For, Friday, March 16, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: A couple of years ago I was musing on remakes in a Jan. 14, 2016, column, and doggone if this year doesn’t look like that year, with plenty of sequels and plenty of remakes — and plenty of sequels that look like remakes. I was thinking about remaking or rebooting that column, but, oh what the heck, let’s just rerun the old one.

AS A CHILD in the 1950s, it was not unusual for me to be running around the neighborhood wearing an official Davy Crockett coonskin cap while carrying a toy rifle, which was vital for keeping the bears — or, as Davy would say, the “b’ars” — at bay in my suburban Southern California neighborhood.

And I did that, of course, because I was a huge fan of the five “Davy Crockett” episodes that aired as part of the black-and-white “Disneyland” TV series, which I watched with my family on our little 13-inch console television.

Oh, and also the two Davy Crockett movies that Disney released into local theaters — in color! (Actually just edited-together versions of the “Disneyland” episodes.)

But I never had any notion of wanting to remake the show. Nor did I think about what a modern-day CGI-enhanced version might be like. Would Davy and the bear (“b’ar”) be more like “The Revenant” if it were made today? And if so, would parents even allow their kids to see it?

I cherish the memories of those old films and I still enjoy them, if in a nostalgic kind of way.

So it’s been interesting over the years to see so many filmmakers remake movies they claim as favorites when they were younger, and what they changed.


Steven Spielberg often cited “A Guy Named Joe” (1943) as one of his favorite films before remaking it in 1989 as “Always.”

Ditto Martin Scorsese with “Cape Fear” (1962), which he remade in 1991.

And Tim Burton with his 2001 reinvention of “Planet of the Apes” (1968).

And Gus Van Sant with his 1998 version of “Psycho” (1960).

Other famous examples include John Carpenter and “Village of the Damned” (1960/1995), Paul Schrader and “Cat People” (1942/1982), David Cronenberg and “The Fly” (1958/1986), Adam Sandler and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936/2002), as well as “The In-Laws” (1979/2003), “Invaders From Mars” (1953/1986), “A Kiss Before Dying” (1956/1991), “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962/2004), “Narrow Margin” (1952/1990) and many others.

All of these were made by fans who went on to become filmmakers. And some of these remakes aren’t bad, and many have earned their own fan base, of course.

But I would argue that none are improvements, and many are outright failures. So why bother? Why not just do original material instead of reworking someone else’s ideas?

So it was interesting to see so many continuing franchises reboot themselves last year in ways that were almost remakes.

I wrote last November about “Spectre” and how it seemed in many ways to be James Bond’s greatest hits, with scenes and plot elements cribbed from “Goldfinger,” “From Russia With Love,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and yes, even the first Bond film, “Dr. No.”

Of course, “Spectre” is the third film of the James Bond “reboot” — the 21st century nickname for movies that are updated remakes.

But after watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Creed” and “The Peanuts Movie,” I realize that “Spectre” isn’t the only 2015 movie to revisit past glories.

Now don’t misunderstand. I enjoyed all four of those titles.


“The Force Awakens” offers an enormously good time at the movies, a nostalgic point-by-point remake of the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie that offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane for longtime fans, but which is also updated with a female heroine and a slew of new characters that a modern generation can embrace.

Similarly, “Creed” restarts the “Rocky” series in a way that younger moviegoers can easily get into, even as it remakes the 1976 original, this time essentially turning Rocky — with Sylvester Stallone returning to his most famous role — into Mickey, the trainer played by Burgess Meredith in the first three “Rocky” films.

And finally, “The Peanuts Movie,” in an attempt to stay true to its roots even as it utilizes 21st century computer animation, manages to maintain its original “look” and includes just about every iconic moment of the comic strip and early cartoons — right down to a sort of cameo by “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Obviously, the next entries in the James Bond, “Star Wars,” “Rocky/Creed” and  “Peanuts” franchises will have to take things in new directions, at least to some degree.

I mean, it’s one thing to offer up rehashes of the first movie in a series, but no one wants to see a sequel that turns out to be the remake of a sequel?

Oh, wait. That’s exactly what the second “Star Trek” reboot movie did.

So maybe it is just remakes from now on.

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, March 16, 2018

Six new movies land in Salt Lake theaters this weekend, led by what is expected to be a new franchise, or more correctly, a rebooted old franchise.

“Tomb Raider” (PG-13). Alicia Vikander, as Laura Croft, takes over the role initially played by Angelina Jolie in two early-2000s films, as a reckless young woman shaking off her frivolous past to search for her adventurer father (Dominic West), who disappeared while hunting a rare artifact on a remote island. With Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi.

“I Can Only Imagine” (PG). The title is a mega-hit song by Christian band MercyMe, and this faith film relates the story of forgiveness behind the tune’s inspiration as lead singer Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley) remembers his father, who died when Millard was 18. With Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Carroll and Trace Adkins.

“7 Days in Entebbe” (PG-13). This thriller recounts the true story of Palestinian and German terrorists hijacking an Air France passenger airliner in 1976, demanding a $5 million ransom and the release of 53 militant prisoners, 40 of them in Israel. With Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl and Vincent Cassel. (Older readers may remember several earlier versions of this story, including two all-star TV miniseries in the 1970s.)


“Love, Simon” (PG-13). Simon, a teenager (Nick Robinson) attending high school in an Atlanta suburb, begins an anonymous email correspondence with someone who claims to be a fellow closeted gay student. Then Simon is contacted by a blackmailer threatening to out him to his school and his family. Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner co-star as Simon’s parents in this comedy-drama.

“The Party” (R). When a British politician wins a prestigious post she invites her elitist circle of friends to her home for a celebratory party, which soon turns sour in this dark comedy-drama. The familiar ensemble cast includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Timothy Spall, Bruno Ganz and Cilian Murphy. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas).

“A Ciamba” (Not Rated, in Italian with English subtitles). A 14-year-old boy who idolizes his older brother is determined to prove himself as a man, which is challenged by his brother’s disappearance. This drama focuses on a Romanian community of immigrants in southern Italy, with much of the cast made up of non-actors playing variations on themselves. (Exclusively at the Broadway Center Cinemas).

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



For, Friday, March 16, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The comedy ‘Waiting for Guffman’ was the first of Christopher Guest’s string of faux documentaries, which include ‘Best in Show,’ ‘A Mighty Wind,’ ‘For Your Consideration’ and ‘Mascots’ (the latter being a 2016 Netflix film in which Guest briefly reprises his ‘Guffman’ character). Warner Archive has given ‘Waiting for Guffman’ a Blu-ray upgrade, so here’s my Deseret News review, published on March 14, 1997.

Blaine, Mo., is celebrating the sesquicentennial of its founding. Yes folks, it's hard to believe, but 150 years have passed since a wagon train stopped where Blaine now stands, after weary settlers were informed they had reached California. "Smell that salt water!" Col. Blaine exclaimed.

But Blaine also has a couple of other claims to fame. The town is the home of famous handcrafted footstools, and proudly wears the moniker, "Stool Capitol of the World." And then there was the notorious alien abduction of some local residents back in 1946.

All of these events and more will be included in the centerpiece of Blaine's celebration, a community theater production titled "Red, White and Blaine," written and directed by Corky St. Clair, a local boy with New York theater experience. (His previous Blaine production was a stage version of "Backdraft" — which burned down the theater.)

That's the setup for "Waiting for Guffman," as we follow a hilarious series of backstage events built around Corky's efforts to cast the play and then get it up and running. Of course, he'll have to deal with the usual rivalries, jealousies and bickering that accompany such efforts.


Fred Willard, left, Catherine O'Hara, Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, 'Waiting for Guffman'

Structured as a mock documentary, "Waiting for Guffman" is bound to ring true to anyone who has ever participated in any kind of local theater production. And it may especially resonate with a number of Utahns right now, as there are many neighborhood and community events currently in development to celebrate our own sesquicentennial. (Although we really can smell salt water!)

Co-written, directed by and starring Christopher Guest as Corky, "Waiting for Guffman" is in a vein similar to "This is Spinal Tap" — a hysterical 1984 mock documentary about a fictional rock band, with Guest as a major participant.

For "Guffman" he has gathered a wonderful cast and allowed them to improvise, which results in occasionally uneven but frequently very funny scenes. (There is also a brief moment in the audition sequence with harsh profanity, and another scene has some sexually explicit dialogue, both of which account for the R rating.)


Christopher Guest with a 'Remains of the Day' lunchbox in 'Waiting for Guffman.'

Eugene Levy (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays an obnoxious dentist, Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard are married travel agents who have never left Blaine, Parker Posey (who won an acting award at the Sundance Film Festival in January) is a Dairy Queen employee, and this foursome, along with Corky (replacing a last-minute dropout) will wind up with the musical play's lead roles. Guest, meanwhile, plays Corky as a prissy "New York type," who says he has a wife named Bonnie, though no one in Blaine has ever seen her.

The film's title, "Waiting for Guffman" (meant to echo "Waiting for Godot"), refers to a New York producer whom Corky has invited to see the play, a futile gesture that he hopes will get him back to Manhattan.

The film revels in a condescending form of humor, based on the simple idea that none of these small-town folk have any talent, but they think they do — and so does the small-town audience.

But it's never mean-spirited, and Guest has fashioned the film with a great deal of affection. The charm goes a long way toward making the material amusing instead of insulting.

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 from my some 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 still writing for the D-News, but this is mostly archival stuff (with permission), 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, March 2, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This month’s TCM/Fathom Events movie is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 classic 'Vertigo,' celebrating its 60th anniversary. The film was re-released in theaters in 1983 and 1997, and I reviewed it for the Deseret News on both occasions. Below is my Oct. 30, 1983, review, and my hearty recommendation still holds. If you’ve never seen ‘Vertigo’ on the big screen, don’t miss this opportunity at local Cinemark theaters on Sunday, March 18, and Wednesday, March 21.

“Vertigo,” Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 classic film, is an incredibly mesmerizing movie experience. And the script spins what has to be one of the most convoluted tales ever to be filmed — so much so, in fact, that it defies adequate description without giving away some of the odd twists and turns the film takes.

So I will try to be brief in description and not give away any details that might detract from your enjoyment of this highly entertaining treatise on human obsessions and our natural fear of death.

Hitchcock made several movies in which the storyline seemed to be merely an excuse to tie together camera tricks and suspenseful scenes, the most obvious example being “North by Northwest,” which is also one of his best films.

But “Vertigo” is the movie most often imitated (except for “Psycho”), and Brian DePalma fans may recognize part of the plot as resembling “Obsession,” and the museum scene as being similar to a moment in “Dressed to Kill.” That’s because, as skilled as he is, DePalma has long been moviedom’s worst Hitchcock rip-off artist. (And much of “Vertigo” was spoofed in Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety,” of course.)


“Vertigo” opens with a heart-pounding sequence, as police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) and a uniformed officer chase a criminal across several rooftops. As a result of that experience, Ferguson develops the title condition, and blacks out whenever he climbs any great height.

Eventually, he becomes involved with a beautiful society woman (Kim Novak) whose husband fears she is being possessed by a suicidal spirit. Needless to say, Scottie falls in love with her, but then tragedy separates them. That carries you about halfway through the picture, and it’s about as far as I’ll go in terms of description, but if you know Hitchcock’s style at all, you’ll know things are not exactly as they seem, and Scottie is in for some shocks before the film is over.

“Vertigo” is loaded with symbolic shots that represent our short time on earth, from giant redwoods towering above the characters, to the expansive ocean behind them, and it all heightens the tension, which builds tremendously in several scenes, including a bizarre nightmare sequence.

What is best here, though, is the way Hitchcock manages to say so much so subtly. Where other filmmakers might use a voice-over narration, Hitchcock merely moves his camera a few feet or zooms in on something in the scene, thereby telling us all we need to know.


“Vertigo,” for as much as it says, is surprisingly void of dialogue. There are long sequences where nary a word is spoken, yet these are thoroughly involving scenes, and very telling ones.

Bernard Herrmann’s eloquent score is among his finest, pulsating during suspense, soft and lilting during the romantic moments, and low-keyed and tense during build-up scenes.

Stewart is excellent, as always, and Kim Novak is surprisingly effective in her role, another of Hitchcock’s icy blondes. Barbara Bel Geddes is also very good as a semi-girlfriend whom Scottie has begun to take for granted, and there is a marvelous scene with Henry Jones as a judge who doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind in the courtroom about a case, no matter how it might influence the jury.

Does “Vertigo” deserve its place up there with the best movies of all time? It sure does, and if you have any doubts, catch it this week.

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



For, Friday, March 16, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The character of Hercules has been filmed almost as many times as Dracula or Sherlock Holmes. And this version may be the worst, which is saying something. But the Shout! Factory has nonetheless given the film a Blu-ray upgrade, so here’s my Aug. 29, 1983, Deseret News review.

See a man throw a bear into outer space!

See giant robots felled by boulders and logs!

See a woman wearing seashell pasties and little else!

See mobs of people at the box office demanding refunds!

But don’t see “Hercules” unless you need a good laugh. Or a bad one.

“Hercules” is the most idiotic, ridiculous, muscleman movie since … well, since “Yor, the Hunter From the Future,” a whole week ago. The big difference between that film and that one, however, is that “Hercules” stars two “name” actors — Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning.

Billed in the ads as “the incredible Lou Ferrigno,” the star is best known as TV’s “The Incredible Hulk.” And though he’s not green here, the idea is much the same. As Hercules, he throws things around a lot. But it’s the audience that turns green.


                           Lou Ferrigno, 'Hercules'

Sybil Danning may be recognized for numerous film appearances in which she also does much the same thing as she does in “Hercules” — that is, she shows a lot of cleavage and little talent.

“Hercules” begins with the creation of the world through all sorts of laser-light special effects when Pandora’s jar is broken in space. Then Zeus, looking for all the world like Santa Claus with a crown, creates the baby Hercules, whose beginnings here more resemble Moses.

Eventually, Hercules grows up and shows off his muscles by uprooting trees, beating up a giant grizzly (as laser lights and blipping noises shoot from his fists) and acting as the family plow horse.

His eventual destiny is the typical “quest” plot, but here, despite his being in ancient Greece, he battles all kinds of evil in the guise of video game effects.

Obviously the filmmakers want it all: Greek mythology, sci-fi technology, monsters … in fact, the only thing they seem to have forgotten, is the same thing all these films lack — an intelligent script.


            Sybil Danning, Lou Ferrigno, 'Hercules'

This is epic filmmaking on the cheap: dime-store special effects, stilted acting, dumb dialogue and choppy editing. It’s a wonder movies like this get made, much less released.

But there are a few laughs, unintentional though they be. A serious voice-over narrator intones: “In the cosmic chess game of the gods, this was yet another move. … ” A chariot takes Hercules into outer space, propelled by a rock he has thrown.

And my favorite: at one point, Zeus interferes with Hercules’ life by rescuing a boat from a waterfall. His wife nags at him to put it back. So he does, in calm water. Sheepishly, Zeus looks at her and says, “You didn’t say where to put it.”

“Hercules,” rated PG for some bloody violence and partial nudity, is barely acted by Ferrigno, amateurishly written and directed by Lewis Coates (“Starcrash”) and will be overpriced when it’s shown on television for free.

Steve Reeves — where are you when we need you?