however, gradually building on a series of comic vignettes to the climactic confrontation between the boys and the monstrous junkyard dog that lives on the other side of the fence at the back of the sandlot.

Almost equal time is given several other team members as the group goes through various coming-of-age encounters — chewing tobacco and getting sick on a tilt-a-whirl ride (culminating, unfortunately, with graphic vomiting), stealing a kiss from the shapely teen lifeguard at the community pool, and using poor judgment when a new baseball is needed to continue a game.

Some elements work better than others. It's hard to believe, for example, that Scotty has never heard of Babe Ruth and the ending is just about as sappy as they come. Worse, co-writer/director David Mickey Evans (writer of "Radio Flyer") indulges his worst instincts, padding many scenes so that they seem to go on forever.

     

And it's too bad that a talented actress like Karen Allen is cast as Scotty's mother but is given nothing to do. (Better off is James Earl Jones, doing yet another of his patented end-of-the-movie cameos.)

But if you can accept "The Sandlot" on its own terms, as a sentimental, nostalgic look at growing up, through that overused metaphor, baseball, and take to the kids as updated, ragtag versions of the old "Our Gang" youngsters, you'll have fun. More important, young audiences will have fun.

"The Sandlot" is rated PG for profanity, vulgarity and some violence — all of it relatively tame.


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

SHEENA

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was among the nearly unanimous critical community that found the deliberately campy ‘Sheena’ to be one of the worst films of 1984. Oddly, one of its defenders was the late Pauline Kael, the powerful movie critic for the New Yorker, who took it as a slapstick comedy. And the film does have a following, hence, the recent Blu-ray upgrade by Millcreek Entertainment. The most interesting aspect of this release is the design of the Blu-ray box, which is part of a series of less-than-stellar 1980s titles with a retro VHS look. My review below was originally published in the Deseret News on Aug. 24, 1984.

If you’ve been disappointed ever since Bo Derek’s “Tarzan, the Ape Man” that no other film has quite come up (or down) to its hilarious level of idiocy and incompetence, take heart: “Sheena” is in town.

No, not a concert film with Sheena Easton, “Sheena” is former Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts, her hair bleached blond and her body barely clad — when it is clad at all — as she rides her zebra (actually a horse painted like a zebra) through the jungle. As the “queen of the jungle,” Roberts stares blankly into space, juts her chin out for dramatic effect and spouts some of the most ridiculous dialogue in any film since “The Conqueror.”

     

   "Sheena" (Tanya Roberts) with her jungle friends.

The film begins with Sheena’s biography, though hardly in a class with “Superman.” She is orphaned when her parents are buried in a cave-in, though neither she nor any of the tribe that takes her in seems to notice or care. She also inexplicably has the power to communicate with the jungle animals — a sort of distaff Tarzan by way of Dr. Dolittle. (Oddly enough, Roberts co-starred in “The Beastmaster” a few years ago, which had Marc Singer as a similar hybrid, if you substitute Conan the Barbarian for the Tarzan comparison.)

The story here has network-television newsman Ted Wass and his cameraman Donovan Scott doing a story on an African prince, who is also an American football star that has killed his brother to get his hands on some land for its titanium value. Wass meets up with Roberts, of course, and they fall in love … or something. Scott provides comedy relief — as if that was necessary.

“Sheena” is actually little more than a jiggle jungle movie with a supremely serious music score and reverential directorial treatment that only enhances the film’s inherent campiness. Roberts seems to be taking it all so seriously that one can only chuckle out loud at how ridiculous she seems.

     

But no one looks good here, even those who have proved themselves in other shows. Scott’s comedy is clumsy and ill-timed, the villains all look so constantly angry that you expect them to begin hitting each other, and Wass is forced to say things like “You make me want to cry,” as he stares at Roberts. She replies, “What for?” He says, “For everything.” And later he adds, “I love you so much it busts my heart.”

Rated PG for gory violence and an awful lot of nudity, “Sheena” is hardly appropriate for the young audience it seems aimed at, and would most certainly have carried a PG-13 had it been rated after July 1.

“Sheena” is one of the decade’s worst movies — but if you’re in the mood for some unintentionally hilarious jungle nonsense, this one fills the bill.