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'BLUE BLOODS' IS AS GOOD AS EVER

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the ninth season of ‘Blue Bloods’ begins on CBS next week (Sept. 28), the show is every good as it was in Season 1; arguably better. My wife Joyce and I have been watching the early seasons again over the summer and it’s still a thoroughly engaging program whose characters just get richer with each passing season (even as some of the supporting players have come and gone). So this column, published in the Deseret News on Jan. 13, 2011, halfway through the first season, still holds up. If you haven’t yet watched ‘Blue Bloods,’ I heartily recommend checking it out. And, just a little column update: The show is still on Fridays, the Sunday dinner table talk is still deftly handled and the characters remain practicing Catholics, though there is the occasional crisis of faith or conscience. (Oh, and the 10th Jesse Stone movie has been announced by Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel for 2019.)

CBS is shaking up its TV schedule again, and one show that has been getting pushed around is a favorite in my house, “Blue Bloods.”

Off the air since early December during an extended Christmas/New Year’s layover, “Blue Bloods” returns with new episodes beginning next week.

However, the network isn’t making it easy for fans. The show is switching to Wednesdays (9 p.m., Ch. 2) — but only for four weeks. Then it’s scheduled to return to its original Friday slot. Got that?

In many ways, “Blue Bloods” is a fairly typical TV cop show. The setting is New York. The main characters are the seasoned/world-weary police chief, a homicide detective who bends the rules where necessary, a naïve rookie beat cop and a beautiful female prosecuting attorney.

The criminal story lines are contrived to include all or most of these people each week. And the cases so far have covered turf that is familiar to viewers of any of the “Law & Orders” or “CSIs” or myriad other police-procedural television series.

But in this show, they are all members of the same family — a family that has included cops for several generations.

And I have been continually surprised — in a very pleasant way — by two running story threads that have really grown on me, and which give this show some genuine depth: subplots about family solidarity and others that demonstrate these are faithful, churchgoing Catholics.

     

Sunday family dinner is a tradition (and a weekly highlight) at the Reagan household in 'Blue Bloods.'

Not that all of the show’s politics are conservative, even if the family name is Reagan. Both sides of most issues are discussed, and family talk around the dinner table can become heated.

But at the head of that table is Tom Selleck, as Manhattan’s police commissioner and the de facto (if not literal) head of this appealing, feisty family.

Selleck is the reason my wife and I began watching.

I know most people love him for “Magnum, P.I.,” and I enjoyed that show too, though I was never a regular viewer. But it’s been Selleck’s growth as an actor since then in cable-TV movies (especially the Westerns), a few feature films (especially the Australian Western “Quigley Down Under”) and his recent string of TV movies as world-weary small-town police chief Jesse Stone that have made us appreciate Selleck as a national treasure.

So when we read that he was starring in a new cop show, for us it was a no-brainer; we’re there.

As it turns out, Selleck isn’t the “star” as such, but he is certainly the anchor of a terrific ensemble cast, and he’s still a good reason to watch every week.

But he’s not the only reason. The rest of the cast is good too.

Donnie Wahlberg plays oldest son Danny, a tough cop who seems in danger of crossing the line; Bridget Moynahan is his sister Erin, an assistant district attorney; and Will Estes is baby brother Jamie, who was on track to become a lawyer but at the last minute decided to join the family business.

Selleck is his sons’ boss, a widower living in the family home with his father Henry (Len Cariou), a retired cop who brings “the old days” into conversation to help put modern police work into perspective.

Also on hand are Jennifer Esposito as Danny’s partner, Nicholas Turturro as Jamie’s partner, Amy Carlson as Danny’s wife and others.

One of the show’s conceits is that this large family gathers around the dinner table each Sunday, which allows the subject of that week’s plot to be discussed and sometimes argued.

So far they’ve gotten into profiling, legalizing drugs and the use of force by officers on the street, among other topical subjects.

This dinnertime table talk sounds like something that could get old but it’s been handled so well that it’s often a highlight.

     

Jamie (Will Estes) and his partner Eddie (Vanessa Ray) finally got together romantically at the end of Season 8 of 'Blue Bloods.' What will Season 9 bring for them?

There is one aspect of the show that already feels unwieldy, however, a story arc that has Jamie being pursued by Internal Affairs to help bring down a subversive group of cops known as the Blue Templar. His arm is being twisted by the suggestion that his oldest brother, another cop who was killed in the line of duty, may have been set up by the Templars. The sooner that story line is concluded, the better.

And while I’m complaining, it also seems that every cop show sooner or later has to have one of the main characters — usually a woman — being targeted by a killer. That’s already happened with Erin, who was actually chased around her own office building until Dad showed up to blow the guy away. Right.

But such convoluted contrivances are rare in a show that, for the most part, has been entertaining and thought provoking, and has characters that already feel rich.

As mentioned, however, one of the things I like most is the family dynamic. Erin is divorced and has a rebellious daughter, Danny and his wife have kids, and Jamie was engaged until his fiancee left, partly because she thought she was marrying a lawyer, not a cop. (Selleck’s character had a secret fling with a much younger TV reporter in the first couple of episodes, but that, mercifully, went away and hopefully will not return.)

This is a big family and it’s apparent they all love and respect each other; no one is estranged or ostracized. Danny is faithful to his wife (even when tempted, as he was in one episode), and his father and grandfather apparently had long, stable marriages. All of this is quite unusual for a cop show.

And even more unusual in modern TV series is the subplot that they are all faithful Catholics who pray, offer a blessing on the meal at the weekly dinner and attend church.

Even an episode that dealt with the possibility of impropriety in a Catholic school was handled in a respectful way and ended with a nice acknowledgment by Selleck’s character that he remains a believer.

So the upshot is this: If you haven’t yet tried out “Blue Bloods,” take it for a test run. It’s a show that deserves a following and you won’t be disappointed.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

TICK TOCK

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018

The mix of new movies opening this weekend includes a PG-rated supernatural comedy, a PG-13 creature feature, a pair of R-rated social satires and a bevy of R-rated adult thrillers. Oh, yes, and Michael Moore’s latest “documentary.” Hmmm. The TV is looking better and better.

“The House With a Clock in its Walls” (PG). Jack Black is a warlock living in the title creaky old title house in 1955 Michigan when he takes in his 10-year-old nephew, whom he begins training in the magical arts. But when the boy inadvertently unleashes the long-dead original owner of the house, along with a bevy of nasty supernatural creatures, they seek help from their next-door neighbor, a much more powerful witch (Cate Blanchett). Family-friendly comedy-horror based on a 1973 young-adult novel. With Kyle MacLachlan and Colleen Camp.

“Lore” (PG-13). A woman (Lyndsey Lantz) and her estranged husband (Max Lesser) search a remote wilderness area for their missing son, with help from a Native American friend (Sean Wei Mah). But soon they come to realize that an evil creature is hunting them. With Eric Roberts.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” (R). Michael Moore’s latest political so-called “documentary” is a dark comic look at the 2016 presidential election and subsequent presidency of Donald Trump.

  

“Life Itself” (R). This romantic comedy-drama follows multiple couples across several generations, all of them connected by a single event. With Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Jean Smart and Samuel L. Jackson.

“A Happening of Monumental Proportions” (R). In her directing debut, actress Judy Greer tackles a dark ensemble comedy that takes place in one day in and around a middle school as several characters deal with a a tyrannical boss, a complicated interoffice romance, a school crush, various wacky teachers and principals, and a dead body. The large cast includes Common, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, Katie Holmes, Bradley Whitford, John Cho and Keanu Reeves.

“Assassination Nation” (R). This dark satire has a high school senior (Odessa Young) and her hard-partying pals finding themselves caught up in violent chaos when a malicious data hack disrupts the lives of those in their community. With Bella Thorne, Bill Skarsgård and Joel McHale.

  

“I Think We’re Alone Now” (R). Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning star in this character-driven sci-fi yarn as a man who thinks he’s the lone survivor of an apocalypse and the young woman he eventually stumbles upon. With Paul Giamatti and Charlotte Gainsbourg. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Jordan Commons Theater.)

“Lizzie” (R). “Lizzie Bordan took an ax. … ” You know the rest. This is yet another speculation on the true story of the woman who was accused and acquitted of the ax-murders of her father and stepmother in Massachusetts, circa 1892. With Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Fiona Shaw, Jamey Sheridan and Kim Dickens. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Let the Corpses Tan” (Not Rated). A gang of murderous thieves make off with 500 pounds of gold in Corsica but then have to contend with cops and rivals in this bloody French shoot-’em-up. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)


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

TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: I ran my review of ‘Tucker’ in this space a couple of years ago as an unsung, largely forgotten movie that I wanted to recommend. Now it’s getting a Blu-ray upgrade from Lionsgate and looks better than ever. So here’s my review again; it was originally published in the Deseret News on Aug. 12, 1988.

“Tucker” is the story of a man who dreamed about building a better mousetrap – or more correctly, a better automobile. He wanted a car that would be safer, more economical and more roadworthy, designed on the principal of aerodynamics. Or, as he billed it, “The Car of Tomorrow – Today.”

Not content simply to dream, however, he designed his Tucker Torpedo and built it himself, with a few friends, in a barn on his own property.

The story is true, to one degree or another, and the car that Preston Tucker created in the mid-1940s still exists – an epilogue explains that 46 of 50 cars he manufactured are still in use today.

If the film is to be believed, it was indeed a better car than Detroit was turning out – and for that reason, Detroit did not want the competition. So, through their powerful political connections, the Detroit companies forced Tucker out of business before he could begin mass production.

   

      Jeff Bridges, 'Tucker: The Man and His Dream'

Though the film is subtitled “The Man and His Dream,” director Francis Ford Coppola seems more interested in the dream than the man. Jeff Bridges is excellent as “Tucker,” whose innovations included seat belts, padded dash, pop-out windows, disc brakes and fuel injection – in the mid-1940s.

But the concentration is on Tucker being told his ideas aren’t practical while he prepares to go ahead with them anyway. And then on the pressure and eventual criminal charges leveled against him by the powers that be.

You might think that Coppola’s outrage at a man’s dreams being stalled would make for a downbeat, bitter film. But he has instead chosen a very sunny approach, showing Tucker as an eternal optimist to whom the dream is as important as the reality.

Fortunately for Tucker, he has a loyal workforce of friends – Frederic Forrest, Mako – and a very understanding and loving wife (Joan Allen). They are all family, working toward their goals together. Coppola has directed the film very stylishly (love those telephone conversations – theatrical, but nice), leaping off as a promotional film for Tucker’s company, and returning to that format from time to time. The period is superbly recreated and there are many nice touches in the script.

    

There are also a number of fine performances that are somewhat unexpected – Dean Stockwell as Howard Hughes, Lloyd Bridges (Jeff’s Dad, of course) as the evil senator from Detroit. But the real surprise is Martin Landau. After years of being stuck in sleazy character roles in even more sleazy exploitation films, Landau proves he has spent too much time as an unused talent. He’s great as the lonely Jewish accountant with a shady past who becomes a part of the Tucker “family.”

“Tucker” is a fine, showy turn from a director who probably identifies with his lead character more than he realizes. And both come out smelling like roses.

“Tucker” is rated PG for a profanity or two.


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

FIELD OF DREAMS

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘If you build it … ’ — but you know that quote, don’t you? One of the best-remembered lines from cinema now. And in that spirit, local Megaplex theaters, as part of the chain's current 'Silver Screen Classics' series, are hoping that if they show it, the audience will come. You can catch it on the big screen Monday and Wednesday, Sept. 24 and 26, at 2 and 7 p.m. Here’s my review, published May 5, 1989, in the Deseret News.

There's no question that "Field of Dreams" is a throwback to movies of yesteryear. After all, how long has it been since we've had a flat-out fantasy laced with innocence and a gentle, yet powerful pro-family message?

Even the recent "Chances Are" had its smarmy moments.

But "Field of Dreams" never loses its focus or its sense of what it wants to be, and consequently the film achieves a euphoric state that seems rare in modern movies. And my guess is it's something that has been missed, and once word gets out about this picture it will play to standing-room-only audiences all over the country.

The film begins with a brief biographical sketch of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), whose father loved baseball — his hero was Chicago White Sox player "Shoeless" Joe Jackson — and hoped his son might grow up to be the player he was never able to become. Unfortunately, it resulted in an alienation between father and son that was never resolved.

     

James Earl Jones, left, Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, 'Field of Dreams'

Ray marries an Iowa girl (Amy Madigan), has a young daughter (Gaby Hoffman) and somehow finds himself a farmer, raising fields of corn. He's never done a crazy thing in his life, Ray explains, but he's about to, and as the film's modern setting unfolds he is standing in his cornfield one early evening when he hears a whispering voice say, "If you build it, he will come."

"If you build what, who will come?" his wife asks, but Ray has no answer.

Eventually it comes to him that he is to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield, therefore mowing down his main crop. He thinks its a little crazy, of course — and so does his wife. But he is compelled to do it anyway.

The result is a visit from "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), who returns from the dead to play on the ball field and eventually brings with him the rest of the disgraced Chicago "Black Sox" who threw the 1919 World Series.

Then Ray is guided to link up with a former radical '60s writer (James Earl Jones) and an aging former baseball player (Burt Lancaster), who eventually figure in the mystery of this bizarre spiritual experience.

     

                      Kevin Costner, 'Field of Dreams'

That description may sound more weird than enchanting, and I have to admit that the theatrical preview for this film left me cold when I saw it a few weeks ago. I can only say that cursory descriptions and the previews do a disservice to what is actually a magical, often funny, utterly delightful movie, one that will stay with you for some time to come.

The performances, appropriately low-key and perfect for this piece, are played superbly by the actors, and writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, basing his screenplay on W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe," manages to at once evoke an old-fashioned style of filmmaking with nostalgic overtones and an up-to-date yearning for the ability to reconcile our past mistakes with our present lives.

Robinson also wrote and directed the delightful but underrated "In the Mood" last year and wrote the screenplay for Carl Reiner's hysterically funny "All of Me," which, in my book, remains Steve Martin's best film.

This film proves those accomplishments were not flukes and Robinson is a talent to watch for in the future. And for me "Field of Dreams," rated PG for a few scattered profanities, is so far the best film of 1989.


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

IMPULSE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kino Lorber is giving this title a Blu-ray upgrade — the 1984 dark fantasy, not the unrelated 1990, 1974 or 1954 crime thrillers of the same title. I wasn’t a fan of this one but since it’s being reissued, here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Oct. 3, 1984.

The idea isn’t bad, really. A small dairy community goes off its nut as people begin acting on impulse, actively pursuing feelings or thoughts that had heretofore been swept under the rug or locked in the closet.

But “Impulse” is just that — a not-bad idea with nowhere to go. Once the premise is set up, the screenwriters don’t know what to do with it, so a short story that might have been an interesting “Twilight Zone” episode is dragged out to feature length.

Worse, however, are individual scenes that are laughably silly and a wrap-up that is just another tiresome variation on the government-paranoia theme we get whenever a filmmaker doesn’t know how to make plausible the explanation for an incredible story.

     

                   Tim Matheson, Meg Tilly, 'Impulse'

After an earthquake shakes up a small farming community, we are introduced to Tim Matheson and Meg Tilly, a young New York surgical resident and ballet dancer, respectively, who live together. The film then takes a shocking turn, as Tilly receives a phone call from her mother who inexplicably abuses her verbally, then shoots herself while still on the phone.

Naturally, Matheson and Tilly are on the next bus to her hometown (Bus? The doctor can’t afford to rent a car?), where her father runs a small dairy farm. Mom is barely surviving on a life-support system, with the help of a kindly, aged country doctor (Hume Cronyn).

Then weird things begin happening. Some old men play kick the can in the street, another gentlemanly looking fellow urinates on a car, people make love in public, a couple of middle-aged citizens blatantly steal from a bank’s open cash drawer, one young man breaks his own fingers in a jealous rage … the camera sees all this, but Matheson and Tilly are apparently too dumb to notice any of it. Or maybe they’ve just been in New York too long and think this is normal behavior in the sticks.

But before you can say, “Is it something in the water?” Matheson is testing the water. Don’t be put too far afield, however, by the negative results of his tests.

After a while Matheson joins the crowd, unable to control his hedonistic sexual desires, and when he commits a murder, Tilly runs for her life.

     

                           Bill Paxton, 'Impulse'

The R-rated sex scenes are graphic, and an abundance of decadent behavior, violence and profanity also account for the rating. But I suppose with a movie that has a premise this free and wild, we should be grateful the filmmakers didn’t go any further than they did. “Impulse” could have been a much trashier film than it is — and it’s pretty trashy.

Matheson, best known for his Robert Hays-style portrayal of straight-looking goofballs in “Animal House” and “Up the Creek,” and Tilly, the youngest member of “The Big Chill” ensemble, make an appealing team, and the film as a whole manages to build some tension along the way.

But director Graham Baker (“The Final Conflict”) signals in advance the climax of nearly every set piece, so the audience, rather than just anticipating what might happen, accurately predicts what will happen.

Nothing in a suspense film is more frustrating than that. And then “Impulse” finally wears out its welcome.