TIME FLIES, AND SO DOES ‘SUPERMAN II’
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 27, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve exhausted all the Marvel superhero choices in your quest for entertainment during your forced at-home coronavirus-induced time off, how about going back to the Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ movies? And if you already know those films by heart, have you checked out the rejiggered versions that have been released over the past decade-and-a-half? Just three years ago the extended three-hour version of ‘Superman’ (1978) was released in a widescreen hi-def version and 14 years ago an alternate version of ‘Superman II’ (1980) came out. Here’s my assessment of the latter, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 1, 2006. (A look at the longer ‘Superman’ will be here next week.)
As if to offer literal proof that "everything old is new again," Richard Donner's version of "Superman II" has landed on DVD shelves this week.
It's the same, only different.
This disc has particular resonance for me, as it was in summer 1981 that I attended my first movie junket, a trip to Niagra Falls (Canadian side) to interview the stars of the new movie "Superman II."
Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane, was absent but most everyone else was there — led by Superman himself, Christopher Reeve; the film's Lex Luthor, Gene Hackman; and director Richard Lester.
It was while talking with Hackman that I discovered "Superman II" was as much Richard Donner's film as it was Richard Lester's.
Donner was the director of the first "Superman" movie, so I innocently asked Hackman about the differences in the way the two Richards approached the two "Superman" movies. Hackman off-handedly said he had no idea; all of his scenes were directed by Donner. He never worked with Lester.
Gene Hackman, left, Terence Stamp, Margot Kidder, Sarah Douglas, Christopher Reeve, 'Superman II' (1980)
Today it's well known among moviephiles that Donner had a falling out with the producers and left "Superman II" unfinished, and that Lester was later hired to complete the film. But back then, who knew? (Although it motivated me to do better pre-interview research in the future.)
As explained on the new DVD "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut," when Donner was making "Superman" he was simultaneously filming "Superman II." Not back-to-back, like the two "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels, but at the same time.
When he was shooting on the Daily Planet set, for example, Donner would shoot scenes for both movies within days, perhaps hours, of each other before moving on to a new set.
However, when the film's budget headed north, the producers worried they might never recover.
It's hard to imagine now but during filming in 1977 and '78, "Superman" was a troubled shoot, primarily due to the time and money spent developing groundbreaking special effects. Especially for the flying scenes.
Donner felt — and rightly so — that if the flying scenes didn't work, nothing would work. But it was no easy task to fulfill the movie's advertising tag line: "You'll believe a man can fly."
So, during the making of the first movie, the plug was pulled on the second movie — after Donner had already filmed about 70 percent.
Later, when "Superman" became a hit, "Superman II" went back into production … but bad blood kept Donner from returning.
Enter Richard Lester, who brought more humor and some of his own plot changes to the project.
In the "new" Donner version, Lester's opening sequence at the Eiffel Tower is gone, replaced with scenes in the Daily Planet that have Lois trying to trap Clark into revealing that he's Superman.
The ending is also changed so that it's more in line with the conclusion of the first film.
There are many other changes but the most striking puts Marlon Brando in the Fortress of Solitude scenes. Though already filmed by Donner, they were excluded from "Superman II" because Brando was in a lawsuit with producers over "Superman" profits. (He eventually received some $14 million.)
So which version is better?
Back in 1981, I wrote in the Deseret News that "Superman II" was "better than its predecessor." And I went on to justify that claim by pointing out that the second film was tighter, more linear in structure, provided great romantic comedy moments for Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, less of Lex Luthor's cartoony sidekicks and nothing as stupid as the turning-back-time climax.
Today I would modify that just a bit. For me, the best film is actually the first half of the first film — Superman's origins through the early Metropolis scenes. But I still have trouble with Luthor's obnoxiously silly cohorts and that ending.
As for the two "Superman IIs," although I enjoyed Donner's alternate version, and especially the more famous sequences that have been Internet fodder for years (the "crystal" scenes really do make a lot more sense with Brando) — and though I have no qualms about recommending it to fans and film buffs (it's quite instructional for those interested in the business of movies) — I still have to give the edge to Lester. If only because Donner chose to revisit the same dumb resolution he used in the first film.
The "Donner Cut" disc includes an introduction by Donner, new interviews, an audio commentary by Donner and his associate Tom Mankiewicz — and even more deleted scenes, all featuring Hackman.
PANIC AT THE MULTIPLEX
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 20, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the pandemic, all movie theaters have been shuttered for the foreseeable future, though not for too long we hope. And a number of major movies have seen their dates shoved back to later in the year anyway … and in the case of the newest ‘Fast & Furious’ sequel, to next year. So, no new movies to alert you to this week; you’ll have to pop some corn, relax on your couch and settle for Netflix — preferably on a widescreen TV and not your phone.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 27, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: A largely forgotten but nonetheless sweet and engrossing drama, ‘Inside Moves’ deserves a revival — and apparently Kino Lorber agrees, having recently given this little gem a Blu-ray upgrade. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 27, 1980.
Despite the downbeat nature of the material, “Inside Moves” is a surprisingly upbeat movie, one that deserves a bigger audience than it is likely to get during this super-hype season of big “Christmas” films.
In a pre-credits scene that requires a remarkable piece of stunt work, Roary (John Savage) nervously enters a downtown office building, takes the elevator to the 10th floor, goes into an office, climbs out the window and jumps, attempting suicide.
His fall is broken by a tree and he lands on the roof of a parked car. In the months that follow, Roary recovers in a hospital. He must now wear a brace, and he has trouble walking and sometimes just moving.
He eventually moves into a boarding house, and when he goes to a bar around the corner, called Max’s, he meets a group of physically handicapped and socially misfit souls: Jerry (David Morse), a bartender whose leg is deformed; wheelchair-bound Blue Lewis (Bill Henderson); blind Stinky (Bert Remsen); and Wings (Harold Russell), who has no forearms and wears prosthetic devices.
Roary also meets the beautiful Louise (Diana Scarwid), who eventually becomes a waitress in the bar, and Ann (Amy Wright), a young prostitute-drug addict with whom Jerry is in love.
John Savage, left, David Morse, 'Inside Moves' (1980)
And we soon learn, just as Roary and some of his newfound friends also learn, that life is to be enjoyed — whatever your condition or lot in life.
One of the things I liked most about “Inside Moves” is that the message is put across with a minimum of preaching. The direction and acting are so strong that the story carries itself far above soap opera level, and we really begin to care about these people.
In the lead, John Savage sets the superb acting pace for his colleagues. Savage may be best remembered for his recent portrayals in “The Deer Hunter,” “Hair” and “The Onion Field.” Each offered him a dazzling showcase for his talent but “Inside Moves” shows him off best. Savage has a wide range and uses it all here. His is an Oscar-caliber performance.
Morse, a New York stage actor making his film debut, is also excellent, as the one “curable” fellow in the group, who dreams of playing professional basketball. He is the surrogate hero through whom Max’s group become winners.
Henderson, Remsen and Russell play their roles with great humor and heart. It’s impossible to sit through this movie and not love these three men. (Russell won an Oscar in 1946 for “The Best Years of Our Lives” and is head of the President’s Commission for Affirmative Action on hiring the handicapped.)
Bert Remsen, left, Bill Henderson, Harold Russell, 'Inside Moves' (1980)
But perhaps the biggest surprise here is that “Inside Moves” was directed as a labor of love by Richard Donner, the man who gave us “Superman” and “The Omen.”
For a “blockbuster” director to come back with such a sensitive “little” film is a rarity and I hope it signals a trend away from the big-budget bores that have plagued the box-office lately.
It’s also interesting to note that “Inside Moves” was originally rated R due to a particular profanity used about four times that automatically gets that rating. Donner appealed to the ratings board and managed to get the film reduced to a PG without deleting a single syllable. One wonders if the same could have been done for Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People,” rated R for the same reason.
While “Inside Moves” is admittedly schmaltzy and perhaps old-fashioned in its sentimentality, it is nonetheless equally tender and touching.
Let’s face it, an awful lot of movies during the past decade have been extremely downbeat, very anti-hero and the audiences have been hard-pressed to come out of the theater feeling good.
Donner, screenwriters Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, and the very talented cast have come up with a movie that is much more than merely “happy” — it’s a celebration of life.
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.
HOUSTON, AND EVERYWHERE ELSE, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 20, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Upcoming golden oldies scheduled for big-screen revivals — including ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Apollo 13,’and maybe ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Airplane!’ — have, of course, been canceled/postponed due to the pandemic. Stay tuned.
APRIL FOOL’S DAY
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 27 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since April Fool’s Day is just a few days away, it seems only fitting that we take a look back at the 34-year-old movie that uses that day as an excuse for yet another holiday-centric slasher flick. (There was also a 2008 remake but it’s no better than this one.) So why has it been chosen for a Blu-ray upgrade by the Shout! Factory (under its 'Scream Factory' imprint)? That's apparently above my paygrade. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 28, 1986.
“April Fool’s Day” had to come along, I suppose. After all, all the other holidays have already been turned into slasher films, such as “My Bloody Valentine,” “Happy Birthday to Me,” “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” etc.
It seems the only ones left are possibly the “Arbor Day Massacre” or maybe “George Washington’s Birthday Killer.”
As you might guess, “April Fool’s Day” has a group of teenagers stranded in a mansion on a remote island where someone begins killing them one by one.
The kids have gathered there at the invitation of their college buddy Muffy, played by Deborah Foreman, who has managed to shine in comic roles in “Valley Girl” and the otherwise horrid “My Chauffeur.”
Deborah Foreman, 'April Fool's Day' (1986)
It is April Fool’s Day, of course, and everyone is playing pranks on each other, of course, and when the killings begin, they too look like they might be pranks … of course.
“April Fool’s Day” is, I think supposed to be a black comedy spoofing other slasher films, like “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.” But it’s not funny and it’s not scary, failing as both comedy and horror.
The R rating is deserved, for graphic gore, sex and considerable profanity, and absolutely no acting whatsoever.
The only other recognizable name in the cast is Griffin O’Neal, son of Ryan and brother of Tatum, without as much talent as his father and sister have … which wasn’t all that much to begin with.
Everyone runs around screaming and there are deadpan lines of dialogue like, “This is just like Agatha Christie.” If Agatha Christie were alive, she could sue.
Frank Mancuso Jr., who produced the “Friday the 13th” series, also produced this film, allowing Danilo Bach to write the script and Fred Walton to direct. In the press kit Bach is credited with co-writing “Beverly Hills Cop” and Walton last gave us “When a Stranger Calls,” the latter being a less-than-successful variation on the same theme.
The press kit also describes “April Fool’s Day” as a movie in the tradition of Hitchcock and De Palma. Hitchcock, of course, has passed on, but maybe De Palma can sue.
If you go to “April Fool’s Day” the joke is on you. You’ll be paying $5 to be fooled.