Vintage Deseret News Columns Vintage Deseret News Columns

‘HE THINKS I LOOK ALIKE’

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline above is an old Chico Marx punchline but it applies to this excerpt from a ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column that was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 22, 1989, about movies that look like other movies. The films cited here may be dated but the sentiment applies to a lot of contemporary motion pictures, as well. (And only “The Abyss” managed to sidestep its basic description and surprise moviegoers as a terrific film.)

Among the dozens of movies scheduled for 1989 that were listed in last week’s Calendar

section of the Los Angeles Times, several scheduled to open between now and mid-summer seem to have the same plot.

No, it’s not a young boy switching bodies with an adult.

 

This time it’s a team of scientists working several miles below the ocean’s surface being attacked by a monster beneath them — an underwater “Alien,” if you will.

“Leviathan,” with Peter Weller and Richard Crenna; “Lords of the Deep,” with Priscilla Barnes and Bradford Dillman; and “The Abyss,” with Ed Harris and Michael Biehn all appear to have that plot.

As does the already-released “Deepstar Six,” with Nancy Everhard and Greg Evigan.

Then there’s “The Terror Within,” starring George Kennedy and Andrew Stevens. This one’s a little different, however — a team of scientists working 500 feet below the Mojave Desert are attacked by a monster beneath them.

The synopsis of each film sounds similar all right, but the real question, of course, is how alike do they look?

 

Well, if the following personal experience is an indication — a lot:

My wife did not go with me to see “Deepstar Six” — a wise move on her part. But she had seen the preview spots that were playing on television. And while at another film last week we saw a theatrical preview for “Leviathan.”

When the preview concluded she turned to me and asked, “Was that the film you saw the other night?” (Meaning, of course, “Deepstar Six.”)

That writer’s strike last year really took its toll, didn’t it?


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

LEGOS v. OSCAR BAIT

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

A new Lego movie opening this weekend skipped the summer rush for the more sedate and serious fall season, opening opposite a drama that offers an apparent bid for Academy Awards consideration.

“The Lego Ninjago Movie” (PG). The latest animated Lego movie follows six young ninjas as they defend their island, Ninjago, from villains and monsters. The voice cast includes Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Michael Peña, Fred Armisen, Olivia Munn and Jackie Chan.

“Stronger” (R). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as real-life Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs and subsequently went through grueling rehab to learn to walk on prostheses. Co-stars include Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown.

“Brad’s Status” (R). Ben Stiller stars in this comedy-drama as a father who takes his son on a tour of colleges on the East Coast, where he bumps into an old friend whose success gives him second thoughts about his own life. With Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, Luke Wilson and Jimmy Kimmel.

  

“Rebel in the Rye” (PG-13). Nicholas Hoult plays reclusive novelist J.D. Salinger in this biographical film, from his youth through World War II and the publication of his seminal book, “Catcher in the Rye.” With Zoey Deutch, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Victor Garber and Hope Davis.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (R). This sequel to the ultra-gory first “Kingsman” film has the team’s British headquarters being destroyed, which brings them together with a U.S. spy organization called the Statesman. With Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Emily Watson and Elton John.

“Friend Request” (R). This horror yarn is about a college student named Laura who unfriends a disturbed girl on Facebook, which leads to the girl’s ritualistic suicide. When a video of the death is posted on Laura’s page, she can’t delete it and soon her friends begin dying in horrible ways. An English-language German production filmed in South Africa with an Australian star.


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

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Shout! Factory’s ‘Collector’s Edition’ Blu-ray of ‘Escape From New York’ is loaded with extras for fans of the cult favorite (with a nice supporting role for Harry Dean Stanton, who passed away last Monday). Here’s my review, published on Aug. 7, 1981, in the Deseret News.

“Escape From New York” is a chilling vision of a bleak future through a glass darkly, with director John Carpenter propelling the audience into a literal hell on earth with a relentlessness that will leave viewers out of breath before the end of the first reel.

Carpenter sees 1997 America as being so crime-ridden that all of New York City has been walled in, the country’s only maximum-security prison. Escape is impossible, with bridges mined and walled, helicopters circling the island of Manhattan constantly, radar scanning the area and armed guards at every turn — even in the Statue of Liberty.

In this prison-city are more than 3 million felons who will never be paroled, preying on each other within myriad sub-cultures.

Then disaster strikes, as Air Force One crashes within New York’s walls and the president of the United States is taken hostage.

Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is about to be dropped into the prison when he is given a chance for freedom: All he has to do is go inside and rescue the president. He only has 24 hours, however, as the president (Donald Pleasance) carries papers and a cassette tape that are vital to world peace.

And that’s just the beginning.

Once Plissken is inside he encounters a crazy cab driver (Ernest Borgnine) and a self-styled intellectual called “Brain” (Harry Dean Stanton), who lives in a burned-out library with his hard-edged moll (Adrienne Barbeau).

     

  Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau, 'Escape From New York'

With their help, Plissken attempts to rescue the president from the prison’s kingpin, The Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes).

Whether this premise is your cup of horror depends on whether you can accept Plisskin as an anti-hero’s hero and go along with the negative view of humanity represented.

I bought it and found myself enjoying “Escape From New York” much more than I expected to, although “enjoying” may not be quite the right word.

Carpenter is a stylist and he has managed to put every penny of his $7 million budget on the screen. Occasionally the special effects falter (when the glider goes over the side of the World Trade Center, they definitely look like scale models), but for the most part “Escape” is incredibly effective.

The sets and lighting reflect the attitude of the picture, the movie is almost entirely night scenes and New York is almost entirely burned out. And the pulsating music (Carpenter co-wrote the score with Alan Howarth) adds to the scary atmosphere.

Carpenter is young and he builds on his style with every film. Just as “Halloween” was the most frightening horror movie of its generation, so “Escape From New York” is destined to be remembered as the most horrifying view of the not-too-distant future.

     

The acting is first-rate, especially Russell’s. After his apprenticeship in Disney domestic comedies, he showed his diverse talents by giving us a glib, fast-talking huckster in “Used Cars” and an excellent impersonation of Presley in Carpenter’s TV-movie “Elvis.” Now he uses a guttural snarl to become a feared criminal and it’s most effective.

Because there are no sympathetic characters here (even the president is less than honorable) it’s a matter of rooting for the survival of the mission, if not the people.

Fortunately, Carpenter and co-writer Nick Castle have laced their script with enough sardonic humor to keep you laughing past the movie’s problems.

Rated R for some strong violence and profanity, “Escape From New York” is a rough thriller that will alternately have you laughing and chewing your fingernails up to your wrists.

For those who like sci-fi-horror melodrama, cynicism and stylish filmmaking, “Escape From New York” is perfect escapist fare.


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.

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

WALL STREET

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street,’ which earned the best-actor Oscar for ‘Greed is good’ actor Michael Douglas and gave a pre-scandal Charlie Sheen a terrific starring role, is being revived by Fathom Events in theaters for its 30th anniversary next week, on Sunday, Sept. 24, and Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 2 and 7 p.m., in both Cinemark and Megaplex Theaters. Here’s my Deseret News review, published Dec. 11, 1987.

File this one under “timeliness.”

“Wall Street,” however, doesn’t deal with a stock market crash, so the film opens with the year superimposed on the screen: “1985.”

So much for timeliness.

But that’s OK, since Oliver Stone, who picked up Oscars for “Platoon” earlier this year, has delivered a highly entertaining, fast-paced look at wheeling and dealing, buying and trading, making and breaking in the world of high finance.

Charlie Sheen has the lead role as a young middle-class stockbroker with middle-class values who decides to sell out when he has the opportunity to be taken under the wing of a high-rolling corporate raider, played with an evil eye by Michael Douglas.

Money is the object, and there’s obviously plenty of it to be had if Sheen can come up with enough inside information. But that information isn’t going to be gained legally, so Sheen learns quickly he must set aside his middle-class values and any lingering sense of ethics.

That doesn’t sit very well with his father, played with gusto by Charlie’s real-life dad Martin Sheen. He doesn’t like what his son has become, and he’s not hesitant to let him know how he feels.

     

       Charlie Sheen, left, Michael Douglas, 'Wall Street'

Sound like about 200 other movies you’ve seen in your lifetime? Kirk Douglas deciding whether to throw a fight in “Champion,” James Stewart striving to avoid political corruption in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” etc.

This is predictable enough stuff (though the ending stretches our suspension of disbelief to the limit), but as with many talented moviemakers, Oliver Stone is more interested in the way the story is told than the story itself.

So we let the story wash over us and just revel in the performances and the director’s sense of style.

Charlie Sheen seems a bit too wide-eyed and innocent to become a ruthless Wall Street thief, but then that’s probably the idea. We have to believe that at some point he will feel bad about what he’s done — and we do.

Michael Douglas, on the other hand, is one of the nastiest villains we’ve seen in a while. Smiling on the outside, pure greed and evil intent on the inside, and he gives a knockout performance. When he says, “Lunch? You gotta be kidding! Lunch is for wimps!” we know he just doesn’t want to take time out from ripping up some company so his own personal capital gain will increase.

     

         Martin Sheen, left, Charlie Sheen, 'Wall Street'

But the one who really stole the show for me was Martin Sheen as the idealistic lifelong aircraft worker who can’t stand to see his son sell out. Sheen gives a magnificent performance. We feel his pain, we feel his sense of urgency and we want to see him help his son out. It’s a wonderful performance.

Daryl Hannah also co-stars, though she really doesn’t have much to do, and Terence Stamp has a delightful cameo, as does young James Spader.

“Wall Street” sags a bit in the middle (it’s just over two hours long), and occasionally Stone’s slick filmmaking technique tends to overpower the material. But he has also managed to make fairly clear to us what could have been a complex and confusing industry, and for the most part this is fast-paced, emotion-manipulating entertainment that won’t have you feeling you wasted $5.

It is rated R for considerable profanity, some sex, brief nudity, some vulgarity, some drug use and a bit of violence (fisticuffs) at the end.


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

S.O.B.

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of Warner Archive’s Blu-ray upgrades is this scathing Hollywood satire, the notorious film in which Julie Andrews briefly flashes her bosom. Here’s my July 3, 1981, Deseret News review.

Blake Edwards is purging himself with “S.O.B.,” poking dark fun at all the Hollywood clichés that have made his life miserable over the years.

This appears to be his attempt to do to the movie industry what “Network” did to television, but instead it’s an inside joke that is far too inside for general audiences, and the picture itself is a mishmash of several styles of humor that just refuse to come together.

The story has a movie producer (Richard Mulligan) suffering a nervous breakdown because his latest big-budget film, which stars his wife (Julie Andrews), is a flop (a la Edwards’ “Darling Lili,” perhaps?).

The first third of the film is spent watching Mulligan attempt suicide in several ways, while all around him assorted fools, moguls, agents secretaries, gossips and pickups wander around oblivious to his intentions. The middle third is taken up with Mulligan’s scheme to turn his G-rated, insipid musical flop into an R-rated hit by having Andrews, a star with a “Mary Poppins” image, do a nude scene in an erotic dance sequence. A violent twist further darkens the film for its final third, as the historical rumors about John Barrymore’s body being dug up by friends is brought to life in another form.

     

                          Julie Andrews, 'S.O.B.'

Though Andrews, as the musical star who finally bares her bosom for the screen, and William Holden, as the film’s director, get top billing here, the intent is clearly an ensemble piece. But the focus is on Mulligan who is called upon to alternately perform as catatonic and manic. Mulligan, who was Bert in the TV comedy series “Soap,” offers an excellent, hilarious portrayal.

There are other good roles as well, particularly Robert Preston as an eccentric Hollywood doctor and Holden as the director.

And the Edwards brilliance, which covered the screen in the “Pink Panther” series and was shown in flashes of “10,” sometimes lights up “S.O.B.”

Occasional lines are bright and several sight gags are hilarious (most notably Mulligan slipping through a hole in the floor on a rug), but the jokes throughout the movie range from scatological to slapstick to satirical to very black, and the dry spells between laughs are too frequent.

     

There is also the feeling that Edwards should be ashamed of himself for exploiting his wife, Julie Andrews, as he does in “S.O.B.” There is a lengthy buildup to the moment when she finally bares her breasts, a buildup that ridicules the Hollywood system that would require such a measure from a “prim and proper”-imaged star. But Edwards has allowed the same thing to happen with this movie; for months we’ve had gossip column articles telling us that he has been making a film wherein his wife does a nude scene.

And I wonder about Andrews, too. She’s attempted to change her image before, with “The Americanization of Emily” and Hitchcock’s “Torn Curtain,” but “10” and “S.O.B.” are beneath her talent. This is a sad example of a husband-wife star team that is its own worst enemy.

Occasionally brilliant, very often crude, consistently nasty and, in some ways, very sad, “S.O.B.” is the kind of film that gives “sophisticated” comedy a bad name. Let’s get back to good movies, Blake, and leave the social statements alone.