Recently my son told me about an Alfred Hitchcock film festival he attended in the Bay Area, where he saw two of my favorite movies in glorious 35mm — "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest."

Boy, was I jealous. I was ready to pack my bags and move there.

Especially since my wife and I had just been insulted by a pair of big-budget Hollywood movies that are all too typical of what passes for motion-picture entertainment these days — "Made of Honor" and "What Happens in Vegas."

These alleged romantic comedies are neither romantic nor funny, the films' stars have zero chemistry, and though they are rated PG-13, each has enough tasteless sexual content to earn an R.

It's the kind of Tinseltown dreck that seems designed to drive movie fans to "Law & Order" reruns.

Of course, Hollywood cranks out big-budget junk like so much sausage — but I can remember when I'd look over the coming-soon list and find a number of films that seemed worth anticipating. These days, not so much.

In fact, despite my disdain for sequels and remakes, the only films I'm really psyched about this year are sequels and remakes: The new James Bond movie at the end of the year, the "Get Smart" movie next month, the fourth "Indiana Jones" picture, which opened Thursday.

In the case of the latter, I'm not expecting another "Raiders of the Lost Ark." No sequel can ever recapture that first-time magic. But if it's a fun ride, I'll be happy.

And I'm also glad Sean Connery's not in it.

Don't get me wrong. I love Connery in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," and having recently watched that film again, I must say that he gives it the juice that makes it almost on par with "Raiders."

However, George Lucas was on the mark with something he told TV Guide — that when he approached Connery about coming back for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," it was for a small part at the beginning of the film, and then the rest would be all about a new adventure with Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf.

"I think with the scene we had," said Lucas, "where (Indy) says goodbye to his dad, everybody was, 'Wait a minute! Isn't he coming back?' So in the end, I think it turned out for the best."

He's right. If Connery appeared for only five or 10 minutes at the front of the film and then went away for good, the rest of the picture might feel quite empty.

Connery is one of those larger-than-life, charismatic personalities whose mere presence dominates the screen, no matter how small or large the role he plays.

Who do you remember from "The Hunt for Red October"? Alec Baldwin or Connery? And how about Connery's brief appearance at the end of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," when he hijacks the film from Kevin Costner? He also blew Costner off the screen with a supporting role in "The Untouchables" and won an Oscar for his effort.

And, of course, there was Bond ... James Bond.

Connery just has that indefinable something; the camera loves him the same way it loved Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe.

It would have been great to see him again as Indy's dad, but it would have been a mistake for the film. He'd have been a distraction by virtue of his absence.


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com