I have scratched together a living, in one way or another, as a writer for more than 50 years now. I was a free-lance writer during the early stages of the Vietnam War. I was the Southwest Division Overnight News Editor for United Press International back when UPI was a legitimate news gathering organization. Following that, I went to the Dallas Morning News where I became the first person to write about rock 'n' roll on a daily basis for a Texas metropolitan newspaper. I later became the News' entertainment editor. Following some stints with a couple of prominent PR firms, I had the extraordinary good fortune to team with two communications legends, Ken Fairchild and Lisa LeMaster, as part of one kick-ass media consulting/crisis communications team. That was followed by short stays with the City of Dallas, as its public information officer; the Dallas Northeast Chamber of Commerce where I had the good fortune to meet and work alongside some of this city's business and political titans; and editorial director for QuestCorp Media until that company went out of business. Now officially retired, concentrating on this blog.
Jack Reacher ** Apart from a car chase, the only real fun in Jack Reacher comes from Werner Herzog, playing a bad guy with Teutonic relish, and Robert Duvall, called in near the end for some marvelously gratuitous scenery chewing as a gruff former Marine. They enliven the movie’s atmosphere of weary brutality for a few moments, but they also call attention to the dullness of their dramatic surroundings. It should also be noted that Tom Cruise is absolutely wrong for the title role. As a fan of the Lee Child novels I would have rather seen Daniel Cudmore (I know you don’t know who he is, but check him out) cast in the hopes of turning this into a franchise.
Mama **½ First-time writer-director Andy Muschietti, an Argentine discovered by Guillermo del Toro, relies too much, especially in the early going, on horror clichés (sudden loud noises and jagged blasts of music), but he does make the tension hum.
Safe Haven * Even when compared against other films that have been adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels, Safe Haven is terrible. This sloppy sentimental journey is long on beauty shots, short on depth and seriously intent on tugging your heartstrings. Indeed, it demands you reach for those tissues. Sob.
Upstream Color ****½ It’s all a neat trick. Or exercise. Or brain-teaser. Whatever you want to call it, Upstream Color is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But once you have seen it, once isn’t going to be enough. A romance, a thriller, and a science-fiction drama, it tantalizes you with an open-ended narrative about overcoming personal loss. It’s lush, rhythmic, and deeply sensual, a film of exceptional beauty.
Starlet **** The story retains an inscrutable tone that sometimes makes its emotional qualities feel remote, but it still delivers a powerful message about the challenge of self-diagnosis by rooting it in universal experience. It’s a character study about faith in connectedness, with an unforced love for cross-generational companionship that’s special indeed.
Barrymore **½ Two things to keep in mind when considering Barrymore, starring Christopher Plummer as the great John B: It was brilliant as a one-man stage show; it was never a good candidate for film. It’s is a delicious opportunity to watch the superb Plummer perform the role that won him a second Tony Award. But it’s also a lesson in the pitfalls of personality-based minimalism. While Plummer acts his heart out, the script becomes one punch line after another.
Mighty Fine **½ Chugs along heartily until it abruptly stops on the edge of cliff, leaving you feeling shortchanged. It is a couple of crucial scenes away from feeling complete. Chazz Palminteri’s the best thing in the movie. He now has the look of a slightly beefier Steve Buscemi. But where Buscemi is all nerves on edge and something bad waiting to happen, Palminteri has a winning ease.