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.
Amour *** Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert. Directed by Michael Haneke. Georges and Anne, retired music teachers in their 80s, have a time-tested love. But as Anne’s health fails, Georges becomes her caregiver, and the couple’s bond is tested like never before. For all that it is, as promised, about love, it’s also a subtly punishing affair that grinds you into the ground as you watch an elderly couple deal with one member’s slow deterioration of health and sanity.
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey **½ Directed by Romona S. Diaz. A documentary about Arnel Pineda, who was plucked from YouTube to become the new singer for the rock band, Journey. Two things hold this back as a documentary. The first is that it presents the world of Journey and the people in it through such a lens of love and light that it begins to seem like a publicity film. The second flaw is that it leaves out vital information. It doesn’t, for example, answer the big question, "What happened to Steve?"
Epic **½ Beyoncé Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Knoxville. Directed by Chris Wedge. Magically transported to an enchanted forest, a teenage girl joins forces with a scruffy group of residents fighting a battle against evil -- and soon realizes they must win to save both their world and hers. Although this isn’t quite an animated masterpiece — or as enchanting as Wreck It Ralph — it’s still a fun, sweet-hearted kid-pleaser that boasts some downright lovely animation.
Evidence (no stars) Stephen Moyer. Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi. A detective hunts down a killer using video footage shot by the victims of a massacre at an abandoned gas station. There have been a lot of shoddy found-footage flicks (a genre started by The Blair Witch Project) over the past few years, but maybe none quite so shoddy as this.
Killing Season * JohnTravolta, Robert DeNiro. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Two veterans of the Bosnian War, one American, one Serbian, clash in the remote Smoky Mountain wilderness. This is a hard movie to take seriously, which is particularly unfortunate since it deals with such weighty issues as genocide, the ethical compromises that everyone makes in combat, and the lingering effects of wartime decisions on participants years down the line.
No One Lives **½ Luke Evans. Directed by Ryûhel Kitamura. A gang of ruthless highway killers kidnap a wealthy couple traveling cross country only to shockingly discover that things are not what they seem. This is a cheap horror prank that’s ultimately not clever or accomplished enough to sustain its eccentricities, and they are very bloody eccentricities indeed.
No Place on Earth **½ Directed by Janet Tobias. A cave exploration in Ukraine leads to the unearthing of a story of World War II survivors who once found shelter in the same cave. A remarkable story made almost unremarkable in the hands of lazy filmmaking.
Post Tenebras Lux **** Directed by Carlos Reygadas. An affluent couple lives in the Mexican countryside with their two children. But their idyllic surroundings belie a disturbing existence where violence and suffering are commonplace and light and darkness struggle to eliminate one another. This works so well because — even at its most random — it always feels like more of a single portrait of a man in crisis than it does an impish bouquet of provocative incidents.
Rapture-Palooza **½ Craig Robinson, Anna Kendrick. Directed by Paulc Middleditch. Two teens battle their way through a religious apocalypse on a mission to defeat the Antichrist. More irrelevant than irreverent, the unworthy script from Chris (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) Matheson might play to apocalyptically stoned college kids, but offers nothing in the way of broader social satire, suggesting the waste of a perfectly good Reckoning — not to mention the talents of a cast far funnier than the doom-and-gloom results suggest.
Scary Movie 5 (no stars) Charlie Sheen, Molly Shannon, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Locklear, Chris Elliott. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. A couple begins to experience some unusual activity after bringing their lost nieces and nephew home. With the help of home-surveillance cameras, they learn they’re being stalked by a nefarious demon. This is so massively un-enjoyable, a hate crime against cinema, a ringing indictment of the depths commercialism will go to in search of the lowest common denominator.
Shadow Dancer **** Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, Gillian Anderson. Directed by James Marsh. Set in 1990s Belfast, an active member of the IRA becomes an informant for MI5 in order to protect her son’s welfare. This low-key and engrossing drama is as much a well-acted character study as it is a thriller about the conflict in Northern Ireland.