For, Friday, May 25, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ movies came to Blu-ray for the first time seven years ago. It was a big deal back then, which may surprise younger fans, since collections are now being rapidly replaced by online services. I was annoyed with yet another re-release of the ‘Star Wars’ films reaching for my wallet and said so in this column, published Aug. 27, 2010 (it’s short because there were four sections with four topics; this was the lead). Three different Blu-ray sets were released on Sept. 16, 2011, including ‘Star Wars: The Complete Saga,’ which contained all six films that we had at the time. (In answer to the obvious question, yes I did eventually spring for the ‘Complete Saga’ set on Blu-ray, but no, I will not indulge myself when the 4K upgrades eventually arrive on the scene. Honest. No, really; I mean it this time.)

MEMO TO GEORGE LUCAS: I am not buying “Star Wars” again, no matter how fabulous the Blu-ray edition is or how many “lost” scenes turn up between now and fall 2011.

In case you missed it (not likely), Lucas is reissuing the original “Star Wars” trilogy (technically “Episodes 4-6”) on Blu-ray next fall, just in time for Christmas (surprise, surprise).


And the bonus features will include at least one deleted scene with which Lucas has teased uber-fans over the years but has never officially released.

Having already purchased the “Star Wars” films five or six times over the past two decades, I could devote an entire bookshelf to the those movies alone.

And the DVDs I already have play beautifully on my Blu-ray player, thank you very much.


Of course, if Lucas were to offer a rebate on the “Star Wars” Blu-rays to those who purchased previous editions (meaning everyone on the planet), maybe I’d consider the exchange.

But that’s not going to happen.

As Boba Fett would say, “Greed is good.”

Or was that from some other movie?

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, May 25, 2018

Except for a couple of art films at the Broadway Centre downtown the other movie studios have turned their backs on this weekend’s theaters. After all, who wants to go up against the latest “Star Wars” blockbuster?

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (PG-13). Aka “Young Han Solo.” Alden Ehrenreich takes over the iconic role made famous by Harrison Ford to give us the character’s origin story as he teams up with Chewbacca, meets up with another young smuggler, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and sees his idealistic attitudes collide with a more cynical reality. With Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany. Directed by Ron Howard and written by Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and many others) and his son Jonathan (“Dawson’s Creek”).


“1945” (Not Rated, in Hungarian with English subtitles). Shortly after the end of World War II, two orthodox Jewish men arrive by train in a small village that is preparing for a wedding. The arrival of the two men brings to the surface the guilt of locals who were complicit in the Germans’ persecution of Jews that lived in the area. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

“Let the Sunshine In” (Not Rated, in French with English subtitles.) Juliette Binoche stars in this talky romantic comedy-drama as a Parisian artist and divorced mother who yearns for true love. Directed and co-written by Claire Denis (“Chocolat”). “(Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)

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



For, Friday, May 18, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: With the release of last week of the fifth straight-to-video sequel to the horror-comedy ‘Tremors,’ a new, four-disc ‘complete collection’ of the movies has also been released. The first film, which played in theaters, is still the best, of course, thanks largely to a first-rate cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, and in her acting debut, Reba McEntire. Ward and Gross hung on for the first sequel, then Gross remained for the rest, including the latest, ‘Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell.’ Here’s my Jan. 23, 1990, Deseret News review of the first film.

"Tremors" is a throwback to the old '50s creature features — you know, "The Blob," "Them!" "Tarantula."

But "Tremors" recognizes that its premise — in this case giant sandworms that look like they were lifted from "Dune" — is ridiculous, so it makes the clever choice of presenting itself as both monster movie and comedy.

Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward ("The Right Stuff," "Remo Williams") are a pair of modern-day cowboys working as "handymen" in the Nevada desert near a small town called Perfection when they stumble upon the worms.


Finn Carter, left, Reba McEntire, Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Fred Ward prepare for battle in 'Tremors.'

They join the town's few residents in trying to destroy the creatures, and when that fails they attempt to get into the rocky hills where the worms are unable to tunnel.

Among the townfolk are a pair of overzealous survivalists, well-played by Michael Gross (the father on TV's "Family Ties") and country-singing star Reba McEntire, who have an arsenal in their bomb shelter.

There's definitely a campy tone to most of the laughs, but Bacon and Ward are deadpan as they make wisecracks, resulting in a satisfying combination of humor and horror.


Like many of those horror movies of old, "Tremors" never tries to explain exactly what these creatures are: Oversize worms? Humongous snakes? Overactive shoelaces?

But it's funny enough and scary enough to while away 90 minutes, and, as you might expect, the special effects are first-rate as the monsters tunnel at high speeds, tracking their human prey.

"Tremors" is rated PG-13, but there is an abundance of profanity and enough violence, with accompanying glop-and-goo special effects, that you might want to steer young ones elsewhere.

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, May 18, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although Tom Hanks found movie success with the 1984 one-two punch of ‘Splash’ and ‘Bachelor Party,’ four years later his stock really rose as he became an Oscar nominee with ‘Big,’ which is being celebrated for its 30th anniversary, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. You can catch it on Sunday, July 15, or Wednesday, July 18, at 2 and 7 p.m., in some local Cinemark theaters. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on June 3, 1988. (Notice the coy way I refer to the f-word as ‘the Eddie Murphy word.’ I also called it ‘the Bruce Willis word’ for a time.)

“Big” is the fourth incarnation of the kid-in-an-adult-body plot we’ve had in less than a year — “Like Father Like Son,” “Vice Versa” and “18 Again!” have all been released since last October.

But if you didn’t see those — or if you saw them and didn’t particularly like them (only “Vice Versa” had enough humor to hold an audience very long) — you may get a kick out of “Big,” which proves to be not only funny but genuinely sweet and poignant.

Unfortunately, the sex angle is dealt with here, as it was in the other films, in a way that is less than tasteful, and one scene in particular may be enough to steer young ones in another direction, despite the PG rating.


            Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins in 'Big.'

The story focuses on a pre-adolescent boy (David Moscow) who is tired of being too small to stand up for himself. The final straw comes when he is humiliated at a carnival — standing in line with a girl he has a crush on, he is told he’s not tall enough to go on a ride.

Then the boy spots a mysterious fortune-telling machine, which works even though it’s not plugged in, and he makes a wish — to be “big.” The next morning he wakes up as Tom Hanks. But it’s only his body that has grown. He’s still an immature 12-year-old in his mind.

Needless to say he’s rather shocked, so he runs away from home and tries to make some sense of it with help from his best friend (Jared Rushton). Soon, through a series of misadventures, he finds himself an executive in a toy manufacturing company — the perfect job for someone who is still childlike. There he meets cynical Elizabeth Perkins and soon melts her with his genuineness.

“Big” is an affecting, very funny movie with many memorable scenes — the party where Hanks wears an outlandish tux, Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing on a computerized piano, Hanks nostalgically observing his old haunts and realizing that he misses being a child.


For her second feature (after “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), director Penny Marshall (she used to be the first half of TV’s “Laverne and Shirley”) has taken a low-key innocent approach to the first-time script by Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Gary Ross. The result is a textured, three-dimensional film that is quite different from the others of this genre; all of those merely tried for wacky slapstick.

But the glue that holds “Big” together is the superlative performance by Tom Hanks. In his other films Hanks has always been appealing and charming and funny, but there hasn’t been much to distinguish him from the Bill Murray-Steve Guttenberg-Chevy Chase school of smart-alecky one-liner delivery that has been a staple of film comedies in recent years. With “Big,” however, Hanks proves himself to be quite adept at subtlety and nuance, and his treatment of this character as an innocent child with an incredible sense of wonder gives this picture an enormous boost.

There is a serious problem with a subplot here. Marshall and her writers never come to grips with how to deal with Hanks’ grieving mother, who thinks her son has been kidnapped. This element is extremely distasteful and never adequately resolved. Also unresolved is the boardroom climax where Hanks’ design of a toy is being considered — that aspect is left dangling as Hanks simply walks away.

And, unable to avoid the question of whether a 13-year-old boy (he has a birthday in the picture) in a man’s body wouldn’t welcome being seduced by a beautiful woman, there is a scene that implies a sexual liaison between Hanks and Perkins. (There is also the use of “The Eddie Murphy Word,” which supposedly nets an automatic PG-13 — though this movie is rated PG.) Parents should be advised that this isn’t particularly a film for young children.

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



For, Friday, May 18, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kino Lorber has upgraded to Blu-ray a largely forgotten Paul Newman vehicle from the late 1980s, a biographical film that earns its R rating. Here’s my Deseret News review, published Dec. 15, 1989.

Paul Newman is more feisty and rambunctious in "Blaze" than any film he's made in recent memory, and it's a real pleasure to see him tackle with lip-smacking glee the meaty role of Earl K. Long, flamboyant governor of Louisiana who, in 1959, began a torrid and much-publicized affair with an exotic dancer named Blaze Starr.

And though the movie seems to really be about Long, it's told from Starr's point of view (and based on her autobiography), beginning with her humble back-hills roots in West Virginia and showing us how she inadvertently stumbled into her stripping career — largely because her desire to sing and dance outweighed her talent in those areas.


         Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich in 'Blaze.'

As written and directed by Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham"), Long and Starr's affair began with him simply lusting after her, then gradually developed into a romance of true love.

But it was ill-timed and ill-fated, as Long's term as governor was nearly over and the combination of his scandalous romance with Starr, his progressive politics — especially toward blacks — and his unfortunate incarceration in a mental hospital meant certain defeat in the next election.

Newman plays Long as a gravelly voiced, hard-headed individualist. His manipulation of others — whether a large group of voters or the friends and enemies he worked with — is masterful, and he sees in Starr an innocence and intelligence oblivious to others who can't get beyond her drop-dead good looks.

For her part, Starr, played magnificently by newcomer Lolita Davidovich, is dense about some things and surprisingly wise about others. But her sincere affection for Long is apparent, and the old-fashioned love story represented in "Blaze" makes for fascinating material.


Unfortunately, despite their separate fabulous performances, there is little spark between Newman and Davidovich. Under these circumstances you might naturally expect some real heat, but "Blaze" tends to sputter along without ever catching fire.

In addition, there's little depth of character here and a number of unanswered questions. For example, Long's real-life wife, who was responsible for his mental-hospital commitments and obviously an obstruction to his romance with Starr, is absent and never even referred to. So, late in the film, after Long proposes to Starr, there are domestic scenes that seem to imply they might be married — but later still it's apparent they are not. Audiences may rightly feel perplexed.

There are some nice touches in "Blaze," and Newman is obviously having a lot of fun in his role. But in the end it's a rather cloudy picture that scratches but never gets beneath the surface.

"Blaze" is deserving of its R rating, with considerable nudity and sexual scenes, as well as profanity.